Why Businesses Should Aspire to Become Intelligent Enterprises

It’s hard to remember a time where information wasn’t readily accessible at our fingertips – and for a growing majority of the workforce, such a world has never existed. However, as the World Economic Forum (WEF) warns, immediate access to data and insights brings tremendous power and potential consequences to every decision, big or small.

In the white paper “Technology and Innovation for the Future of Production: Accelerating Value Creation,” the WEF cautioned that the pace of technology development may exacerbate existing inequalities, even with its potential for efficiency and growth. For example, businesses that rely heavily on human labor can see their source of growth erode as technologies enable competitive production at impossibly low costs and high levels of ethicality, compliance, and sustainability.

Now that technologies – such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), predictive analytics, and blockchain – are increasingly embedded in modern business applications, these trends will strengthen and accelerate outcomes and industry disruption. And, the companies that know how to use the resulting realities to their advantage in real time are becoming known as intelligent enterprises.

Running as an Intelligent Enterprise is More Valuable Than You Think

Companies have two choices that could determine their fate in the next decade. They can stick with existing enterprise systems that cannot rise to the expectations of customers, employees, and stakeholders. Or, they can embrace the intelligence from data-driven technologies that brings visibility, focus, speed, and agility to their business models, processes, and decision-making capabilities.

In fact, in-depth analysis of business success in the global economy during the last nine years uncovers the significantly powerful and widespread influence of today’s technology:

  • Record corporate profits and new business models are increasingly tied to digital innovation.
  • Barriers to entry are crumbling, bringing fierce competition to all industries.
  • One S&P 500 company, on average, is replaced once every two weeks.

As these trends indicate, a company’s transition into an intelligent enterprise involves more than just automating processes. It also includes a visionary future of customer expectations, workforce skills and needs, and market disruptions.

Continuous Insight and Value Command a Foundation of Centralized Intelligence

Just imagine the possibilities for your business if:

  • Every production line manufactures to the lot size of one quickly at a low cost
  • Products do not go missing or get counterfeited
  • Inventories are so optimized that customers never have to wait for an order or leave empty-handed
  • Returns decrease due to high-quality production and precise order fulfillment
  • HR professionals can find the best talent in a pile of thousands of resumes in a matter of minutes

These advantages demonstrate only a glimpse of potential achievements of intelligent business operations. Take, for example, Northern Gas Networks. Consolidating 150 systems into a next-generation enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite and leveraging digital boardroom analytics, the British gas distributor created a digital operations room to track and visualize customer usage, connections metrics, and maintenance performance. Decision-makers can access all data captured across the company and generate well-rounded, relevant insights to make better real-time decisions.

According to Tom Pollock, head of Smart Information Management at Northern Gas Networks, this ability to run with a platform of intelligence enables all colleagues to make decisions rooted in reality, not gut instincts. “The organization is making strategic decisions on a day-to-day basis that will move the business forward,” he says. “What we’re moving towards with our digital operations room is an environment where people are making decisions based on what’s happening right now and what’s going to happen in the next hour, week, and year.”

As Northern Gas Networks and hundreds of other companies prove, the potential growth and savings achieved by running as an intelligent enterprise can impact companies at a massive scale. Moving first to this model will help you stun your competition, excite your customers, and put your business on a trajectory of long-term market leadership fueled by continuous insight, innovation, and value delivery.


Discover the SAP blueprint that can help your business move from value discovery to value delivery. Read the whitepaper “Enabling the Intelligent Enterprise for Best-Run Businesses.”


This is part two of the five-part series “The Anatomy of the Intelligent Enterprise.” Over the next few weeks, we will continue to examine how businesses can optimize the transition to an intelligent enterprise.

Oliver Huschke is global head of Solution Marketing and Communications for SAP Digital Business Services. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.