Disruption in any form is an ever-present challenge. But once market uncertainty, fast-evolving human behavior, and ever-shifting timelines enter the picture, businesses need to know what to do next, how to achieve it, when to act, and where to start – which is only possible with intelligent technology.

Managing volatility without deeply integrated intelligent enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems can put organizations at a tremendous disadvantage as a downturn’s effects become increasingly apparent. People across all levels of the business grow more anxious, stressed, and even afraid when the next course of action is unclear and doubtful. And while it sometimes appears to make sense to wait until all information is received before deciding, the benefits eventually outweigh the risks of delaying action.

Traditional wisdom says that moving early is critical to weathering any economic shock. But intelligence and detection is just a small part of the significant capability. Businesses must also synchronize their actions across their organizations. As McKinsey partners Kevin Laczkowski and Mihir Mysore shared in their Harvard Business Review article, digital tools and advanced analytics are equally important to assess exposure, identify mitigation initiatives, and monitor progress.

Bold, Decisive Action Calls for Intelligent Certainty

One of the worst experiences for decision-makers is the moment when they realize their forecasts are off – and not by a few percentage points. Business intelligence cannot be an afterthought; it needs to be captured, processed, analyzed, and delivered through an intelligent ERP, such as SAP S/4HANA. By taking this step, companies have the foundation they need to acquire the speed and agility necessary to differentiate themselves.

Suppose a company projected impressive revenue growth, compared to its competition’s financial performance. But once the annual books close, it quickly discovers the year ended as a significant loss, upsetting stakeholders, analysts, and the executive board.

What happened? All too often, the telltale signs are all the same business-wide. The volume of data analyzed is too massive to quickly spot issues such as incomplete information, latent data capture and processing, miscalculated formulas, and the impacts of changing market dynamics.

In times of profound change and uncertainty, there is little tolerance for such a situation. Resilient companies rely on fast access to accurate, real-time data to carefully orchestrate resources across the organization and in line with evolving business goals.

The tighter the collaboration and integration, the faster and more dynamic the business operates. More importantly, companies that know where to focus their efforts – based on a combination of accurate data and intelligence tools – are well-positioned to detect new emerging patterns and act on them before their competition.

Gaining such a resilient edge requires an architecture that fully embraces machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robotic process automation. However, these technologies should not be tacked on a legacy operational system as an afterthought. They must be an embedded part of an ERP that runs the core foundation of enterprise data – for example, SAP S/4HANA.

Intelligent Scenarios Strengthen Business Resilience

The benefits of incorporating the intelligent capabilities of SAP S/4HANA into applications, processes, and employee experiences can be realized throughout the business – from product development and manufacturing to finance, sales, and operations.

Product development and manufacturing teams can classify unstructured data instantly to support more collaborative idea-to-product processes, accelerate engineer-to-order cycle time, and optimize inventory levels from make to order. Meanwhile, return-to-restock activities are better equipped to process defects and monitor quality with generated recommendations based on textual descriptions and codes.

On the other hand, finance teams can accelerate the invoice-to-pay cycle by receiving intelligent recommendations on how to act on PO items and improve the accuracy and speed of a period-end closing. This capability can also minimize errors when converting invoices to cash by centralizing the workstream and expediting dispute resolution, while ensuring treasury management processes detect fraud and identify liquidity trends and variables impacting cash flow.

Customer satisfaction is higher when sales agents know which stock is available to sell without manual effort and little or no delay. The creation of sale inquiries is streamlined from quote to order, while engagement-to-cash processes benefit from higher win rates, more accurate sales forecasts, and improved project management efficiency.

From an operations standpoint, intelligent capabilities can play a critical role in asset maintenance by improving defect processing and data quality through insight-based recommendations. Meanwhile, real estate and facilities management leaders can expedite digitalization of their master data by automatically detecting rooms from static floor plans.

All these business scenarios are just a small snapshot of everything organizations can achieve with SAP S/4HANA. These capabilities eventually become a living, continually developing advantage that grows and changes with company needs.

The Heart of Business Resilience Is Data

Despite constant shock and unplanned change that can occur in any industry, location, or globally with fires, floods, tsunamis, conflicts, or even global pandemics, some businesses emerge stronger while others do not. And most times, it has nothing to do with selling a superior product or service.

What is the real secret? Ultimately, it’s having a real-time, data-based view into how customers and markets are evolving and knowing how to intelligently respond to them with agility and experimentation.

Discover how your business can find resilience in customer centricity to navigate through turbulent times and plan for whatever comes next. Explore the intelligent ERP SAP S/4HANA.

David Sweetman is senior director of Cloud Global Marketing at SAP.