We change therefore we are

supply chain

Emmanuel Olivier, Esker

Digital transformation requires an attitude of embracing change, writes Emmanuel Olivier.

“Everything flows, nothing stands still,” so declared Heraclitus 500 years before our time. Thus, to talk of change is hardly anything new. From the beginning of time, the world and the universe have been in constant transformation, in movement that has never ceased, nor will it ever. We may sometimes be inclined to believe that things stay the same, but that is false, it is only an illusion. We change, therefore we are.

Resistance to change is nothing new
It is a fact that over the course of history there have been moments when change has been patently obvious. Such moments have marked new stages, new eras. From the invention of fire and the wheel to the Renaissance, to the first industrial revolution and the fourth in which we find ourselves today – such moments stand out
because they have been disruptive to us personally, for they have intruded directly into our comfort zones. As author Mario Benedetti wrote: “Just when we thought that we had all the answers, all the questions changed.” During such times in history, our reaction to the questions has been a kind of deep misgiving and we have felt cast about, disoriented.

Change or become obsolete
Resistance to change is the human tendency to think that if things are fine as they are, why rock the boat and risk trouble or total upset? However, sometimes we are unaware that we need to make changes in how we approach matters, how we act and how we think. When we finally do see the need, it’s too late.

In the corporate world, we can cite endless instances of successful companies that, self-satisfied with their leadership standing and their public image as visionary, were incapable of detecting trends in their
market environment, so they failed to grasp that it was time to begin doing things another way. They ultimately ended up going under.

If the world and we who live in it exist in a constant state of change, and if those changes are coming increasingly faster, perhaps now is when we should see them more clearly than ever.

New technologies in business
Nowadays, when we talk about new processes, with respect to productivity one term is key: automation. If we add the qualifier “intelligent,” we introduce a more human element. At Esker, we understand intelligent automation as the combination of AI and human intellect – the melding of the best the two have to offer.
Already, the integration of AI and machine learning with big data allows us to analyse millions of complex data points and react based on that information. This makes us more efficient, it helps us to appreciate the value of sustainability and be observant of cycles, and allows us to develop our emotional intelligence more deeply.

This requires stepping into the world that administrative departments in habit, into the back office of areas such as customer service. Indeed, the back office is usually left out and remains manually intensive when
companies limit themselves to automating their customer-facing front office operations only.

Attitude toward change is the key to success
Sometimes it is precisely the people who work in administration, those who spend a great deal of time doing the same work in the same way, who are most reluctant to change. The solution then is not to impose
change on them for their own good, but to make them participants and architects of transformation so that they might be the first to benefit. In our experience with companies, frequently it the employees who have been with the company the longest – that is, those who supposedly should be hardest to persuade – who are quick to
become early adopters of the new solution and, as a result, its primary defenders and advocates.

It is true that there remains much yet to be done. Recently, Esker Spain concluded a study with the consultancy Penteo. Results shows that two out of three Spanish firms consider themselves to still be in the early stages of transformation, and only one in 10 reports being completely automated in key areas of customer service, such as order entry and billing collections management. The good news is we still have time.

Emmanuel Olivier is chief operating officer, Esker. This article is sponsored by Esker.

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