In today’s disruptive and highly challenging business environment, the role of the manager is more critical than ever before. Increasingly, success and stability depend on the decision-makers – from finance to operations and HR – and their ability to analyse the data at their disposal. Crucially, managers now need to collaborate and pull together to respond as one organisation.
However, managers cannot be expected to tackle the enormous load alone. Managing the abundance of data available at their fingertips is a new and unprecedented challenge. Ensuring that managers use the data to their advantage is vital, and they need to allocate time to analyse, consult and strategise.
Advanced technology tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) that can manage vast amounts of big data may be just the answer for organisations.
Today’s analyst is tomorrow’s visionary
As businesses transform to keep up with the ever-changing market, managers need to evolve in tandem. The modern manager must be versatile, with the ability to combine reporting, analytical and strategic-thinking skills underpinned by emotional intelligence. Indeed, with the proper support and capabilities, managers can become powerful agents of change across their organisation.
Traditionally, managers have followed a largely reactive approach to business information. They made decisions by looking in the rear-view mirror and based their judgement on historical data and gut instinct. However, record amounts of real-time data generated from internal sources now give them a new way to create value.
Today, data and predictive analytics allow managers to look ahead instead of looking back. It enables business leaders to determine immediate and long-term challenges and opportunities well before they occur. For example, an HR manager with access to employee data and predictive analytics tools can anticipate when their top employees are likely to leave the business based on the characteristics and behaviours of previous leavers. It provides managers with the opportunity to respond proactively rather than reactively and make decisions to encourage the employees to stay before they resign or play a role in their succession plans.
Creating an environment for success
The modern manager is a data steward and a predictive analyst. Their data expertise gives them greater powers to comprehend and innovate in their department. In turn, they empower the business to adapt faster, seize opportunities, be more responsive and flexible, and effectively supervise operations under strain.
However, managers find themselves in unfamiliar territory as data becomes more prominent in helping them maximise efficiencies. New responsibilities around cybersecurity and data protection are increasingly falling under their remit. Many managers are struggling to contend with data governance and management at a time of significant change.
In practice, decision-makers spend just as much time collecting and preparing data as they are in analysing it. The prevalence of legacy systems and a lack of automation is limiting overall productivity. As a result, 73% of workers in the GCC believe automation presents more opportunities than risks. Spending more time on the basics of data management leaves managers little time to consider critical decisions carefully.
To restore the balance, organisations need to equip managers to streamline data governance and management. The integration of front and back offices is critical to ensure collaboration, agility and flexibility. Only through shaping a united environment can businesses help managers meet all their responsibilities seamlessly.
When managers have access to the same pool of shared data, they’ll have fewer disagreements and better, more frequent opportunities for collaboration. For example, finance and HR managers can coordinate on the impact of a series of new hires or the need for redundancies.
Data integration also provides powerful tools for automation. RPA is one of the fastest-growing segments in the global enterprise software market, with total spending expected to hit US$2.4 billion by 2022. While often used for manual tasks, RPA can be augmented with AI to perform most of the tasks needed for sound data management.
Automation can shift the burden of onerous, repetitive data management processes from managers to machines, while still ensuring quality. The introduction of new technology liberates managerial talent to focus on the essential strategic tasks that protect the business, deliver efficiencies and create new value. Reports state that the GCC market for industrial and building automation will be worth US$10.3bn in 2023,
Transformation is a team effort
From all of this, one thing becomes clear. The future of business rests with the cyborg rather than the android – it’s not about replacing human talent with machines designed to do what humans do. The goal must be to augment the managers’ capabilities with technology to help complete their jobs more efficiently. Indeed, AI will improve accessibility to work – according to Gartner, the number of disabled workers is set to triple by 2023 as AI augmentation levels the playing field.
Magic happens when technology seamlessly melds with people and processes, delivering frictionless business outcomes and experiences that amaze and delight. The collaboration of robotic efficiency with human talent and judgement will give organisations the power to meet disruption head-on. When these areas merge, they will enable businesses to respond quickly to changes based on data-informed decision making. A new tech-empowered manager capable of using predictive analytics to foresee challenges and capitalise on opportunities will be integral to business success and continuity.
However, it’s imperative that business leaders give managers and their teams access to the technology they need to work with speed and agility. Only then can they dovetail with all other facets of the business to drive growth and competitive advantage. Technology is the enabler, but talent remains a business’s most powerful asset.
By Gerhard Hartman, Vice President, Medium Business, Sage Africa & Middle East