Healthy and General

How Business Leaders Can Make More Intentional Software

5 min read

Suresh Menon, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Software Solutions at Zebra Technologies.

Executive decision-makers have been worried about readiness for several years now. In fact, questions about operational agility, resilience and capacity predate the pandemic by quite a bit. That’s because the pandemic wasn’t the first disruptive event to shine a light on the capabilities—and limitations—of healthcare, retail, manufacturing, utility, supply chain and even government workers.

That said, the scale and unpredictability of the pandemic certainly helped answer a lot of those questions. Leaders who thought their teams were prepared for anything quickly realized that they weren’t. And those who knew changes were needed found out quickly where they must focus their attention first. The silver lining is that we now know how to prepare for almost every worst-case scenario. We have been given an opportunity to get things right.

The Great Reset

Now is not the time to “repair” or “replace.” We must reinvent and rebuild business models and the technology systems supporting them. The technology deployed to solve past problems can’t solve new ones, at least not without some modifications. Over the past two to three years, we have found gaps in business systems and workflows. But now we know how to plug those gaps. We understand how we must better connect platforms and people to allow for easy collaboration and smooth operations.

We now know that hardware is only half the solution, and inflexible systems can tie our hands. Technology will only enable us to respond to and manage disruptors if the hardware is expandable, the software easily scalable and all components are agnostic. Most notably, we recognize that mobile computers can only augment the workforce if they are outfitted with the right software applications—because a computer doesn’t provide the intelligence or guidance; the software does.

As a result, we can see how our attitude toward technology, people and processes must change. From there, we can invest in technology tools that better align with what’s needed here and now, even if that need changes as time goes on.

How To Choose Software That Can Empower Your Team To Operate “In The Present” Long Into The Future

Knowing that software underpins every piece of hardware used to keep business operations running and that what it takes to keep workflows on track may change from day to day, it doesn’t make sense anymore to spend months rolling out a software platform that will likely be obsolete before it goes live.

Business isn’t the long game it used to be. Risk reduction is now dependent on your ability to sense, analyze and act on what’s happening in the present. Soon, it will hinge on your ability to effectively predict or anticipate what is getting ready to happen, or at least parse out every potential scenario and prepare your teams accordingly.

That’s why every business leader could benefit from investing in a scalable, cloud-native and hybrid set of software solutions that leverage a high-performance data platform with best-in-class artificial intelligence and prescriptive analytics capabilities.

Software is where operational intelligence and foresight are derived. It’s what enables you to aggregate and analyze data in a categorical way based on the current environment, not just historical trends. It’s also what elicits prescriptive action to drive better outcomes and facilitates first-day productivity for new hires who have never worked in your industry before.

From my perspective, the latter is among the most compelling reasons to embrace software-as-a-service (SaaS) as the “the standard”—or best-practice—investment model for software platforms when possible, even if accompanying hardware purchases are still being managed as capital expenditures.

Workers need to be in the right place at the right time and know exactly what to do when they get there. A device doesn’t tell them that. An app does. But the software platform must be able to constantly mine multiple data sources and refine the intelligence it’s feeding to frontline workers and back-office decision-makers. What was “right” five minutes ago may not be right anymore.

Plus, AI and machine learning algorithms used to generate insights are continuously optimized, and software platforms are taught to learn constantly.

When you leverage a SaaS solution, you can scale each software platform in line with shifting business and intelligence demands. If you roll out a task management app today but decide you need workforce management as well, you can add that tomorrow without a big lift. Or, if you want to add an additional module to the SaaS platform to be able to garner insights specific to inventory, customer behavior or ancillary market factors, such as weather or traffic, you can do it almost instantly. Even better, if you need to scale back or try something different, you’re not committed to your current system design.

The Takeaway

If you want to build smarter operations:

• Consider how technologies should be working in your environment, not how they work at a fundamental level.

• Visualize how you want your people, systems, equipment and customers to be connected—the ideal data and communications flow. Then confirm whether a software platform can be reconfigured often and quickly to adapt to changing flow requirements.

• Define how you want to use data or what you expect to learn from the data. That will make it easier to determine what type of data the software platform must be able to extract, analyze or prescriptively action and how it must work.

Whatever you do, please don’t underestimate the influence that software has on your business’s resilience, your employees’ capabilities or your customers’ satisfaction. You can only build smarter operations if you’re able to sharpen and expand your operational and market intelligence. And SaaS solutions give you the flexibility to perpetually hone the algorithms that generate the data you and your team require to make the right decision and take timely action in every situation.

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