In today’s disruptive and challenging business environment, the role of manager has rarely been so important. Increasingly, success and stability depend on the decision-makers for each line of business—from finance to operations and HR—being able to analyze the data at their disposal. Crucially, managers then need to collaborate and pull together to respond as one organization.
However, managers cannot be expected to tackle this alone. Managing the abundance of data now available at their fingertips is a new and unprecedented challenge. Ensuring managers use the data to their advantage is key, establishing the time for analyzing, consulting, and strategizing.
New and emerging tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) can be the answer for organizations, acting as an enabler for managing vast amounts of big data and analyzing in seconds data sets that would take humans months to understand, let alone find value in.
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 has to be versatile, with the ability to not only combine reporting, analytical, and strategic thinking skills into one package but also remember the human touch and be a good people manager. Indeed, with the right support and capabilities, managers can themselves become a powerful agent of change across their organization.
Traditionally, managers have taken a largely reactive role in business information. They made decisions by looking in the rearview mirror, basing their judgment 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 see forward instead of looking back. This enables business leaders to determine immediate and long-term challenges and opportunities before they occur.
For example, HR managers 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 behaviors of previous leavers, providing the opportunity for the managers to respond proactively rather than reactively and make decisions to encourage employees to stay before they resign or be a part of their succession plans.
Creating an Environment for Success
Modern managers are data stewards and predictive analysts. Their data expertise gives them greater powers to comprehend and innovate in their own department. In turn, they empower the business to adapt faster, take opportunities, be more responsive and flexible, and effectively manage operations under strain.
However, managers find themselves in unfamiliar territory as data become more prominent in their roles. New responsibilities around cybersecurity and data protection are increasingly falling under their purview. Many are struggling to contend with data governance and management at a time of major change.
In practice, decision-makers are spending just as much time collecting and preparing data as they are analyzing them. The prevalence of legacy systems and a lack of automation are limiting overall productivity. As a result, 78% of business leaders feel they are wasting 360 hours a year on tasks that could be automated. Spending more time on the basics of data management leaves managers with less time to carefully consider critical decisions.
To redress the balance, organizations need to equip managers with the means to streamline data governance and management. The integration of front and back offices is critical for collaboration, agility, and flexibility. Only when a united environment is created can businesses help managers juggle their responsibilities.
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 $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. ISG reports that RPA is allowing organizations to run business processes 5 to 10 times faster with 37% fewer resources on average. In this way, 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.
Transformation Is a Team Effort
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 managers with the skills and technologies they need to do their jobs faster and more efficiently. Indeed, AI will improve accessibility to work; according to Gartner, the number of disabled workers is expected 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 judgment will give organizations the power to meet disruption head on. It will enable businesses to respond quickly to changes based on data-informed decision-making. A new breed of manager, using predictive analytics to foresee challenges and capitalize 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.
Susana Duran, VP of Engineering—Emerging Tech & Mobile at Sage, leads the Mobile and Conversational AI team in Barcelona and is one of Sage’s first Technical Fellows. She joined Sage 5 years ago and was heavily involved in the development of the first chatbot, latest digital assistants, and the reorganization of the mobile ecosystem at Sage. Duran is a firm believer and collaborator in the Ethics of Code for AI developers and an active member of different organizations that aim to increase the visibility of women in tech, as well as a recognized voice in the tech community. She currently teaches conversational AI at the IE Business School.