Pervasive Intelligence–What it is and Why you Need it

Analytics is table stakes. It’s not enough anymore to simply buy and install packaged software, or to build a custom system to solve discrete problems. Instead, companies that thrive will transform their organizations—both digitally and culturally—to make intelligence pervasive throughout the enterprise.

The concept of pervasive intelligence isn’t necessarily new. It’s actually what we’ve been working towards for the past quarter century with the advent of decision-support systems, business intelligence, and analytics.

However, truly pervasive intelligence goes beyond the disconnected development of applications to solve singular problems. Instead, its goal is to make the organization itself intelligent—to embed digitally-enabled decision-making into all areas of the business—to transform it.

It also necessitates a change in culture. You must be willing to change, to experiment (and fail forward), to move on from the status quo and things that have worked in the past, and to embed innovation into the cultural ethos of your organization.

Creating pervasive intelligence means making fundamental changes to how you interact with customers, how you operate, and how you use information technology.

Pervasive Intelligence in your Customer Interaction

I don’t need to tell you that customer demands have radically changed. Millennials, who will make up about 40% of the US population in a couple of years, demand more intimacy, yet more automation at the same time. They want personalized, consistent offerings across multiple touchpoints, yet they want to limit human interaction with CSRs. They want mobile everything—bank account creation, loan application and approval, physician interaction, and so much more.

This requires an analytics philosophy that eliminates intra-organizational fiefdoms and competition to facilitate microscopic customer insight and hyper-personalization of offers and services. It also requires enabling your customers to interact with you whenever, however, and wherever THEY choose. Finally, it requires understanding that now, as never before, customer preferences are fluid, and that you need to have the intelligence to predict and meet those changes—before your competitors do.

Pervasive Intelligence in your Operating Model

Increased personalization demands and fluid customer preferences are exacerbated by changes in the competitive landscape. Micro-funding makes competition sort of like pop-up windows. You never know where it’s coming from, and it changes rapidly. These global, but often-ephemeral, competitive pressures make it imperative to deploy an agile operating model.

For agile operations—i.e., quick product research and development, manufacture, and distribution—it’s crucial to eliminate information silos. R&D, marketing, sales, finance, logistics, and back office operations must have synchronized, accurate information to understand market needs. Management must be also willing to change course quickly and direct the organization to operate as a seamless whole to meet those needs.

Pervasive Intelligence in your IT Capabilities

As I said above, analytics capabilities are a given. You should be there now. And if you are, you’re really still behind. You’re also behind if you’re just now considering cloud computing. Understanding the market at a macro level, and customers at a micro level—as well as having the agility to meet market needs—requires an intelligent technical infrastructure.

Intelligent infrastructures aren’t bound by organizational departments or physical locations. They also aren’t static. They are fluid, powerful knowledge networks that enable deep learning and insight generation, but are flexible enough to ramp up or down according to needs.

Intelligent clouds—managed-service deployments with embedded analytics—are a start. And it’s those included analytics capabilities that form the heart of the intelligent infrastructure. Artificial intelligence technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, robotic process automation, and chat-bots, etc., are a must-have.

Further, it’s critical to use these technologies to build an organization whose fundamental mission is to innovate. It’s not enough to use technology to gain incremental competitive advantages. Instead, technology must be used to fuel decision-making that propels innovation and regeneration, and to achieve long-lasting market dominance.

The Pervasive Future

As I’ve discussed in my last few posts, the future isn’t five years from now; it is now. Technologies and management theory that are hide-bound to past constraints and paradigms won’t work anymore. What will work is the courage to embed the intelligence inherent in digitally-augmented decision-making capabilities into your organization at the cellular level—to make it pervasive.

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