PwC Examines Digital Trends in Operations for 2024

PwC’s Digital Trends in Operations Survey for 2024 demonstrates a significant proportion of firms are struggling to achieve their desired outcomes

When big-name businesses invest millions of dollars in various technologies, hoping to improve their operations and supply chains, inevitably not everything will go to plan. 

However, as PwC’s Digital Trends in Operations Survey for 2024 demonstrates, a significant proportion of firms are struggling to achieve their desired outcomes over a prolonged period.

More than two-thirds (69%) of operations and supply chain officers told the consulting giant that tech investments haven’t fully delivered anticipated results, which comes as 37% revealed their companies have changed their operating models over the past 12 months. 

If the findings from PwC’s latest global CEO survey are anything to go by, leaders must be more transformative in their approach – or risk their organisations’ existence. Almost half (45%) of Chief Executives believe their company will no longer be viable in 10 years’ time if it remains on its current path.

Firms hampered by integration complexity

PwC’s survey of 600 operations and supply chain officers unearthed a significant gap between what they expected new technology to deliver and the actual results.

Respondents included C-suite executives, upper management, directors, managers and board members, who either have sole responsibility for business decisions on operations and supply chain or procurement operations, or share influence with others regarding those decisions.

Many leaders said they had invested in multiple technologies in order to digitise their operations, with cloud (62%) and AI/ML (55%) leading the way. Meanwhile, ERP enhancements (27%) and data ecosystems (33%) have seen the least investment. 

Among the different areas of operations, quality control is using technology the most – especially AI and operational visibility and analytics. On the other hand, service and maintenance are harnessing tech the least, with planning, sourcing, manufacturing and distribution all at a similar level in between.

And yet, the majority of respondents pointed to at least one reason why their investments in operations technology hadn’t fully delivered the expected results. The most selected reason was integration complexity (30%), followed by ‘technology didn’t meet expectations’ (28%) and people capabilities (27%). 

PwC surveyed 600 operations and supply chain officers. Picture: PwC

PwC’s solutions to digitisation barriers

PwC offers up eight ways companies can actually “move the needle” with their digital investments, as follows: 

  • Embrace complexity and think holistically: Invest time on the front end to establish the business case for digitisation – then make time to build employee understanding of long-term goals
  • Consider both employee and customer experience in tech implementation: Determine what both groups of users need to achieve desired outcomes
  • Overcome bad data to make better decisions: Teams must be invested in the business case for mining data and how it can provide smarter direction 
  • Treat Gen AI as a march, not a sprint: In PwC’s experience, the most useful testing of Gen AI comes with a thoughtful strategy, not a plug-and-play approach
  • Expand your scope of risk and turn needs into opportunities: Review current capabilities to determine which technologies can move your operations beyond addressing short-term turbulence and help evolve your overall supply chain network
  • Integrate digital skills-building into your culture: Consider what’s needed to guide digital efforts in different parts of operations and the supply chain
  • Recognise how broader priorities can address ongoing concerns: Prioritising new business models or resiliency-building can be instrumental in getting and keeping under control other issues like reducing costs and increasing speed
  • Make technology a means to measurable business outcomes: Look beyond incremental cost reductions or revenue increases to how new technology is driving innovation that can translate into tangible growth

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