ERP Reworked: Easy, Accessible, Appealing

by Kiran Kumar & Naveen Punaji - SVPs, ValueLabs

In today’s age of hyper-connectivity, when people access services of their choice at the click of a button, enterprise solutions cannot be left far behind.

Enterprises are rethinking the organization of their operations and processes in an era when interconnectedness has become ubiquitous. Consumers are communicating with machines, connecting with clouds, and chatting through computers. The way they shop, travel, and even socialize has changed radically. While this has opened up new opportunities for enterprises, it has also disrupted existing models, forcing them to relook at the IT landscape to stay relevant.

By connecting multiple systems within an organization, automating operations and streamlining processes, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) has been at the heart of running the business. ERP has radically changed the operations of companies by providing seamless connectivity between various silos of an organization; thereby creating a unified version of business intelligence that the management can assimilate and act upon.

But in a world led by the forces of cloud, analytics and mobility, ERP adoption has to be quick and innovative to avoid any disruptions. Customer centricity and business impact will constitute the core of future ERP. The taxonomy of Enterprise IT’s evolution lays bare the charter for its reinvention in the following ways:

Think Business: The legacy of mainframes has, for long, shaped the capabilities of Enterprise IT. As a key technology enabler, it initially focused on automating operations, improving speed, and providing business with management information systems (MIS). The thrust for 15 years since the early 90s has been on industrialization- giving way to making ERP more process driven and transparent, with an emphasis on scale and reliability. But the big picture business outcome was never a primary focus as ERP ownership and implementation remained with IT teams, and there was scant connect with business. The advent of digital, however, has now mandated that Enterprise IT play a larger role in driving business outcomes. Today’s technology is at the forefront of creating new business models and driving unforeseen efficiencies simultaneously. ERP can never be the same again.

Act Smart and Agile: Enterprise planning has seen fundamental transformation with digitization. Rolling out an ERP within an organization now goes beyond the considerations of infrastructure, applications, data, and management of the partner ecosystem. The system has to align with agile development models, and needs to be scalable and adaptable to variously sized enterprises. Monetization of the system is another key factor that needs to be borne in mind. Design thinking, decision science, artificial intelligence, a start-up mindset and fast-paced agile operating models are some of the trends that have to be factored in.

Ride the Digital Wave: Most enterprises have well-established IT strategies, leadership and governance. But to create a real business impact in the marketplace, leadership should display a sustained and clear focus on unlocking new digital opportunities and prepare the core of IT services for the purpose.

CIO As an Entrepreneur: The role of the CIO has changed fundamentally as technology is now mainly about innovation. Instead of serving an organization’s IT needs and upgrading them to newer versions within allocated budgets, a CIO now needs to demonstrate how technology will impact business and how soon the returns on investment in monetary terms can be realized. Data and advanced analytics, mobility, the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing have to be leveraged to the maximum to create new services, products, business processes and revenue opportunities.

Faster ROI: Businesses do not have the luxury of heavy technology investments. Behemoth-sized deals are passé; technology Heads need to plan small, fast-paced and incremental implementations that show demonstrable value for money. Cloud and pay-as-you-use models are shifting the preference from asset-intensive capital expenditure centric approach to utility-based operating expenditure.

Time to market: To make good on time-to-market, plan minimum viable products that can be deployed and tested simultaneously, as well as get validated in the market. It accelerates learning, reduces the number of wasted engineering hours, and gets the product to customers as soon as possible.

While there is a lot for ERP leaders to figure out, it is ironical that the euphoria and rabid excitement about the disruptive potential of emerging technologies far outstrips the knowledge of how to use them. Some visualize the current trends as opening unimaginable opportunities. But those who believe in structured and incremental value creation are gripped by panic. There are skeptics, however, who wonder as to what this fuss is all about. Enterprises have a responsibility to answer this and other queries for their own and everyone else’s benefit.