Working remotely has drastically shifted work processes across every industry. Some industries have been affected more than others, especially those heavily entrenched in paper processes. In many cases, companies have been forced into a digital transformation for which they were not ready.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting reductions in demand and shifts in supply (did toilet paper and Clorox warrant their own supply chain specialists?) most companies that hadn’t already started their digital transformation efforts at least had those projects in their 2020 roadmap. However, many responded to the slowing economy by slashing capital budgets and moving such projects into the “discretionary” column. Now, forced to look at how they do business, how more people than ever work outside an office, and how their enterprise software reacts to this process upheaval, many companies are taking a long hard look at the software they use to run their business.
We’re not just talking about activities that gave Excel a workout. Many companies are expecting much of the processes and work-from-home policies to become permanent — or near so. Despite the downturn, many are looking at wholesale changes in their enterprise software and global processes to aid in their digital revolution. For some, this includes rethinking big investments in enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, industry-specific applications, and how they run and support those systems.
Digital transformation: You are here
The response to process and software changes depends on where you are in your digital transformation journey. Early adopters of digital transformation could be hailed as genius in hindsight. Those still in their journey are speeding up to make that last push to completion in case another round of pandemic, locusts, or other plagues circle the globe.
Those followers and laggards who treated digital transformation as if it were a passing trend may find themselves the proverbial coyote riding their “Acme Digital Transformation Rocket” off the COVID cliff. But, thanks to technology (NOT from Acme), there is hope.
As organizations, including major software vendors, moved to Agile frameworks to deliver software and implementations more quickly, a convergence of technologies and services fell into place. Cloud services have been around for a while, but the incredible push to move infrastructure to cloud platforms and software as a service (SaaS) has been nothing short of amazing. With the latest release of rapid deployment low-code/no-code tools from Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google/Alphabet, the toolsets are now designed for two speeds: fast and faster.
Faster than the bits can travel?
Changing the software and changing the processes are related, but two different paths. Given the recent process changes thrust upon them are fresh in the minds of managers and corporate executives, many are looking to lock in, codify, and automate the best of those changes and finding ways to fix the others. During that time, those same stakeholders began to see the cracks in their enterprise software, especially the ERP systems they use to manage so many functions across the organization.
While it may be counterintuitive to make sweeping process and software changes while costs are being slashed, many execs have found that making the change can reduce their overall budget footprint. With the traditional ERP implementation ranging from six months to two years, how can the change possibly save money?
By merging cloud technologies, process changes that have already occurred and new software supporting rapid implementation cycles (and Agile continuous releases), a new ERP or other key software can be rolled out in under six months. That includes big players like SAP (though continuous releases are harder there). For instance, Microsoft’s Dynamics platforms and Oracle’s Netsuite, both as SaaS offerings, can be installed in days and rolled out in a few weeks (depending on data requirements). By reducing the license footprint of these software applications or shifting to lower cost or service licenses from a common software vendor, these budgets can be reduced quickly.
Simplifying and streamlining with less IT help
Similarly, moving other applications to the cloud and simplifying the users’ virtual desktops into workflow-driven processes drives both cost savings and quick process changes. Whether you’re moving an asset maintenance system or a vendor invoice approval portal, today’s cloud platforms often make migrations easier.
Though the biggest benefits are seen when migrating to cloud-first solutions (those designed to take full advantage of cloud components), incremental benefits are plenty. Shifting to drag-and-drop, low-code/no-code platforms like Salesforce Lightning, Microsoft’s Power Platform, and Amazon’s Honeycode to drive automation, the new business users can take the lead from their own desktop (from the office or their kitchen). These collaborative workflows — along with insightful self-service analytics using Power BI and Tableau — save on development and support costs while cloud migration can push non-tech companies out of the server business.
Rob Roberts is a Director in Opportune LLP’s Process & Technology practice. Rob has over 30 years of technology experience focused on the delivery of mid-to-large-scale ERP implementations involving process optimization, system integration, and application automation. His focus has been on the architecture, design, and implementation of cross-functional solutions, including process integration, mobility, and business analytics. He has been involved in multiple full life-cycle system implementations from pre-sales and system planning to implementation and support. Prior to joining Opportune, Rob was responsible for ERP and technology services for multiple private consulting firms. Rob holds a BBA in Management Information Systems from Texas A&M University and an MBA in International Business from Our Lady of the Lake University.
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