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Reinventing the ERP Engine

With a super-charged engine, businesses can drive new performance

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ERP is no stranger to reinvention, overhauling itself time and again to remain relevant through disruptive waves of client/server and the Web. Its formula for success? Expanding the very definition of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) from financials to manufacturing to supply chain management to CRM to HR and more. Beyond new functional capabilities, it has also expanded into information – business intelligence, reporting and analytics allow organizations to build predictive models. For a while, the focus was extensibility through integration platforms, application servers and orchestration suites. Today’s momentum is around ubiquity. Organizations are striving to make ERP accessible in many ways – on your mobile device, in your collaboration suite or in your social streams. The engine of ERP is being reinvented.


My Take
Hear how Larry Frey, Chief Information Officer of EnPro Industries, approaches Reinventing the ERP Engine within his organization.

 

Watch video

Bill Allison, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, shares his perspective on the transformative journey of ERP through an example from the consumer business sector where ERP is allowing companies to understand real-time what customers think about products and services.

 

Read more about Reinventing the ERP Engine

Where do you start?

ERP can be a sensitive topic in many organizations. And for good reason. Significant financial and political capital has been spent in getting to today’s current state, with personal careers made (and lost) based on the outcome. It is likely the biggest single part of the IT landscape – influencing a big percentage of IT spend, and involved in an even bigger percentage of the business’ operations. Reinventing any part of ERP should cause pause, and will likely draw scrutiny.

But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be broached. Vendors already positioning for the next potentially disruptive wave – one where TCO is transparent and hyper-competitive and ubiquity is expected. Markets are being displaced by companies where old problems are getting solved in new ways, new questions are getting asked and answered, and new businesses are being explored. Here’s what you can do to prepare:

  • Experiment at the edge. Explore opportunities to adopt revamped ERP engines in areas that surround your core transactional layer – business intelligence, analytics, or non-production landscapes. Additionally, use the adoption of the revamped engine to introduce new disciplines that may have immediate business impact, like creating new capabilities around unstructured big data to improve customer sentiment or sales force effectiveness.
  • Experiment at the core. Explore opportunities for running core workloads on much less gear, making hot/hot and distributed self-healing architectures more practically affordable. Similarly, performance leaps in run times offer opportunities to rethink traditional limitations on batch windows, run book sequencing and even business cycles. If forecasting, close-the-books, or MRP runs are 10x or 20x faster, how might you rethink your business processes to create advantage?
  • Version hygiene. If you have hedged against technical upgrades and are generations behind the latest versions, now’s the time to get compliant ahead of a business agenda that may require the new engine to fulfill the vision. Pure plumbing upgrades are possible. You can also take advantage of the need to touch the core to reach new features and potential – speed, ubiquity and flexibility.
  • Evangelize. Become the change agent of the “so what” by asking what the business can do differently and how the organization’s mission can be better served. Understand the implications of the “what” and “how” so you don’t oversimplify the migration effort or overpromise the expected outcomes. Vendors and partners can provide scenarios and benchmarks of potential business impact because of the foundational changes. Competitor and cross-industry examples are good, but rarely does something compare to a handful of impactful use cases from your own business.
  • Come to terms with competing viewpoints. Today’s leading vendors are placing nuanced but different bets. SAP on extensibility and ubiquity. Oracle on convergence and integration. The various cloud players on edge disruption bleeding into the core. Each is valid, and likely to achieve goals in the mid-term – and market conditions are unlikely to settle the debate and force anyone’s hand. Which leaves the onus on the organization to gain visibility into vendor roadmaps, articulate their own business’ vision into similar terms, invest where alignments are clear and make intelligent bets where there is uncertainty.

Bottom line

ERP’s reinvented engine improves the process-driven ways of old, and enables the event-driven possibilities of tomorrow. Overhauled technologies allow cheaper and timely passage along the well-worn tracks of your existing automated processes. But technological breakthroughs suddenly mean industrial-grade performance can be coupled with maneuverability. This gives you more than efficiency and cost gains; it allows the underlying business problems to be approached in new ways. It allows access to data more efficiently, leading end-users to ask additional questions and explore new ways to exploit their ERP’s data – and unlock the potential of their information.

Of course you can rationalize your infrastructure and application footprint. But the real questions are more strategic. What would you do differently if you could close your books in seven seconds instead of seven days? What could you learn from real-time monitoring of the social-sphere interactions around your industry? The new ERP engines give you the tools to answer these questions and more.

 

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