Brave new world of ERP+

Adopting business agility is the key to digital transformation

THERE is nothing wrong with a response that future of the ERP is on the “cloud”. But this is inevitable anyways. What is important to think about is what capabilities are needed to provide the agility that business expects.  Businesses needs the ability to deliver goods and services quickly, innovate and disrupt the market with new product innovations and lead through complexities. Unfortunately, most organizations underlying systems and processes hinder the effort to achieve the agility. One of the core reasons why this happen despite having ERP as operational backbone is that the data & processes are trapped in siloed disparate systems leading to inefficient processes causing incomplete or outdated information. End to end business processes should allow faster execution of the transactions. Such issues manifest themselves into incomplete data , preventing from drilling down to underlying transactions.  This in turn prevents from knowing ‘why ‘something happened and ‘what ‘is likely to happen.

When we think about the next generation the enterprises running ERP systems, we will see a shift from event driven business process chain to intelligence driven business process chains. The underlying assumption of such a shift is based on the growth of sensors , the volume of near real-time data and the ubiquitous API driven microservices integrated with the Core ERP systems.  This will significantly change the operating models of the enterprise especially how every employee in the organization make smarter decisions and then drive faster actions using automation & workflows. Important thing is to have truly meaningful insights – not just about what happened, but what is likely to happen. Therefore , intelligence will become embedded into every interaction , every decisions at every process. The enterprises will become far more data & intelligence driven organizations.

To be able to drive agility, businesses today need “system of intelligence “as a layer above the SaaS based ERP with the ability to observe, sense, process structured & unstructured data with both real time and periodic intervals.  Take for example, “Improving customer experience “. In this case “customer data “is in the context of experience of the customer.  “Customer” as an entity with its relationships to order, price, service, product, quality, schedule, service engineer , Sales person.  Every touch point customer has that influences the experience.  These relationships are built through multiple connection across one or more applications as “many to many” relationships.  Some are part of the ERP and some across other systems. So, in the context of improving customer experience as one of the key business outcomes, it becomes imperative to create the knowledge models of all the elements that relates to customer experience. Similarly, there can be employee knowledge graphs, product, or services knowledge graphs and so on.

Given this trend, the next generation of the ERP systems are likely to be a combined stack of ERP SaaS (best of breed) + PaaS (as system of intelligence) as capability to not only provide a robust operational back bone but also provide the agility the businesses need today.

Value to the business from “system of intelligence” (PaaS)

–      System of intelligence is real-time and is used as part of each interaction

–      Ability to harness the data and harness the process through.  Ability to have the insights and enable workflows to automate the process.

–      Ability to use to solutions (as services) on pay-as-you-go model on subscription-based pricing model

–      Easy to configure, integrate and migrate by leveraging a set of pre-built API adapters and access to tool sets based on open architecture

–      Cost effective, easy to use and can be deployed faster as “system of intelligence” with no interference to the underlying ERP (system of records).  The underlying ERP systems can be “best of breed”. Therefore, if there are changes on the SaaS ERP platform, the changes to PaaS is very minimal to none at all and vice-versa.

–      Ability to launch a new business model at rapid pace.

Core capabilities of the “system of intelligence” (PaaS)

–      Key criteria to determine what goes on the PaaS (system of intelligence) include 1) Create memorable experience by connecting entities with minimum friction as possible. Orchestrate the transaction flow without the user having to bother which underlying applications are involved 2) Create insights & intelligence by harnessing data 3) Ability to continuously observe and learn 4) Enable launching new products or services at rapid pace 5) Industry specific business “use cases” expressed as services

–      Allow subscription-based model. Lower up-front cost by allowing the solutions (as services) on this platform to be available from a multi-tenant cloud infrastructure. Built on Open Architecture.

–      Regular patch updates including mandatory security patches to ensure the platform is kept up to date. New releases follow through devSecOps to ensure speed and security allowing development teams to deliver better, more-secure code faster, and, therefore, cheaper.

–      Allow ease of use.  Ability to deploy faster as “system of intelligence” with no interference to the underlying ERP (system of records).

–      The platform needs to be robust & secured.  Designed in such a way that system of intelligence layer is common for all clients in the select industry while the system of engagement is client specific.

Next generation ERP systems

As the evolution of the ERP continues to unfold, we can expect the following possibilities:

(a)   ERP product vendors to come up with the full stack capability of “system of intelligence” as PaaS – an “add-on” product on top their own SaaS ERP products.

(b)   Emergence of new category of the ERP products in the market by the enterprise providers such as system integrators or by completely new set of providers focusing on building PaaS as “system of intelligence “and delivered the services on subscription-based pricing model.

(c)   New category of PaaS by hyperscalers or ERP product vendors enabling all the core technology capabilities including telemetry, digital brain, IDE for low coding, APIs – making the platform as a robust marketplace for the ISVs to build applications and deliver “system of intelligence” as services. Thereby enabling ISVs to deliver the “system of intelligence” as PaaS solutions

One thing is clear: Given the agility business needs, the enterprise providers who decide to invest quickly to build a robust, scalable, state of the art “system of intelligence” as Platform as a Service, are most likely to lead the enterprise market to the future.

Author Details

Subrata Kar

Subrata Kar is a senior executive and business leader in the IT industry with over three decades of experience. In Infosys, he leads the service delivery of ERP package-led technology practice for Energy, Utilities and Communication industry segments. He specializes on ERP , Cloud software products and enterprises in digital transformation. He consults fortune 1000 clients and leads the implementation of medium to large scale ERP / Cloud Applications across the world. He is actively involved in building new enterprise solutions and services at scale. He is responsible for incubating, growing new practices and providing delivery leadership to the global clients. He researches new business models , technology trends and writes & speaks on Enterprise Solutions , Digital transformations and Automation.

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