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2021 in review - the year in partner insight

Alyx MacQueen Profile picture for user alex_lee December 22, 2021
So that was 2021, and what have we learned? As it turns out - plenty, as diginomica partners continued to provide project authority and insights throughout.


Our partners rose to the publishing challenge this year with over 160 articles collectively. One of the things I’ve loved about re-reading these articles is the focus on practical examples, use cases and realism.

While partners have their own specialisms and areas of expertise, a key theme that runs through partner content is the need for change – an understanding of the issues being faced by customers, and actual advice on what to look for, what success looks like and what challenges have been overcome.

diginomica readers keep coming back to partner articles because of the topical but evergreen authority they provide – here are some of the favorites that have stood out this year:

Acumatica – Challenge accepted - transforming from a traditional VAR to a modern VAR

Geoff Ashley reflected on the lifetime value model of the modern VAR – and why it’s essential to change entrenched behavior and cultures to keep customers happy after they buy:

I have asked hundreds of VAR owners a simple question, “How much of any implementation is the same? ”They all have the same answer: up to 70%. If this is true, then why can’t we package the 70%? Customers will pay for real value. They are tired of paying for services they could perform on their own. But, at this point, you have no self-service.

Adobe – The art of customer experience – from transaction to conversation

Like a good conversationalist, brands need to understand boundaries, respect personal space, and build relationships on the customer's terms, or risk losing them. There’s no magic solution to this – but Bridgette Darling shares four practical steps that businesses can work towards:

To bring the disparate data together into a single source of customer truth, brands need the right technology to make it happen. Before purchasing or implementing any new technologies, it is important to break down internal silos across teams and people, or in processes, to maximize technology investments. For example, purchasing a customer data platform without teams and processes in place to ensure that all relevant customer data is collected and the insights accessible across an organization would weaken the value of the technology.

ASUG – What does the ERP of the future look like? Questions, considerations and conundrums

ERP needs to change – while those three letters can make you reach for the blood pressure monitor, Geoff Scott set out the lessons from several customer case studies on how to get there, with lots of unbiased advice and no hype:

Right now, there are scores of CIOs, CFOs and IT-buying committees charting the future of ERP at their companies, working very hard to answer a myriad of questions: best of suite or best of breed, on-premise or in the cloud, private or public, hyperscaler or no hyperscaler? They want to take advantage of the latest innovations — AI, machine learning, RPA — but will be stymied if their core systems can't keep up. (And let's be real here: Today's APIs are amazing, but even graduates of Hogwarts School have their limitations. In other words: APIs can't perform magic.)

Avantra – Dear CIO – get off your ERP island

For too long, the ERP team (and its data) has been marooned away, with its own tools for managing incidents and service calls. John Appleby explains why now is the time for CIOs to bring ERP off the island – and into true workflow automation:

Take the real-life example of a senior executive who has two parallel situations. First, the organization has thousands of scripts which keep systems running day-to-day, with limited change management or compliance ensuring they keep the business safe. And second, she has described how she typically finds out about a serious incident from the CFO. No IT executive wants to be blindsided by the CFO v it’s indicative of a broader malaise.

Confluent – Data in motion is headlining in the golden age of customer experience

The modern customer experience relies on the movement of data. Peter Reeve drives home the essentials of data in motion with three industry examples that have helped to make customers feel genuinely valued:

It's often not the same software used across an organization, but separate, siloed applications bolted on to manage different processes and functions according to a certain department's needs. That means data is sitting still — manufacturing is not talking to sales, and logistics is not communicating with customer service. That might have worked pre-COVID, but now? It's far from adequate for customers whose attention might be drawn to competitors rolling out faster and slicker experiences.

Coupa – Drive value for your organization with e-auctions - learnings from Maersk's Jacob Larsen

Business spend management and the expertise of finance teams has taken a prominent role this year, giving some long-overdue emphasis on the need for digitization and sourcing, versus relying on siloed information or the dreaded spreadsheet. Michael Schanker talks to Jacob Larsen of Maersk on lessons learned and best practices on e-auctions as a key sourcing strategy for cost savings and increasing agility:

There are three key components that are central to being successful with e-auctions. First, you must take a sustainable, fair, and transparent approach to how you apply e-auctions to your supply base. That means adopting the right definition for e-auctions and the right governance for execution. Second, you need to adopt a strategic approach to auction design beyond pilot schemes and tactical tail spend. You should not approach e-auctions in the same manner every time. The third is driving adoption which requires adopting a change management mindset — it is a lifestyle, not a diet. What I mean by that is the effort of working with people, winning them over, and creating a culture of change will never cease.

FinancialForce – Four steps your company can take to transform the customer experience

It’s a common claim for vendors to have customers at the heart of everything they do - but how much do you know your customers? Scott Baitos shares four keys to customer success, with the use of analytics, AI and an objective view of whether customer needs are truly being met:

Customers are looking for you to be their go-to adviser. They don’t want you to be just a vendor, they want you to be a trusted partner. They want you to help them put in place processes to achieve greater efficiencies and reduce wasted or redundant efforts. They also want solutions and advice that is tailored to their business, not cookie-cutter reports that don’t meet their specific needs.

Freshworks – Four ways you can incorporate human-centric design into customer service

There's an old maxim that says it's pointless spending time designing a bridge if you're not going to spend time thinking about the people who use it. Mukesh Mirchandani explores four ways you can incorporate human-centric design into customer service, with a simple but effective example:

Oral-B is one of the most famous examples when they launched their new children's toothbrush. Their designers watched how kids brushed and realized they have lower dexterity and use their fists to hold the toothbrush rather than their fingers due to low grip strength – so they made toothbrushes with a big, fat, squishy grip that was easier for them to hold onto. This tiny discovery led to Oral-B having the best-selling kid's toothbrush in the world for 18 months.

IFS – How Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team steers efficiency and compliance in its pursuit of F1 excellence

Formula One’s decision to put a spending cap on improving car performance resulted in teams needing real-time, granular management information due to the fast and reactive engineering cycles of the industry. CFO Robert Yeowart explains the crucial role of ERP in F1 wins at Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team, in a topical customer story.

Our moment of service is all about making sure performance, reliability and continuous improvement come together. We design and build the fastest cars we can, we make sure they are reliable to complete races and we improve whatever we can at every step. If we get all that right, our effort wins races. In order to get that right we need to take informed make-and-buy decisions, accelerate parts production and orchestrate logistics for parts globally.

Infor – Global microchip shortage in automotive industry reinforces need for better supply chain planning

Supply chains came under the microscope this year as disruption came under scrutiny from stakeholders, consumers, world leaders and industry experts. Peter Maithel’s article is a great example:

It isn’t enough to observe potential trouble spots. Companies must also be able to take action, reassigning orders or re-mapping shipping routes, as needed, to keep inventory moving, routed to the most optimal location. Platforms that link trading partners via common processes and shared data can provide enhanced sense-and-respond capabilities, thereby significantly reducing risk.

Neptune Software – Does no code in the enterprise create more problems than it solves?

Matthias Steiner cuts through the low code/no code hype to analyze the ambitions of breaking down barriers to provide productivity without limiting flexibility. In this article, he asks: have these no code/low code delivered on the promise of easily created, rapidly deployable applications?

IT needs to understand and embrace its role as an enabler rather than a gatekeeper because the no code story breaks as soon as citizen developers depend on corporate IT in their daily work. This door swings both ways, as corporate IT does not have the bandwidth to support large numbers of power users requiring help with their fit-for-purpose apps. The long-term incentive for IT is to outsource the development of day-by-day apps. Therefore, IT needs to provide the right data sets, application blueprints, micro templates, and application building blocks plus respective enablement assets to kick-start and safeguard this high-volume no code-powered development movement.

New Relic – Making observability a standard practice for every engineer in 2021

Jason English of Intellyx invokes pizza to explain achieving observability in modern software delivery. Sharing the highlights of his interview with CEO Bill Staples, this discussion covers the move to open telemetry data:

It's great to see such cross-vendor support, as the future of our industry depends on it. Our own product roadmaps, issue tracking and builds are done in the open now, we're contributing to OpenTelemetry, and we can basically consider any running system as a source of telemetry data in our platform.

Oracle - The pandemic has put an end to the employee social contract – so now what?

The pandemic gave employees the opportunity to reflect on what success means to them, and what makes them happy. As Yvette Cameron writes, Oracle research shows employers need to up their game in flexibility, education, career advancement for employees. Or else.

Companies that do not proactively offer innovative and rewarding training, education, and other creative ways to keep employees engaged will see their ranks depleted even more by the Great Resignation. Jobs change fast in this age of technology, but if you keep educating employees, they are more likely to feel engaged and in control of their work choices, and thus less likely to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Planful – What FP&A teams need to know about AI/ML

Grant Halloran reflects on the vast amount of data that finance teams have access to, and how finance leaders can focus on the detail:

Ask financial professionals what keeps them up at night, and they'll tell you it's being unaware of a mistake or error hidden somewhere in their data. The ability of AI/ML applications to spot anomalies, errors, and variances gives users greater confidence in the accuracy of their numbers. FP&A professionals can quickly spot and fix issues without spending hours in manual review, giving them valuable time back to spend on higher-value work.

Rimini Street – Best-in-class change management has never been more valuable

Practical tips based on direct experience from change management maven Nancy Lyskawa, who says the pandemic has made the job even tougher: 

When a business undertakes an organizational or technological change that fundamentally changes its processes, support or infrastructure, there can be disbelief, concern, and anxiety that builds within the organization. Now more than ever, it’s on executives to provide a more holistic support system to employees as they react to change.

Sage Intacct – How can finance and HR work better together?

Paul Burrin continues the topic of breaking down silos between departments, emphasizing the importance of collaboration between HR and finance when it comes to strengthening corporate performance and outcomes.

For instance, what happens if your post-pandemic plans to return employees to their offices are delayed by six months? What will this do to your reopening policies? How will you refurbish/retrofit offices to maintain social distancing? What new policies will you implement regarding new work modalities – and what are their financial impacts? Too often, HR does have access to the right data v accurate and complete - so that they can make recommendations and take action.

Salesforce – Strength in diversity - for better business resilience, empower women in their careers

Musidora Jorgensen holds a magnifying glass up to gender equality, reminding business leaders why it’s their responsibility to empower women to further their careers and effect real change:

To truly build a workplace that looks like society, women need to be represented at every level, particularly on corporate boards and C-Suite positions. Supporting women at all stages of their careers, through mentorship, sponsorship, investing in leadership development programs and inclusive promotions processes, will bring more women to the decision-making table and inspire more to rise from the ranks.

ServiceMax – How to make sure AR and VR have a big impact on the future of field service management

Joe Kenny makes the case for AR and VR in supporting field service management at a granular level, sharing the common pain points that can be solved and the strategic benefits that early adopters can use to their advantage:

An example of these benefits was recently announced by equipment manufacturer Emerson, who introduced AR technology to its industrial plant asset performance system to deliver better access to real-time diagnostics and analytics, and live remote assistance, to workers who maintain and optimize plant equipment. It's interesting to point out that Emerson recognized that AR and VR on their own would not be enough to solve the issue and that integration into their Asset Database was critical.

ServiceNow – Why human-centric metrics are essential to business agility

This year separated the organizations who said they were agile and resilient, from those who could walk the talk. Chris Pope urged businesses that it’s not too late to make human-centric metrics a priority in order to cope with future change from C-suite to workflows:

By dissolving archaic management silos, meritocratic businesses open the door to self-regulating teams which flourish in the absence of arbitrary restrictions. This leads to flexible and fluid business with self-forming diverse teams, knowledge sharing, collaboration, and a capability to rapidly scale up talent and skills to meet upcoming needs.

Software AG – How to make ‘Digital Transformation’ about more than new technology

Anyone who has read Jon and Brian’s annual unpredictions knows how we feel about buzzwords. Sanjay Brahmawar breaks down the fundamentals of what digital transformation really means:

The ‘outside world' should remain the focus. If processes become more efficient, or costs are managed more effectively, the benefit is often felt by the company implementing them. It helps the bottom line and pleases investors. But if ‘transformation' can't make a meaningful change to real people in everyday real life, then what is it transforming?

Tercera – Enabling the new enterprise stack for the cloud’s Third Wave

Tercera's thesis is that the third wave of cloud technology is multi-cloud and hybrid, emphasizes connectedness, and reaches across the enterprise boundary - and it demands a new generation of cloud consultancies. Chris Barbin’s article explains why digital engineering services are key.

While the trend toward public cloud is still accelerating, it's easy to forget that 98% of businesses still rely on on-premise IT infrastructures. Not every legacy application can – or should – be pushed to the cloud, so there will always be at least some that remain on-premise. When you consider that IBM mainframes are still used by 44 of the top 50 banks and all top 10 insurers worldwide, it's clear that a hybrid approach that can accommodate on-prem assets will be a reality for many years to come.

Unit4 – Why edge computing matters to enterprise software

What has edge computing got to do with ERP? Claus Jepson shares four ways edge for enterprise software can be interpreted, and the capabilities you need to be able to use it:

Interest in edge was originally driven by a desire to reduce latency and bandwidth. Today the main drivers are the internet of things and real-time apps that demand instantaneous data processing. 5G is accelerating this trend, with use cases in process control, optical inspection, autonomous vehicles, and augmented reality experiences.

Workday – 5 CFO skills that will help finance leaders meet today's new challenges

Finance functions have not only been a critical part of business survival since the start of the pandemic – they’ve evolved. Steve Dunne shares five skills – some emerging, some traditional – that CEOs seek in finance leaders:

Access to data and actionable insights are now fundamental to business success and helping companies identify new market opportunities, improve customer experiences, drive business planning, and support change and innovation. As a result, CEOs will turn to finance leaders who not only have accounting experience, but also wider operational backgrounds and a broader mix of business experience.

Yellowfin – Numbers don’t lie, but they can fib – without data storytelling, your data has no context

Data visualizations can make information look beautiful – but without a narrative or framework, that can be dangerous for making decisions. Tony Prysten presents data storytelling, step-by-step:

Effective data storytelling is the combination of two factors — trusted data and expert narrative. Stories help convey a message and stimulate action. Data, for its part, stimulates thinking — but stories inspire resolve. Together they grab the audience’s attention on important discoveries. They assist in delivering meaning, and persuade people to care about findings.

Zendesk – Competing in the ‘now’ economy - here’s what to invest in to win at customer experience

Speaking of data, Peter Lorant took a dive into customer experience research to share the findings and recommendations on where investments in CX will bring the best return on value as customer expectations continue to grow:

Research from Zendesk and the Enterprise Strategy Group found that tech was only one side of the coin. CX Champions (the 15% of businesses who were leading in customer experience) were more likely to have upskilled their service team, maintained appropriate staffing levels, and delivered high quality technology to their service personnel. They were also the businesses 7.3x more likely to have increased customer spend, and 3.4x more likely to have expanded market share.

Zoho – Transnational localism – a small town approach to staffing up

Raju Vegesna takes a distinctive position in his description of a strategy to move out of big cities and recruit talent by opening ‘spoke’ offices in small towns: 

If we want to create a more equitable system for employment, we can't forget the lessons that the pandemic has taught us. Workers still want and need to collaborate in person; however, remote working has opened many people's eyes to the value of remaining close to family and friends and building a schedule of one's own. Transnational localism is our best shot at creating a balance between at-home and in-office work for employees that had previously never had a say in the matter.

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