It was almost two decades ago I started my career in enterprise applications. At that time, the basis of software-enabled differentiation was bespoke operational and transactional processes. For a long while that was good enough. Data was a highly valuable asset, and those able to manage it better than the rest had the competitive edge. Now, data is arguably THE most valuable asset. And yet managing data is a commoditized imperative. An ability to manage big data is essential for market leaders, but in parallel software (and software vendors) have gained a new role in the context of differentiation.
The days of simply plugging a process deficiency with a made-to-measure software solution are over. There was a time when an organization would find a weakness in the execution of a process and then a ‘process black belt’ would team up with an IT expert and the chosen business process module would be shaped and molded to close the gap or optimize the process. The cycle would take anywhere from six months to six years and with luck the needs of the business hadn’t changed much in that time. But they did.
Business outcome driven
Today, any need from the business has a short lifespan for which it can be considered ‘ahead of the curve’. Market opportunities, business models and applications of technology are quick to evolve and quick to become common practice (or even redundant). Therefore, the business doesn’t just take more of an interest in how software better enables their competitive edge, instead they are the driving force behind continuous technology enabled change.
Business leaders need their workforce to be empowered to make data-driven decisions and they need to be able to move through the cycle of spotting a new business opportunity to having it realized and in operation within a short time frame. At the same time, they need a transparent, consistent, reliable and resilient platform to run the business on.
Architecture for agility
It is fair to say that at the turn of the last century, and before the advent of the cloud, most organizations would see their new solution delivered as an integrated ‘big bang’. This approach would simply go right or wrong, with failure potentially leading to financial loss and/or a ruinous waste of management time.
The selection of a software solution was often swayed by the desire of IT experts and IT decision makers to get their hands-on well-known vendor solutions, and to run marketable projects for their CV. Regard or relevance to business needs was often low on the priority list, indisputably because discussion around the business’ near-, medium- and long-term objectives was not common place between business and IT.
In parallel, vendors would proactively encourage volume and depth of customization to help the customer carve out the ‘perfect’ solution. Hindsight has delivered us all the reality check that complexity and agility don’t easily co-exist. The big monolithic ERP system is outdated. It needs to be open while also having all the characteristics you would expect in a modern architecture, like transparency, exposed microservices and APIs. The differentiator for vendors and customers alike is open architecture. ERP isn’t all things to all people, but should be focused, relevant and open to complementary side-by-side integrations that enable the core ERP to stay agile and evergreen.
True value comes after go-live
Today, the software vendor is sought after to deliver much more than industry best practise process flows, and mechanisms for managing and utilizing data smartly. The vendor must be a partner throughout the whole lifecycle that is entrusted with mapping the ever-changing business requirements with technology, and with signposting a way to stay agile and evergreen from a technology perspective.
In this video executives from Jotun explain how strong relationships at all levels have helped them navigate their ever-changing growth-related goals. From expansion into new international markets, to the adoption of web services by their customers.
A competitive edge is held by those who move not only the quickest, but also in the most synonymous way with the market, continuously. Whilst go-live, in the context of solution deployment, holds potential to alleviate past pain points (be that complexity induced expenditure or rigidity), the gains of a new solution kick-in along with adoption throughout the whole lifecycle. It is user adoption, a true lifecycle engagement and the continuous adoption of technological advancements to the solution that deliver true value.
A great example is the SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team who is now using new cloud-based business software to underpin the team’s racing operations and office needs. All eyes are on it as a vehicle to future proof their platform and accelerate growth.
A well-documented benefit of leaving bespoke built solutions behind (and adopting standardized solutions instead), is the leverage you gain to uptake new features and functionality at pace with their publication, i.e. to stay evergreen. Navigating through technology adoption and user adoption tactfully holds infinite value when in pursuit of any business outcome. The mission is finding a way to sweat your investment in a solution to reap meaningful, continual and incremental value.
For example, Volac, one of Europe’s leading manufacturer of nutritional whey proteins and lactose products, has consistently upgraded its business systems in response to business imperatives.
Markets shift fast and frequently. Challengers differentiate and disrupt by establishing and retaining an edge. Though the underlying mission of a challenger organization may be stable, the business outcome in focus will likely evolve in line with its environment.
The new play position for software, and more specifically vendors and partners, is mapping solution capability and industry trends with business outcomes. Omitting the lure of taking technology without tact and supporting the move from concept to reality through change management driven adoption.
Aerospace and Defence company, Saab, discusses how it successfully consolidated and replaced over 100 legacy systems. The Company notes its desire, post go-live, to partner with a company that shares its values.
Value is no longer tied to the deployment of a solution, but instead to being able to continuously gain from the investment in a tailored and business outcome relevant way. An open and agile architecture and smart partnerships using lifecycle engagement services and concepts make that possible. The value realized at go-live is only part of the story. The true potential lies in maximizing value across the lifecycle.