If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that having the ability to change course quickly and easily is critical to an organization’s success. As McKinsey reported, there have been some spectacular examples of companies that have risen to the challenge:
- A global telco redeployed 1,000 store employees to inside sales and retrained them in three weeks.
- A US-based retailer launched curbside delivery in two days versus the 18 months it had previously planned.
- An industrial factory ran at more than 90% capacity with only 40% of its workforce.
Beyond the pandemic, change will remain the norm across all key business functions. According to a PwC report from June last year, 63% of CFOs were looking to make changes to products or service offerings, whether new or repurposed, to help them emerge stronger after the downturn.
Many of the changes CHROs implemented last year also look set to become permanent, as Gartner predicted, also in June last year:
At least 48% of all employees will work remotely post-pandemic.
Change affects an organization in many ways. It may need to scale volumes up or down. It’s likely to have to alter business processes or create new ones. It may have to work with different business partners, and it may be forced to invent entirely new business models.
Some software makes change difficult
A large part of the job of enabling change falls to the CIO and their first task is to remove the barriers to change caused by inflexible technology.
The main barrier to change is having to work with old, on-premise legacy systems. A Unit4 study focusing on people-led digital transformation found that 77% of decision-makers believe traditional on-premise environments are incapable of reacting to rapid change.
Systems like this are usually hard-coded, meaning that any changes require expensive and time-consuming, bespoke programming. They’re often closely coupled to the hardware they run on, so can’t easily be moved to more flexible platforms. They were designed to run in isolation and aren’t easy to integrate with the other software the company uses.
The enterprise software of the past was built to be used at the traditional workplace and isn’t easy to access from home or on a mobile device. The user interface is awkward, often requiring special commands and heavy training. Users have to tell the software what to do at every step as it’s incapable of acting without human instruction.
The type of technology that makes change easy
Fortunately, there's a new breed of enterprise software that's better suited to today's fast-changing world.
Flexible enterprise software is independent of the infrastructure it runs on, so it can be taken off-premises and put on any clouds and edge devices the organization wishes to use.
This kind of software is architected on flexible principles. It has a microservices architecture, meaning it’s composed of ready-made building blocks that can be put together or rearranged easily, and it features APIs and extension kits to make it easy to connect to other software.
It comes as a modular suite covering a sensible range of interrelated business functions (such as resource planning, finance and HR) with industry standard business processes built in. Rather than being hard-coded, it’s low- or no-code in nature, so that any necessary changes can be made by superusers working from menus.
Being cloud-based, users don’t have to be in the office to access it. Function-specific apps mean users can do their particular tasks on their mobile devices without having to access the whole application.
The user interface is so intuitive users can simply speak to the software using natural language, and it understands them. It can even think for itself, using artificial intelligence to watch what users do and then anticipate their needs, performing routine processes automatically and informing users when they’re done.
Flexible software allows you to master change
With the right kind of flexible enterprise software in place, every function in the organization can make whatever changes they require in response to disruption:
- Finance can perform scenario modelling and continuous forecasting.
- HR can reallocate people to new roles and support them through the change.
- Operations can switch business partners with ease and scale up or down as needed.
- IT can provide the organization with the agility it needs while containing costs.
The changes facing organizations in the coming years may be driven by external factors — such as economic, environmental or social events — or they may be internal decisions, like developing a new business model based on new insight into customer behavior.
Either way, the organizations that will succeed in the ever-changing new normal will be those that have invested in the kind of flexible software that allows them to master change.