As the CEO of an enterprise software company, this year has taught me that we have a much greater responsibility and obligation than simply selling products to customers. I would go as far as agreeing with Josh Greenbaum's long-held view that a ‘culture of mediocrity' has crept into the enterprise software market in terms of how products and platforms are designed, delivered and supported.
That is why we have invested so heavily in modernizing our architecture and I believe it puts us in a good place to meet the challenge laid down by long-standing industry experts such as diginomica's Dennis Howlett, to prove the value that enterprise software offers customers. We must enable businesses to succeed and become more resilient to these ‘Black Swan' events like the COVID-19 pandemic or recessions like the one in 2008.
I am an eternal optimist. We live in a new reality where the assumptions we made about the world, prior to March 2020, have been challenged. What is clear though, is that we have an opportunity to rethink and deliver better outcomes for our organizations, our people, and the communities we serve.
In speaking to our customers, they are sharing that they need to focus on building agile, empowered teams, and enabling fast decision making. This is also something that has stood out in our recently published study, Digital Enterprise Strategies for People-Led Transformation. When asked about the drivers for current enterprise apps strategies, the ability to innovate faster was the top priority for global decision makers and 84% said the pandemic had accelerated their enterprise applications strategies. Organizational redesign is on the table with managers gaining a better understanding of how people want to work and designing processes and technology with a new mindset.
The big shift
At our recent customer conference, Experience4U, we heard from a number of experts and customers on how proactive organizations are taking this time to remodel their organizations around people.
Unit4 customer, Forest Research, is harnessing the benefits of this approach. Finance Director, Meiron Nelson, talked about how COVID-19 has been a catalyst for moving from a largely manual process-based organization to one that is fully digitized and accessible to all team members. With much improved financial control, Meiron talks passionately about the impact of going digital on the employee experience and culture. He describes the move to a single integrated cloud platform as a "significant step forward" with people accessing data and completing tasks at a rapid pace regardless of location, including from forests.
The global pandemic has forever changed the culture of human interaction. Fosway Group's Director of Research David Perring believes the future has arrived early. People want to work for organizations with a shared purpose, that build a culture of trust. This has to be supported by frictionless experiences, digital HR innovation and an agile and adaptive workforce. Digital innovation and mobility are key; the talent agenda has changed forever.
And people-focused organizations across industries like public sector, higher education, nonprofit and professional services are embracing this program of change. Surrey County Council is a good example. In my conversations with Leigh Whitehouse, Director of Resources, I heard that their transformation plans centre around culture and people, with a new approach to ERP as an enabler. They are focused on service improvement, but the wider imperative is to provide their people with an experience that better reflects their values and culture. They believe that the experience they provide to their people will reflect how they are able to work with their customers, the citizens and residents in Surrey.
This is also borne out by our global study. When global decision makers were asked what would be most important to their enterprise applications strategies in the future, the top priority was creating the flexibility to enable their workforces to work wherever they want, followed by enabling greater collaboration between employees and empowering employees to meet customer demands.
True digital transformation is about the whole customer lifecycle
Customer experience is foundational to competitive advantage. And this has never been more true than for SaaS vendors. You have to demonstrate your value to your customer each day. Customer communities and personalized journey frameworks are critical to your value proposition.
Unit4 customers have quickly adapted to this new way of working and the benefits digital transformation can bring to their organizations. Conversations with prospects and customers centre on how quickly they can introduce innovative technology to expedite and drive more accurate decision making, as well as better connecting with and enabling their people regardless of location, role or function.
According to global accountancy firm BDO in their May 2020 article titled, COVID-19 is Accelerating the Rise of the Digital Economy:
Organizations that embrace digital solutions have greater resiliency in the face of adversity-and a leg up on the competition that will enable them to recover faster and pivot from playing defense to chasing growth.
Again, our study also showed a real urgency to innovate as a result of the impact of Covid-19. When asked, global decision makers said the top three impacts were more agile planning (49%), the pace of innovation had increased (42%) and it had also sped up their investment in the cloud (35%).
Ask yourself, is your enterprise tech right for your people?
If there is a digital advantage as BDO points out, then now is the time to see if your enterprise tech has expired and processes are not tuned to the new way of working. That's why we launched our ERPx product in October, rearchitected for the cloud and, we believe, offering real differentiation and value to mid-market, services-based organizations as well as upscaling people experiences.
Not all cloud enterprise software vendors are alike. Some have focused on cloud acquisitions rather than re-architecting their core solutions to meet the future needs of growing businesses. Some still take a product-centric approach versus people-centric, which leaves the end user feeling like they are the afterthought.
Why is taking a ‘people first' approach to software design and development so critical? Software Reviews (part of Info-Tech) just published its ERP Emotional Footprint reports, which evaluate and rank products based on 'emotional response' ratings from IT and business professionals — users of the products. The methodology aggregates scores across 26 dimensions of the vendor-client relationship and product effectiveness, creating an ‘Emotional Footprint' of overall user feeling toward the vendor and product. It looks at metrics such as whether they feel their ERP vendor is a catalyst to greater innovation, if the software saves time, and if it is performance enhancing. I recommend you read the report to see how Unit4 and other vendors performed on these and other scores.
People-centric ERP will become the platform on which organizations standardize and run their business because they can easily see immediate ROI, improved user satisfaction and the ability to grow at a pace necessary to meet the needs of the market and their customers.
As we enter 2021, it's imperative on all business leaders to build the digital foundation that ensures our people and our organizations achieve their potential. ERP is the framework for building the people-based business of the future.
Read more about Unit4 ERPx and how it supports this thinking.