Transformation is a buzzword in danger. At its best, "transformation" summons the organizational will to change. Too often, "transformation" represents a paved super-highway, built by a vendor that wants you to travel in their direction - upgrading their software as you go.
This is a prevalent issue in the ERP marketplace. Reality check: for customers on older ERP releases, there are multiple paths to transformation.
One of our jobs at diginomica is to do justice to all those paths. Our latest diginomica partner, Avantra, is a relevant voice here. In their diginomica debut, Dear CIO - get off your ERP island, Avantra CEO John Appleby issues a warning. Remember those busloads of ERP consultants that unloaded at project sites through the 90s and 00s? Well, as Appleby writes:
You might be surprised to hear, however, that the ERP Operations team never left.
The problem of ERP data and operations silos lingers with them. Even in 2021, it's not unusual to have a team comprising hundreds of people whose sole purpose is to keep applications like SAP running, keep it up to date, and take care of security and audit needs.
Despite the strides made by DevOps and continuous delivery, ERP teams didn't get the benefit. Why not? Because too often, ERP remains a silo. Appleby:
Applications like SAP are notoriously difficult to integrate into IT Service Management and Operations Management tools. CIOs have left the ERP team as an island, separate from the rest of the Enterprise Software support team.
Appleby's call to action:
It’s time for CIOs to get off of this island!
Now, ERP vendors will tell you they can address these problems, via generational upgrades to the latest and greatest. But that path to transformation is not universally appropriate. What else is a customer to do? How do you address IT automation in an ERP context, when your ERP vendor's attention may be elsewhere, plotting industry clouds?
These are potent questions, unfit for boilerplate answers. Avantra is a company with new ideas to consider here. One of my running jokes at diginomica: if I make fun of a buzzword too often, invariably, I'll end up writing about its virtues. That holds true for Avantra's approach - which, in a phrase, is AIOps for ERP. Or, if you'd prefer, automating IT operations.
Despite the potshots, I have no objections to a phrase like AIOps - as long as Avantra can convince me that AIOps is genuinely different than the ERP automation tools that have come before. In Avantra's debut piece, Appleby makes that case:
The real value in AIOps for ERP is that historical incidents and knowledge bases are a treasure trove of automation possibilities. In many cases, the issue causing a fault is well known; for example, a security vulnerability released requires a configuration change. In this case, you can identify a check (Observe), communicate this to a business user (Engage), and then move onto the third pillar of AIOps — automatically setting the parameter (Act).
But how do companies get there? What are the pitfalls on the way to ERP landscape automation? How does this intersect with ITSM vendors? What outcomes are currently realistic?
Those questions can't all be answered in one article. Fortunately, Avantra will be around to help us sort this, with fresh content to address our burning questions. Who knows, maybe they'll even get me to use AIOps without buzzword hesitation. Time will tell. For now, welcome Avantra.