Insights about enterprise architecture, ROI, Change Management, ERP apps, simplicity, agility & usability

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4 August, 2020
by PeterBj
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ERP Transformation Can Be Risky; Yet Necessary

 

 

It was just before the dawn of the 21st century when I no longer could endure the priorities of our management. They did not understand that technology could go from great to poor. As head of development and experienced two previous transformation projects, I believe(d) a system should be fixed before becoming totally broken.

At the same time, companies were desperate to plow ahead with ERP projects because they wanted to be viewed as investment-worthy by stock markets and to avoid a nasty problem called Y2K.

The focus was on implementing ERP. If you were not doing it, you were behind the times. Managers believed they had found the holy grail. For ERP vendors and consultancies, it was a goldrush where they put their energy into implementation methods designed to create as many billable hours possible. Companies’ money was used on corrupt and lousy consultants.

For all high-minded talk about business process reengineering, the reality was depressing. Businesses often found themselves with significant delays and substantial cost overruns, usually resulting in big cuts in adoption programs and user training.

People had to figure out how to work with ERP. Using it required employees to conform to the way the system was designed. User interfaces reflected what was most straightforward from a technology perspective, not what best supported the work an employee or business unit was trying to do. The system ruled. If it did not work the way you wanted, users could post complaints to an ever-expanding list the IT office was working on, but they could rarely expect a valid response.

When we entered the 21st century, the bubble burst. My prior employer Intentia/Movex went insolvent, becoming Symphony, then Lawson and now Infor M3. In trying to prevent the collapse, I lost my job – but I have never regret standing-up for effective and usable software apps, as that is what companies and its employees need to survive and prosper.

ERP Is Changing Again

Few of today’s ERP systems are meeting the requirements of the next decade and forward. For the most part, enterprise apps still center on what the software does not what people in business are trying to achieve. There has though been some ERP modernization projects of ERP in recent times. Sadly, many of them follows a pattern of rushing into complexity toward outstripping the ability to cope with the aftermath.

The challenge of enterprise software lies not so much in sophistication of the user interface, nor the endless feature/function glut but to control change and manage ever more complex relationships. Enterprise apps simply needs a better architecture. Change of such magnitude can never be realized by applying a new layer of paint. Establishing an architecture aimed for the future requires starting all over.

To craft a proper architecture requires to understand the demarcation between complex, simplistic, and simple. A complex system is inadequate to support business as it does not handle nuances of operations. Simplistic is insufficient. Only a simple system considers all issues of an agile enterprise and is transparent to the people using the system. People are not intimidated by a simple system; they regard it as a useful tool; yes, even a friend.

ERP Is Becoming Enterprise Business Capabilities

The new software architecture – powered with a responsive UI – provides unprecedented opportunities for improvements in efficiency, user satisfaction, and customer delight. Old school monoliths are dead. The new architecture mirrors how the Internet operates. Gartner and other pundits refer to this new era of ERP as Enterprise Business Capabilities (EBC):

  • It delivers a more dynamic infrastructure where the apps are open to a landscape with a variety of devices, services, and data sources.
  • It is no longer a priority to have only one system for the entire operations. Instead, companies choose SaaS applications where it matters most for the business.
  • Almost everything will run in safe cloud environments. Cloud apps offer much faster innovation adoption, which enables the delivery of higher business value faster.
  • Fragmentation is an enemy. To avoid it, chose a viable cloud platform and ensure that all new apps are specifically made for this environment.

To realize the EBC benefits, Gartner advice:

  • Companies should shift how they think about ERP “to include the fourth era of ERP – EBC. Prepare for EBC by embracing new technologies, but don’t ignore existing apps that still play a vital role as providers of core data and functions.”
  • Be aware, companies failing to properly adopt EBC with its more agile technology and implementation approach are at risk failing to realize the potential benefits.

ERP transformation can be a risky business. There is however one thing more dangerous: doing nothing! If Intentia’s management had realized their technology position, they could have avoid losing a market value of 1 billion Euros and becoming insolvent.

Software is still eating the world. Most companies have a software app debt of such extent it must be reduced. The importance of allying with the right software cannot be exaggerated. Simplified digital strategies and software can create competitive advantages for companies’ futures, shielding them from potential threats.

19 January, 2020
by PeterBj
Comments Off on Is 2020 the Time to Accelerate Your Aftermarket Operations?

Is 2020 the Time to Accelerate Your Aftermarket Operations?

The beginning of a new decade is a time for reflection. During recent years I have concentrated on providing super-fresh aftermarket solutions to fill a huge gap. Why are ERP vendors offering customers such poor aftermarket service solutions? Is it because they are still pondering about their requirements? Is it because they are not prioritizing customer service? Whatever the reasons are, it is time for change. 2020 can be the year when you began accelerating your aftermarket operations.

Customers have clear demands. Buyers are more empowered than ever before. Information and products are not only more widespread than ever but also readily available at the click of a button. Business is not as usual. For manufacturers to compete, they need to meet their customers’ needs wherever they are, which usually is online.

It is a pivotal time in the industry with rapid change and innovation disrupting the old way of doing things. To remain relevant, you must keep pace, differentiate yourself from competitors, digitalize, modernize processes, and add more power to your software capability to make customers happy and ensure profitability. That means important decisions are ahead for you.

Businesses succeed by recognizing good opportunities, pursuing them, and utilizing them better than rivals can. Not moving forward fast enough means you get stuck in reaction mode. It is that simple; if your competitors are getting better, and you are not getting better, you are getting worse.

Content, product, and material information management are important. The trick is to find a balance that work for your business. You do not need full-scale 3D to get started and go online. Any PDF can become clickable and make it easier for customers to buy spares and enter claims. Use the material you have, go online with elegance, and improve where it matters most.

Understanding the customer journey – from the customers perspective – is imperative for creating a useful and desirable experience – one that builds retention and loyalty. That means going the whole way, from the trigger of product demand to the thinking and feeling at each touchpoint throughout the process of purchase, service, and beyond.

Vendors of aftermarket software solutions must listen to customers, do lots of research and bring it back to their apps as that is how you set up customers for the solution they deserve and continuous success. Yes, I refer to an Aftermarket Portal solution that is cloud-based with strong functionality, flexible, cost-effective, and where self-service and mobility are omnipresent.

So, why not let 2020 be the year when your company began to accelerate aftermarket performance?

Actions over everything. We are good at thinking and strategizing aka saying what we are “going” to do, which is important to a degree – but there is so much opportunity to execute fast. Thinking and doing are two different things and results in two different outcomes!

I wish all chiefs of aftermarket operations a great 2020!

2 September, 2019
by PeterBj
Comments Off on Future-proof Your Next Enterprise Software Decision

Future-proof Your Next Enterprise Software Decision

We see great potential for users who wish to exploit next-generation enterprise software to gain competitive edge. But we also see how surveying all available options can lead to confusion. Much of the confusion stems from the too common misconception that all it takes to create a next-gen solution is to incorporate any or all of the following technologies: Cloud, BI, AI, IoT, Web, or SaaS.

But savvy users will not fall into this trap; they will separate applications that have had a face-lift and tummy tuck from those built on an underlying architecture and platform that can effectively use newer technologies.

There is nothing inherently wrong with migrated applications, but users and buyers of such applications should know what they are getting: an old piece of software with a new paint job that may not fit well with the future of business.

Cloud computing has become hot buttons among users seeking the latest things and maximize price/performance. But catchphrases can be misleading. Some of the companies promoting cloud – particularly those with heavy backpacking – use today’s buzzwords to sell what is essentially legacy applications that have been ported to the cloud.

While such apps may serve a user’s tactical need to get to a cloud platform, they are not structurally different from their legacy. They are even less appealing as apps with micro-service architectures provides extensive extendability created for public cloud platforms are increasingly available. Disruptive technology is quickly killing off older software.

Vendors are also split on how to meet increasing demand for progressive web user interfaces. Some vendors are attempting to bolt on a new UI to their old and rigid legacy screens. These types of swaps may work for some applications, but in most cases, they fall short of expectations in terms of mobility and usability.

The data model ideal of today belongs to a different paradigm as it is based on effective in-memory computing and integration. You cannot migrate old apps to do that with success. The advantages of modern apps cannot be an after-thought. Users should be watchful of vendor claims that software from the previous decade (or older) have been modernized for the new era of enterprise computing.

Users looking to standardize its applications in the public cloud must take heed. Wishful thinking have prompted many software vendors to encapsulate old code as a way to hide its complexity. But that is mostly cosmetic and definitely make the whole implementation less transparent. As a result, these apps fail to deliver on the promise of flexibility, and cost-efficiency.

The extensibility capability have also fallen prey to exaggerated claims. Changing and integrating applications nearly without writing any code is great. But users must carefully examine the extent to which these claims are true and how well these tools play together with their applications.

The bottom line when shopping for new applications is caveat emptor, or buyer beware. Vendors will not necessarily volunteer all the information you need. And a traditional checklist will not be enough for distinguishing next-gen enterprise apps from manipulated legacy systems. Such distinctions can only be made through exacting research and tough questioning.

Where enterprise applications stands today reminds me of the farewell of Rick and Ilsa in the movie of Casablanca. Rick (Humphrey Bogart), encouraging her (Ingrid Bergman) to leave, says, “If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”

Enterprise apps might not be the material for heroic movies, but the result is just as inevitable. Maybe you can wait a while, but if you ignore the power of next-gen apps, you will regret it. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for… Oh, you get the point.

1 December, 2018
by PeterBj
Comments Off on Old Style ERP with Lipstick is Still Old Style ERP

Old Style ERP with Lipstick is Still Old Style ERP

Old dog in the cloud

Big ERP vendors’ hope that users will hurry to go all-in on their cloud-enabled system, which they sell as if it was totally renewed. A growing number of  customers — even long-standing ones — begins to feel they are exposed to fraud, and they are absolutely right.

Just migrating an old monolithic ERP system to the cloud does not change anything but increasing the expenses. It can cost millions to re-implement a legacy ERP system in the cloud, but there is no gain. Old style ERP cannot be fundamentally improved by bolting-on some web and cloud technology. An old dog with lipstick is still an old dog.

Companies should never pay for anything not delivered and always buy the best app for the job and not because it is offered by a vendor they already use. To do so is plain lazy and bad business.

Poor usability and the high level of complexity and cost of app integration and making changes is a business disadvantage of magnitudes. Old style ERP delivers declining value. This happens because this kind of apps are getting inadequate at the same speed as new business requirements and technology opportunities emerge.

Old style ERP does not deliver architectural flexibility and usability advantages similar to apps that are natively built in the cloud for the cloud. This brings us to the point my friend and ERP authority Mikael Petersén made about today’s stature: “Companies want something transformative, but their vendors come to them with the same old system they have offered for the last 20 years.”

It is a new day for ERP. Smart business people understands that ERP technology has been through a generational change. Well-informed board members want to see companies move to digital business models and realize you are not going to get there with your grandpa’s Oldsmobile version of ERP. For a system to support its users need to change it must be changed itself or die.

  • The use of user ID predates email. But that is no reason to stay with cryptic user IDs. All native cloud apps allows using your email address as user ID. It is therefore a simple way to separate old from new, where the following 3 advantages shall be observed:
    • Research shows that where users had an email address and a ten-position user ID it was easier for most users to log in if only asked for their email address.
    • It is more cost-effective. For example, Microsoft Azure AD offers a lower price when using an email address as login.
    • When properly used you know immediately whom you are dealing with and how to make contact.

It is officially December! The end of the year comes with a lot of pressure to finish strong and plan for a successful 2019. The takeaway here is that status quo does not work and that you have more progressive ERP options than ever before. Whether you need a highly specialized app, a better app for a whole business domain or a new system designed for small to midsize companies, make the choice with an eye on the future.

The choice is crucial as you obviously do not intend to blaze a trail and ask your company to follow… and then find out you took the wrong way!

20 January, 2018
by PeterBj
Comments Off on Four Forces Driving the Future of Business Applications

Four Forces Driving the Future of Business Applications

Four forces

With 2018 upon us, it is time to dust off the crystal ball and foresee what will happen in the world of business applications the year ahead. Numerous new digital technologies are facing their breakthrough. As great as they are, the strongest drivers for 2018 will still be the ones we already know about but have not yet been properly combined.

Future business success requires a new roadmap. Google’s 2017 input search data revealed that “how” was the most popular type of question asked by internet users when people were looking for answers on how to get help and make a difference in what they wanted to achieve. If you want to make your business applications much better, this is how to go about:

Fit for Purpose

A business application that is fit for purpose is just right to do the job it was designed to do. Purpose refers to the reason for which the solution exists. Fit means being adapted to that end. Fit for purpose applications are built in the cloud for simplicity, scalability, lower total cost of ownership, and flexibility to improve constantly.

Investments in fit-for-purpose apps provide ROI through a repeated pattern. The sooner you have it, the longer time you will enjoy the benefit of recurring returns. The payback from your first investment is only part of the equation; again and again, the benefit will show on your bottom line.

Leave Your Legacy

The pace of change may not be as forceful in all industries, but it would still be hard to find a company that is immune to software technology innovation.

In a world where your business capabilities cannot be separated from its enabling technology, you either leave your legacy or disrupt. Your legacy – which includes apps that were developed just a couple of years ago – are now out of date.

Extreme Speed

When processing data – which enterprise computing essentially is about – extreme speed is what counts. In-memory database technology spiced with artificial intelligence makes it happen. When not organizing and storing data in the traditional way you gain enormous performance. With data in RAM, close to the CPU, you never have to move it; data is available up to 10 000 faster than before.

Because of the speed, data aggregates can be scrapped, and the program structure is changed so radically that apps need to be redesign and rewritten. As a result, they become faster, smaller and nimbler. This has been well demonstrated, for example by Starcounter. Founding an app on an in-memory database does not only make it faster, but it also means less code, enhanced transparency, and a much smaller data footprint.

Progressive Web

At first glance, there may not be any immediate connection between the in-memory database and the user interface. But it really is. With simplification, elastic data, and response times close to zero there is vast potential for improved user experiences – in a way that is far away from just putting new lipstick on a tired old dog.

The saying ‘from the users’ perspective, the user interface is the application’ is still true – so selecting the best user interface technology is critically important.

Progressive web apps are beautiful and useful to users from the very first visit in a browser tab, no install required. As the user progressively builds a relationship with the app over time, it becomes more and more powerful. It loads quickly, even on flaky networks, sends relevant push notifications, has an icon on the home screen, loads as a top-level resource providing a full screen experience on all devices from PCs to wearables.

Yes, to build a progressive web user interface you need knowledge of universal standards such as HTML, CSS and, Java Script, but they are relatively easy to learn and maintain as the result is both readable and flexible.

Moving to the next application generation will be liberating

Business will be much faster and easier. Organizations become more productive. People are engaged. Improvements can happen at the pace of business needs instead of fighting against peculiarities of antiquated software and architectures.

To compete at the speed of digital, you need to unleash your people and the four driving forces presented in this article. If you want to move fast, learn from those who know how you can make a giant leap with a stepwise approach!

28 August, 2017
by PeterBj
2 Comments

Catch the Rising BI Star

Rising Star

 

The need for transforming data into intelligent information to boost business performance is creating angst among many business people. They need something better than what they have today. Business Intelligence tools are not new, and many tools can ultimately perform similar functions, but the technical toolset of the developer, ease of presentation, and cost of use is drastically different.

Some companies will be fortunate to have employees that understand the difference and see the benefit of being an early adopter of Microsoft Power BI. Other companies stay with what they have and therefore pay more for being less informed.

Prepare to Win

If your organization wants to take advantage of the big data revolution, you’re going to need a business intelligence platform that can make the most of it. BI software is crucial for interpreting and examining data, whether you’re putting together some single reports, or performing a full battery of data analyses.

The BI market is saturated with old products. How do you evolve from something you’ve built your company around into something new and better? Or, in a broader sense, how do you keep your company competitive? No one should need to be reminded that change is the only business constant.

Many years ago, BCG developed a product life-cycle matrix based on market share and growth. “Dogs” are the low market share and low growth products. Single market BI apps fall into this category. “Cash Cows” are high in market share but low in growth. They keep the money rolling in but their days are limited. “Rising Stars” are products that are low in market share right now but high in growth. This is where the future lies.

Lower Cost and Higher Performance

Microsoft Power BI will initially live side by side with legacy BI tools. This coexistence may continue for several years. A mix-and-match strategy provides business dynamics but should not be a sleeping pill for companies who want to minimize BI portfolio’s complexity and cost. Don’t view your old BI star as immortal; see it as the aging Cow it is.

Microsoft has narrowed all significant feature gaps. For the second year in a row, Microsoft is placed furthest in vision within the Leaders of Gartner’s 2017 BI report. Get the report here and learn more about Microsoft’s favorable standing.

Microsoft won’t waver in its commitment to Power BI – you can be sure of that. Microsoft will continue executing on its successful “five strategies,” which states five seconds to sign up, five minutes to wow the customer, and five times more value for money, i.e., 80% lower cost than other (so called) leading BI products. Bundled with Office 365 it may even be less than that…

Opportunity is Now

You’ve still got time, but you shouldn’t waste that time by ignoring the advantages Power BI offers. If you do, you’ll eventually find yourself trying to get milk from a Dog. You must either adapt to new technology or get buried by them.

Better, faster, and cheaper are vital ROI issues and measures. The sooner you join a rising star the longer time you’ll enjoy the benefits of recurring returns on your investment. Timely is no small thing. Darwin’s famous theory might as apt been called “Survival of the Timeous.”

Evidence of Power

Once the data was connected to Power BI, it took my son and me two hours to develop a comprehensive Warranty Management Dashboard, with capacity to filter and drill down each graph. As great as it is, Power BI comes with a warning. Your appetite grows as you eat. Power BI talks to our intellectual curiosity; the desire to explore and know more.

Warranty Dashboard

 

13 January, 2017
by PeterBj
Comments Off on A Forty Year Perspective on ERP and Digitization

A Forty Year Perspective on ERP and Digitization

Looking forward by looking back

With more than forty years of experience from digital transformation with ERP and 2017 quickly taking off, it felt like an invitation to reflect on what has been and what lies ahead when seeking to deliver better value to users of enterprise software.

January 1977, half a year after having left high school 1 year before exam, having past IBM’s programming ability test with distinction and as a result employed by the pioneering ERP vendor Movex and educated through numerous IBM courses, I was nearly 19 years old and full of energy to serve customers and make a difference.

Learning from Practice

When acquainting with the real world at customer sites (where I spent most time as we could not afford our own computer), I was enamored by the ease and speed the computer made me carry out tasks the typewriter and calculator made tiresome and error-prone.

In my role as a programmer, I improved my ability to make the computer do magic by understanding how the resultant functionality enabled digitilized business processes where users are not just keying in data but actually using data as information.

Customers were the biggest source of inspiration. I felt great when they were happy, such as when a production manager said: “Now when I see the result, it was definitely worth the time and money invested in explaining our wants. What impresses me is that the solution you delivered not just meet our wants, it also fulfills our needs.”

Due to our success the volume and size of the projects increased, forcing me to practice more management and teamwork. In doing so, I realized we could energize more power together than we could one by one, why collaborative efforts became a way for us to deliver more value for less money to customers.

There was no doubt in my mind that the life of the users was about to dramatically shift for the better; the outcome of the enterprise solutions we delivered would transform paper-pushers to knowledge workers and send productivity to new heights.

Overcoming the Obstacles

But not everyone I met shared the same enthusiasm of it all. The resistance, to the point of anger at times, that people displayed when faced with learning how to use the applications we offered was fascinating to watch but tricky to handle.

The majority of the users had been in the workforce for many years and had been doing fine without computerized applications. Often they made clear to me that things were fine the way they were, so why change?

I am positive that to many customers, I appeared as a bright but naive youth with no experience to understand that the old way of doing things would prevail and the technology I gushed about would fade away as a failed experiment in time.

There were different approaches to avoid changing. I remember a warehouse manager asking me, “Can my job be preserved until I retire next year?” His wish was fulfilled because we could not automate all his duties. A year later, the missing pieces was filled out making his job obsolete, but then he was happily retired.

Recently, I met with a process owner replying, “That is not possible!” After the “impossible” was demonstrated, she rhetorically asked, “Why is this not already implemented here?” A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions. But why must it take so long to be aware of what is possible?

Progress is inevitable. We can, and will create the economy of the future when we remember that the function of technology is constantly empowering people to do things that were previously impossible.

Just as we had to find a way to help bridge progress in the early days of enterprise computing, we need to do the same today as we puzzle over our next move and wonder how to help our business and customers successfully through a new wave of digital transformation.

Successfully Going Forward

To cross the divide, we are going to need to see things from a fresh view, which involves not just technology but just as much customers, colleges, and culture:

  • We need to adjust our approach to speak uniquely to customers thinking and their real needs. Therefore, we will need to find ways to understand what customers want, say, and do. What we hear may challenge our business model while some requests may fly in the face of “what we have always done.”
  • There is a new generation coming to play. We must give room for them to fail, learn, and thrive to bring the world forward, while knowing that bureaucracy and Taylorism will not impress them. And they are right; Taylorism being about static optimization of work imposed by “those who know” on “those who do” is not how competitive advantage originates in the digital age.
  • Delivering value is so important that it needs being rooted in an authentic interest and focus of understanding what has merit in the customer’s eyes, not yours. The winners will have a culture where self-reflection and seeking smarter, less wasteful solutions across the business modus operandi is the ideal.

As you contemplate on transforming your organization, as you search for the right way to steer into the digital age I believe these seven provisions can help getting it right:

  • Take a genuine interest in the customer. Listen first; take the time to hear what they are saying, and why they are saying it.
  • Be prepared to change, based on what your customer is telling you. Do not give your competitors an opportunity to serve your customer better and faster than you can.
  • Be aware; sometimes the problem lies not with ERP but with the demand for quick fixes or the need to cure underlying structural problems.
  • Ready to invest, even if it means a short-term loss for long-term gain, to bring forward real benefits to your customers.
  • Honesty about your company’s capabilities, from the view of the customer will pay off. Bear in mind, they like to know what is going on, so you need to constantly feed them with new information.
  • Assure you have a clear vision of the desired outcome of your digital transformation. Be proactive.
  • The secret of winning change is to focus all of your energy not fighting the old but on realizing new and better solutions.