Necessity is the mother of invention — and the pandemic has certainly triggered some surprising innovations. “First up in the next normal,” says a recent McKinsey briefing on Covid-19’s implications for business, “is ‘revenge shopping,’ as many consumers open their wallets for goods and services they’ve done without recently.”
The last nine months have imposed many changes on organizations. They’ve found that they can change dramatically overnight if they have to.
The need to be agile in both financial planning and corporate action has come into sharp focus. As McKinsey noted in an article on performance management under Covid-19, “Companies need a new approach to financial planning and performance management — one that informs rapid realignment of plans and actions and ensures organizational resilience.”
Is there a revolution, a significant evolution or at least a new generation of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)? This was the subject of a conversation with Claus Jepsen, CTO of Unit4. Unit4 recently announced ERPx, what it calls a self-driving ERP. The architecture of this new product is micro-services based and considerably different from anything than has been before. Jepsen explained how RPA is woven throughout the new solution with threads extending well beyond it to connect to other solutions and more traditional ERP and RPA systems.
Automating business processes saves time and money, but what’s right for one organization might not be right for another — what you automate, how much you automate it and the approach you take all need careful consideration.
Robotic process automation (RPA) of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software isn’t anything new. It’s possible to automate simple, rule-based business processes like workflow steps, completing time sheets and invoicing. Doing so speeds up processes, improves accuracy and compliance, and frees people to get on with more interesting and valuable work.
The criticism commonly levelled against enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems is that they are monolithic and generalist software slabs: suites of applications, dense with features and functions, designed to cover just about any need an enterprise might have, with a uniform user interface layered over for a common look and feel. Whatever it is you’re trying to achieve, the ERP has it covered.
Last year in this space, we predicted that “the humanity of the enterprise will be at center stage.” The pandemic certainly brought people front and center in ways nobody could have foreseen. COVID-19 also accelerated digital transformation, and that will have implications for core enterprise systems in 2021.
Both IDC and Gartner say that enterprise resource planning (ERP) is going to change dramatically in the coming years. IDC suggests that modular, intelligent task apps will be integral to how applications are delivered. They will be loosely coupled, opening up a whole new range of opportunities to use robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI) or automation.
This year, the pandemic taught us the truth of old proverb “necessity is the mother of invention.” When companies had to close offices on short notice to control the spread of the virus, IT teams innovated like never before. In a remarkably short time, they put the assets in place to make all-remote work possible. Almost overnight, they stood up infrastructures to enable businesses to operate virtually.
For decades now, users of enterprise resource planning software have been trained to believe that all the action must take place within the core of the system. ERP is coded to be the journal of record, the beating heart of the organisation, the inner circle of work and the user’s role is to browse and input.
But I’m here to tell you this approach will soon be ancient history. Why? Because the maturing of a potpourri of technologies including cloud, microservices, smarter user experiences, AI, machine learning and open APIs mean that we’re entering a new period where users will no longer be asked to slog through roundabout processes, complex user interfaces, or logging in and out of systems, none of which work the same ways as the others.
Why do businesses buy new technology? Historically, it’s been an operational investment to reduce costs, simplify administration, speed up processes and measure results. These are admirable objectives – but they’re not differentiators. Also, they’re certainly not focused on the user experience.
For technology to transform organisations and enable them to outshine the competition, it needs to empower employees. The strength of a business solution should be judged on how it does things differently, more efficiently, more enjoyably and with better results.
An old dictum states that complex issues can be more easily solved by breaking them down into smaller tasks, writes Claus Jepsen, CTO, Unit4. The same applies for software where we are observing a shift from the old monolithic world to granular microservices. And its not overstating matters to suggest that the speed with which organisations embrace microservices will be a leading indicator of their future success.
The notion of encapsulating business functionality is not new and goes all the way back to SOA, object-oriented programming systems and even COBOL but packaged business capabilities and open APIs mean that companies are enthusiastically pursuing microservices. The reasons are not just because they offer a technically superior alternative but also because they dovetail with the broader needs of business to move faster, digitise wherever