The software landscape has changed dramatically as smaller and more nimble companies, such as Zoom, Slack, and Box, challenge the established ERP vendors of the 1990s and 2000s.
Enterprise IT is no longer dominated by a handful of vendors. There are now 55 private companies (valued at more than $1 billion), offering best-of-breed software solutions that are gaining traction with some of the world’s largest organisations looking to reduce their reliance on large, legacy software stacks.
Tech executives gathered in Sydney for a roundtable luncheon, sponsored by Box, to discuss the reasons they are engaging smaller providers.
Box vice-president, Scott Leader, says as employees demand new ways of working, CIOs and technology leaders are forced to rethink the tools they deploy across their organisations.
“We work with 95,000 of these world leaders in technology and, everyday, we see people looking for smarter, more agile and integrated ways of working, especially around collaboration. In the new world, CIOs choose the best technology from leading providers to build a bespoke modern tech stack which exceeds the demands of the new workforce,” he says.
Roche’s head of IT Australia, Martin Webb, says the company’s core business systems are driven globally but, locally, it uses smaller, niche cloud solutions to improve speed to market.
“As a satellite affiliate company we tend to have some freedom in the areas of sales, marketing and employees. We have, for example, been able to try out solutions in the areas of mentoring, sales training and collaboration.”
But it’s not time to throw away the keys to big ERPs just yet, he says.
“It will take time as the landscape around these core applications can look like an octopus complete with suckers. It’s true the way they have been set up can limit agility in some areas of the business and increase the time taken to respond to a commercial market situation.”
One CIO from a film studio, adds that his organisation’s reliance on ‘monolithic suppliers’ has decreased dramatically in the last five years.
The company has implemented SaaS solutions designed to increase collaboration and breakdown traditional boundaries typically imposed by security teams.
“We are not yet convinced we can easily run a highly complex, multi-national with more than 600 individual businesses and divisions on anything other than an SAP or Oracle ERP platform,” he says. “At the very least, we can’t easily migrate off SAP/Oracle without incurring significant cost, thereby reducing the business justification to move in the first place.”
iNova Pharmaceuticals executive director of strategy, China and Technology, Blane Coulcher, says his organisation runs a core of larger, foundational SaaS apps that are particular to the pharmaceutical industry.
“Moving forward, we envisage turning to smaller SaaS solutions to plug niche gaps in our business processes. The main reason for SaaS options is their low-cost ability to implement quickly with minimal integration requirements and on-going management.”
Transurban head of architecture, Jonathan Chaitow, says the company is looking to SaaS providers where it can avoid managing the underlying platform, use a resilient and evergreen environment, and partner to help drive the product roadmap.
“For delivering new functionality, our emphasis has been on microservice-based architectures. In my role I would avoid introducing any new monolithic applications or technology but obviously they underpin core functionality across many businesses. We would need to take a pragmatic approach in assessing any migration opportunities,” he says.
Getting the balance right
CIOs often report that it can be difficult, at times, to strike a balance between spending time and money on upgrading and maintaining core systems and innovating across their businesses to stay competitive.
Box’s Leader says in many cases, the technology and business practices that made them successful are the very things that will hold them back from their next stage of evolution.
“Becoming a truly digital business is more than simply deploying a new app on a broken process. It requires a reimagining of the entire business. Of course, there’s an important element of ‘keeping the lights on technology’ which businesses need while they journey to digital businesses.
“Companies that embrace the new way of working early – organisations such as OFX Group, REA Group, General Electric and AstraZeneca – have already transitioned and represent the new generation of truly digital businesses,” he says.
Roche Products’ Webb says maintaining the company’s core operational systems and being able to grow the business are equally important.
“I believe having a clear customer-focused strategy enables us to make strong decisions around investments, whether tactical or strategic,” he says.
The film studio CIO says his team outsources the bulk of the implementation and maintenance work for its core applications. This enables it to hire the talent that is required to innovate.
“In this model, we hold the strategy for technology, and enterprise architectures close to our core, and push out the ‘plumbing’ to organisations that can offer far greater skillsets in these commodities,” he says.
Ideally, with a SaaS-centric landscape, Transurban is required to spend less and less time maintaining its applications, which increases the scope for innovation, Chaitow says.
“In the past, these might have been separate teams [bimodal IT] but with the DevOps model, we should all be driving more automation and innovation across [the business],” he says.
Investing in content management
Many of the attendees said their company’s had recently invested in content management platforms.
Roche is a pioneer in this area, says Webb.
“Being in a regulated industry, we have focused on a solution that enables us to put content through a robust approval process and uses a Salesforce application.
“We are yet to link content repositories dynamically to our digital offerings but we do expect to achieve that in the not-too-distant future. This will enable us to fully re-purpose content quickly to support our patients and customer needs,” he says.
iNova Pharmaceuticals’ Coulcher says his organisation has spent the past few months moving to Office365 including SharePoint and Skype.
Despite the lack of awareness across the business around Cloud-based content management systems, careful change management activities have helped improve the take-up of the broader functions provided by these tools.
“It has been a great success for us,” he says.
The film studio CIO says his company is using the Box platform for enterprise content management. “We have realised greater than 90 per cent adoption globally and reduced our physical footprint of infrastructure across 30 countries. Management of security, especially the sharing of content securely both internally and externally, has successfully shifted from IT to the business users.
“IT maintains overarching SaaS configuration/policy accountability but loses the day-to-day upkeep distraction. This is nirvana,” he says.
To find out more about more about Box Cloud Content Management, click here.