Over a third (34 per cent) of executives say keeping up with shifting customer demands is a major challenge in enterprise, making it the second top barrier to business, according to a Business Reality Check, presented by American Express, and developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
“Rising incomes, middle class bulges, ageing populations, and next-gen millennials are re-shaping the customer base around the globe. And technology has raised consumer expectations for curated experiences,” the report states.
Organisations are looking to attack this challenge through Big Data, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT), which can be tuned to everything from fine-grained sentiment analysis, to product mix optimisation and business risk management. To fully embrace what these technologies promise, organisations must first modernise their ERP platform so that it can be the foundation on which advanced, data-driven applications can be built.
PanAust Limited Head of Information Systems, Steven Ivanovski, said the mining company chose iTelligence, NTT DATA Business Solutions [part of the NTT Group] as its SAP hosting and BASIS partner because it offered a highly competitive, innovative and quality hosting product which met its requirements of working with a trusted partner who could deliver - scalability, flexibility and reliability.
PanAust’s Ivanovski said, “As an IT department we want to be great at providing transformational business services and innovation. As such when we look at working out what we want to leverage partners for, it is in the areas in which they are best of class. This in turn allows us to focus on how we can best service the business needs. The reliability of our SAP hosting solution allows us to do that.”
Overcoming legacy ERP
According to NTT DATA, organisations that maintain legacy ERP systems face significant challenges. NTT DATA Head of Innovation, Jacqueline Gabb explained, “The majority of legacy ERP systems have been built for business as it was at the time of implementation. Making changes can be complex, time consuming, and costly which is the opposite of what is needed. Systems need to be flexible and agile to adapt quickly to meet new customer expectations, support new opportunities, and provide a platform for business growth.”
Some of these challenges include:
- An over-reliance on manual record keeping – When the ERP system isn’t functioning to meet demand, individuals within the organisation will turn to manual record keeping as they try to bypass the ERP system entirely. This leads to fragmented and often inaccurate information spread across the organisation.
- Siloed systems – As line of business units deploy their own applications for use within the department, the legacy ERP system no longer services the entire organisation cohesively, again causing issue with the consistency and cohesiveness of the data and insights within the organisation.
- Slow reporting – Legacy ERP systems require users to wait until the end of the day – or even month – for reports on key metrics. Today, real-time data analysis is critical in meeting customer expectations, and legacy systems cannot be twisted to enable that.
- Security issues – With data security being a critical concern for Australian organisations in the wake of stiff new penalties for data breaches, legacy ERP systems are a security hole that many executives would prefer to do away with.
With a modern ERP system in place, organisations can then build out their business warehouse and reporting environment. “What we are seeing is that customers quickly come to the realisation that while modernising ERP brings many benefits to an organisation, without a parallel focus on modern data platforms, companies are falling short of true digital transformation.” Jon Carroll, NTT DATA Business solutions, further explained “modern data platforms enable AI and ML, combinations of all types of data in a cost effective and flexible manner. Modern data platforms help organisation to democratise their data, turn data into insights and turn insight into knowledge.”
In other words, organisations need to take a fluid and flexible approach to transformation, towards the eventual goals of Big Data and AI. The traditional, structured approach of building layer on layer, is no longer nimble enough for the competitive environment. NTT DATA instead advocates for organisations to find platforms and solutions that allow them to build enough of a step to quickly move up it, towards the top of the proverbial stairs.
By moving to SAP’s next generation digital core with SAP S/4HANA and running it in Azure, all the organisation’s data – transactional, unstructured, external – come together to provide in-depth analysis and insight, in real time, and from a single, cohesive source across the organisation. Additionally, Azure offers easy-to-use tools that support a full range of analytic workflow capabilities for business-centric, agile, self-service analytics.
For enterprises, the value in approaching a partner such as NTT DATA for an ERP modernisation project is its experience in provisioning both Azure and SAP. Together with NTT Limited Azure on-demand resources – customers can leverage, more than just a deployment option. The Azure modern data platform offering features deeply expanded capabilities and integrated toolset for enterprise and government to develop, iterate on and stand up new business models. Organisations gain the ability to try new things quickly, test them quickly with fast POCs and fast-fail iteration, and rapidly determine their success potential. Azure offers everything for app development from API management to managed databases (such as Azure CosmosDB) and Azure Container Services to event-driven serverless capabilities with support for a wide variety of development toolsets.
This roadmap to digital transformation and advanced AI involves moving through the ERP and SAP HANA modernisation steps early, as they provide the foundation for much of the subsequent innovation and technology applications. For more information on how to take those first steps, or how NTT DATA works with both Microsoft Azure and SAP, click here.