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In Defense of the 'E' in Enterprise Resource Planning

Neil Jarvis, CIO, Fujitsu Americas
Neil Jarvis, CIO, Fujitsu Americas

Neil Jarvis, CIO, Fujitsu Americas

Before you read this, take a moment to Google “ERP.” What did you notice? Many big-name IT vendors are competing for their slice of this growing pie, and for good reason. Allied Market Research predicts that the size of the global ERP software market will reach $41.69 bn by the year 2020. It’s clear that businesses are not starved for choice when it comes to selecting a vendor for ERP technology—but in my opinion, selecting and implementing the technology should be the last piece of the ERP puzzle, not the first.

Here’s why: businesses often unnecessarily struggle by trying to deliver ERP systems as technology projects, rather than a full business transformation program. ERP systems have become the central collection point for masses of unstructured or isolated company data—if they are not developed with clearly defined integrated information expectations and business relevancy in mind, this data risks is being isolated in business unit storage tanks. This goes against the original intent of establishing data collaboration suites that benefit the entire enterprise.

Redefining ERP

With that being the case, my message is a simple one—never lose sight of the ‘E’ in ERP. By creating silos, businesses spend vast quantities of time and money on technologies that, in the end, fail to bring lasting organizational change. So here’s my proposal: Enterprise Resource Planning should henceforth be known as Enterprise Relevant Possibilities (notice that only the ‘E’ is the same). This modest, but important shift helps businesses stay focused by keeping the ultimate goal of ERP on top of mind—harnessing the ever-increasing speed of data to create business-relevant information.

 ​Businesses CAN stay agile enough to embrace, and even drive, disruptive technologies by turning to a nimble cloud-based ERP system 

Once that mindset is engrained, and only then, should businesses start the internal discussion about which technology that best suits their needs? Here are some suggestions to keep in mind once that time comes:

• The ERP solution should not be bound by extensive and complicated data algorithms, but instead be intuitive in tying together data based on the transformed business needs.

• The program should enable the collection of interconnected data that allows timely and appropriate decision-making.

• With an eye toward future-proofing, it should be noted that businesses will become more reliant on ERP as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a greater part of our lives.

ERP in the IoT

I believe my last point is absolutely crucial and worth spending a moment addressing. In the past few years, an incalculable amount of ink has been spilled by those writing about the promises and challenges of IoT. The reality is, almost every businesses will be affected by IoT in the next decade. Now imagine what the picture will look like in the next 20+ years. The amount of data that will be available is almost too astronomical to measure. Regardless of size, it is something we must consider—the consequences of failing to do so will be catastrophic. Entire industries may fold if they fall too far behind the digital transformation curve.

The silver lining is that those businesses will be replaced by innovative newcomers, who managed to keep up, and whose business models are geared for the digital age. Now ask yourself: which category do I want my business to fall into? The answer to this question is obvious. But now, the CIO is more accountable than ever before, in very real ways. The fates of many companies hinge on the ability to turn data into actionable information. Yes, the CIO’s responsibilities have increased, but so has the potential impact we have on our businesses. As overseers of the entire digital strategy, we have the ability to enact our Enterprise Relevant Possibilities (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution as a full business transformation program—transforming not only the manufacturing and sales functions, but the organization as a whole. We aren’t beholden to a single business unit.

Yes, Your Business CAN

Businesses CAN implement an ERP solution that will provide all of their end users with the interconnected data they expect and demand, which will lead to an enterprise-wide increase in flexibility. Businesses CAN stay agile enough to embrace, and even drive, disruptive technologies by turning to a nimble cloud-based ERP system. Enterprise organizations CAN also make sure their ERP strategy takes into account the growing importance of IoT. By reimagining ERP as Enterprise Relevant Possibilities, we have a toolbox that will turn “can’ts” into “CAN” across every part of the business. It’s no exaggeration to say we’re at a transformative moment in history, and our organizations are counting on us to lead the way.

We have entered the era where big data is becoming “massive data,” and meaningful analytics are no longer a luxury. More data means more “relevant possibilities,” but if, and only if, we keep our eye on the big “E”—it’s all or nothing.

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