When technologists, business analysts, and futurologists talk about digital transformation, more often than not they’ll dedicate at least some portion of their discussion to disruption.
Inventive new startups increasingly position themselves to potential customers, investors, and business partners as “the Uber of” or “the Airbnb of” the industry that they intend on disrupting. Digital transformation is rightly regarded as vital for avoiding being on the sore end of industry disruption.
Yet transformation isn’t always straightforward. For small and midsize firms, the prospect of making big alterations to an existing business can be daunting. But transforming to avoid disruption needn’t be a disruptive process itself.
Out with the Old
Typically, the preferred way for small and midsize businesses to ring the changes is to build incrementally on top of existing resources. Previously, before the prevalence of cloud computing, this was largely unrealistic. Technology refreshes meant stripping out the old and replacing with the new. Adding additional tools or services — like HR management or CRM — meant considering whole new product and support packages, and navigating compatibility issues. On top of that, the concern that new technology might become outdated and an unworthy investment in the space of just a few years made transformative decisions even more difficult to make.
Growing at Your Own Pace
Thankfully, however, cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are now enabling companies that might not benefit from an extensive IT support team to move their operations to the digital sphere at a pace that suits them.
ERP in the cloud can allow for that incremental build that small and midsize businesses not only prefer but can manage more comfortably. Integrated suites allow organizations to ‘switch on’ additional modules or functions — such as HR management — when they reach a point of requiring them. Return on investment is secured by the fact that businesses can update their ERP in stages and stay up to date with automatic, regular software updates providing the latest and most secure technology, making expensive major overhauls every year or so a thing of the past.
Ultimately, it’s about incurring minimum disruption at a cost that’s effective for the business to be able to continue growing.
Enacting Change Throughout Your Organization
Digital transformation needs to be practiced and undertaken company-wide. It should form part of any company’s strategic planning, and members of the board need to accept the benefits and execution of any digital transformation process. Effective digital transformation should not only be about distancing businesses from the risk of digital disruption, but putting them in a position from which they can adopt innovative and disruptive approaches of their own.
Those in leadership positions face huge pressure to see through the uncertainty of the world in which businesses operate today. But an intelligent ERP solution can help alleviate that uncertainty, and not just for those calling the shots at the top. Using contextual analytics, digital assistant capabilities, and machine learning can empower people throughout the organization to make more informed decisions.
A Connected Solution
If the benefits of a business’s digital transformation journey are going to outweigh any disruption they cause, then it’s important that the transformation is genuinely end-to-end.
The rush to digitize has left many businesses with a shiny front-end solution — particularly if it’s customer-facing — in order to appear to be keeping up with the pace of change. Without an effective back-office platform setup to support front-end capabilities, the transformation becomes superficial and disjointed.
A formidable cloud-based ERP system is the most reliable way to join the two together — and thereby the center point from which to grow your business into the future. It’s as simple as ERP.
Michael Schmitt is senior vice president of SAP Business One and SAP Business ByDesign Solutions Group at SAP.