When companies transform, increasing customer intimacy, supply chain agility, and operations efficiency often top the priority list. But facing uncertainty with resilience and recovering quickly requires something more: a secure business intelligence platform to close gaps in the data chain.

Intelligent enterprise resource planning (ERP), such as SAP S/4HANA, is ready for the challenge.

The current economic and societal turbulence has unquestionably affected us all. But we have faced similar economic challenges before,  even though, in technology terms, it happened almost an eternity ago. So much as changed since the Great Recession of 2007.

Any best practice, cost-alignment strategy, or technology used to navigate uncertainty back then are no match for today’s challenges. The workforce is dynamically adjusting to a new world of  remote work, life-balance changes, new income models, activism, and rising pressure to run sustainable and responsible operations. Meanwhile, traditional requirements still need to be addressed, including keeping costs low and efficiency high, which may seem counterproductive.

How can companies transform in ways that fulfill today’s social expectations and drive the speed and agility to handle economic uncertainty without adding risk? According to McKinsey partners Kevin Laczkowski and Mihir Mysore, the answer is turning to intelligent digital tools and advanced analytics – such as those found in intelligent ERP – to bolster productivity and boost growth.

Evolving the Mindset on Digital Transformation

For a long time, companies have implemented various technologies to increase their speed and agility by focusing on one or more of the following:

  • Internally focused ERP capabilities for financial operations
  • Point applications that serve specific functions, such as customer resource management (CRM) and human resources (HR)
  • Business intelligence tools
  • Custom solutions designed to enable unique industry and regional processes
  • Business networks to manage procurement processes and contingency labor
  • EDI and connectivity engines
  • Support of multiple databases
  • System of spreadsheet, email, and productivity technologies
  • Security processes and software

These elements have served businesses well. However, the world has changed dramatically since 2007, and a fragmented architecture cannot provide the speed, agility, and tight and seamless integration needed to remain competitive today. A multi-vendor road map and ongoing maintenance upkeep, testing, and integration can create a series of system delays and inconsistent capabilities that make the application landscape rigid, fragile, and high risk.

Competitive differentiation happens only when the technology framework supports continuous innovation, always-on availability, and consistent processes across internal and external systems and provides the intelligence and insight to seize opportunities. While this goal may appear lofty, businesses can acquire the demanding depth of digital capabilities across a wide variety of disciplines, working together harmoniously.

Delivering a Much-Needed Edge with Intelligent ERP

Intelligent ERP solutions such as SAP S/4HANA are designed to provide a holistic approach to unite the entire system infrastructure with integrity, innovation, integrated data, and security. Organizations benefit from a simplified architecture, end-to-end processes, and industry and business model innovation — all enabled by seamless, out-of-the-box integration and a built-in intelligence platform.

The seamless and consistent experience of intelligent ERP gives a harmonized, 360-degree view of the business and its customers. Users benefit from instant insights and a range of automated planning, forecasting, and simulation capabilities. Real-time analytics are embedded along every step of the decision-making process. Leveraging advancements such as predictive and artificial intelligence within an in-memory database provides decision-makers with the means to respond and adapt flexibly to evolving organizational needs.

The more decision-makers rely on intelligent ERP, the greater the need and urgency for data security and integrity. But a business intelligence chain is only as strong as its weakest link. By focusing on points of integration and making them consistent and part of the ongoing road map, companies can help ensure the integrity of their current system landscape as well as future evolution.

For example, SAP S/4HANA runs on the SAP HANA in-memory database. It is a complete ERP and equipped to extend integrated cloud solutions and out-of-the-box integrations, which unlocks the enterprise’s intelligent IT backbone. Analytics capabilities immediately pull real-time insights from Big Data, tapping into embedded machine learning and artificial intelligence. Then, with process automation, that knowledge becomes action across the value chain. Furthermore, deployment in the cloud provides the secure setup and operations needed to manage tasks, a consistent business model architecture, and central identity provisioning and authentication.

Building Resilience by Redefining Intelligence and Transformation

Companies that evolve and value business intelligence are often well-positioned to emerge stronger from any degree of economic uncertainty. They are the ones that rely on a highly connected intelligent ERP — especially SAP S/4HANA — to extend coveted digital capabilities beyond the enterprise and enable a competitive edge with speed and agility.

By delivering competitive differentiation through the system integrity of intelligent ERP, organizations can help ensure every point of integration is no longer limited to the technical exchange of data. The entire enterprise landscape can share a single source of information and consistent user experience that matches the way people work, harmonizing every resource serving employees, customers, and supporting network operations.

Discover how SAP S/4HANA can help you build secure and maintain a system platform that strengthens a company’s resilience to navigate turbulent times and plan for whatever comes next. Read “What Companies Should Do to Prepare for a Recession,” from the Harvard Business Review and explore intelligent ERP solutions, including SAP S/4HANA.

David Sweetman is senior director of Cloud Global Marketing at SAP.