Digital transformation has been a watchword since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic when organisations advanced their digitalization by four years in the space of just six months[i]. Two years on, the focus on digital transformation continues to shape the ways in which enterprises tackle today’s business challenges, namely managing complex maintenance plans, ensuring on-time delivery, reducing unplanned outages, improving reliability, gaining actionable business insights, and managing life cycle costs, amongst others.

Organisations are now preparing for a future that maintains and expands on the gains made since 2020 when it comes to digitizing their infrastructure and processes. In an always-online world, and with the constant emergence of new technologies set to irrevocably alter the way we work, asset-intensive businesses need to double down on their digital transformation initiatives to ensure they remain the frontrunners in their respective industries.

Yesterday’s technology, today’s concerns

Understandably, however, some companies are somewhat cynical about undertaking another large IT transformation programme. Typically, this comes down to budgets and concerns about downtime while the new system is being set up. However, this reluctance also stems from the failure of pure-play enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementations of the past to deliver the expected value to asset management organisations, leaving both management and blue-collar staff disillusioned. Reasons for this had to do with the systems being complicated and cumbersome to use. In addition, they were not easily integrated with other key systems. The implementation also required massive investment both financially and with set-up time. These issues are further compounded by failures in both training and change management.

Over the last decade, the technology underpinning ERP systems has changed dramatically thanks to advances in intelligent technology such as AI, machine learning, and advanced analytics. No longer is ERP solely about transactional systems. Nowadays, it spans all of the day-to-day processes of an enterprise and is inherently tied to digital transformation to offer true value to asset management organisations. In fact, 95% of businesses achieve major improvements after using ERP through reducing process times, increasing collaboration, and centralising enterprise data[ii].

Here are four of the business benefits offered by today’s ERP solutions:

Data-driven decision-making 

Today’s ERP systems are worlds apart from their predecessors, providing agility, integration with other systems, enhanced user experiences that are relevant to the particular user or process, and mobile integration for real-time visibility of the asset base. They also have the ability to process large amounts of data, and through improved analytics tools, businesses are able to make sense of that information so that data-driven decisions can be made.

Mobility and increased employee efficiency

Take South Africa’s fuel pipelines and mines, for example, field workers can now instantaneously capture and share information about and photos of the state of an asset using mobile devices. In the past, they would have to make notes on a piece of paper and then give this to someone in an admin office who would have to copy everything that was scribbled down over to the ERP system. The information gathered is crucial for compliance with organisational processes such as Environmental Health and Safety management. By having the capability to perform real-time analytics, real-time applications can be deployed if needed.

Monitoring for maintenance

ERPs also harness Internet of Things (IoT) technology to monitor assets remotely, which in turn helps to expand their lifespan by providing early warnings about potential problems rather than waiting until something goes wrong, which can prove quite costly for organisations. This enables businesses to calculate when outages will occur during planned maintenance so they can inform customers well in advance.

Time and cost savings

Unlike in the past, where ERP systems could take up to three years to install, now this can be achieved within a matter of weeks and in stages to ensure that the desired benefits are being realised. This is because integration is much easier and more seamless these days. Consequently, the financial outlay and disruption to business are reduced too.

The cost is further minimised for those organisations that will need to upgrade their current ERP to the latest version. Those using SAP should make the move to SAP S/4HANA, a next-generation business suite designed for the digital economy, but again, this does not have to be a lengthy, laborious and expensive exercise.

HCL offers a dedicated, SAP-approved partner package solution that can move customers to SAP S/4HANA with low risk, little disruption, within short timelines and at a reasonable price. For more information on how HCL can help your company tackle tomorrow’s business challenges, visit: https://www.hcltech.com/sap.

HCL is an SAP Global Strategic Services Partner with over 25 years of experience in leading complex SAP transformation programs. HCL’s SAP S/4HANA Factory+ incorporates people, processes and technology to provide an industrialised and accelerated approach for conversion to SAP S/4HANA- laying the foundation for further agile business transformation.

SAP S/4HANA Cloud is a future-ready ERP system with built-in intelligent technologies, including AI, machine learning, and advanced analytics. It helps transform business processes with intelligent automation. Built for the cloud, it runs on SAP S/4HANA – a market-leading in-memory database that offers real-time processing speeds and a dramatically simplified data model.