“Welcome to The Experience Game”​

Published on October 30, 2019

“Welcome to The Experience Game”​

This is probably one of the most important blogs I have written and something I am going to look back on in years to come as we have reached yet another inflection point in the world of enterprise software. Something I began to see at the beginning of 2019 is now becoming reality and I thought I would share my perspective on the direction of travel as the major Software Vendors play their next hand from the deck of cards called “technology innovation”.

In my last blog I previously highlighted the importance of understanding market cycles to seek new business opportunities and now, with certainty, what I was seeing at the beginning of the year is fast becoming reality and in my opinion is going to redefine the ERP marketplace.

Cliché it maybe, I first wrote about it over four years ago, but the saying “look after your employees and they will look after your customers” is now more important than ever and it just seems like the same light bulb has just gone on simultaneously all over the world.

Enterprise Cloud based solutions are now taken for granted and whilst many businesses and organisations have still yet to make the move in terms of technology innovation this is now seriously old news. I have commented extensively about bridging the “innovation gap” as all it does is increase and as businesses and organisations continue to defer the decision to move opportunity is naturally lost. A source of personal frustration when I have conversations and find myself having to smile politely when listening to what amounts to poor justifications as to why one has deferred moving to the Cloud. This is usually based upon a poorly informed perspective through the lack of knowledge. Now we have reached an inflection point and the market is moving again.

The conversation in the future for the back office enterprise is no longer going to be about Finance or HR systems in the Cloud nor will it be about Finance or HR transformation (large SI’s please take note!) or even worse the most over used term of a generation – “digital transformation”. Even the abbreviation “ERP” will possibly now be consigned to the history books as this inflection point takes hold.

Enter the “Experience Economy”

The term “Experience Economy” was first used in a 1998 article by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore and was subsequently used as the basis of their book “The Experience Economy” where they articulate that businesses to differentiate themselves must constantly create memorable events for their customers and that the memory itself becomes the product, i.e. the “experience”. (A revised edition is coming out in December ’19 this year!). This is another example of looking to the past to find the future!

So now apply this thinking to the employee and not necessarily the customer. Imagine a world in the business context where every business experience is personalised just for you whilst the underlying business processes are standardised. What has dominated the B2C market for years over the internet has now arrived in the back office. The technologies used pre-dominantly throughout social media and modern retail orientated websites to track our behaviours and influence us subconsciously are now going to become common place in the working environment.

It’s the technologies like AI, RPA and predictive analytics that are underpinning this. Remember though the conversation an organisation wants to have is what experiences are we delivering up to our employees, customers and suppliers and not what the enabling technologies we are using. (A rookie mistake that I see many Consultancies make day-in-day out especially those who still try to be all things to all people). Always focus on the business problem you are trying to solve, whatever you are proposing why is it “Better, Cheaper, Faster” than what currently exists today?

In all it’s a new kind of enterprise platform play providing a single employee integrated experience.

Imagine logging onto your work portal to find all your work for the day is already organised for you to undertake. The new platform understands the corporate calendar of business operations, it knows about your personal calendar, it knows your role, and subsequently understands what is required for you to execute your job on a day-to-day basis and it knows how you as an individual like to operate across work and non-work systems (read internet) you interact with. And if something of interest occurs in the field of your expertise is going on in the world, it already has scanned the Internet bringing that article or point of view to your attention. It ensures you have the tools ready and available 24×7 so you can always be on top of your game. This is something that goes across multiple back office systems, drawing in data and metadata alike to build a personal digital persona reflecting your role and the work you undertake.

No more navigating screens, no more having to go look for something, it’s just there ready for you. Your life at work has just become easier and you feel good because you have more time. Throw in speech recognition and you won’t even have to touch a keyboard.

Superior employee experiences will drive positive customer experience. The two are positively correlated and a single personalised employee integrated experience delivers this.

Sounds great? Good! because this is where we are now all heading.

The Market Place – The pieces of the Jigsaw Assemble

In my opinion this time Larry and Co at Oracle are ahead of the game. They have talked about this extensively at Openworld and their HCM Captains of Industry and Ambassadors currently are on a World-Wide tour driving home this message leveraging off their current new User Experience tactically, but clearly articulating the future which is here and how they are moving towards it. Give credit where credit is due they even gave the Oracle brand a positive face lift, but watch for greater technology innovation arriving over the next 24 months as Ellison doubles down on his direction in regard to SaaS applications. However Oracle isn’t the only game in town.

Salesforce, as you would expect are already talking about this but they still lack the penetration in my opinion across the back office enterprise but to discount them would be fatal. 

Mike Ettling, CEO at Unit 4, made his announcement and a big push into this space just last month at Unleash19 and last week Bill McDermott, the industry veteran CEO of SAP moved to Service Now even more interestingly the ex-CEO of Service Now is moving to Nike! – That tells you something about the retail industry and the value of those who truly understand we are in the “experience” game. McDermott’s forte is acquisition, so watch out for strategic acquisitions that puts the employee experience front and centre. 

Meanwhile SAP are blitzing the SkyNews channel in advertising regard to experience management through their “Qualtrics” acquisition. This could be the solution to what I think is their Achilles Heal in that HANA is not really Cloud, and they need someone else’s – usually Microsoft and also their enterprise suite is a collection of products from acquisitions.  

Workday suddenly appears to behind the ball for the first time so it will be interesting to see what announcements they make in this area. Microsoft will no doubt follow in due course as even the newbies on the block UIPath new marketing message is breaking out from just Robotics Process Automation (RPA) into the experience game. Personally, I always thought Microsoft would try and acquire UIPath.

Just like when Cloud became mainstream the SaaS Platform Vendors are now setting the pace and the tone of the future. The industry has already moved to the new market that being the “experience” play. SME’s take note there is opportunity here. You can argue that the digital design agencies saw this coming over a decade ago, but lacked the technology and capability to deliver, however the point being now is that the “employee experience” is the new “customer experience”. That also leaves a nice gap for the “Supplier Experience”. 

Brave New World brings New Business Opportunities

So a new game is afoot and many new business opportunities exist. The questions are (1) Can the Customer base get their head around what is happening and see the many benefits that this is going to bring? (2) Can the Software Vendors deliver on their marketing messages? – my bet is very much yes they can and already have started to albeit this is still going to take time (3) Can the Systems Integrators see the new market plays recognising that the conversation has changed?

A final thought is that most technologies become commoditised over time and so do the surrounding services. Will this happen with the experience game? Personally, I don’t think so, my rationale being that experiences are intrinsically linked to human behaviour. Our behaviours over time change, and therefore our expectations around personalised experiences will also change consequently the technology platforms providing these personalised experiences will also need to change accordingly.  Whether I am right or wrong with this only time will tell? but I don’t think you can commoditise a personal experience.

I know one thing with certainty though it’s getting really exciting again and the industry is pivoting – I can see it and more importantly I can feel it! “There is gold in those hills…and fortune favours the brave”.

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. In addition, my thoughts and opinions change from time to time and I consider this a necessary consequence of having an open mind. This blog is intended to provide a semi-permanent point in time and as such any thoughts or opinions expressed within out of date posts may not be the same or similar to those that I hold today.

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