As my three-year tenure as an expert contributor to ERP Today sadly comes to an end, I wanted my final swansong to promote the wider technology evolution that is geographically occurring across the UK.
With the HM Government policy around ‘levelling up’ coming back into focus, many tech hubs are flourishing. We have the Newport-Cardiff-Swansea corridor in South Wales, which is close to my beating Welsh heart. Throw in ecosystems around Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and the Glasgow-Edinburgh corridor, and you will find there’s a lot more going on in the tech space these days outside of London.
In Wales, the tech dragon is well and truly roaring and finding its voice. It comes aided and abetted by a series of business-friendly Welsh Government policies that look to encourage entrepreneurs to develop Welsh based-businesses that actively contribute to the local economy, as well as independent trade bodies such as FinTech Wales and innovative organisations like the Alacrity Foundation.
The Welsh Government recognised early on that the local economy was lagging behind other regions across the UK, and the need to drive growth would only come from transitioning away from the traditional industries and market sectors of heavy manufacturing, agriculture and tourism, to one that is firmly based around advanced engineering and digital technology. In return, this has been unlocking the potential of the rich talent pool that is available in-country, driving specialism and economic growth. It is a generational project, true, but unless started, a journey can never be travelled.
It is a generational project, but unless started, a journey can never be travelled
The markers of intent
The Welsh Government has been clear with its mission: “drive economic growth, productivity, resilience by embracing and exploiting digital innovation”.
Turning strategy into viable tangible action, its intention is to deliver by (1) encouraging collaborative and shared workspaces; (2) recognising the wider role colleges and universities have beyond research and structured education; (3) relentless focus on niche technology skills and products that service long-term growing markets – e.g. cybersecurity; (4) supporting businesses in accelerating adaption to the future of work and skills based upon principles of a green sustainable economy; and lastly (5) improve procurement practices and processes by working with suppliers to deliver better outcomes.
Outcome-based results delivering tangible value include:
A thriving digital business sector and community, with a mixed ecosystem of small, medium and large technology-based companies
An ability to capitalise on new areas of digital innovation, to stand out in global competition for new markets and industries and attract new talent to Wales
Ensuring people have the skills to be able to take the jobs of the future and employers have a pipeline of talent for digital, data and technology careers
Developing a global reputation for leading technical innovation and a thriving export business
Adoption of leading procurement practices that will enable Wales to move forward
Shy bairns get nowt
Whilst the mission is well intended, it is pleasing to see that Welsh technology entrepreneurs are not just waiting around, but instead moving forward, investing time and money ahead of the economic curve. As they say in Newcastle, ‘shy bairns get nowt’.
Part of the game is calculated risk taking and having resilience. We can only build and grow the economy by getting out there and doing stuff, kicking down doors, not accepting the status quo, and refusing to accept no as an answer.
In South Wales, for example, a partnership between Wesley Clover (the family investment company of billionaire Sir Terry Matthews), the Welsh Government, and The Waterloo Foundation (David and Heather Stevens) has resulted in the Alacrity Foundation.
In recession the need for economic recovery always starts with government spending
Alacrity actively attracts, develops and promotes graduate entrepreneurial talent to create the next generation of technology companies. However, it is much more than a study course. The Foundation actively links entrepreneurs, corporations, universities, risk capital and government in one network. The programme is unique because no one is required to enter a cohort with an idea. The ideation is instead developed through challenges and problems sourced from the public and private sectors. This approach ensures solutions are designed to address customer challenges at a repeatable and expanding scale.
“Young graduates are a blank canvas and see challenges through a new lens,” says Simon Gibson, CEO of Wesley Clover. “By empowering young entrepreneurs with an applied business and technology curriculum, complemented by more than 100 professional mentors, innovations are being developed with considerable market potential.”
Tech always needs people
Organisations like Tramshed Tech meanwhile look to bring like-minded startups together through collaborative sharing of experiences and space. First in Cardiff and now in Newport, these spaces are designed for entrepreneurial early-stage startups and collaboration of like-minded technology businesses, thereby facilitating a key ingredient of any successful entrepreneurial community – effective networking.
The technology industry needs people, and one of the many benefits of regional technology hubs is that they reach communities and ecosystems of talent that many of us did not know previously existed. The days are long gone when the best resource was the perceived monopolistic domain of Oxbridge and that all things had to revolve around London.
‘In-house’ of the dragon
The Welsh tech-dragon needs to keep roaring. But the often-missed opportunity, and perhaps the most obvious, is that in recession the need for economic recovery always starts with government spending. Central and local government organisations and bodies need digitalisation to deliver services more effectively, and therefore need technology companies and technology service providers to facilitate this.
Whilst competition between suppliers must be maintained for the markets to work effectively, spend should be targeted towards small/medium enterprises who can actively demonstrate that they are contributing to growing the local economy.
Government spending in any form should be seen as an investment and not a cost. Just like entrepreneurs, public sector bodies must see their spend as investment to accumulate. If you don’t invest, the only guarantee is that nothing ever changes.
Innovation is the hotbed of SMEs and not large corporations. Large established vendors find it impossible to deliver niche innovation and have a strong reluctance to pioneer new technology in-house as it does not make an immediate cashable return on investment they can demonstrate in-year. Organisation pricing and political dynamics both internally and externally with market expectations, especially at publicly listed companies, always work against them.
Finally, we should proactively challenge thinking around offshoring – why is it that when we are making arguments to develop our own talent, we still consider moving work and money offshore? I have long been vocal about the ‘race to the bottom of the ratecard’, but we can achieve similar financial models through labour arbitrage across the UK, stimulating our own economy.
Offshoring does nothing for the local economy as we do not see the benefits of monies spent re-entering the local economy. It sounds nationalistic, and it is hard to avoid politics here – but if we are truly serious about creating new ecosystems of home-grown talent then the answer will not be found in this outdated commercial model which does not drive the outcomes we are looking for to grow the economy.
Why are we still considering moving work and money offshore?
Apprenticeship schemes – ‘learn while you earn’
Apprenticeship schemes surely must be one of the key ways forward across the country for attracting, developing and retaining the next generation of talent. I have personally never believed that an individual’s future should rest solely on a score achieved on one hot sunny day in an exam room. What we want is access to the raw material that we can encourage in the workplace to innovate and learn, injecting real life working experience alongside continuing a structured education.
The Welsh scheme is simple. An individual is employed by an organisation for four days a week, and on the fifth day they are enrolled and attend an approved degree course at a local approved university. The course fees are picked up by the Welsh Government. The individual is employed and can ‘learn while you earn’. They do not leave university with student debt levels which they are then unable to repay.
We know we are short on talent, without getting drawn into the political arguments that all of us in this country know too well. Regional technology offers a multitude of different opportunities and resources, from lower cost base to access to a wider diverse range of talent. We talk about diversity and inclusion every day; well, here’s the opportunity on a plate to do something about it.
Challenge of regional technology – getting noticed
Wales, alongside other regions, has a long way to go in marketing itself effectively to the world. What starts within its own borders needs to break out quickly, both across the UK and also across the world. The bigger the market, the bigger the opportunity – but being able to access that market in a cost-effective way has and remains key. However, effective outward promotion is the starting point, and again this is where government in partnership with business can lead to success. It is a much needed area for further capital investment.
For our economy to recover successfully, this will always require like-minded individuals to take calculated risks and invest. Regional technology hubs geographically spread and supported by business-friendly policies like those developed by the Welsh Government, bring success, as we make available all the resources we have available to us – innovation, people and capital.
As for Cymru, the region is well placed to stimulate and grow its economy over many years to come as it transitions to become a market leader in digital products and services, something #wearedenovo is proud to be a part of.
Yma o(07) hyd!
It’s been an absolute pleasure and reassuringly cathartic to have been part of the ERP Today story. What a success it is, and my thanks to Paul Esherwood and team. I have met so many great people and learned so much over the past three years, but the time is now right to pass the torch onto new blood who will bring different perspectives and no doubt even wider diverse thinking.
One word of advice though, echoing the words of Daniel Craig to the actor who next inherits the 007 mantle: “Don’t be sh*t!”
Both the platform vendor and systems integrator landscapes are changing. Where to put your money?
SaaS cloud applications are continuing to evolve, and the innovation just keeps on coming. The first ten years of the cloud era saw the large platform vendors establish their back office enterprise platforms and go-to-market strategies with the mantra of ‘standardised processes’, driving economies of scale and cost. However, markets are cyclical in nature, and the current move to promoting industry solutions is nothing new and is a natural evolution. With most finance, procurement, HR and payroll processes being the same across any organisation and industry, it is the front of house and mid-office cross-cutting processes that really drive differentiation and competitive advantage.
This is not saying that the core ERP foundation platform is now obsolete – far from it – but industry vertical solutions are tailored to reflect how a given industry works. Consequently, the importance of the wider implications of the experience economy and providing personalised experiences over standardised processes becomes even more important and relevant as it is an enabler for innovation with digital disruption driving competitive advantage.
Industry vertical solutions – what are they?
Simply put, industry vertical solutions have greater potential to create value for customers. Established organisations are always having to find ways to differentiate themselves to remain competitive, especially from the smaller native digital disruptors that are backed by what can seem endless new investment monies courtesy of VCs and private equity. Meanwhile, the public sector is always looking for efficiency savings from policy delivery.
Consequently, such organisations carry significantly high levels of technical debt and often experience poor performance from their legacy on-premise systems, where it is quite common that the siloed front of house systems do not integrate through to the back office. Rewriting such systems takes time and monies that are often not available, and ‘lift and shift’ might reduce the total cost of ownership in the short term but this does not address the challenge of ageing technology that is less relevant to the business operation as an industry evolves.
Industry vertical solutions (or clouds) have the potential to accelerate and take the risk out of cloud migrations and deliver both economies at scale and cost as well as enabling an organisation with disruptive technology that is specifically relevant to their market. Healthcare providers are an example of this, with significant importance placed on improving the patient experience and requiring high levels of data protection, often going beyond the GDPR provisions.
What does this mean in practice?
In the first instance it means that the user experience of the system needs to reflect the industry and the ways of working in the organisation, whilst also remaining able to leverage standardised business processes that underpin all organisations. Over time this will evolve into an individual personalised experience reflecting how an individual works and interacts with the digital landscape without resorting to customisation. This is real digital transformation in action and is a theme that is only going to accelerate.
Build once and use many: this was a concept truly ahead of its time
In the ERP on-premise era of the mid-late 90s and 00s, the technology and its capabilities were just not available. This was a period that promised a lot but delivered very little in the way of innovation when compared with what is available today.
Roll forward a couple of decades and we are awash with artificial intelligence-powered digital workflows and analytics capabilities that allow us to drive innovation.
However, the real innovation only really occurs when these technologies are assembled to deliver relevant industry vertical solutions and positively disrupt the status quo of doing business.
I can personally vouch for this during the pioneering years of Certus Solutions and the Oracle SaaS cloud era. We developed a reusable blueprint for UK central government as far back as 2015-2016, and it is this framework that today underpins the Office for National Statistics, HM Treasury, and elements at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. This blueprint is also at the core of the Home Office Metis programme with its final implementation found at the Crown Prosecution Service.
To put it simply, Oracle SaaS applications were configured to reflect the common processes and reporting of how the UK Civil Service works. Build once and use many: this was a concept truly ahead of its time both in thinking and in its overriding objective to derive maximum value for the public sector through process convergence and reusability.
An alternative case study is Inoapps, another well-known Oracle partner that has its origins in the oil and gas industry and which now has available an Energy for Cloud solution.
The importance of industry knowledge
Any experienced business development professional will tell you the sales process is just a series of conversations. However, for these conversations to be valuable to the buyer, they must be relevant and dialled into the pain points of a given industry and organisation. Consequently, having deep industry knowledge of a given vertical is a must if you want to be successful.
Clive Swan, former SVP Oracle Applications and now investor and non-executive director, says: “Cloud and SaaS technologies simply allow innovation at scale and through creating industry vertical solutions the opportunity to rethink and re-engineer whole industries and ecosystems is available. That’s why this technology is so exciting as the possibilities are endless.”
Sasha Wight, director of employee experience at wrkflow, says: “Organisations looking to deliver the very best employee experience in the hybrid workplace are embracing the concept of hyper-personalisation. The first step towards this is ensuring employee journeys reflect the nuance of the industry your employees operate in.”
Evolution at pace
SaaS solutions are leaving behind solely being associated with the back-office enterprise with greater focus on the front of house. Microsoft has been the most vocal in pushing this narrative and in their own words ‘accelerate time to value, speed up innovation, and drive benefits for customers, employees and organisations.’ The company is now offering cloud solutions for retail, healthcare, manufacturing, financial services and non-profit organisations, whilst also providing cross-cutting industry solutions for sustainability.
Not to be outdone, ServiceNow has also been extremely vocal in encouraging its ISV partner ecosystem to create industry vertical solutions. The organisation itself announced last year its OT Management Solution for manufacturing organisations, alongside its intention to create industry vertical solutions for the banking, healthcare and life sciences.
So where is the value?
The value is no longer in just having a systems integrator or management consultancy that can lay down references in any given domain space and which can quote how many implementations they have done and how quickly they have done them. No-one gets a gold medal just because you can put a SaaS system in at record time and at the cheapest price, so be warned, the race to the bottom of the rate card never does you any favours in the long run, and SaaS is a long-term investment.
Instead, the organisations that can bring to the table the blueprint for your given industry, backed by a relevant knowledge basis and an ongoing commitment to stay relevant as the business evolves either through legislation, industry practice or innovation, will be the winners for the future. Both the platform vendor and systems integrator landscapes are changing.
I, for one, know where my money is going to be.
Published on May 26, 2022
Well, being honest it is not really an accident, but I always thought the title was really cool and have unashamedly plagiarised it for headline grabbing attention. However, on reflection I have always been an entrepreneur, it just took the first 15 years of my working life to realise it with the last 20+ years being a rollercoaster of a myriad of ups and downs, highs and lows, success and failure over four businesses.
This blog reflects on de Novo’s journey pioneering into the experience economy as we close out our first year of full trading and provide some insight into what it is like to re-climb the mountain that is building a successful sustainable business when you find yourself at the bottom looking up.
There are no short cuts, but experience increases your chances of success as you roll the dice.
So why go again after the success of Certus?
After spending a frustrating 18 months sitting at home, putting on weight, watching every TV box set there is and counting the days tick off from a punitive meaningless no-compete legal clause I needed to get back into the game for my own sanity.
A combination of meeting some wonderful entrepreneurs who I subsequently invested in (shout out to Emma Sinclair, Holly Stephens, Dean Shephard, Paul Shepherd, and Alex van Klaveren) and a visit from Mr Peter Jenkins inviting me to revisit the old stomping turf and our familiar joke around ‘Next year Rodney will be billionaires!’, was enough to put a smile back on my face, take a hard look again at the market for possibilities, and with encouragement make the phone call to my old partner in crime – Tim Warner.
I missed the everyday cut and thrust of our wonderful industry, and not being active was a massive disappointment.
Even more annoying and being brutally honest, I had a massive sense of jealously as others tried to take the ground Certus had previously filled, not in my opinion because they had done anything special, it was just we left a massive void in the Oracle eco-system in the UK when we were acquired. I fully acknowledge this is a negative place and I bare absolute no ill will to others, but you can get yourself into a very bad place mentally when you are inactive and for me the feeling of success had simply eluded me.
Certus simply had too much unfinished business, and whilst extremely successful, much to mine (and others) endless frustration it did not achieve the greatness it always deserved. Missed opportunity! – absolutely.
Certus was never about just making money, it was about creating choice and challenging the status quo of the tier one management consultancies & systems integrators, breaking the monopoly, searching and demonstrating delivery excellence every single day and delighting our customers at every opportunity. Thinking out of the box was for us business as usual.
It was always about trying to be the very best we could be whilst always reaching for the stars. If we made our customers successful, we would be successful, plus having a lot of fun along the way. There is a lot to be said in being able to work alongside really good people every day whose company you like to be in and being able to smile and laugh together.
Instead of languishing in self-pity (first world problem!), I was brave and went to have a conversation with my wife Natalie to ask if I could try again. I caught her walking through the door when she took one look at my sheepish attempt to open my mouth for her to say ‘You’re going to start another business’ – it was a rhetorical question – busted!
Negotiations followed over a bottle or two of red, with terms agreed including moving back to South Wales to be nearer family as well as promising that the new venture regardless of outcome would be the very last one before we could enjoy a proper retirement together. There is always risk, and success is never guaranteed in this game. Amazon swiftly delivered the first company assets the next day, being two whiteboards, crayons and stickies of various colours, shapes and sizes with myself commandeering the company’s first new HQ – the kitchen table, which was swiftly moved (under instruction) to the garage. Natalie meanwhile contributed by finding the company name – ‘de Novo’, which in Latin translated means ‘new’ and continues the Certus legacy.
New proposition for a new era
No point just recreating the past as the world has moved on. Pioneering into the experience economy was something I had been carefully watching and subconsciously plotting since late 2019 in the back of my mind.
This time we needed a much larger addressable target market, and my insatiable quest for knowledge and admiration of what Bill McDermott was starting to do when he arrived at ServiceNow just could not be ignored. However, equally knowing that Oracle SaaS Cloud not only remained the foundation of the enterprise, being the most complete and best product around but sooner or later Larry Ellison would also move into the experience economy as market momentum accelerated. This crystal ball prediction materialised in April 2022 with the launch of Oracle ME. (see The Conversation has Changed… | LinkedIn)
The market opportunity was clear, and my enforced sabbatical allowed me to conduct extensive research and further crystalise my own thinking. Numerous conversations followed, even being able to talk to the Godfather of the experience economy himself – Mr Joseph Pine, Harvard Professor, who with Pete Gilmore originated the phrase back in 1999! His research and thinking on the subject was simply twenty years ahead of everyone else.
You build not where the market is today, but where it’s going to be in 5 years’ time
It was clear we were entering a new era of SaaS Cloud, and de Novo was going to be at the front of this thinking in the UK&I, being able to create digital experiences by connecting front, middle and back offices, recognising employees do not work in functional silo’s. Just like a decade ago, we began creating a new language to differentiate ourselves.
The magic recipe in 5 simple steps
1. Vision – create the vision, differentiated proposition and the backdrop story
2. Build – focus on building a desirable brand from the outset – ‘quality over quantity’
3. Fund – ‘cash is king’ – raise, inject, creating runway and time
4. Assemble – bring together the very best people to turn concept into reality; good people always attract good people
5. Hustle – leverage the network, let everyone know your back and find that first deal
and then above all else DELIVER and EXCEED CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS!
The importance of governance
Being a Chief Executive can be a lonely job and the buck ultimately stops with you. With numerous stakeholders to keep constantly satisfied surrounding yourself with people that can constructively challenge you, offer insight and provide that sounding board is critical.
From the outset we moved to secure an extremely experienced Board of Directors led by Tim Warner as the Chairman, backed by Richard Summerfield, Chief People Officer of Hawksford and Clive Swan, former SVP Oracle Product Development to offer guidance and support, whilst always ensuring the necessary checks and balances were in place.
Having NED’s is not a vanity project but rather loading the deck of cards in our favour and increasing our chances of success.
Dealing with rejection
Dealing with rejection is all part of the journey. From losing a deal and we have lost several already (hey we were a bit rusty!), to someone deciding not to join after they had already said yes. But from experience, as one door closes another opens (even if it does need a nudge!).
We deal with disappointment transparently, learn where we can, and move on quickly. It is difficult, especially when people will not even give you a chance, but that says more about them than it does about us.
Doing what we do is not for everyone, and you must taste defeat to know how to win.
The Power of Alumni
Being part of building something special is a very powerful aphrodisiac. It is an addictive drug. The power of a collective vision reaches out to natural human behaviour of wanting to be part of something.
So, it comes as no surprise to build a successful company we immediately went back and surrounded ourselves with as many of the same people from the #certusalumni network as we could, injecting immediately the experience into the organisation from the outset.
Some, quite understandably, did not want to come on the journey again – the Certus legacy casts a long shadow. However, it has been pleasing to see we had a rush of the ex-Certus alumni wanting to be involved, showing the hunger and passion to build something and are prepared to make sacrifices and take risks – that’s our DNA!
For some the timing is not right just now, however the market and opportunity wait for no-one, and we continue to push ahead whilst leaving the door always open for our alumni to join when they are ready later.
Equally we also are looking for new blood and new ideas to stimulate our thinking and push the company to greater heights!
Thinking sh*t up days! – Real value creation
Personally, I enjoy this more than anything and for me it’s the best part of being part of a team. Back to basics, around a whiteboard, just throwing ideas up, the majority falling away, but then some gold emerges and collectively an idea turns into a hypothesis, then a concept and from that into product and/or service offering, and hopefully into revenue. Once the idea is partially crystalised we just go out and sell it.
Serendipity also sometimes unexpectedly intervenes and shines a light on a potential opportunity into a new market sector perhaps often overlooked or never even considered.
It just proves as I have always said you don’t need a swanky innovation lab in the centre of London but it does help if you have plenty of coffee and cake!
No Free Pass back to the top of the mountain – 365 days of tale of the tape
And for those in business development the job is not about managing a procurement process, it is about solving someone’s pain points and generating value. You need to originate – bang on doors (occasionally kick the door in!), network and engage through conversation both face-to-face and digitally through social media. Sales do not just appear! – phone calls, digitally posting and shoe leather are the order of the day, every day, so hustle.
To win our first deal it took 6 months and…
Tenacity, hard work and simply bloody mindlessness, proving doubters wrong and suddenly you find the pipeline coverts and you have a different ‘quality problem’ to solve…
The future is full of opportunity
We are now well beyond start-up with momentum building day-by-day with the de Novo brand established and being recognised. We have beaten the odds again that only one company in ten makes it successfully through its first trading year, and that is cause for celebration.
Any new business needs support, and I cannot thank enough those whether being ex-employees, suppliers, partners or former / current clients and of course both Oracle and ServiceNow who were prepared to help us get started again. It is something we all very much appreciate.
What we are all building here at de Novo is something special, it is not a flash in the pan, and it is going to take time to nurture. I can feel the same buzz as in the early days of Certus, and whilst different, de Novo already feels special. We are not trying to build the biggest company in the world, but we are on the mission for building the very best company we can be.
It is hard work, but it is also incredibly rewarding for everyone involved. We have always said ‘if you come and work with us, no matter how good you think you are, we will make you better’. It’s a bold statement, and not only is it true, but it raises our own game and in doing so we all become better!
My undying thanks for Peter Jenkins for being the magician in the background, Tim Warner, Clive Swan, and Richard Summerfield for their faith and support, and most of all Ian Carline, Tara Dewar, Alex Alexandru, Craig Roch and Hayley Dobson who were prepared to make the jump at the beginning, unleashing their internal entrepreneurial spirit, pioneering into the #expereinceeconomy and being the DNA of #wearedenovo.
Finally, a shout out to our ever-expanding wonderful workforce, my thanks for coming on the journey and respect to all of you.
And of course, Mrs Natalie Sweeny (aka the honorary ‘first lady of de Novo’) for all her love and support. Could not have done it without you.
Game on – here we come, ignore us at your peril, we are not going away!
Published on April 22, 2022
New Equation for a New Era of Empowerment
After nearly 18 months sabbatical from writing LinkedIn blogs and the positive response I received from my returning article The Conversation has Changed… | LinkedIn based upon Oracle’s announcement of #OracleME, sitting in the glorious sunshine over this past Easter weekend I wanted to share my understanding further of what the experience economy really means, what the impact really is and why everyone should be paying attention.
Consider this the follow-up to ‘Change the Conversation’ and the number one insight that we use with our own employees to drive #wearedenovo.
For those organisations that have not started their SaaS Cloud journey, let me be candid, you are now a whole decade of innovation behind those who have already transitioned, with some of your competitors not even being in business anymore. In the majority of cases, this is down to their failure to stay relevant to their market as they did not digitally transform or provide their clientele with the experiences they demanded and valued.
For those that are just starting their journey but have the simplistic mindset of ‘lets just replace our legacy systems and move to the Cloud’, you’re thinking is still in the wrong place! However, if you are thinking and wanting to change the conversation by talking about creating new experiences for customers and employees, learning from insights and driving outcomes then I am pleased to say you are very much in the right place and it is definitely a conversation I want to have with you! So, let’s explore this…
So what does the experience economy really mean?
Put simply it means user empowerment.
Successful SaaS Cloud implementations are all about adoption as they are transformational, but it is by empowering the end user to take full advantage of what is available that unlocks the value over the long term.
SaaS Cloud is evolving at pace and whilst the foundation stone of any enterprise should remain a single instance ERP system, the industry platform vendors have acknowledged that the vast majority of employees do not work inside functional silos, with the operational processes required to deliver services to customers and/or citizens cutting across the organisation. Specifically, we have gone beyond HR/HCM siloed Cloud systems and are now in the era of ‘experience platforms’.
Such technology advancement allows us to create personalised experiences over standardised processes, and with the rise of the no code low code, ai, machine learning and digital workflows supported by advanced analytics we are now able to technically deliver faster than ever before.
My prediction remains that in only in a few years’ time these systems will self-configure, render and deliver the relevant individual experience to a user in the very moment it is required. Consequently, the technology turns data into accurate timely insightful information to facilitate informed decision making in the moment.
The technology capability now exists to enable the Client themselves to create new experiences and react quickly to a change in circumstances. Have we been promised this all before? Yes we have, but this time it is real and it exists.
Systems Integrators beware the role is changing, as SaaS Cloud technology matures, new ways of adding value need to be found – ‘The bums on seats model is definitely in the twilight era’.
Shout out to the Mouse! – the ultimate experience case study.
Disney, has to be the ultimate experience case study and I find myself time and time again referring to Walt Disney’s biography.
Forget technology and think laterally about the human experience. Walt Disney recognised as far back in the 1960’s the need to create engaging ‘magical’ experiences for those visiting his amusement parks. His focus being to capture and hold a customer’s interest not just whilst at the park in the moment, but also afterwards in the memory.
In the experience economy, the memories, emotions and feelings that customers take away are ultimately what matters most. Products and services become commoditised over time; they are copied by competitors and lose their differentiation and value.
Disney fundamentally understood this and went about creating a brand and product portfolio that could not be copied lightly. However, fundamental to everything was his employees as they were and still are today the primary delivery channel of the experience to the customer.
So how is this achieved? Disney empowers its employees in delighting their customers at every opportunity. Creating magical memories, pulling on emotions. This is subsequently monetized.
Even to this day Disney make queuing an absolute art form through the power of constant distraction! and they even monetize this by cross and up-selling through merchandise kiosks en-route before and after the main attraction.
So lets take these concepts and apply this to the 21st century digital experience economy.
Technology is the Enabler, but Culture needs to foster empowerment to realise the value
Technology extends the core ERP system into the middle office and beyond, albeit at this point you really do move into the hybrid SaaS Cloud scenario. However, putting the technology to one side as it really becomes totally irrelevant if an organisation’s culture does not empower its employees to innovate and foster a programme of continuous improvement into its DNA, using the power of the experience and insight through the tools that the vendors are making available. This is real cutting-edge transformation seen daily.
To get better at anything we must be curious, constantly question the status quo, seeking improvement by creating new experiences that our customers and/or citizens demand and value.
Employees serve customers, therefore both experiences matter and converge.
I am going to cheat at this point as I cannot better the research findings from Gartner, so lets just insert a small cut and paste with due credit applied…
The Gartner Research Report conducted by Jason Wong, Michael Chiu, Gavin Tay, and Brent Stewart (26 May 2020) states ‘The shift toward digital business can be seen as largely being about creating new business models and innovations that allow companies to alter their products and services through information and digital technologies. Not only must digital be a building block of CX, but It must also be foundational to your EX.
In this digital experience economy, in order for companies to earn their share of the positive feelings, emotions and memories, they need to compete for attention and time. Attention and time are precious because we, as customers and employees and users of technology, only have so much time in the day and we can only give so much attention at any given moment. Any wasted motion or non-value-added feature unnecessarily steals the user’s attention and consumes their time’.
Consequently, we have end-to-end digital convergence.
Market Indicators – Seismic Shift
Salesforce, ServiceNow, Microsoft and now Oracle are all pushing the narrative. For one of them to do it is differentiation within a market, for all of them to do it is a market shift. Those I have not mentioned, are behind the 8-ball. In my opinion the shift is seismic and only going to accelerate.
Microsoft are pushing hard industry vertical solutions, ServiceNow are innovating more and more across the front and middle-office, Salesforce announcements look to re-engineer whole industries from the customer experience perspective, and Oracle now have Oracle Me – punching outwards and across from the functional silos of the ERP market. It will be interesting now to watch the marketing messages of these vendors as we move into the second half of 2022, and for me, how the Systems Integrators marketing adapts (or not!).
Take a Moment
So before you sign that big cheque to your chosen platform vendor alongside that significant investment in an implementation partner, ask yourself one question ‘where do you want to be in seven years’ time?’ and do your chosen partners share and understand that vision to such an extent they can constantly, consistently deliver and unlock value to you in the experience economy to help you arrive at your destination as both your business, the technology and both your employees and customers evolve.
The bragging days around who can implement the system the quickest (aka ‘turning the lights on’) is a false economy and has always been a load of nonsense, a figment of imagination of the vendor marketing departments who have never ever undertaken an implementation.
However, if you still decide to follow this route and don’t look upon the transition to Cloud as an opportunity to transform your business to create experiences that empowers your employees to delight customers and citizens, then given the body of evidence available, I have little sympathy when you later say ‘we are not getting value out of our SaaS platform’ We are already at an inflection point in the vendor landscape regarding experience platform evolution and consequently we have arrived at a new equation for a new era:
Experience Economy = Empowerment
Why? because empowerment means choice, and all great experiences are rich in data in the moment. So, the more we encourage the workforce to be curious, take control and look for improvement, the greater the opportunity for digitalisation but in the context of the user experience at a specific moment in time. The future of the employee experience is now, but without the culture of empowerment, maximising value through the return on investment will never be achieved. Think Disney and add digital into the mix!
One thing is for sure, this story is not over yet not by a long way…
It only seemed like yesterday I wrote my last blog article, in-fact it was 11th January 2021!, I have been so busy with de Novo (#wearedenovo) and my obligations to the wonderful ERP Today, that I have just not had time to write. However, after a great night out with the #Certusalumni – the original pioneers of Oracle SaaS Cloud – Ian Carline, Richard Atkins and Rob English along with an alcohol induced headache and watching todays announcement from Oracle regarding Oracle Me, I was inspired to metaphorically put pen to paper and write…
Change the Conversation
‘Change the conversation’ a phrase that I have heard and used many times myself. When pioneering, searching for new ideas, seeking out new markets and looking for the next opportunity or market trend, you can easily get dragged back into what is the status quo and existing market behaviours.
The ability to find inspiration can come from the most unlikely of sources, something you remember from years ago, something you read, something you discuss with friends over a bottle of wine in a restaurant (thank heavens we can do the most normal of normal things again), something on a side of a bus?
Studying market behaviour in the technology industry I personally find fascinating. A market of many stakeholders – buyers and sellers from platform vendors, system integrators, ISV’s and of course customers to name just a few. Behind all of this you cannot ignore the VC’s, Private Equity and the Business Angels, providing the much-needed risk capital to fuel innovation.
Understanding and seeing what resonates, whilst also watching the latest trend as it comes and goes, and most importantly identifying the cyclical pattern which many do not even consider let alone embrace to their advantage is fundamental in determining a winning proposition.
Evolution of the Experience Economy – Its Happening in front of Us!
I have now been writing, let alone investing money and time (the most valuable of assets) in the #experienceeconomy for over two years now. Slowly but surely, through the delivery of new technology capability and the focus on deep personalisation within industry vertical solutions, the playing field we know as the enterprise, or more specifically enterprise resource planning (ERP) is changing.
Being an systems implementer with industry domain experience, references, people with vendor certifications and an ability to compete effectively on price (don’t get me started on that!) has been ‘table stakes’ for years. Somewhere along the line SaaS became a commodity play and everyone forgot about value creation.
Regardless, the industry has moved on, and whilst significant amounts of buyer education still needs to be undertaken, the move to delivering industry vertical solutions by personalised experiences over standardised business processes is gaining more and more traction.
Salesforce has always been in the mix; ServiceNow fundamentally changed as a company and its positioning using its Now technology platform; as well as Microsoft becoming more and more vocal around industry solutions have unquestionably all been leading the way.
Finally, Oracle or ‘big red’ as I still refer to it, has awoken and firmly announced its direction of travel having to recognise the need to be more active in an ever changing game, and the need to respond effectively to the onslaught of experience platforms over the past two years from the competition.
The Importance of Oracle Me Announcement – Empowering the Client’s People
Crystal ball prediction time and I stress again that this is just my personal opinion.
What we have seen with Oracle’s public announcement today, is a whole lot more than more SaaS product innovation with Oracle Me. In a single word its ’empowerment!’.
Whilst it always takes time for Oracle to pivot, its resources are frankly unlimited and it has the ability to gain momentum quickly and accelerate pass the competition. Often this is when Oracle is at its most dangerous as a competitor.
We have seen this several times before, from the days of on-premise, to most recently in what was the first era of the Cloudwars with Workday which seemed miles ahead, only for Oracle eventually to power past as it delivered a single unified system in ERP, HCM, Payroll and SCM together, whilst adding Digital Assistant very early on. Anyone in the ERP ecosystem will tell you, the suite play always trumps best of breed in a back-office enterprise, and Oracle achieved this with aplomb and continues to do so to this day.
Oracle through Oracle ME is recognising the hybrid Cloud era and providing the tools for connectively, communication and collaboration that are required to deliver employee experiences that matter that go way beyond the transactional base of a SaaS Cloud ERP system. A place I will argue where Workday is still at, and SAP is still getting there – they seemed to miss the first Cloud era altogether. These Vendors however are no longer the competition.
Most importantly the Oracle ME tools buy-in to the low code, no code platform concept and empower the Client to take control of its configuration. Systems Integrators beware!
Today, with the announcement of Oracle ME, it is just as an important announcement as when Oracle firstly announced Fusion SaaS back in 2011!
Oracle is publicly signalling awareness, accepting the landscape is changing, and acknowledging to stay relevant it needs to evolve. This is how I interpret events today, and April 2022 is a time I would suggest that everyone will point back to in years to come.
In essence, Oracle has changed the conversation about their product offerings in one go. The #experienceeconomy isn’t about technology platforms, it’s about creating digital experiences that empowers individuals to undertake a task or action efficiently and effectively at any given moment in time, recognising that the majority of people do not work in functional silos. Oracle Me does that, the prediction being that Oracle repositions itself selling personalised industry solutions.
It will be interesting now to see if my prediction comes true, but if it does, as far as Oracle is concerned it started today. Game on…
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.
Platforms that deliver value through employee engagement
Double trouble for this digital edition so I thought I would pull in some additional expertise and commentary again from Libby Mason, recognised organisation and change management expert. So, here’s another episode from the Mark and Libby show…
Over the last 18 months we have seen the constant rise in the industry narrative from the SaaS cloud platform providers regarding the importance of delivering ‘experiences that matter’. Historically this narrative was heavily focussed on the end customer, but with a tectonic shift in how we manage our work and our workforce there is a wave of experience platforms which are now focussed on the employee as the customer.
SaaS ERP cloud over the past decade has delivered capability through leading business processes; whilst this is no longer new, it provides the foundation of any enterprise change as this becomes the base for future innovation. We have seen in the last few months that even the likes of Oracle, which is clearly one, if not the market leader of ERP and HCM SaaS cloud technology reacting to the relentless onslaught from the likes of Salesforce and ServiceNow with its ‘Oracle journeys’ in regard to the experience economy.
The gathering momentum around delivering relevant, timely and easy to access experiences to employees is fast becoming an element in any company’s competitive advantage. This is becoming the new benchmark in the digital world. Organisations in both public and private sectors are now making the link between improved employee and business performance, enabled by SaaS cloud platforms, delivering better services to their end customer by enabling their own workforce to do their jobs effectively.
Future blueprint – building value through great experiences
Whilst everyone seems naturally to dive immediately into ‘digital journey mapping’, which is a necessary activity and usually accommodated by a nice set of PowerPoint slides, let’s step back and address the basics.
Start with the end
A lot of organisations fall into the trap of buying shiny new tools and then going to find problems to fix with them without really understanding which challenges are the most important to solve or which opportunities to prioritise. Cloud is a journey; you’re not going to get there all at once, so start with the experiences that are most important to building value and momentum for your organisation and determine which parts of those experiences are critical to quality. It will be different for every organisation and will span every process area from recruitment and onboarding, to procurement, to invoicing. Consider what you need to get right to succeed.
Cloud is a journey; you’re not going to get there all at once
Get your business model right
Even when technology is deployed in the right way, if the operating model isn’t right, and the right employees are neither empowered nor have the right skills to do their jobs, then organisations can’t succeed. The people and organisational side of the equation is and always will be just as important. Experience platforms depend on having the right people doing the work, in the right place in the organisation, with the right skills and behaviours – getting this aligned up-front means we need to consider how to adapt our business to work in a new way. It will mean new roles, new skills, new behaviours and a new business logic to drive enhanced workflows.
The cloud SaaS design principle of ‘adopt, not adapt’ has not gone away. You need to decide up-front which technology platform’s processes you wish to ‘adopt’ as they all work differently – a ‘vendor agnostic’ strategy when designing the operating model only leads to significant rework. It’s like putting the cart before the horse, so don’t sit on the fence, as technology platform choice is not something you should kick down the road.
This is not an easy transition to make for many organisations. Trusting and empowering employees at the right levels in organisations is the best way to reduce unnecessary hand offs and eliminate waste in processes. This means challenging traditional approaches to managing control and often means reshaping individual and whole teams’ roles and accountabilities.
Understanding organisational maturity will help to prioritise investment in upskilling and improving in areas where the experiences will have the greatest impact.
Understand the data and get it right
The data architecture of an organisation is absolutely critical. How many times do we come across poor quality data being held in siloed applications? For experience platforms to deliver genuine value, organisations need to spend more time thinking about the data model (including the end-to-end business logic like workflows, approvals).
At a minimum, deploying an ERP SaaS cloud system becomes the first step in capturing and maintaining standardised datasets through the execution of standardised business processes. Elements to consider:
For employees to be effective in the moment, they need the right data at their fingertips enabling informed decision making.
Who is leading the way?
Done correctly, successful organisations: focus on business outcomes; break down delivery silos; create positive employee experiences without frustration and perceived bureaucracy; and consider human behaviours alongside technology fit. Examples include:
Lloyds Bank deployed ServiceNow to address the problem of managing complex IT infrastructure across 100,000 people where data fragmentation across such organisations is commonplace in the financial services industry. Lloyds now has a cohesive view of its critical business processes. This has led not only to significant improvements in control, cost reduction and regulatory compliance but more importantly it has empowered employees, reducing frustration in the process! It also now has an experience platform for building continuous improvement across all areas of the business beyond the back-office enterprise.
Unilever is another example of an organisation which is leading the way in unifying the employee experience across its ERP/HCM cloud estate. Salesforce is deployed as the seamless engagement layer over their estate to simplify employee interaction, whilst still taking advantage of SaaS standardised business processes. This strategy has significantly improved employee productivity and reduced the reliance on employee helpdesks.
Eye on the prize
Experience platforms offer the potential to unlock significant value, enabling organisations to deliver performance enhancing services to their employees. This prize can only be achieved when you understand what is important to your organisation; know the cloud SaaS technology you are going to deploy and put in place an operating model and the data you need to support achieving that ambition. Without it, you will be left wondering why you’re not getting the value and what is wrong with the technology……spoiler alert, it’s not the technology!
Trusting and empowering employees at the right levels in organisations is the best way to reduce unnecessary hand offs and eliminate waste in processes
Mark Sweeny, founder and chief executive, de Novo Solutions Libby Mason, founder, Alluvion Consulting
Can a new entrant change the game in the experience economy?
Getting the band back together is not always a prudent idea. How many times have we seen legends reform in their twilight years only to undo their previous good work and rewrite their legacy with a failed attempt at making it again? Pink Floyd (Momentary Lapse of Reason), The Pixies (Indy Cindy), Guns ‘N Roses (Chinese Democracy) and Queen (The Cosmos Rocks), to name just a few, have all tarnished their position in history with comebacks that were a pale comparison to their heyday.
There are exceptions of course. Bowie aged like a fine wine after his evolution from Ziggy Stardust. The Detours reformed into the legendary, The Who. Even Take That, post Robbie, became credible following their unlikely comeback. There are plenty of other things that are better the second time round too – but that’s a conversation for another day.
So how does this music analogy translate into the tech world? Well, one of the industry’s most recognisable characters is starting over in an attempt to recreate some of the magic he enjoyed with his previous business, Certus Solutions.
Cloud Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are constantly evolving embracing new levels of innovation as the world we work in continues to change and user’s expectations constantly increase.
The first generation of Cloud SaaS applications was focused upon the application Vendors establishing a comprehensive suite of SaaS services -Finance, Procurement, Supply Chain, HR and Payroll across the Back Office, but as we enter the new decade the focus of the market is now moving towards the experience economy.
The experience economy literally redefines the way we work, recognising that People do not work in functional silos.
Whether the experience presented is for an end customer or for an employee the market is constantly evolving with the next evolution of enterprise Cloud solutions based upon delivering personalised experiences over standardised processes by digitalised workflows.
Creating personalised experiences not only takes advantage of the new breed of technologies that are now available such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and adaptive analytics, but also allows implementations to be undertaken with an understanding of human behaviour of engagement and a fresh perspective as to how we can connect customer to employees and digitalise operational processes that span the enterprise support service delivery.
Introducing de Novo
de Novo Solutions is both a ServiceNow and Oracle Partner, allowing us to reach further across the enterprise connecting Client and citizens to employees creating experiences driven by digital workflows.
de Novo Solutions brings to the market its own Experience Architecture through the use of ServiceNow and Oracle SaaS Cloud, taking advantage of the strengths of both platforms to unlock hidden value with an enterprise.
ServiceNow and the Now platform provides the enterprise-wide platform that allows us to create personalised work experiences through digital workflows pulling in data from multiple front and back office systems; as well external 3rd party systems where required.
Oracle SaaS Cloud provides leading practice standardised processes across Finance, Procurement, Supply Chain, HR and Payroll.
It is this combination of platforms forming a hybrid Cloud structure that unlocks maximum opportunity for any Organisation, allowing it to personalise its employee experience, whilst having the security and knowledge that’s its underlying business processes are standardised ensuring data integrity.
Inflection 2021 – The Missing Piece of the Enterprise Jigsaw
This year will see the continued evolution of SaaS cloud applications and once again we find ourselves at another inflection point. The next step brings into focus the final piece of the jigsaw and delivers on what ERP has been promising for decades – simply to make our lives easier at work.
Digital transformation is already here. There is no need to carry on debating whether people will continue to work from home or return to the office. Everyone is already working everywhere but the emphasis is changing. We have to break out from the functional silos that ERP systems create and look across the wider enterprise. Work is now coming to you rather than you going to work.
Organisations that continue to ignore the evolving needs of their workforce and do not have their people and the employee experience at the centre of their strategy will continue to lose pace with those who are prepared to invest. For some, this has already proven to be fatal. Be warned, no industry is immune to digital disruption.
Stay relevant – take the experience economy seriously
Any company that does not deliver a seamless customer experience will be forever chasing the next sale while their competitors build meaningful and lasting relationships with theirs. Deep customer relationships create customer advocacy and this creates repeat business.
JP Morgan estimate that the experience economy Total Addressable Market (TAM) size is $110bn globally and Gartner research analysts are predicting that by 2024 organisations with an established multi-experience strategy will outperform their competitors in both customer and employee experience satisfaction metrics with:
To be successful organisations must always stay relevant to their market. The Gartner research makes a compelling argument that understanding both your customers’ and employees’ needs, wants, and behaviours on an individual level is more important than ever.
Delivering great products and services still needs human interaction. The consumer grade digital B2C world we all experience in our personal lives has now arrived in the workplace. We demand one click.
By creating real-time subconscious digital experiences that make employees efficient, effective, and most importantly successful, increases employee satisfaction as they feel valued. Employees now get to spend their most precious asset – their time – dealing with customers and/or citizens and not wading through endless back-office organisational bureaucracy.
The time to invest is now
The infamous Richard Branson quote, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”, is true. So why then do we continuously deny the type of capability we subconsciously use in our social lives to our employees at work?
Even with modern SaaS cloud applications the way we interact with technology still does not reflect the way an organisation actually works and does not reflect the human element that contributes to an organisation’s culture. Very few employees inside an organisation work within a functional silo as the business processes that support service delivery connect front-office to back and span multiple functions and supporting systems outside a core ERP platform.
Inefficiencies in the workplace exist as individuals spend considerable amounts of time undertaking non-productive work in driving processes in functional silos rather than focussing upon those value-add strategic tasks that require human thinking and business relationships. This often creates pure frustration on an employee’s part. Consequently, there is a strong phycological human behavioural and cognitive element to finding the employee experience nirvana.
As we crawl out of economic recession the war on talent still remains.
Employees’ expectations are that they will not only get technology that works but tech that makes them successful in their role. If you want to attract and retain the best talent you need to create an environment that clearly demonstrates you value them.
Any company that does not deliver a seamless customer experience will be forever chasing the next sale
The direction of travel has been set
The experience economy is no passing fad with industry titans like Bill McDermott, CEO at ServiceNow, Marc Benioff, founder and CEO at Salesforce, and Mike Ettling, CEO at Unit4 all setting the direction of travel since late 2019. Just recently Larry Ellison, founder and chief technology officer at Oracle has also entered the fray.
The front office platform vendors are now looking to provide enhanced customer and employee experiences across the enterprise, breaking down the silo functionality of back office systems and bringing the work to the user by using technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, adaptive analytics and interoperability.
Josh Bersin, a renowned HR industry evangelist and analyst was quick to identify this as early as 2019, with his insights on the ‘employee experience platform’ being introduced into the workplace architecture.
Naturally being in an industry that loves its labels and acronyms we refer to it as Enterprise Service Management (ESM). However this is only the beginning as the workplace cloud-based technology agenda is now set for the next decade.
The rise of the employee experience platform
The evolution of the experience economy is so much more than an intelligent employee portal enabling access to a wider range of inter-departmental services. The leading ESM technology vendors like Salesforce and ServiceNow are providing platforms that will in time have the capability to deliver individual personalised experiences automatically in the workplace. This is the nirvana of the experience economy.
However to achieve this you have to combine the experience layer ESM applications with the back office business process ERP. Consequently, a new experience architecture materialises that can provide personalised experiences over standardised processes.
An experience architecture is data driven and takes advantage of a myriad of new technologies. It is this that drives a personalised employee experience bringing the relevant application services to the user at the appropriate time, unifying the underlying ERP platforms, various lines of business, front office systems, and external trusted industry relevant systems but without the user ever having to touch these systems directly.
Imagine being contacted by phone or text message to initiate an action, or to make you aware of a relevant event, and then being able to communicate through voice when required to access the company portal on your remote device; what you are presented with is an individual personalised front end. All automatically generated and configured with no customisation and applicable to you for that moment in time, with the same standardised processes in the background being executed. This is what the future looks like.
Adopting the entrepreneurial mindset
2021 will only see the experience economy gaining momentum. To take advantage, organisations need to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, have a positive attitude and a willingness to step up and do something to embrace the direction of travel.
So think big, think different; be prepared to take calculated risks; ignore your critics and remember it’s not just about making money! It’s about contributing by making a positive difference.
My advice for 2021, be different, be you and go be brave, because this train is leaving the station.
Mark Sweeny, founder, de Novo Solutions
Published on January 11, 2021
Chasing Rainbows – Looking for Experience Economy Nirvana
When you are pioneering out in the new frontier you are constantly looking for the elusive leprechaun’s pot of gold. Personally, this is all part of the challenge and the fun of being an entrepreneur. As Einstein said “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing”.
You are searching for something new, constantly asking why? and pushing the boundaries of the art of the possible, often to the soundtrack of the word “no” with many dismissing you for just chasing rainbows.
The pot of gold we are seeking is the digital equivalent of the employee experience nirvana (and I am not talking the band here, but what a great band!). It is fundamentally rethinking how we engage and interact with technology at work to deliver the core business, a paradigm-shift to where we are today.
Being brave and thinking big is all part of the journey, so read on…
Cloud SaaS ERP systems supports our work but does not reflect the way an Organisation delivers its core business
The first generation of Cloud SaaS applications saw the creation of specific functional modules for human resources, payroll, finance, procurement and supply chain. Many were stand alone, but a few like Oracle Cloud delivered a fully integrated solution on a single data model with a modern look and feel for user experience. But even for an industry which, I conservatively calculate, has invested around $150-200 billion in research and development activities over the past 10 years, the journey is never over and SaaS innovation drives constant evolution as the world continues to change around us.
So did we lead everyone down the garden path regarding Cloud SaaS applications over the past ten years? Absolutely not. The benefits of moving to the Cloud for the back office and adopting standardised business processes are well documented.
We continuously promote the many benefits of Cloud SaaS ERP systems, and it is a personal frustration fo me when I see organisations still delaying in migrating to the Cloud. Opportunity missed? Absolutely, as they are denying themselves to a wealth of innovation. For some, the stubborn refusal not to invest in either their front or back office technology platforms has in my mind been a contributing factor for them having to close their doors forever due to the pandemic and the accelerated shift to digital as they could not modify their business operations fast enough.
Looking back to the beginning of SaaS applications a completely logical place to start was always to re-engineer and redesign the underlying business functions for HCM, Payroll, Finance, Procurement and Supply Chain that are all required to support core business operations.
The correct way to implement Cloud SaaS is for an organisation to adopt, not adapt the SaaS standardised business processes, but with the exception of the professional user whose job requires them to spend most of their time inside one of these modules the majority of employees have little interaction with such systems on a regular basis.
The irony being that a significant part of any SaaS implementation project’s budget is allocated and spent on business transformation activities where we target this same audience. Once the project has finished this becomes a sunk cost as we often see that the change hasn’t stuck and then we ask why?
A new direction? No, it’s just evolution…
Today it is still rare to find an organisation’s front office systems that interact with customers directly or the systems that are used by employees internally to enable core business delivery to the end customer are connected to the back office ERP systems.
The vast majority of front office transactions will initiate a back office ERP transaction. Consequently through the lack of digital integration it exposes a number of inefficiencies in an organisation’s business operation.
Even with current modern Cloud SaaS applications, the work an individual undertakes is still disjointed across a number of distinct front and back office systems. Ironically, this has been compounded further by those who have already moved to SaaS for their back office and subsequently compounded even further if an organisation has decided to use multiple different functional systems from different suppliers for their ERP platform.
The human drives the machine, and this creates inefficiencies in the workplace as individuals spend considerable amounts of time undertaking non-productive work in driving processes rather than focusing upon those value-add strategic tasks that require human thinking and business relationships.
The systems we use do not reflect the way an organisation executes its core business and also do not reflect critical “human” elements that contribute to an organisations culture.
Finding Nirvana – The Algorithm of Business & the Human Pulse of the Organisation
So what are we looking for? Fundamentally, we all want to be successful at work, regardless of whether we work in the private, public or the 3rd sector. To do that, we have to be constantly connected with what is going on around us both inside and outside the organisation as this influences and impacts the way we execute and deliver our core business.
Consequently, it is necessary that we have relevant accurate information immediately in order to take action in a timely fashion. Being able to execute a service on the go that has an interactive experience completed anywhere between 30 and 60 seconds before we have moved on is imperative.
Why? because we have developed, thanks to the internet, an insatiable human behaviour for immediacy, before we are distracted and our attention has moved on. Our time is our most valuable asset and to be effective we want to maximise it. People compete for our time and our attention.
You have to look no further than basic business strategy and algorithm of business of “Better, Cheaper, Faster” that is underpinning the evolution of SaaS.
Imagine a scenario where you as an individual didn’t have to change; a place where the technology you access adapts to you as an individual and reflects your behaviours. True individual personalisation not just based upon one’s persona or role within an organisation but something that is dynamically tailored to you individually relevant at a point in time enabling you to operate at peak performance subconsciously in regard to effectiveness and efficiency at work.
Technology should be an extension of oneself. I am already at the point in my thinking where there is a digital chatbot of me, reflecting my personality – now that would be interesting. Think Tron! (for those that don’t know who Tron was, find the time to sit down and watch the wonderful Disney movies Tron (1982) and more recently and applicably Tron Legacy (2010)).
A step to far? Not really, the concept of a digital avatar of oneself as a robot running around an organisation’s digital systems on one’s behalf is quite feasible and not that far away.
Technology driven experiences are a multi-dimensional entity that changes constantly over time and any digital nirvana will have the following characteristics:
There is a strong phycological human behavioural and cognitive element to finding the employee experience nirvana. It is this that needs to be understood on an individual basis as part of the design.
Technology that contributes to an Organisations Culture
Great technology should contribute positively to an organisation. It should be something that customers and employees can embrace, the interaction creating a positive experience with the organisation.
Enterprise Service Management (ESM) – the starting point but not the final destination
The platform vendors are now looking and already beginning to provide enhanced customer and employee experiences across the enterprise, breaking down the silo functionality of back office systems and bringing the work to the user by using technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, adaptive analytics and leveraging interoperability.
Labelled as Enterprise Service Management (ESM) this is really only the beginning of the journey, as the workplace Cloud based technology agenda is now set for the next decade. ESM in my opinion is just the first stepping-stone on the journey and not the final destination.
ESM Cloud solutions like ServiceNow and Salesforce are leading the technology charge into the new frontier connecting customers and employees creating connected experiences.
You only have to look at the R&D investment highlighted on earning calls and in the wider media as well as the acquisitions being made to accelerate platform functionality to acknowledge that the direction of travel has already been set.
The experience economy nirvana is achieved by creating value by delivering personalised experiences over standardised business processes across an enterprise. To do that Enterprise Service Management Cloud solutions provide the platform to facilitate the necessary integration into the leading ERP Cloud platforms.
The technical architecture equation is simple… Experience Economy Nirvana = ESM + ERP
It’s all about Leverage – Recognise, React and Realise
As evidenced Cloud SaaS applications are evolving and we are clearly moving out of functional silo’s and across the enterprise by the addition of an experience layer within an organisations technical architecture. The direction of travel has already been set however the gap now exists in regard to delivery and implementation capability to make these solutions work. Customers who are becoming the early adopters are going to find that delivery of such experiences are not going to come pre-packaged and just jump out of the box, rather they are toolsets that need to be assembled and installed across the enterprise. In time this will change as the platform vendors and the Independent Software Vendor (ISV) community create industry wide experiences. However, once an organisation has invested in this hybrid Cloud infrastructure connecting front office to back, they will be on the road to the experience economy nirvana. The trick being to become an intelligent customer and leverage the platform vendors and ISV R&D investment and not build everything yourself.
As this journey continues there will be numerous twists and turns in the road ahead with many new chapters still to be written…in many ways we have only just begun.
Ready to Get Started?
Ready to embark on a transformative journey into the Experience Economy? Keen to find out how we can help you get the most out of your Oracle Cloud or ServiceNow investment so far?
Feel free to reach out to us today. We’re here to provide the support you need every step of the way.
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