As Featured in ERP Today | Written by Paul Esherwood, Editor in Chief, ERP Today

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.

Read the full article on ERP Today here.

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.

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.

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.