By Jeroen Sprangers, Managing Enterprise Applications Consultant, Capgemini
Do you remember the old days when you bought a new PC and blocked off your entire Saturday to set it up?
I’m sure it usually took you the whole day: setting up the programs and the network, and there was always that one step which was not described in the user guide. Following Murphy’s Law, that particular step always went wrong—leading to wasted time and frustration. After a long series of errors following the first one, it still didn’t work—and you ended up calling tech support just to get it running.
Why can’t they make these things simple? Just plug and play and start!
Thankfully, times have changed—especially with the rise of mobile phones and tablets. You simply attach the cable, switch on the power, and within five minutes your device is up and running.
What I see happening more often these days is that businesses are starting to demand the same when it comes to implementing ERP.
Companies ask us, “Why do we need a tedious and time consuming project for implementing this? Why a one-year project? You’re the expert; can’t you just give me what I need?”
There is a high demand for what I call “Plug and Play ERP.”
The reason is that there is often an urgent business need for an IT solution. In my recent article about business speed, I mention that, “Innovation should be delivered at a pace it can be consumed.” Although companies nowadays want to consume fast, IT does not seem to have much appetite. Business is speeding up and IT is lagging behind.
Companies can’t wait for one year until an ERP solution is rolled out. With the current speed of changes in the market, the solution often has to be implemented within just a few months.
Not only does the solution have to be delivered fast, but it should also provide quick insights and immediate results—and thus be of value. In our story about reporting we described the urgent need for real time insights and analytics about key business processes. Adaptive intelligence—which integrates machine learning with ERP applications to delivers real-time information and actionable insights—is one of THE future areas in ERP.
Plug and play ERP does, however, require you to organize a few things differently from the way most companies currently implement ERP. It is what I call the “Cloud is a M_U_S_T” change:
The most important factor when starting a cloud implementation is having the right mindset. You must apply the “take it as-is or leave it” mentality. Customization is a real no-go in cloud; true vanilla is the key for a successful implementation. Although this is often said, saying it is not enough. It should be in the heart and mind of everybody involved.
This is a great point in favor of Oracle ERP Cloud because of the solution’s maturity. In my article about user experience, I wrote that most of Oracle’s development budget for cloud is spent on adding new functionality and user experience. So the need for customization with Oracle ERP Cloud is negligible.
If company-specific functionality is an absolute must, Oracle offers Platform as a Service to develop extensions to Oracle ERP Cloud and other cloud applications. These extensions live outside the ERP’s core code, so a regularly-scheduled cloud update will not break your company-specific functionality as it’s rolled out. Your ERP cloud remains upgrade-safe.
For companies implementing Oracle ERP Cloud, the experience entails shifts in the business at multiple levels. Companies expect a systems integrator who has deep knowledge and experience in the software and its implementation. The software alone is not enough; systems integrators need to understand the client’s business, and therefore need a more business-oriented focus than ever before.
Business is, as already described, behind the steering wheel. They are expecting best practices, industry models, and predefined template solutions for a fast implementation, in order to make the experience truly “plug and play.”
Best practice solutions and templates were also used in the past, but they were difficult to implement. If you have done an on-premises ERP implementation, you know that some things, once done, are more or less set in stone. (Think, for instance, about the Charts of Account structure).
As I described in my post about structural flexibility, the cloud offers an advantage here. Once defined, the solution can be changed easily. This gives more opportunities to use an agile implementation method. Systems integrators can work with a predefined template that they can roll out and adjust easily to the company’s needs. Our article about setup underscores this: the time it takes to set up the system is significantly decreased, which leaves more time for business process optimization.
Quick, simple and convenient ERP is the way to go, and the business is in charge.
Once the cloud solution is live, another important change comes into play: system support. Most people know that, with cloud, Oracle is in the lead for applying patches and regular updates. However, it is important to be aware of the potential impact on your company and what the practical consequences might be.
Timelines and test efforts are two points worth mentioning here—for example, the time that is needed to clone your instance. If you need to copy an environment, a ticket needs to be logged at the Oracle support desk. Then you have to run your planning in sync with Oracle’s. You no longer have full control over your own agenda; instead, it becomes a shared responsibility.
In terms of effort, you should, for instance, think about how you organize the cloud updates that are rolled out several times per year. With on-premises ERP, every major release required a huge effort in regression testing. Regression testing in the cloud can be done using a lighter and more targeted approach, but the frequency with which it occurs will be higher.
Last but not least, a cloud implementation requires a different skill set from the team involved.
Now more than ever, implementations must be fast and agile. The implementation team should be a smaller group of people who have well-rounded skills with the right business knowledge. This is simply because cloud implementations are more business-focused and less IT-heavy. It is important to have a trusted advisor who knows your business and can advise on how to adjust best practices and industry models to implement an out- of- the-box, plug-and-play ERP that meets your company’s needs.
So, if you have an urgent need for “Plug and Play ERP” and want to make it a success, applying the above points is a MUST.