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Big Ideas

Mind the Gap

How distant is your ERP system from the reality of modern business?

By Aaron Lazenby

Fall 2018

Between 2007 (when I started building Profit Online) and 2017, there was little change in the digital edition of Profit. Sure, in 2012 we put a different skin on the existing pages and added an RSS feed for readers who wanted content pushed to them—but fundamentally, the technology that supported our web publishing efforts did not change for a decade.

But consider that decade. The first generation iPhone was released in 2007. By 2017, self-driving cars were a functional reality in several cities around the world. Given the rate of change in technology, it’s no surprise that the publishing platform we stood up at the beginning of my tenure with Profit would be woefully inadequate in today’s world.

The core processes of many large, successful companies are being run on decades-old on-premises ERP systems.”

(Incidentally, that’s why we relaunched the publication on a cloud-based Oracle product last year. . . . but I digress.)

We’re a relatively modest corporate publication. Our processes are pretty well-defined—content comes in; content goes out. A small group of people get paid for their work. We collect and analyze some metrics about the performance of our content. Compared to the operations of a multinational manufacturing concern, we’re pretty small potatoes.

Nevertheless, even Profit wasn’t keeping up with the times. But we’re not the only ones. The reality is that the core processes of many large, successful companies are being run on decades-old on-premises ERP systems: massive payrolls, creaking along on technology installed when Barack Obama was running for his first term as President; procurement systems that came online at the same moment Hannah Montana transformed into Miley Cyrus; and process automation that coexisted with WALL-E.

This issue of Profit is partially focused on the gap between when many ERP systems were installed and the world of modern business. But this time gap isn’t the only chasm modern ERP systems must span. In “Moments of Truth,” Minda Zetlin summarizes four key business moments when a shift to a cloud-based ERP makes the most sense.

This issue of Profit is partially focused on the gap between when many ERP systems were installed and the world of modern business. But this time gap isn’t the only chasm modern ERP systems must span.”

One of those drivers is mergers and acquisitions, a topic that Oracle Vice President Leah Yomtovian Roush knows firsthand from working in the office that has overseen more than 100 acquisitions over the past 13 years. “For those companies that have not yet been able to achieve a single ERP instance, the cloud makes it easier to get there,” she writes.

That’s a lesson Steve Philpott, CIO of Western Digital, learned firsthand using Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning Cloud to integrate the internal systems of three companies after a merger. “We were looking at rationalizing 3,000 applications across these three companies,” he tells Profit.

Regardless of the motivation, anyone considering a move to the cloud can benefit from the advice of Oracle Executive Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer Corey West in “Go Bold.” Often, the perception is that core ERP process are somehow a commodity and executives can easily fall into an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. But that’s exactly how a core system can crank along for years and years without any critical review. By boldly embracing the cloud, he writes, “enterprises reap a variety of near-term benefits and set the stage for ongoing improvements that capitalize on the cloud-based ERP foundation.”

Photography by Bob Adler/Studio at Getty Images for Oracle