7 Enterprise Applications Trends for High Growth Companies in 2013
Oracle and its partners were busy in 2012 helping midsize companies modernize their enterprise applications and technology platforms to support growth. Deployment models continued to evolve. Mobile applications deployment emerged as a major consideration impacting IT strategies. The quest to gain easy access to clear and relevant business performance metrics via Business Intelligence (BI) solutions remained top of mind among financial and technology managers. Will these trends continue to gain strength in 2013? What other technologies will emerge to impact the IT strategies of growing businesses? Oracle experts and partners weigh in on what to expect in 2013.
The trends identified in this list are interrelated and reflect cautious optimism across global markets. Consistently, the extended Oracle community supporting the needs of midsize companies sees a continued commitment by midsize companies to modernize IT in order to capitalize on opportunities for growth.
A Widening IT Skills Gap
Since the dawn of Management Information Systems (MIS) people who understand how to apply technology solutions in solving real world business challenges have always been in high demand. While some markets globally are not yet experiencing a shortage of IT skills, others see available jobs go unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants. Some institutions of higher learning recognize the need to offer interdisciplinary degree programs that combine business and technology course work. Also, many technology solution providers are increasing their investment in technology skills training programs for high school, college students and graduates such as the Oracle Academy and Oracle's Product Development Internship program. Companies with plans to modernize their enterprise applications systems in 2013 should consider not just a potential solution's capabilities, but also how easy it is to deploy, maintain, and adjust in the long term. Modernizing enterprise resource planning (ERP) should simplify IT, not complicate IT, and provide companies with more options for both systems and business management. Oracle partners are seeing a slight trend towards more midsize companies outsourcing business analyst and applications specialist roles which corresponds with a larger trend towards reducing IT staff in general. They are also experiencing an increased interest amongst their clients in investing in training and mentoring programs to speed achievement of self-sufficiency.
Quicker, Tighter, Faster Deployments Enabled by Industry Best Practices
Most growing midsize companies need to deploy enterprise applications quickly in order to lower costs, reduce business disruption, and speed time to value. Startups need robust applications in place on day one. Inorganic opportunities such as mergers, acquisitions, and divestures are the most common drivers of rapid growth amongst midsize Oracle customers and prospects. Such opportunities usually require new systems to be in place by a hard cutoff date driven either by contractual obligations or business cycle restrictions. Today, the average midsize company deploying Oracle ERP for the first time adopts 75 percent of the embedded best practices because industry standards would be an improvement over existing processes or because no strategic value would be gained by configuring the new system to the old way of doing things. The remaining requirements that define the unique competitive attributes of their business are configured by the deployment team. As a result, the new solution is typically live and generating value in less time than might previously have been spent in just the traditional requirements assessment and request for proposal (RFP) review process.
Discovering the Plus Side of Technology Upgrades
Upgrading existing enterprise applications may offer the best path to modernization if the vendor-like Oracle-has continually invested in its solutions. Usually, upgrade projects are driven by the need to stay on a supported release, yet they can be expensive and difficult to get approved if there is no tangible ROI. A decade ago, upgrades could be approved simply as a cost of doing business. Today, financial and technology managers expect IT to be an enabler of strategic initiatives and not just a back office transactional platform. Tier one ERP solutions have improved considerably over the last decade. Financial and IT managers at growing midsize companies can build a more compelling business case by developing a broader, longer range plan that maps out how an upgrade enables subsequent revenue producing or cost cutting IT projects now and in the future. That case may include components of leveraging existing investments by turning on more functionality in the core product or deploying complementary products that address high value areas of the business with big "bang for your buck" opportunities.
The Cloud Helps Makes ERP Exciting Again
Vinyl music albums are increasingly popular because their analog sound quality blows away that of digital MP3 downloads. Snow ski technology innovation is turning the tide on a two-decade wave of snowboarding popularity. And now, the cloud is putting the fun back in ERP. Inorganic growth is often bringing midsize businesses to where they are today and the most important goals are usually to rationalize the company's portfolio and standardize on one technology platform. CIOs and CFOs simply want a more predictable cost model for IT without sacrificing capabilities-one that provides flexibility to configure processes to new business activities, extend capabilities to acquired operations and business partners (such as outsourced manufacturers), and integrate with third-party solutions. Oracle partners are experiencing frequent requests from their midsize clients to gain a deeper understanding of how to practically transition some processes to the cloud while leveraging their existing investments. Oracle's approach is to provide customers with the broadest array of interesting cloud options to include in short and long term plans (for more insight, read, "ERP in the Cloud: CFOs See the Value of Running Enterprise Applications as a Service," by Steve Miranda, Executive Vice President, Oracle Applications Development).
Business Analytics Keep On Sizzling Due to Clear ROI
Business Analytics-Business Intelligence (BI) and Enterprise Performance Management (EPM)-have been so hot for so many years that marketers are running out of buzz words. Maybe they no longer need them because the Return on Investment (ROI) of Business Analytics is so well and frequently documented. Growing companies need to plan and forecast with greater precision and they need intuitive, role-based intelligence to power better decisions. Business Analytics are the catalyst to the continued evolution of ERP from efficiency to effectiveness to business transformation as detailed in the report, "Analytics: Driving Innovation With Analytics". This report cites a survey of BI professionals by Dresner Advisory Services in which respondents ranked the integration of analytics with operational processes highest on a list of emerging BI technologies, with 74 percent indicating it was either critical or very important. Business Analytics are staying hot for growing midsize companies because the products just keep getting better and easier to deploy. Analytic applications enable companies to deploy 75-85 percent of the performance metrics they need upon go live. And, it is now common for non-technical executives-such as a CFO-to set up their own BI and EPM dashboards on their iPads. And Business Analytics are not just for larger companies. Oracle partners tell us that even companies with USD 10-20 million in annual revenue are finding ROI in Business Analytics investments.
More Enterprise Applications Go Mobile
Progressive financial and IT managers have spent the last few years fine tuning their smartphones in order to streamline access to information and manage their day to day lives better and more efficiently. Then came the Apple® iPad®–a more robust device with a larger display. Apple's competitors soon followed suit with their versions of tablets and "phablets"–large-screen smartphones optimized for optimized for mobile and multimedia applications. As those same professionals explored the power of their mobile devices they soon realized that they no longer needed to lug their laptops around to meetings, on business trips, or even on the commute home from the office. Now, they increasingly one consistent access to all relevant data irrespective of where they are and what device they are using-at home, in the office, in meetings, or on the road. An effective presentation of a complete solution's power should include a demonstration of dashboards, push alerts, and workflow because that is the way managers are going to use the system. Enterprise application mobility is now evolving beyond the boardroom. Gone are the days of the "back office" where legions of clerks transferred data from paper to the transactional system. Increasingly tablets are replacing work stations on the shop floor, finding their way into the cabs of delivery trucks, and showing up behind retail counters because that's where business happens. That's where transactional information is born and no company wants personnel in those roles to have to wade through a series of ERP screens to get their jobs done.
Big Data is the Next Big Thing
To date, Business Analytics have largely been in the business of analyzing structured data from a well defined (and understandable) set of sources. In contrast, Big Data and its growth is hard to define and even harder to visualize. We can't see it or touch it. We can't comprehend its enormity because we're not able to, for example, lay all the Big Data down end to end to see if it reaches to the moon and back. However, financial and technology managers at growing midsize companies intuitively know that their business activities are capturing exponentially more unstructured information-Big Data-every year. Sources of Big Data include core transactional systems, online stores and help sites, CRM solutions, product sensors, smart phones, medical devices, and social media activities. It represents potentially priceless (and often proprietary) knowledge related to customers, partners, employees, and operations. Thus, Oracle partners working with growing midsize businesses are having more frequent discussions with their clients about Big Data. Even as these clients analyze where cloud computing, business analytics, and mobile applications fit in their near term plans, they recognize that sooner than later they will need to harness the power of Big Data. Not long ago, most of this data was tribal knowledge siloed in one group or line of business and lost forever when circumstances changed. Now, it's raw information living in the system and has become organizational property waiting to be put to work. Think about how early GPS systems simply told you how to get from Point A to Point B. Today's GPS systems overlay that guidance with a prolific stream of recommendations (how to avoid traffic and road closures) and opinions (which hotel is the best value and which restaurant serves the best lunch). Likewise, growing companies can benefit from gaining more guidance on the best way to get to where they are going as well as becoming more aware of what customers, partners, and employees are saying about them.
Financial and IT managers at growing midsize companies want information systems to be more intelligent, accessible, and pervasive. They want everyone in the organization to have access to the right information in a digestible format. ERP in its first generation was transactional, about "command and control". Today's ERP is about having the entire organization on one system with standardized processes. It's efficient, smart, and agile. Today's business manager enjoys real time access to stock market activity, hourly weather forecasts, airline flight status updates, and push alerts when someone mentions them on Facebook or their dry cleaning is ready to be picked up. They want no less from their business systems and, now, it's not too much to ask. Tier one ERP is now easier than ever to deploy.
Shane Eisenhauer, Vice President, Platinum level member of Oracle PartnerNetwork, Terillium, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Paul Connelly, Co-Owner and Principal Consultant, Gold level member of Oracle PartnerNetwork, Percipient Consulting, Northwich, UK
Maureen Clifford, CEO, Gold level member of Oracle PartnerNetwork, Ndevr Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Australia
Deborah Arnold, Founder and Partner, Platinum level member of Oracle PartnerNetwork, DAZ Systems, Inc., El Segundo, CA, USA
Lyle Ekdahl, Group Vice President General Manager, Oracle's JD Edwards, Denver, CO, USA
Steve Cox, Vice President, Oracle Accelerate Global Programs, Bristol, UK