How to Drive Agility with Intelligent ERP in the New Normal

Driving agility has taken on greater meaning and importance because of the COVID pandemic, and successful digital leaders recognize the urgency in enabling smarter, faster, safer, and innovative organizations. Organizational agility and resilience are increasing in significance as health conditions, the economy, customer needs, and supply chains characterize the new normal.

Driving Agility with Intelligent ERP - Isaac Sacolick - SAP

Digital leaders know that driving agility can start with small teams experimenting and learning through proof of concepts and pilots. But to generate competitive advantages during the new normal, scaling changes to market conditions requires leveraging Intelligent ERP as a data source, integration hub, analytics engine, and workflow orchestrator. 

Intelligent ERP runs in the cloud and provides organizations capabilities and tools to listen, learn, and instrument incremental operational changes. 

Adjust to Evolving Customer Needs and Supply Chain Risks

Driving agility requires business leaders to reexamine their business models and interactions with suppliers and customers. Changes are most visible in industries like healthcare that are adjusting emergency services for COVID patients, banking in providing new loans and other financial services to small businesses, and brick and mortar retailers adding new purchasing and fulfillment options.

Digital transformation is also a strategic driver for manufacturers that must improve workers’ safety conditions while rapidly adjusting their operations to changing customer demands, distribution opportunities, and supply chain risks. Financial rewards for the winners can be significant, and reports from an IDC survey indicate that digitally transformed manufacturers and retailers have eight times more revenue and are twice as profitable.

Investments and migrations to intelligent ERPs serve as the backbone for business agility by connecting customer intelligence with operational analytics. These two critical data sets and workflows enable business leaders to spot trends and outliers, allowing them to make real-time decisions on operations, business priorities, and customer interactions.

Democratize Decision Making with Intelligent Analytics

Driving agility during the new normal requires leaders to scale decision making to employees on the front lines working with customers and suppliers. Democratizing decision making empowers these subject matter experts to make the most informed decisions that drive key performance indicators in operations, marketing, and sales.

Picture a marketer trying to adjust ad messaging, media buys, or content strategies as regional and local health and economic conditions evolve. Does she have time to join virtual meetings and gain consensus on the required changes, or does she have access to analytics with the most relevant information?

How about an operational manager that reviews customer demand forecasts and real-time updates on material costs to adjust the number of employees on the factory floor and production volumes?

In both cases, leaders have removed themselves from operational decisions and empowered frontline workers with the analytics to make informed decisions and tools to enable operational adjustments. Leaders must be able to trust when, where, and how subject matter experts make timely decisions. To develop trust and confidence, successful digital leaders instrument feedback loops that aggregate data from operations, sales, and markets and empower data scientists to build and maintain machine learning models. These models are tested and then operationalized through regular and scheduled updates. This process ensures that frontline workers make governed decisions using the latest intelligence around the new normal.

Drive Operational Agility with Real-Time Information and Collaboration

So what do digital leaders implement to enable this type of transformation? Here are some of the key steps:

  • Replace in-person meetings and collaborations with intelligent workflows driven by low-code platforms
  • Enable real-time stream data processing that flags new opportunities, shifts in demand, or material risks 
  • Create a culture of learning and empowerment where frontline subject matter experts have access to analytics, data visualizations, and workflows to make real-time decisions based on market conditions
  • Iteratively improve machine learning models, publish KPIs, and share feedback with leaders and employees around strategies and priorities 
  • Automate operations where tools like RPAs and CI/CD application deployment processes improve the reliability and speed of manual processes 
  • Leverage intelligent ERP in the cloud for robust, reliable, and high performing employee experiences

Evolving from legacy to intelligent ERPs in the cloud is central to this strategy, and expert analysts have weighed in on the importance of this transition for digital, data-driven organizations.

Jo Peterson, vice president of cloud services & security services at Clarify360, starts with cloud and mobile experience fundamentals. She says, “End users like the mobility and flexibility that cloud ERP brings. Cloud ERP can foster collaboration as data is centralized, and each department has access.”

Going one step further, Keith Townsend, principal of CTO Advisor, makes the case why deploying the ERP to the cloud and maturing DevOps practices are key to organizations driving agility. “Advanced analytics capabilities lead to more complex business queries, requiring more powerful systems. System managers must adopt disciplines from the application development team and adopt CI/CD processes that enable ERP operations to keep pace with business requirements.” 

Taking a few steps backward, I believe most leaders would agree that organizations relying on paper processes, spreadsheet-driven analytical tools, and top-down decision making are no match for the speed, volatility, and competitiveness that defines the new normal. 

What drives agility requires empowering people with update-to-date information, robust and easy-to-use tools, automations that free people’s time, and high-performance infrastructure. The intelligent ERP enables the agility, collaboration, and culture required for organizations to respond, compete, and grow during the new normal and transform to digital enterprises.

This post is brought to you by SAP.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent SAP's views and opinions.

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