Change and Transformation at UKISUG 2021
By Talwyn Whetter, December 6 2021
Transformation and the Cloud – where is this taking us?
We are all feeling it, right?
That pace of change – at work and at home, picking up pace. I don’t even have to say the word ‘COVID’ for you to know what I mean. Attending the SAP User Group Connect Conference (aka the ‘SUG') last week, a member of a breakout session I attended said that if not for COVID, their organisation would have been a laggard in embracing flexible working and that the pandemic had moved them forward 20 years virtually overnight – I know that is a common story.
So – now businesses (and individuals!) know that they can adapt at pace, does that mean they will continue to do so?
Frankly, they have no choice. The Business Reality Check from The Economist called out the intense pace of technological change a top, and distracting, business challenge in 2018, with employee adoption of new technology being a key barrier. That remains true, if not compounded by the challenges and ever-changing landscape of our new world. Indeed, in 2020 – mid pandemic – Boston Consulting Group (BCG validated previous studies to conclude that only 30% of transformations achieve all their objectives.
What’s Cloud got to do with it?
For some time now, SAP has signalled it’s push into the cloud and as a behemoth of business, it will guide many a business further and more completely down this path. But the very real and perhaps less thought through consequence of this move is the total impact of cloud-based solutions on business operations themselves.
Where Microsoft 365 (like others) has mainstreamed the use of cloud, pushing updates and upgrades to us all the time, releasing new features and trial new working models; ERP hits organisations at quite a different level.
With SAP or any other ERP service in the Cloud, you will find yourself considering how frequent change might impact your master data or your business processes, and while its highly unlikely that upgrades are going to prompt a rethink of your entire business, it does mean that those on-prem system upgrades that used to take place over a timescale of years, if not decades, will be drip-fed into your business – meaning change is more constant and potentially more manageable.
In our experience, a key challenge in landing SAP into organisations is not always the complexity and breadth of the ERP implementation or upgrade itself – it is the lack of control over how a programme impacts the other change initiatives across the organisation.
A world where smaller, more frequent changes are the norm may support a key business objective of minimising the disruption that a large-scale upgrade might cause, but it also means that employees (and external parties) will generally need to be much more aware of the constant transformation planned across the organisation – once the implementation is done, you won’t be putting it in a box in your bottom draw for the next decade.
Secondly, many organisations use the ‘transformative’ event of an ERP implementation or upgrade as a lever for a wider transformation agenda. The success of this approach is chequered, but nonetheless; how are businesses going to ensure that they are consciously thinking about how their operational business is transforming in line with their products or services?
This could be a problem you kick down the road – an ERP upgrade might not touch your business for 3, 5 or even 7 years, but Cloud-based technologies are already permeating your workspace and the opportunity to maximise seemingly disparate or unconnected systems could supercharge your business area.
Here are some key things to consider:
- Get data literate – particularly around your organisation’s use of data. Think about the data you are collecting in your area, be curious and ask everyone – even regularly maintained spreadsheets might deliver rich insight for you when clashed with other information.
- Know what systems you are using and why - knowing what data is stored where can really help you start to think about what you are missing – for example, it doesn’t matter if you keep your definitive list of business processes in one place and maintain your organisational structure in another – but using the systems and the data in a connected way will minimise spreadsheet administration.
- The power of transparency - think how powerful it could be if there was a single view of all the moving parts of your workstream or even across your organisation. We regularly talk to business representatives who tell us that they are on the receiving end of tens of change initiatives and that they find it exhausting. A single joined up view (enabled by a product such as Serendata Insight) could allow a Sponsor, Change advocate or change professional to weave together multiple initiatives into a single coherent story; landing change simply and crucially with minimal disruption to the organisation.
- Create the space for transformation - in a future where there are fewer upgrades/overhauls that major IT events bring, you can be sure that business transformation as we know it will change too. But if we can simplify the change journey for users and minimise the disruption in the workplace, we should be able to create space and clarity where business optimisation can really thrive.