The CIO Show: Is 'monolithic ERP' dead in Australia?

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Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, big ERP vendors and systems became synonymous with the highest levels of cost and complexity for CIOs.

But as the SaaS pricing and deployment model continues its inexorable spread into every level and corner of today’s evolving technology stack, the question is now being asked whether ‘monolithic ERP’ is now dead.

According to our expert guests in this episode, if it isn’t yet, it’s certainly moving into palliative care.

As Accenture’s respective Australia and New Zealand leads for SAP and Oracle, Bruce McKinnon and Doug Hughes explain, the entire business of ERP has been flipped on its head compared with the bad-old days when complex, costly and exhaustively long deployments were simply an accepted part of life.

Hughes notes while the transition has been ongoing for several years, COVID greatly accelerated it, with the retail sector in particular quickly pivoting to new SaaS-based systems offering the greater speed and flexibility needed to survive.

In retail and other sectors where data is king, ERP is now being driven by CX, as is increasingly the case across the broader business technology stack.

In stark contrast to traditional ERP arrangements, the “barriers for entry and exit” have now been effectively removed, according to McKinnon. Emerging SaaS-based challengers have made sure of that, and the big ERP giants have been forced to adapt their offerings in response.

Both are now increasingly marketing directly to line-of-business managers (think finance, HR, marketing) presenting CIOs with a different, potentially more vexing ‘shadow IT’ challenge.

But the opportunity for CIOs now is to embrace more ‘agile’ methodologies (see last week’s episode: Agile in Australia: Are you fast or fake?) and abandon the traditional ‘waterfall’ approaches which both Hughes and McKinnon blame for many organisations’ pre-occupation with customising core ERP modules. They contend that while the cloud makes customisation harder, that’s actually a good thing when it comes to ERP.

Will Sessions, head of technology innovation with the National Maritime Museum in Sydney feels that CRM is cutting ERP’s grass, increasingly incorporating its traditional capabilities at the same time as CIOs are becoming less inclined to make big investments in the latter.

Describing what he and his team have been able to achieve working with a number of different CRM providers – including one targeting the performing arts – he stresses that it’s irrelevant in his view, whether an organisation has invested in and deployed something that has ‘ERP’ on the tin if it hasn’t got a robust platform and processes for collecting, analysing and reporting on critical data in real-time.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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