Connecting Digital Ecosystems The Role of ERP in Today’s Smart World (Author: Ashley Clarke from FlexSystem Limited)
2023-01-30 17:21:29

Creating digital end results, where the overall outcome is better than the sum of its individual parts, can be achieved with modern day technologies in very much the same way that the Greater Bay Area (GBA) seeks to drive strategic competitive advantage for its core stakeholders.

Generational business leaders of today face extraordinary economic challenges. They will not only have to move fast to adapt and leverage their corporate systems to drive value creation, but will also have to ensure that they conform to the regulatory environment of their operational domain sector(s).

Here are eight (8) ways that modern ERP systems can help you drive positive momentum:-

#1 Connectivity. Whenever this is prioritised and achieved, both across applications and also x- industry ecosystems, it has the potential of removing a great deal of transactional friction within processes, thereby enabling them to be far more efficient. 

A good illustration of this point is with FinTech and Insurtech where end users can easily engage with e-platforms to have their e-requests processed far more quickly than ever before, and within a strong compliance oriented environment.

Examples of connections:- banks, neo banks and electronic money accounts (e-money), HR with onboarding checks, health initiatives such as fitness programmes facilitated by smart watches, as well as other ESS (employee self-service) programmes , transportation and logistics links, contract management, IoT including aspects of ESG management etc. The end result equates to less manual interaction, improved efficiencies, and greater stakeholder visibility.

#2 Reporting & Workflows. With connectivity removing operational barriers, typical daily business operating environments for employees and management actually surround three broadly described application components:- Apps + Smart Processes (Processtech) + Core Applications. 

Reporting and workflows can now be ultra-granularly positioned @anywhere within a process when using the latest technologies. These in turn drive repeatable, actionable, and contextual workflows together with relevant supporting documentation. 

Only recently has technology reached a tipping point where it can start to solve the more traditional reporting challenges faced by corporations. This is to tackle the extensive transactional friction that exists within many processes, which in turn has required the use of expensive resources. Technologies today enable the bringing together of both structured and unstructured data types from different applications in a way that generates additional value for users with less effort. Full or partial automation is now a very viable option.

#3 Mobility. Relevant stakeholders within a business need to manage business anomalies or checkpoints so that within budget corrective or proactive actions can quickly take place as fast as possible, e.g. expense or procurement related approvals.  

Depending on the purpose of a process, and the stakeholders involved, businesses can opt to simultaneously deploy both native apps and progressive web apps to achieve their exact operational requirements, combined with the most effective overall investment for their needs. As a very rough rule of thumb, native apps today can achieve a richer overall experience for the user whilst progressive web apps are less complex, likely cheaper, and easier to maintain.

#4 Intelligence.  “Do you work for your system or does it work for you?” For start-ups, aka digital natives, there is an unparalleled opportunity for making your business systems much smarter. There are multiple options here, but the following are three macro ones around reporting and workflows for operations, controls, decision support, and management activities.

Data Quality. Simply being able to bring your various data sources together from across multiple applications and ecosystems in the first place is key. Once the data is transformed / enriched, then higher quality data / information can be made available to relevant stakeholders.

Data Driven: How is the information made available? The key is for the system to work for you and be capable of driving actionable, repeatable, auditable and transparent business process workflows to the right person with appropriate levels of supporting documentation. 

Example: ranking business variances in both consolidated and individual financial statements and / or segments with relevant back up documentation according to your required level of materiality. 

Artificial Intelligence: The use of bottom up or top down artificial intelligence that is likely to use a combination of probabilistic and rules based maths functions to deliver the required outcomes. Probabilistic formulae are highly scalable with less false positives than rules based calculations. Also, where appropriate to use, API’’s can be leveraged from specialist AI vendors ie to leverage pre-existing data models to avoid re-inventing the wheel.

#5 Agility.  Adapting to changing business environments and making improvements is not a one off exercise, and will likely see a combination of constant tweaks, plus iterative improvements made over time. In other cases, businesses will need to work ground up to achieve their desired result. 

Business systems have evolved on a significant basis, and one way to think about Smart Processes (Processtech) is that packaged functionality today is not only seen within an application, but also at every logical functional stage within a process. In other words domain specific needs are optimised within a stage, thereby speeding up deployments.

Illustrating this to get the point across, the scoping of smart digital processes goes from:- data collection (including RPA, if required for document onboarding that can be with or without AI), through all required data transformations / enrichments to contextual actionable reporting / visualisations +/or workflows @anywhere @anytime within a process + API’s @anywhere to other applications or ecosystems (including the leverage of Open Banking API’s w/payments @anywhere) + simulations. This creates a digitally enabled process that can be re-engineered iteratively or replaced from scratch. Unparalleled flexibility.

#6 Compliance. Regulatory landscapes, including privacy and cybersecurity, are fast changing at the same time. Additionally, regulatory authorities are increasingly developing and using more sophisticated SupTech (supervisory technologies) for enforcement purposes.

When designing business systems, always keep a strong focus ground-up on security and regulatory needs. This includes having an externally recognised, proven, trusted (by authorities) and auditable repository for transactional data. 

Also, it is fundamental to recognise that different countries have differing compliance frameworks. For example, cross border data transfers will have to comply with different regulations at each and every stage of a data transfer for each individual process ie both the sender and receiver of data, as well as any and all subsequent onward transmissions. 

Regulations can be different, overlapping, as well as having conflicting rules. Also note that different jurisdictions can have a differing definition / scoping as to what constitutes personal information. Example: GDPR (EU) cf. PIPL (PRC).

Latest technologies help as processes are defined ultra-granularly, including how data moves within an end to end process.

#7 Sustainability.  As global governments fight global warming then companies will increasingly be driven to take more steps to counter its effects. Although much progress has been made in various ad hoc ways, the fact remains that efforts are so far often disjointed and often siloed within different functional teams.

With mandatory more comprehensive sustainability reporting fast approaching in various parts of the world, corporates are having to focus on initiatives to create their own required qualitative and quantitative KPI’s and OKR’s. These will ultimately be managed and reported on across multiple financial year ends. 

Modern tech enables ultra-granular processing capability that will help join these dots within a corporate on a more complete and accurate basis for both qualitative and quantitative data sets.

#8 Cybersecurity & Privacy.  These are part of a double sided coin, and are major headings in themselves. Digital native companies and legacy companies face the same issues here. However, note that threats are arguably more complex for legacy businesses as their threat attack surface is both wider and deeper across typically older systems, which have of course been architected using more dated technologies. Digital natives will likely acquire legacy systems at some point.

Regardless, neither cybersecurity nor privacy should be thought of as an add-on but must always be proactively considered at all times. There are two macro aspects to this, the security architecture for the end to end process, as well as the human element. 

Security architectures are broad and include considerations as to how data is stored during computation, transmission, and at rest, as well as who has access to specific data sets. It also includes what data is to be collected, where it will be processed, and how long it will be retained before its planned safe deletion. 

Modern day processes can handle the above as per the client needs, whether it involves cloud, on-premise, or hybrid processing (including cloud bursts), importantly noting that it is a shared responsibility between companies and vendors. 

When it comes to the processes described herein, an important point is that both quantitative and qualitative data sets will need to be handled (this can involve many different data types). 

Qualitative data processes means that extended HR processes can be put in place with controlled response mechanisms to regularly enforce how employees should interact safely with corporate wide systems. 

Not only that but modern day processes can be put into place to also mitigate against “Business Process Compromise” where cash payments for bonuses, large procurement payments including capex etc are diverted to the bank accounts of threat actors.

Extraordinary economic and business operating environments require a business to be agile and nimble, which in itself requires timely decision making to be made proactively around current, secure and comprehensive data sets. Modern day business systems facilitate this x-application and x-ecosystem for value creation, and are powerful enough to support your ventures both across the Greater Bay Area as well as internationally. A game changer!

BusinessPlus, a member of the FlexSystem Group, is a financial, human resources, and operations business software vendor to 1 in 10 Forbes Global 2000 (May 2020), and 1 in 5 Global Fortune 500 (August 2020), operating at the intersection of new digital process and payment technologies, whether on-premise or cloud, to provide you with iterative opportunities for value creation within a compliant data management environment.