Technology: Are You Proactive Or Reactive?

Alexandra Carvalho

It is accurate to say that enterprise software companies once have historically acted in a reactive way, creating products to solve business problems. Customers had a problem, and it made sense to incorporate the solution within the application platform. It was business-driven technology – absolutely right!

Many decades and hundreds of thousands of customers later, it’s fair to say that we are in a very good position to intimately understand our customers’ pain points. We have become trusted advisors to our customers; not only do we understand the intricacies of their business processes, but we also have deep knowledge of their industries, from retail, mining, and media, to oil and gas, telecommunications, and more.

With that in mind, and given that we also understand the latest in technology, I believe we can now act proactively, by building things for our customers before they are even aware of the benefits they can reap from such technology advancements. This is still business driving technology.

Some startups that decided to use the latest and greatest in technology to build amazing products ended up being acquired by big enterprise software companies. That is valid too. However, instead of acquiring new products, why don’t we combine the intrinsic knowledge we have of our customers’ businesses and industries to proactively build something amazing?

We all agree on the downside of acquiring a new platform or product: We need to integrate it with our existing broader enterprise application platform. Not only do we face challenges like technical integration, but we also need to integrate it from a business process design and schema harmonization point of view. Sometimes integration can prove to be a complete failure, and we acquire products that end up having a very low adoption rate. As much as we try to incorporate it within our existing platform, it simply doesn’t blend in; it doesn’t feel right. It becomes too complicated, and that shows in the market adoption of that product.

We live in an era where we have much more than structured data within our ERP platforms, where what we want is much more than the ordinary reporting and data visualization tools. We have unstructured data coming from video streaming, pictures, social media feeds, etc. How can we make sense of all of this data in the speed of light? Not only do we want to amalgamate structured and unstructured data together, but we also want to produce real-time intelligent insights out of this data.

Big enterprise software organisations have their own R&D areas, creating and demo’ing applications on the latest and greatest technologies. How about we take it out of R&D and make it real? How about we proactively create something and present it to our customers? That’s what the small, bold startups do – they believe in addressing a real problem, and they go for it! They present it to customers and they are not afraid of questioning the status quo.

Analytics is a key area. It sits across all areas of the organisation. Imagine using technologies like machine learning, deep learning, or blockchain to give customers real-time insights on their core business.

Blockchain is a good example of that. I believe that blockchain is one of the most revolutionary technologies ever—I’m transfixed by it, and I believe it has tremendous potential in many areas. I will address blockchain in another blog, but for now, I’ll offer an example of how using blockchain will bring an unimaginable competitive advantage.

Blockchain has a wide spectrum of possibilities that goes beyond payments, finance, and banking, from IP and royalties, to insurance, healthcare, auto making, agriculture, and energy. You name the area, and there is a very strong business case for it.

The basis for blockchain is a decentralized ledger, which goes against everything that ERP applications live and breathe for – a centralized ledger. It’s about time that big enterprise software companies jumped in and tried to be ahead of the curve, because not only are these technologies disruptive, but they can also represent a huge threat to the way we understand centralized enterprise software applications today.

Big technology companies like SAP, Microsoft, and IBM have already embarked on the blockchain journey. SAP is working with Ethereum, Microsoft with R3, and IBM with Hyperledger.

The time to make it real has arrived. It’s about time we showcased analytics and new innovative technologies like blockchain to our customers to stay ahead of the curve. Additionally, there is no better area than analytics, because it sits across the entire breadth of technology within the organization and across all industries, and customers want to see way more than old school reporting and data visualization dashboards.

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
—Steve Jobs

For more insight on tapping the full potential of digital transformation, see A Winning Digital Formula: Adoption, Investment, And Partnerships.

About Alexandra Carvalho

Alexandra Carvalho is the VP Analytics at BI Group, SAP Mentor, published author, speaker, technology evangelist, innovator, and women advocate.