ERP Adoptions: A Catalyst for the Transformation of Organizational Culture
Bill Rabe oversees the information technology department as the chief information officer at Covenant Living Communities and Services. With more than 20 years of background in technology, Bill has had the privilege of working across several industries including Wholesale/ Retail, Healthcare, Distribution, Software Services, and Technology Consulting.
Could you give a brief overview of the current scenario in the ERP space?
From my perspective, cloud has been a big push. Traditionally from an ERP perspective, you had the on-premise deployment with all the licensing, maintenance and hardware cost, now we are seeing a shift to subscription-based cloud platforms. Organizations are moving towards cloud adoption, which is accelerating IT modernization. This provides a scalable platform as long as you have a concrete cloud strategy and its related security implications as part of your IT framework. Another thing I am seeing from an ERP perspective is the convergence of functionality in one solution that provides more than just ERP. Some organizations are leveraging the same platform to do more because it offers much more, such as project management, time tracking, payroll, and core HRIS for example. This is game changer if you're a smaller size organization, but if you need more robust functionality then that's hard to pull that off with a single solution as some of those products don't have the reporting and the integration capabilities for larger scale organizations.
It's about the partnership with IT and the Business, not the technology. Getting the people aligned and ready for cultural change adoption is critical; this is one of the major challenges for any technology deployment
“It's about the partnership with IT and the Business, not the technology. Getting the people aligned and ready for cultural change adoption is critical, this is one of the major challenges for any technology deployment”. Currently, we have a team that is very competent with Microsoft Excel. However, the complication arises when you start pulling in data from disparate data sources from all different types of systems without a data strategy; it becomes a huge challenge and leads to data inconsistency. Therefore, as we are rolling out new features and reporting within our system, we have spent a lot of time training those employees and trying to help them see the value of leveraging the new product by doing things in a new way. It is a tough task to get people aligned to change as we transform the business.
What procedural roadblocks or pain-points do the organizations face when it comes to the cloud strategy and how does that affect the ERP implementation?
The cloud-first strategy does come with great benefits, one among them is we do not have to keep up with software versions. Many times, you have flexibility as far as the timeline goes but it forces you to stay current as the vendor provides updates. The cloud also does pose some challenges when it comes to integration specifically when you want to integrate the data back into other on-premise systems. Many of them do offer a good API for integration while others do not. Some only have the capability of extracting flat files (where you have to do extracts, pull the data over, and then imported back into some sort of integration layer). Single sign in is also available with some offerings allowing you to federate identities to make system access more manageable and provide easier access to end users.
Another consideration is backup and recovery, while some level of backup typically comes bundled with most products, you may want your historical data to be more accessible rather than just depending on a complete restore if needed. At the end of the day, it’s really just a different way of looking at things and managing a system with a different type of resource instead of your traditional on-premise IT system administrator, more of a functional business type mindset is needed. Thus, when you are initially moving towards cloud implementation, there are several aspects to consider before you go down that path.
When it comes to the different strategies that organizations are implementing, security plays a very important role. Could you shed some light on issues concerning ERP security and the changes that organizational leaders can make to mitigate it?
Depending on the type of data you are storing in your cloud platform you will want to ensure that your vendors have the appropriate compliance certificates (ISO, HIPAA, PCI etc.), they do routine security assessments, have an incident and breach response plan in place and that you have full ownership of all your data. A lot of people think that the basic cloud vendors can do a better job of security in their datacenter and that's probably true in most cases, but remember they are hosting several clients and that will raise exposure for smaller organizations as they are grouped with larger targets. You have to ensure that your data is secure regardless of where it sits so you should follow the same best practices to protect it with your cloud vendors as you would in your own environment. User training is also critical, we do a lot of work around security awareness trying to get people to understand our vulnerability as an organization and test them quarterly.
How would you see the evolution a few years from now with regard to disruptions and transformations within the arena?
Analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are the next big things. Having more flexibility around analytics and more self-service for end users is something I am seeing grow as products continue to evolve. This will enable business users to leverage the capabilities of the tool and reduce the need to take that data out and manipulate it in Excel. AI will continue to be important for enhanced functionality, many of the products now have some level of intelligence built into them and I see that continuing to grow. The addition of AI built into the product will offer deeper insights into your data, help automate routine processes and improve the user experience by helping you make decisions. It will be exciting to see how these capabilities grow in the future.
Convergence of the product is exciting to see for smaller organizations. It makes it easier to leverage your data across different functional areas of your business but it does not scale nor does it have the robust functionality required by large scale organizations.
What would a piece of advice for your fellow technology and organization leaders as to what can they do to create a seamless process?
Growing and operating an ERP system is a partnership with the business. You are going to fail every time if you do not get the right people involved from the business areas and seek input from the actual end users using the product. Some companies elect to manage upgrades, manage functionality releases and make decisions at the IT level. From my experience, that never works. Therefore, when it comes to defining how we are going to configure and deploy the functionalities that come out of ERP it has got to be a partnership with IT and the business. If you do not have that partnership with the business, you are not going to be able to get it off the ground and even if you do launch it, you are going to battle upstream with user adoption.