While the digital transformation of companies, accelerated by the pandemic, continues to grow at a rapid pace, and with the ubiquitousness of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain or the Internet of Things, we are breaking down the barriers of IT systems.  

With a much fiercer competitive landscape, companies now need to find ways to address a two-pronged problem: How do you align your IT transformation with your transformation strategy? All the stakeholders of the IT department must therefore be ready to dive into these uncharted territories to better appreciate and understand the ins and outs of the new breadth of this territory in order to provide the leadership of the company with all the support needed through their digital transformation journey. 

From ERP to fine-tuned strategy: approving transformation plans before launching the ground work 

Architectures based on a fully integrated ERP system have been the most popular moving forward for many years. They often simplify access to powerful tools, although they tend to cover general processes as opposed to specialized domains. A reliable and quick turn-to solution that is however limited in scope and application layers when it comes to addressing business pains. Does that mean you need to go for a “best of breed” approach with highly specialized business applications? 

Let’ face it. ERP solutions are here to stay. However what we’re seeing emerge more and more is a hybrid approach. By bringing together cloud-based and on-premise solutions, ERP and industry-specific solutions, CIOs can garner full-scope capability in building an architecture that can support tions ERP et des solutions spécialisées, la DSI de demain doit trouver le bon assemblage entre tous ces éléments pour construire une architecture adaptée aux plans de transformation de l’entreprise. 

Let’s be pragmatic and agile: ERP is not going to disappear. On the other hand, the emergence of a hybrid approach is now a reality and is being put into practice in the field, in contact with the teams. By combining cloud and on-premise solutions, ERP solutions and specialized solutions, tomorrow’s IT department must find the right mix of all these elements to build an architecture that is adapted to the company’s transformation plans. 

In today’s digital transformation context, a high-performance information system cannot solely rely on an ERP solution, no matter how robust it is. This is something we encounter with our customers everyday. The real challenge lies in identifying the very specific needs of a customer and embracing the new technological alternatives in order to properly scope and assess the new system to be designed. It is all about deploying an ERP-centric strategy that seamlessly integrates innovative and state-of-the-art industry-specific solutions. 

Once these technological alternatives properly mastered, the idea is to shift one’s focus on the potential growth paths they provide for the business, the profitability and the strategy to adopt moving forward.  

Robust Infrastructure – Trusting your Solution Architect 

As the boundaries of Information Systems keep expanding thanks to the onslaught of new technologies, innovations, applications and intelligent services, it seems that application architecture has now becomes the linchpin that holds everything together. The role of the architect is to clearly define the scope of the solutions by selecting the various components that are relevant for the transformation project. 

The traditional way of managing an IT project is usually centered around defining an initial ERP deployment roadmap. However getting the right components, deciding on the best tools to use and making sure we are addressing whatever specific requirements calls for the guidance and best practices of a Solution Architect.  

Now more than ever, with the advent of new AI-based technologies, data and the Cloud, software vendors such as Microsoft are able to offer a wide range of business-specific applications to support the implementation of solutions around a core ERP. This unique portfolio of intelligent business applications enables each company to optimize the performance of its IT system by ensuring operational excellence and creating real-time interactive customer experiences. 

Overview of innovative modular solutions to integrate with an ERP solution to enhance user experience: 

  • Virtual reality solutions bringing work and data to life; 
  • AI solutions providing information and service for enhanced customer experiences and supporting users in their decision making; 
  • Low-code development platforms allowing users with no formal knowledge of coding or software to innovate using Microsoft’s « low-code » Power Platform for services used by more than 97% of the Fortune 500 companies; 
  • Business solutions: specialized software vendors and partners that provide specialized turnkey solutions supporting the different Microsoft solutions.  

The 6 Keys to a Successful Digital Transformation 

The growing capability of systems to interface and integrate with other applications from different tools or software vendors has also significantly contributed to the development of this ecosystem. Nevertheless, a common data stream needs to be the focal point of any system and Microsoft, with its suite of tools at all levels of the system, has clearly embraced this concept. If we were to itemize the key points leading to a successful digital transformation, then these would be the following: 

  1. Choose a solution that is designed to support transformation 
  1. Make sure it integrates with the technical ecosystem especially with the ERP 
  1. Think interoperability for future integrations and further developments 
  1. Work with the right partners and integrators 
  1. Adopt a consistent data governance policy 
  1. Make sure to also plan a Change Management strategy 

Getting a Head Start 

Beyond the big software vendors and business specialists, it is also important to go beyond the usual considerations and appreciate new aspects in the building of an ideal Information System supporting a transformation project.  

Many startups are introducing new solutions, with different approaches and technologies, to help companies face the IT issues of today. Getting ahead of the curve, innovating and testing allows companies to go beyond the usual boundaries and expand the scope of their strategy! 

Column initially published in IT Social.