ERP as the Centerpiece of Successful Digital Transformation Strategy

Presenting a concise definition for a term as broad as “digital transformation” is asking a lot.  But if that’s the challenge, we offer three responses: (1) connectivity, (2) automation, and (3) operational effectiveness.

You already know that there’s much more to it than that.  We could spend this entire blog trying to develop an all-encompassing definition, but we’d be wasting our time and (more importantly) yours. 

So, instead, let’s view digital transformation as a reflection of societal evolution.  Technology, especially in today’s “digital age,” has brought people closer together by breaking down barriers and fostering new connections through the sharing of information. 

Similarly, organizations of any type, whether multinational corporations or regional nonprofits, can also leverage digital transformation for improved operational effectiveness.  Leaving aside the technical jargon, digital transformation is a very human effort to “build bridges” of understanding between disparate groups. 

In an organizational setting, we usually attribute digital transformation processes to efforts that improve communication between divisions or departments – IT and Marketing, for example.  While enterprises in the manufacturing and logistics industries are establishing themselves as leaders in this arena, no one market segment is better-suited to digital transformation than another.  Digital transformation has the power to affect all industries and activities, and make organizations more responsive, more efficient, more aware, and more profitable.

ERP as a Microcosm for Digital Transformation

Is Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) a centerpiece of your digital transformation?  If it isn’t, it should be.  In fact, one might view ERP as a microcosm for digital transformation.  If digital transformation involves building bridges between IT and the rest of an organization, ERP facilitates routine task automation, operational efficiencies, and the creation/sharing of information that supplements day-to-day processes.

Achieving and maintaining success in a rapidly-changing economy is never easy but it helps us become more effective in what we do.  And that’s ERP (and digital transformation) in a nutshell: operational effectiveness that is resilient enough to continually adapt to changing needs.

Regardless of where your company stands on the ERP implementation scale, chances are that your target audiences are demanding it: current and future customers want faster, more responsive services; employees seek a better work/life balance through the implementation of technological efficiencies.

Defining these twin objectives – improved customer service and employee productivity – should be the starting point for your digital transformation strategy and, hence, the first step in implementing an ERP system that has been configured to meet your specific needs.

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Despite a seemingly over-arching focus on “technology,” wholesale digital transformation is still guided by human needs.  To succeed, digital transformation/ERP implementation initiatives need the support of an organization’s leadership and employees. 

It’s not enough to issue ERP system decrees from the Executive Suite and then leave the task of developing it to middle management.  We will be among the first to admit that innovation occurs organically throughout an organization, but executive buy-in ensures inter-departmental innovation.

Nor do we advise proceeding with ERP implementation without securing the backing of your workers.

More than ever, workers collaborate across multiple organizational structures to achieve established goals.  When applied correctly, technology acts as a force multiplier that delivers streamlined systems, automates routine tasks, and boosts employee productivity.

Put simply, there is a lot for your employees to gain.  Help them visualize how improved productivity leads to improved opportunities, and you’ll go a long way toward securing their support for ERP as a tool for realizing the greater benefits of digital transformation.

(Non)Industry-Centric

Your business is unique, which means that your path to digital transformation in general (and successful ERP implementation in particular) will likely be different than your competitors, or those in other market segments. There are no “rules” or standard processes, other than using technology to achieve optimal outcomes.

The dynamics involved allow for the configuration of ERP systems in ways that work best for your operations. And whether you rely on in-house IT professionals or outside partner/providers to guide the effort, make sure that the result is a tailor-made system that is aligned with your company’s day-to-day routine.

In Closing…

We live in an age where technology has made our world more connected and interdependent than ever before.  Similarly, digital transformation creates countless opportunities to foster dialogue among divergent stakeholders, promote greater understanding, and improve an organization’s operations. 

ERP platforms that establish links between separate processes (and enable them to work more closely with one another) serve as a critical core of a company’s digital transformation strategy. 

Current benchmarks for success always change over time.  Likewise, your digital transformation goals will also evolve the further you get.  The key is to always realize that your digital transformation process will never be “complete,” and your ERP system implementation will never be “finished.” 

Instead, use technology to ensure your business is able to leverage opportunities for improved efficiencies as they arise, embrace continuous optimization and information-sharing, and meet the demands of your employees and customers.