Agility is the business imperative that enables companies to remain competitive in today's interconnected, fast-paced digital environment. So at some point, every company faces a key question regarding their enterprise applications: are their current solutions agile enough to fend off competitors and efficiently deliver new products and services in the future?
Because it has broad implications, it is a question that many companies avoid asking themselves.
Fortunately, retired Oracle JD Edwards ERP applications executive Lyle Ekdahl recently broached this topic in the first episode of the Decoding Digital Transformation podcast series presented by Supply Chain Now. Ekdahl, who has worked with enterprise software for decades, shared his thoughts on how the need for agility should change the way organizations think about their business systems and how those systems must adapt to meet future demands. He explained how failing to adapt to change introduces real business risk. "Unless you have agility, unless you have built systems that have that agility in mind, it's going to be very difficult to sustain the status quo,” he said. “It's a going out of business plan. It's the road to irrelevancy."
Lyle’s observations revealed three perspectives organizations should consider when thinking about how their core business systems can facilitate agility.
Inside the enterprise, the need for agility is spurring adoption of platform-based solutions that deliver greater agility, sustainable customization, and future-proof technology – and away from existing business systems are often complex, expensive to maintain, and lack the flexibility required for digital transformation. Unlike existing systems, modern platform-based solutions increasingly use a no-code approach to system customization, making it easier for organizations to implement operational changes, automate workflows, and expedite reporting – enabling the enterprise to become more agile as a result.
"I think the answer today lies in the notion of an enterprise application platform,” Ekdahl said. “Something that allows for the various levels of value, those that are sort of horizontal feature functions to be maintained [and] at the same time allows you to focus your attention on your industry and where you're going to make your money.”
He also pointed to an important distinction between legacy ERP systems that were designed primarily as accounting systems and modern enterprise applications platforms that are inherently nimble and adaptable. He continued, “[Modern enterprise applications platforms are] not just how you're counting your money, but how you make your money," he continued. "It allows you to apply technology to the things that better define how you make money and how to differentiate yourself from competitors in your industry." Modern platform-based solutions are far better positioned to enable agility than their monolithic ERP predecessors ever were.
To successfully steer themselves down the road to agility, companies must change their mindset and adopt new technologies at the pace that makes the most sense for their business. Lyle suggested that taking an edge-to-enterprise approach – where outdated legacy systems are replaced over time, rather than just “ripping and replacing” core systems – is a viable and practical option. "[The business] has to be aware of the foundational [issues], but you don't always have to start there. I see that as one of the biggest problems," he said. "We need to make this change in mindset. So, what we're going to do is [move away from the idea that] we're going to throw out everything and start at the bottom yet again.”
Ekdahl acknowledged that there are some real barriers to adopting a new mindset that could have deep roots in company culture. He said, “I think for many customers, (the mindset is) ‘Yeah, we installed it 20 years ago and we haven't touched it.’ Those people have real technical debt. There's no doubt about that. That's a major issue that they have got to deal with.” It is widely understood that technical debt is one of the largest impediments to business agility.
The edge-to-enterprise approach enabled by enterprise applications platforms allows companies to shift their mindset so they can retain the functionality of core systems while they replace and upgrade in other areas. Using this type of stepping-stone process provides companies with a clear path to overcoming technical debt and building future-proof systems.
Lyle’s remarks about the importance of shifting the mindset around how businesses embrace or avoid change are substantiated in a recently published article by our friends at Grant Thornton and reflect the conversations I have every day with business leaders in every industry.
According to Ekdahl, part of the formula for making the most of digital infrastructure is understanding the implications of the coming disintermediation – a term that can be summarized as “cutting out the middleman.” For example, the increasing speed of innovation and the adoption of new technologies in supply chains have enabled suppliers to connect directly with customers, effectively removing distributors, wholesalers, and brokers from some transactions. Without intermediaries, businesses have more control over their supply chains, allowing them to pivot quickly and adapt to new demands. This shift impacts business decision-making and forces companies to become more responsive to changing customer needs.
"I think there is a big coming disintermediation,” he said. “And underscoring all this will be a platform that allows companies to compose what their ERP solution becomes very quickly and easily without a whole lot of detailed coding expertise." Lyle’s observation that the need for traditional programming is a
barrier to agility cannot be overstated. As businesses of all types move closer to their customers, essential business systems must be more malleable and easily customizable to allow them to respond to changing signals from the market. Many low-code and no-code platform-based solutions facilitate those capabilities.
To remain agile and competitive in a dynamic market, every company should regularly evaluate its business systems and determine how to best pursue its transformative goals. As your company evaluates the state of its enterprise systems, it is important to keep Lyle’s observations in mind – and consider how an enterprise applications platform can deliver new levels of agility to your operations at the pace that makes the most sense for your business.
For more expert insight on these topics, use the link below to listen to the entire "How Did We Get Here?" episode featuring Lyle Ekdahl and explore upcoming installments of the Decoding Digital Transformation live-cast series being presented on the Supply Chain Now network.Decode your Digital Transformation
"There is a need for the ERP 2.0 or kind of what's next." - Greg Davis
For more insight into Greg's perspective on how companies can truly differentiate themselves using a modern application platform in today’s marketplace and beyond, use the link below to listen to the full "What's Next?" session.Hear What's Next
Don’t miss the third and final installment of Decoding Digital Transformation! Tune in to “Charting a Path Forward” with recovering Enterprise Software Executive, Lyle Ekdahl, and Greg Davis, Principal at Grant Thornton. In this episode, they will discuss how companies can chart a path forward to stay competitive in today’s marketplace by leveraging an enterprise application platform as a key component of the journey.Register here for free
Head of Product Marketing and Strategic Solutions
As the Head of Product Marketing and Strategic Solutions, Mark Nix helps Nextworld® customers make their digital goals a reality with solutions spanning from purpose-built mobile apps to core ERP. An accomplished senior executive, Nix has over 30 years of experience as a passionate and innovative sales leader, specializing in building high-caliber engineering organizations.
Today, Nix leads a team that specializes in gaining a deep understanding of the customers’ business challenges, and how to solve them.