Enterprise Technology – Beginnings and Relevance

I have been doing it for more than 22years now – consulting, designing, building, re-engineering, testing, maintaining and everything else in the Enterprise software space. As part of this journey, I got opportunities to work for some great global Organisations and some not so great ones. I have enjoyed the benefits of fast changing technology since early 90’s and seen the way the workplace has changed.

Two things to highlight –

  1. There is not much Process Re-architecture over the decades within the Enterprise.
  2. As a natural extension, all Enterprise technology innovations/adoptions have been incremental.

Here I am talking about the automation focusing on Employee Operations. And not Communications; Email in the early part of 1990’s and Mobile/Socials tools in 2010’s have been a big boost to communication processes in general.

Let’s look at the Enterprise technology context in the early 1980’s when the first seeds of automation started.

  • The personal computers were costly and complex
  • Only 1 or 2 people in each Departments had access to them
  • These “Admin” users were the super talented early digital adopters

Old PC Imageold-pc2 old PC

The need and focus of early stage automation was to improve the quality and speed of critical resources in a department.  Most Business processes were re-drawn to go through these “Computers” and “Admins”.

As the time passed – there were more “Admin” people with Computers in the Organizations and more point solutions were identified and built. And in parallel, the original point solutions evolved to include some of the peripheral tasks into the original scope.

The result of these initial steps were – Departmental or Functional focused ERPs, the ones we see today in the Enterprise technology space – HR ERP, Finance ERP, Sales CRM, Travel ERP and a host of other ERPs sprang up in the Enterprise space. Please note – these were all focused on specific functions within departments to be used mainly by the Admin users.

The database structures, technology architecture, workflow design, notification engine, User Interface, MIS reports and everything else that goes into a product was done with the confined scope of “Admin” users of a Department.

When Employee Self Service, Manager Self Service, Performance management and a few other Employee driven automation needs came up, the old/new vendors leveraged the same architectural aspects to extend the new functions – but again specific to one purpose.

In the last 2 years or so, the context of Enterprise Technology is changing – its purpose, relevance and type of users.

  • almost every Employee has a Computer and also a more advanced and powerful personal device which he/she uses more often and is more comfortable with.
  • From an overall business perspective, involvement of all the stakeholders is necessary to achieve faster communication and decision making
  • Effective collaboration needs boundary-less connections – cross functional AND/OR cross Organizational
  • Changing workforce needs easy access with engaging User Interface across all devices, particularly personal ones

smartphone-3 smartphone-2 Smartphone-1

Even with these big changes that are happening in the consumer technology world, the Enterprise technology vendors and the decision makers within the Organizations tend to look at incremental innovation based on a different set of parameters – to protect the investments, to manage the existing IT eco system, ability to handle the quantum of change from a support perspective – and continue to add more and more departmental focused (legacy architecture) ERPs with incremental UI changes and desperately hope that they will work in the current context.

But the big QUESTION is – will the legacy architected Departmental focused, Process oriented ERPs (even with the new UI) meet the EXPECTATIONS and NEEDS of the current workforce?

Has the time come to throw away the legacy architectures and reimagine the Enterprise Technology framework centered on Employee? We surely think so.

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