This is a guest blogpost by Claus Jepsen, Chief Product and Technology Officer, Unit4
2024 is going to be an important year for the enterprise technology sector as various factors influence adoption.
While the economic situation remains uncertain, there is growing acceptance that transformation through technology is now critical to helping organizations ride out possible market volatility. The drivers for adoption will also evolve. Cloud computing will no longer just be about driving down costs, achieving scalability and high availability, it will be motivated by securing competitive advantage and becoming more agile. Technology acquisition will be viewed through the lens of whether it will improve business performance and increase decision velocity, which is why the hype around generative AI will turn to more detailed study of its application in enterprise IT environments. There will be no room miscalculations when making investments in innovation, so every new technology will have to demonstrate a clear value to the business.
Outlined below is where customers are telling me their investment strategies are focused in the year ahead. I’ve synthesized and summarized their feedback.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is going to become more automated and turn into what we call pervasive ERP – light-touch, role-based – with users prompted to hand off activities to digital helpers. For a comparison, look at the example of the database, which was once an almost obsessive topic and where people cared a lot about which database they used, the brand or its associated tools. Now, nobody cares. The same happened with cloud and it is going to be the same with ERP. It becomes one of those technologies that everybody needs, and everybody uses different parameters based on what they need to do. They go for the best solution to deliver a desired outcome and are less focused on how it goes about reaching a certain outcome. Effectively, an ERP is a database with a predefined structure within it, so it makes sense maybe that the perceptions and opinions follow that same direction of travel as the database.
Maybe not in 2024 but enterprise resource planning (ERP) pricing of the future will be based on throughput, volume and transactions as well as the value the software generates to the business that buys that software.
Customers will move to a standardized setup to get a faster ROI. They are learning that melding ERP to their processes is not usually smart. Their real differentiation lies in what they are providing to their customers, not the way they have configured software.
Machine Learning, data quality and data management
ML is a very interesting topic but people need to realize that it requires a predefined data management setup or it won’t work. You need data quality, strong data management and a master data management mindset to get to ML-infused automated ERP. They all have to be in place to release optimal value.
Conversational user interfaces
Conversational UX is going to see a breakthrough. Until ChatGPT, there was a huge reluctance to use technologies that have a conversational UX because of fear, misunderstanding or a lack of skills. But now people have realized that you can do a lot with a conversational experience. ChatGPT is, effectively, the next generation of chatbots but they allow a more fluent, natural experience across enterprise software too. Now there’s a better engine to deduce the intent of what the user wants and that will lead to fluent conversations around enterprise needs.
The CIO role
The CIO role is going to transform because, before the Cloud, a lot of the job was maintaining software estates. CIOs are going to develop from operational overseers to being more involved with the value-generating part, creating departmental or enterprise-wide sets of technologies. The low-code and no-code tools and citizen developers get more traction and take burden off, so that the CIO can have more direct impact on strategy, growth, profitability, reporting and more.
I see security becoming even more important. When you buy software from a cloud vendor there are lots of things you should ask: not just about product roadmaps and compliance, but also detailed questions about how security is integrated and who has access to it.
It’s one of those topics where people are running around generating lots of debate but many of the use cases don’t need AI. The 80/20 rule applies where 80 per cent of enterprise resource planning (ERP) automation can be done without artificial intelligence (AI). Rather than obsessing over AI, it’s more important to understand what you’re trying to accomplish and the questions you want to ask of technology vendors. You need to have the right data, not Big Data, and you can’t throw an algorithm at a computer to provide an angle you haven’t thought about because computers are not human and don’t work that way.
Integration as a Service
Integration as a Service is still viewed as early stage and mindset changes need to happen for further customer adoption to take off. The value proposition has to be understood.