Top 10 business applications stories of 2013

Innovation at Ferrari, DMG Media, BAE Systems, and others; while SAP and Oracle stake strategic claims to cloud and high-speed analytics

This year, Fiat’s Ferrari division illustrated one approach to evolving enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to fit new business imperatives: adding an element of customisation, using Infor, to meet insurgent Chinese demand. Children’s luggage firm Trunki and online recruitment company took a systematic approach to adopting cloud applications to meet their respective business needs. Oracle declared more strongly than before for the cloud at its OpenWorld event in San Francisco in October.

One popular article showed how organisations as diverse as DMG Media, the Northern Ireland civil service, and Reynolds Catering are using enterprise software – such as mobile apps, BPM [business process management], and ERP – to do new things.

Contrasting cases of the use of ERP to transform business organisations were LJA Miers, a family-run company that turns rubber and plastic into gaskets and seals, and BAE Systems Military Air and Information (MAI). The former chose SAP’s Business One ERP system, running on the supplier’s in-memory database Hana, to re-cast its business. The latter is part of the defence giant, with the complex organisational politics attendant upon all such large corporates, and awash with ERP systems.

The South African city of Cape Town is also no stranger to ERP. Find out how SAP runs Cape Town in one of our more popular case studies of this year.

SAP says it is taking its core ERP business with it as it moves to the cloud, goes mobile and underpins its software with Hana. Jim Hagemann Snabe, co-CEO at SAP, announced the general availability of Hana on its Business Suite ERP software at Sapphire 2013 in Orlando.

Talent management does seem to be a hot new area for business applications, with the cloud an important delivery mechanism. Systems that enable a 360-degree view of the customer are also developing and attracting customer interest, which is why SAP says it bought Swiss commerce platform company Hybris.

1. Ferrari swerves SAP, adopts Infor to meet Chinese demand

Italian sports car maker Ferrari turned to Infor ERP technology to respond to impatient Chinese and Middle Eastern customer demand. Ferrari’s owner, Fiat, operates a centralised IT policy that says group companies should standardise on SAP. But chief information officer (CIO) Vittorio Boero and his team took the view that SAP was not going to deliver with the speed and customisation required for such fast-growing economies as China’s.

2. Trunki, discipline approach to cloud applications selection

Cloud applications providers have often entered organisations by the back door. The "land and expand" approach is well-tested and has been used to considerable benefit by most of the leading software as a service (SaaS) applications firms with the (albeit often unaware) assistance of the IT department. Trunki and show how more disciplined procurement approaches are replacing the land and expand strategies favoured by pioneering vendors.

3. Oracle OpenWorld 2013: Oracle is serious about the cloud as it launches ten services

Oracle launched 10 cloud services, as well as a cloud marketplace, to prove it is serious about its commitment to the cloud. Thomas Kurin, executive vice-president for product development at Oracle, kicked off the third day of the Oracle OpenWorld user conference in San Francisco by introducing a number of new cloud services.

4. Metro, NI civil service, Reynolds Catering power business innovation

In a recent survey of IT professionals by the Corporate IT Forum, delivering innovation was revealed as the leading operational target – indeed, nearly a quarter of respondents said it was their top strategic goal. In tough economic times, organisations are looking to achieve a competitive advantage by finding new ways to simplify processes, increase productivity and cut costs.

But while innovation is an important goal, delivering it is another matter – particularly when day-to-day tasks have to take priority. 

This feature shows new things done at DMG Media, Reynolds Catering, and the Northern Ireland Civil Service, using enterprise software.

5. BAE builds the business into ERP team for Infor implementation

When BAE Systems Military Air and Information (MAI) assembled a team to conduct a vital application upgrade, the company filled less than half the positions with IT people. Most of the team came from business functions, rather than the technology department.

The international defence manufacturer, which is part of aerospace, defence and security giant BAE Systems, is in the design phase of a project to upgrade and unify seven ERP systems. But large projects striving to unify ERP systems can become victims of tit-for-tat battles between business process owners who believe their way of doing things is best.

Aware of these potential dangers, John Booth, head of the project, brought people from the business into the heart of his team.

6. Rubber and plastics converter Miers chooses Business One on Hana

LJA Miers, a family-run company that turns rubber and plastic into gaskets and seals, has chosen SAP’s Business One ERP system, running on the supplier’s in-memory database Hana, to re-cast its business.

Managing director Andrew Miers, the grandson of the founder of the Cambridgeshire-based rubber and plastics converter, says he “fell in love with” Business One on Hana when demonstrated by Prospettiva, an IT services company located nearby.

The company is the first UK firm to implement SAP Business One version for SAP Hana.

7. Case study: How SAP runs Cape Town

For the past 10 years SAP has been running the city of Cape Town, South Africa.

The enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which was originally installed to transform the way the city is run, is still going strong despite political change.

It is considered one of the largest SAP implementations in local government. It encapsulates 420 business processes and handles 1.2 million consolidated invoices per month.

8. Sapphire 2013: Business Suite on Hana goes to general availability

Jim Hagemann Snabe, co-CEO at SAP, announced the general availability of its in-memory database appliance HANA on its Business Suite ERP software at Sapphire 2013 in Orlando. In a wide-ranging keynote informed by Darwinian evolution as a metaphor for business history, Hagemann Snabe said SAP had inaugurated three “quantum leaps” in its own technology in recent years: in-memory data management; business applications on the cloud; and an intensified focus on mobile users, often identified as a new generation of millennial workers.

9. The perfect storm comes to talent management

There has been technology in the human resources (HR) area but, until recently, it has acted largely as an organisational hygiene factor. Businesses needed good IT systems to carry out simple tasks, such as checking how many people they employ and how to pay them correctly. But once you could do these things, technology did not offer talent management processes with much additional benefit. Now this has changed and, as with other areas of business, technology is having substantial and strategic effects on the capabilities of HR and other business leaders with responsibilities for talent management.

10. Hybris CEO Lüdi: SAP acquisition adds commerce, not old school CRM

Hybris CEO Ariel Lüdi said SAP bought the Swiss commerce platform company to move beyond traditional customer relationship management (CRM) and enable it to deliver a multi-channel customer experience, in-store as well as through e-commerce, to companies that sell goods and services. In much of the press coverage surrounding the acquisition, announced in June and completed on 1 August, Hybris had been labelled a CRM supplier. But this was a mistake, Lüdi told Computer Weekly at an event in New York outlining the “vision” for Hybris as an SAP company.

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