Top 10 business applications stories of 2018

The steady modernisation of ERP systems, as they edge to the cloud and are complemented by new-generation customer software, was markedly evident this year. And blockchain and AI are making inroads

The imperative to modernise business applications software to support “digital transformation” lies behind Computer Weekly’s in-depth stories in this area in 2018. You can see the waking up of traditional ERP systems, as they edge to the cloud, and reach back into supply chains and out to customers in new ways, governed by the increasing maturation of digital.

Also this year, we saw more evidence that user organisations are taking advantage of the AI and machine learning that suppliers like Salesforce, SAP, Oracle and the rest have trumpeting as baked into their software.

In 2017, SAP’s legal conflict with Diageo over indirect licensing was, by far, the biggest story of the year. That issue of indirect licensing is failing to disappear, despite the supplier’s earnest drive to modernise and, this year, to make a major shift to the customer, in the form of C/4 Hana – the customer-centric twin of S/4 Hana, its ERP rebuilt to take advantage of its in-memory columnar database, Hana.

But SAP’s continued self-transformation is but one example of how enterprise software suppliers are changing, with the steady rise of cloud computing and in response to the ways businesses are trying to take advantage of the possibilities of digital – whether tightening supply chains or targeting customers more precisely.

And we do exhibit here evidence of AI being used in anger – for recruitment – and block-chain being put to use, too – in food supply chains.

1. Trust and openness vital to get benefits from supply chain automation

Supply chain automation is benefiting from new technological developments, such as blockchain, 5G and machine learning – as companies such as Maersk, Opel and Nestlé are proving.

2. Digital transformation makes team players of suppliers – caveat emptor

C-level executives organising digital transformation programmes prefer their suppliers to work as a single team. We find the Co-op in a deep relationship with Microsoft, which was the culmination of two years’ work, during which the retailer sought to change its relationships with its main IT suppliers to work more closely with them and encourage collaboration between them. But such an approach is not all plain sailing.

3. Blockchain delivers value with food sourcing system

Blockchain systems for food and drink are proving their value with tuna fishing, fresh food supply, and ecologically sound food sourcing.

4. SAP’s Atzberger vaunts front to back office capability

Alex Atzberger, president, SAP Customer Experience, went through the company’s customer-focused software strategy with Computer Weekly. Atzberger is president of SAP Customer Experience, a term that encompasses the supplier’s CRM offerings, which include the technology that came with the firm’s 2013 acquisition of Hybris.

5. Servitisation: What it is and how it can transform companies

The idea that every product-based company needs to put service first is a radical shift in how businesses organise themselves, and has been a big theme for the supplier IFS. Is it more than rhetoric?

6. Hana and S/4 users more sophisticated but beset by licensing doubts

Research sponsored by SAP consultancy Centiq finds SAP customers maturing their use of SAP Hana and S/4 Hana, but hindered by licensing concerns and dearth of skills.

7. SAP bids to modernise indirect licensing with new pricing model

SAP announced a new pricing model for indirect licensing scenarios, in June 2018, that was welcomed by user groups, who are still pressing for reassurance that they won’t pay more.

8. UKISUG 2018: Upswing for S/4 Hana, C/4 Hana unknown to 39%

The UK and Ireland SAP User Group disclosed, in November 2018, research showing a steady rise in S/4 Hana implementation, but C/4 Hana was still an unknown quantity.

9. Oracle Open World 2018: CEO Mark Hurd says SAP ERP customers will defect

Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd opined at Open World that SAP ECC6 customers will defect, in some measure, to Oracle in preference to S/4 Hana, as ECC6 is “end of life”.

10. Amazon AI debacle won’t stop adoption for recruitment

Amazon hit the headlines in October this year following revelations that the online shopping giant had scrapped the development of a secret artificial intelligence (AI)-based recruitment tool because it showed bias against women. However, this debacle should prove a blip as AI technology gains ground in and for human resources departments.

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