Users often think enterprise application software needs multimillion-pound budgets and months to roll out, but the hottest approach to business intelligence is to use point solutions
We’ve all heard anecdotal stories of companies that spent hundreds of thousands of pounds implementing enterprise applications software (the original ERP and CRM systems are prime examples) only to find that the solution didn’t deliver what they wanted. Some big spenders never even completed the roll-out; some organisations pulled the plug when they could no longer see the value of the system, or simply decided to stop the financial haemorrhaging.
One of the problems that organisations used to face with large-scale enterprise systems like ERP and CRM was that they took too long and needed too much expensive “expert” consultancy to integrate with existing legacy systems. Often, by the time the system was deployed, the business need had changed.
If there is one thing that business has learned in the last few years it is that it needs to employ a flexible approach, adding new applications as it goes along to have any chance of long-term success. This might explain why, historically, so many projects failed.
But it’s not only the general business landscape that changes, it’s quite likely that your own approach to deploying enterprise software has altered too. There is no doubt, for example, that the experiences of those badly burned during the initial throes of passion with enterprise software have brought an enforced maturity in their business’s approach to enterprise IT projects.
Increasingly, however, this new attitude to enterprise software is because you may have realised that you need point applications so the business can operate in a more agile way, rather than get a one-stop-shop solution.
The recent renaissance of the enterprise software market has been driven in part by the growth of business intelligence (BI) software. The very nature of BI applications means they have to be fluid and flexible enough to run a variety of different scenarios or metrics that will enable strategists to make informed decisions to improve business performance - there is no one size fits all with BI.
Businesses are learning that it is much more effective and less costly to build BI infrastructures using a number of specific applications that can be joined together with other business processes in the organisation, rather than trying to make a single “all-inclusive” solution work for them. Implementing point solutions ensures you avoid spending unnecessary time integrating and deploying complex systems with extraneous functionality and, more importantly, saves on valuable IT budget.
The new “point” BI systems have allowed users such as Lufthansa and STA Travel to implement entire solutions in less time than it took to run a single query using more complex and costly software. But point BI is not being justified simply because it can be deployed quickly or is more cost-effective, but because the results it delivers are also impressive.
Take STA Travel. It built a BI application in just a couple of weeks that enabled its business strategists to calculate both financial and productivity metrics across the entire enterprise in days rather than weeks. This identified ways of improving how the business operates to boost output and reduce financial wastage. The competitive advantage from this alone was substantial.
In another example, Lufthansa says that following a point BI deployment it was able to present 99% accurate results by the third working day of the following month rather than weeks later. This competitive advantage has enabled the company to identify and react more quickly to new trends in the notoriously fierce airline industry.
Another benefit is that a point solution lets you deliver more with your IT budget because consultancy costs are greatly reduced. The result is everybody wins. You can do more with your existing budget, and your financial executives will be more willing to part with cash because they can see tangible ROI much more quickly. Your business analysts will also be delighted because they have the ability to run endless scenarios to help develop the plan for taking the business forward. And your senior management will get a lean, mean business one step ahead of the competition – with market share, operating profits and stock price heading north.
While this point-solution approach to enterprise application software isn’t unique to BI, the market was one of the first to use it to deliver tangible value to businesses while keeping costs at a minimum. The experience of BI projects is now being used as a benchmark for enterprise application implementations and is being applied across a growing number of areas. It is also freeing you from the misery of endless consultancy costs which were once a norm for enterprise application software implementations.
Martin Richmond-Coggan is VP EMEA of Applix