Succession in the world of ERP

Succession planning is not a simple business, especially in the age of the Great Resignation

One of the many ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic is people quitting their jobs in droves. This is a challenge that is hitting the technology industry particularly hard. According to a recent report from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, the three top areas being impacted by skills shortages are HGV drivers, nurses, and programmers/software development professionals. 

As a result, a huge number of organisations are struggling to recruit new staff to fill all their technology vacancies, or retain current employees with the right skills to support digital transformation.

The latest Digital leadership report from technology recruitment specialist Harvey Nash Group revealed that two-thirds (66%) of UK firms are unable to keep pace with change because of a lack of available talent. 

The problem is, transforming a business into a modern, digital-first organisation requires tech knowhow and this is in short supply in a number of areas. Harvey Nash found that 43% of organisations are suffering a skills shortage in cyber security, followed by big data/analysts (36%), technical architects (33%) and developers (32%) – all areas crucial to running enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. 

As firms are currently struggling to recruit new IT team members, this leaves them vulnerable to a knowledge gap. If an experienced IT worker, who implemented and managed your ERP, customer relationship management (CRM) or industry-specific application for many years, leaves the business, they need a successor to transfer that knowledge to. But if there is nobody joining the business or stepping up to that role, this will cause problems around the ongoing running of such environments. 

This is already being keenly felt by enterprises. Recent research from the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group revealed that 26% of organisations rate “skills in supporting, developing and upgrading SAP systems as their number one challenge in working with the technology”. And this skills shortage is holding up projects for a quarter of SAP users. 

This is also the case for software-as-a-service (SaaS) suppliers such as Salesforce: 54% of Salesforce users have reported a lack of staff with the relevant skills, while 21% are unable to recruit in the required talent. 

Create a comprehensive succession plan

To counter these challenges, businesses should create a comprehensive succession plan to ensure they are not caught out by skills gaps. Failing to develop an effective plan could result in growing backlogs of stakeholder requests, innovation being sacrificed for just keeping the lights on, and productivity and efficiency losses.

The good news is that despite the competition for talent, there are different options to meet demand. By identifying the key roles and requirements in the IT team, you can qualify how best to fill those positions. Above all, you must decide what IT roles are critical to competitive advantage and decide how best to source them.

For example, let’s say you’re a manufacturing business and your supply chain systems are crucial to just-in-time delivery. You could look to hire, you could reskill or upskill existing staff. Or you could bring in temporary staff or a partner, but then you must be certain that the individual or partner is invested in your business success, has the right expertise, and understands the role they play in the transformation of your IT systems. If you don’t get that buy-in, it could become an expensive option.   

A more unified approach

What is important as you consider the best way to deal with any skills shortages in your organisation is that you do not look at it in crude terms of either hire or outsource. As you map out which applications are of strategic importance, you should always ask: who are the experts in this field? Is it us or is a partner better placed?

The secondary question is: what is the best way to continue developing the right skills? If you want to have a modern, future-proof business application environment, the harsh reality is that resources and complexity mean you must prioritise what you will deliver.

The same is true of where you focus your efforts in terms of finding and maintaining the right skills. If you are not best placed to deliver the right expertise and have a large pool of skilled engineers to support your applications, then you need to find the right partner.

This does not mean that bringing in a partner to run those applications should simply be about outsourcing systems just to keep the lights on. On the contrary, if you get the right partner with the right skills who is invested in your business goals, you will not only solve some of your skills headaches, but will have a partner able to help optimise and modernise those applications in parallel with your focus on other areas of the business.

For example, we have helped our clients to develop specific application functionality in diverse fields such as core banking and smart metering for utilities, because we have the industry and business application knowledge.

The right partner can help its client manage the complex footprint of in-house applications, private and public cloud implementations. The partner should also be able to scale up and down based on the client’s needs. For example, if you are a retailer, the partner should be able to increase the team during peak retailing season to ensure the business operations run smoothly at all times. 

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Creating a more unified support strategy can be a solution to these requirements. Firms only need to work with a single support partner to manage their hybrid IT environment, rather than dealing with multiple suppliers. 

In this sense, you should view your partner as helping you with your skills succession planning, but that adds a new dimension to the qualification criteria for choosing your partner. 

A strategic support and maintenance partner will be continually investing in the skills of their own team because this is their core business, ensuring your company has access to the latest skills for in-house and cloud applications.

It also ensures that you have ongoing and comprehensive service, no matter how complex your IT portfolio. By streamlining your relationships with multiple suppliers, this can overcome the often inconsistent, impersonal and ineffective software support they can provide. 

Using a more unified approach to support, firms get the benefit of optimised operations and performance, redirecting savings and resources to focus on innovation, and IT systems that enable competitive advantage and growth.

Emmanuelle Hose is group vice-president and general manager EMEA at Rimini Street

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