To truly help companies achieve their goals, IT consulting must become business consulting
Since Gartner consultants coined the term “ERP” in 1990, the leading ERP systems, including Microsoft Dynamics AX, have greatly evolved. They have gained the flexibility to closely meet the needs of certain industries and market verticals. Usability has improved dramatically, so they can support real people in their business roles. They can encompass the cloud and extend into mobility and social channels as well as the internet of things (IoT). More recently, they have become the foundation of systems of engagement and enabling elements of an excellent customer experience. According to Gartner, we are now in an era of postmodern ERP, where companies automate and connect their processes and achieve unprecedented flexibility and agility.
Business stakeholders claim a seat at the technology table
For most of the time that ERP has existed, decisions about ERP planning and implementations have largely been made with a substantial contribution from IT executives, generally in agreement with business stakeholders. Most ERP consultants have been technical experts who concentrated on deploying and configuring technology to support the business requirements that were often translated into technical terms for them by IT.
The evolution of ERP, however, is changing how companies think about technology and how they prefer to work with consultants. As an unintended consequence of the steadily improving support of ERP systems for real-life roles and processes and their vastly improved usability, business stakeholders today understand the strategic value of ERP and how it can impact a company, and play a key role in the selection of vendors and systems. They want to make sure their voices are heard and consultants are open to collaborating with them. They see how ERP can help their companies become digital enterprises that take advantage of technology to create a powerful competitive distinction, and to develop effective and compelling systems of engagement that help them deliver the best customer experience possible.
A reorientation for IT consultants
In reaching those achievements, IT plays a supporting role to the business side of a company. As a result, for consultants it’s no longer a good idea to present ERP systems and to provide ERP functionality in a technical context alone. In addition, for so called functional consultants, it isn’t enough to just understand the functional requirements and translate those into application configurations. They need to perform as business consulting professionals who understand technology and software configuration, but whose first consideration is enabling the customer organization to embark upon digital transformation and use technology to realize its goals. In doing so, they have to learn the language of the business executives and help them translate their goals into processes that can be supported by ERP. Departing from a traditional, transactional orientation that aimed to replicate company processes and events in an ERP system, they now need to focus on the values that compel a company to define a strategy, put new processes in place, redefine them for a better alignment with goals, and go to market with products and services. ERP can still be a part of that, but business consulting is not limited to it. ERP, in this scenario, becomes a commoditized tool.
Business consulting needs to encompass the entire value chain
The challenge—and the potential of providing value—for consultants is greater yet. Understanding their customers’ objectives and helping them move forward is not limited to the customer business. They also need to consider customers’ value chains—those of their own customers, and maybe the end customers of those companies in turn, as well as the distributors, vendors, and service providers involved with them. The people and processes in customer companies connect across organizations to individuals, resources, and systems elsewhere. Companies plan their business and their technology strategy with a view toward making those relationships realize their potential.
For consultants, that means they must become resourceful in preparing companies to serve their customers better than anybody else. To develop relationships with manufacturers and suppliers that maximize the value of their spending and sync with their digital enterprise strategy. To connect with service vendors in such a way that it impacts their own customers positively and makes them more competitive. They have to make sure, for example, that they design product features and enhancements customers look for, manufacture and deliver on time and at or above agreed-upon quality levels, keep their equipment running flawlessly, and promptly resolve any issues customers might experience in using their offerings. Successful, strategic business consulting has a beneficial impact in terms of delivering greater value and a better customer experience throughout the entire value chain of the consulting clients and their customers’ organizations as well.
Expertise serves digital enterprise transformation
Consultants’ technical prowess is still crucial. To build systems of engagement that facilitate thriving, successful digital enterprises needs them to bring to bear the best of modern ERP, big data, mobility, the cloud, social, IoT, and systems integration. And, businesses can still benefit from the productivity and efficiency results that have been a hallmark of ERP for decades. It’s worthwhile to pursue them, but they are not where modern ERP and relevant business consulting stop.
At To-Increase, many of our partners have successfully changed their consulting model to a business focus that includes technology, instead of being purely technology-centered. Others are in the process. We’re assisting them by enabling digital innovation through solutions and insight. Often, value-driven business process management (BPM) with our RapidValue solution for Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations provides an access point and framework for the business consulting approach. By using RapidValue, companies and their consultants can involve stakeholders from all business groups in designing and improving a company’s processes and ensure that technology aligns with the organization’s goals.
When we make updates in our industry, mobile, and business integration solutions, we keep in mind the quality of the customer experience throughout the value chain and how software tools can foster successful systems of engagement. In 2016, you can expect To-Increase to deliver more innovation that helps our partners provide high-value business consulting and our customers to thrive in a changing world with a very different understanding of organizational boundaries.
If you would like to talk, or have questions and feedback, please get in touch. Get in touch with me or contact To-Increase.
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