Businesses need a rocket to reach the stars: Why core systems need a relaunch

Basis Technologies CTO David Lees looks at how businesses can unlock growth and efficiency by focusing on core system transformations, overcoming fear and skill gaps, and embracing digital change
Businesses need a rocket to reach the stars: Why core systems need a relaunch

The rise of new and exciting technologies may be distracting businesses from focusing on the core systems that really matter to their long-term success. Combine a preference for new tech with a longstanding oversight of vital systems like SAP, and businesses may experience declining growth potential, agility, and efficiency. Reversing these pitfalls requires proactive transformation and management of crucial elements of the IT landscape. 

Businesses are only as fast as their slowest system. If it’s a core system, then a re-evaluation of priorities is urgently required.

Research from Basis Technologies (September 2023) found that when it comes to core systems (in this case SAP, which 94 percent of enterprise-grade users agree is fundamental to day-to-day operations), over half (59 percent) admit to managing change using rudimentary Excel spreadsheets. This software, or its counterparts, cannot effectively form the mesh between vital systems and crucial business change.

The Excel revelation is just one example of a wider set of organisational challenges holding back enterprises. Culture plays a huge part in this; 85 percent of SAP users at enterprises are more cautious about making changes in core systems than in any other part of their IT estate. 

Enterprises need to look under the hood and understand exactly what attitudes and organisational processes prevent them from effectively managing core systems.

The fear factor

Almost half (49 percent) of SAP users within enterprises state that their fear of creating unintended consequences prevents them from making changes to core systems. These concerns are indicative of a lack of confidence and are usually a byproduct of misguided risk aversion strategies. 

Businesses are operating in increasingly competitive landscapes and so cannot afford the downtime associated with poor change implementation. Enterprises accept the status quo of core systems so long as they continue to work. Meanwhile, growth and efficiency opportunities are sought in the new shiny technology. In doing so, they neglect to unlock the full potential of their transformation capabilities.

Transformation scar tissue

So many SAP-using enterprises have scars from past transformations that have never healed; 47 percent of respondents stated that previous risks from managing core systems are why change is not proactively considered. These risks often relate to existing internal processes or compliance regulations. 

Although businesses naturally fear previously unsuccessful processes, ignoring the possibility of change can cause more harm than good. Idle consideration of core systems will only lead to a loss of growth opportunity, market share, and can impede employee productivity and customer service. So, instead, businesses must look at what didn’t work well last time and ensure they have covered all bases for the success of future projects.

The ever-widening skills gap

Unsurprisingly perhaps, half of business leaders confirmed a lack of qualified resources was the main reason for slow change. While a lack of skills is a fair reason to stall core system transformation, it’s also a relatively simple fix. 

Enterprises cannot afford to be running systems that their workforce is incapable of using. Therefore, they must proactively seek new employees, or train existing talent, instilling them with the confidence to take charge of core system transformations. If this is not possible, businesses must aim to automate as many transformation processes as possible, empowering existing resources to achieve efficient and effective results. Both parts of this can be implemented via the active engagement of the C-suite, which can unlock resources for training or additional employment provided they have been informed of the urgency to act.

Confidence is key for long-term transformation

Case studies of past core transformation are invaluable for reassuring fearful enterprises. 

Vistaprint is a good place to start. Ahead of the curve in realising the advantages of core system digital transformation, they also expressed caution around what the journey would look like and the hurdles they may have to overcome. Leading the charge regardless and trusting the digital transformation process, they jumped head first into the project that would enable the agility and growth potential needed to service 100,000+ daily orders on its ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing process. 

By allocating appropriate resources to educate its workforce, adapting operational processes with confidence, and deploying the necessary automation, Vistaprint has steadily obtained the agility to expand its operations. 

Vistaprint continually improves its best-in-class printing and has moved towards technology-enabled services delivered at pace and scale. The company has become a flagship example of core transformation done right by confidently pursuing change and not giving in to reservations or ‘fear’.

How can effective core transformation become a priority?

Fear of change blinds businesses to the possibilities that come with effective digital transformation of core systems. Enterprises believe they cannot afford additional risk, are confused about which digital transformation strategies to pursue in line with their specific objectives, and view the ongoing skills gap as a considerable struggle. 

However, by ignoring the optimisation of core systems, enterprises increase the risk of downtime, widening skills gaps, and continually underperforming systems. It therefore becomes riskier to neglect this element of their IT estate.

Instead, businesses must implement top-down, transparent attitude changes. A culture shift and mass awareness is needed of how core transformation enables businesses to meet their biggest objectives. 

Equally, C-Suites must understand and willingly invest in producing practical change. Be it through upskilling, automation or unlocking the budget for a particular transformation project, decision-makers need to ensure they are directing enough resources to ensure effective and low-risk project delivery. 

Digital transformation, particularly within long-standing core systems, is a marathon, not a sprint. With attitude changes and investment working in tandem, enterprises can turn fear into reassurance that they are progressing towards greater growth, better efficiency, and a stronger market position.

Lead image: vecstock

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