Modern SaaS shifts core ERP architectures

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There are numerous ways to achieve the same result. Salesforce, Microsoft and Microsoft offer a different way to consider enterprise systems

Cliff Saran

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Published: 13 Oct 2021 16:22

While organisations are unlikely to rip out and replace enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, industry watchers believe their role is likely to change.

At the recent CCS Insight Predictions for 2022 and Beyond event, the analyst firm noted that since application platforms such as Microsoft 365, Salesforce and ServiceNow are present in every industry sector, they have become core components in enterprise IT.

According to CCS Insight, their ubiquity in supporting productivity and streamlining operational workflows makes these platforms catalysts for accelerating the digital transformation of workforce, supply chain and customer processes.

For instance, Salesforce, Microsoft and ServiceNow were behind several Covid-19 vaccine management applications, which had to be developed rapidly. They also offer the foundations for partner ecosystems serving different vertical markets.

Bola Rotibi, a research director at CCS Insight, said IT leaders were starting to reassess enterprise systems due to the complexity involved in digital transformation initiatives. She said “digital transformation is a complex enterprise environment” so businesses embarking on such a strategy had to focus on a key business driver, such as to improve speed of delivery, support customer expectations or to push out innovation.

Traditionally, businesses used ERP as the transactional engine to run business processes. In effect, the enterprise architecture put the ERP at the centre of business process management (BPM). But there are other approaches. For instance, NHS Scotland has used ServiceNow to support its contact tracing and Covid-19 vaccine programmes.

It began using ServiceNow three years ago to provide IT service management (ITSM). When Computer Weekly spoke to Deryck Mitchelson, director of digital and chief information security officer at NHS National Services Scotland earlier this year, he said that Covid-19 had been a catalyst for change. “We matured our ITSM and looked at building workflows such as for HR and business logic. Covid-19 is where we saw how we could scale out ITSM,” he said.

A key aspect of ServiceNow is that it is focused on orchestration and managing assets, such as HR or computer resources. A common use case is the joiners and leavers process in HR. “You need to manage data and trigger actions,” said Mitchelson.

Rotibi said software such as ServiceNow, Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics were used in multiple parts of an organisation and offer ease of access and usability among their key strengths when compared to traditional ERP systems. 

Tools like Salesforce Lightning and Microsoft PowerApps address the low-code and no-code segment of software development. For Rotibi, traditional ERP generally requires large software development projects. Low-code and no-code tools available from companies like Salesforce and Microsoft can help organisations develop applications quicker.

CCS Insight urged IT leaders to readjust the make-up of software development teams to cope with a broader set of operational challenges and the need to build resilience into fragile operations. It warned that the role of developers is too widely scoped and too much is being asked of them.

There are a number of distinct roles. Rotibi said businesses will need developers who can work alongside business analysts to create new applications and developers who can scale-out these applications quickly using hybrid clouds.

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