Heads above the cloud – musing on the future of ERP consulting
I remember the good old days when the abundance of Y2K projects was keeping consultants busy and project funding was in abundance. I am one of the consultants who grow out from this boom.
Before I’ve become a consultant, I was warned: consulting is in decline. All companies are implemented their SAP systems, no need more work has left for us.
I am busy ever since 1999.
Watch my word: I think there is a new consulting boom is upon us. Cloud computing will be the next wave of consulting paradise.
Why do I think this way? Just think about what was keeping us busy in the past decade:
For one, we have the constant evolution of the technology, second is the constant maintenance requirement of the implemented systems, mostly going through massive data and software entropy most of the time.
New systems were requiring adaptation, integration. The ERP install base was expanding during the decade. Companies were leveraging more functionality in the existing ERP core solutions. We learned more precise business process monitoring using CO and Project Systems. The systems were maturing on bigger clients. Template deployments were born, and these simplified business processes made companies more efficient.
Consulting with these integrations were essential for the companies.
These systems of course getting more complicated to maintain, fragmented master data and adopting the systems to these made the processes complicated. I find more and more of my consultant friends settling to these companies to keep them moving. This is mutually beneficial for both company and the former consultants: the consultants have a chance to retire from intensive travelling, while the company gets consulting knowledge at a price of a permanent employee.
Cloud computing is the next era of innovation.
The cloud is the buzzword of this decade. It was in the air in the nineties, I remember Larry Allison’s famous speech on the Network Computing machine. It has become reality with the high speed, especially high-speed mobile access to the technologies using the Internet.
The big question is how this technical breakthrough gets adopted to the enterprise universe.
I find large enterprises are not too fast with adaptation: their investment in the old tech is very high. The implemented solution is an expensive asset, and complicated to morph into the new processes. Changing core business supports is a risky endeavor, and no one is more risk-averse than any CIO of a large enterprise. However, we do see big companies accepting cloud solutions as the future model of their enterprise.
Moving to this segment of businesses will definitely require consulting work. This means that us, seasoned ERP consultants we need to learn how to adopt old ERP solutions to the new cloud-based system landscapes.
There is an other emerging layer of enterprises who will benefit from our consulting experience: the small and medium enterprises of the past decade, who are about to scale up to a next level of ERP, or looking for a new system.
The basic immediate benefit for these companies is the elimination of the need for hardware and software infrastructure.
If your company was running on a small enterprise software or scaled up to the business one level, but not ready to pay for a full-blown ERP system implementation, the systems needs to be scaled to next stage of the business. They will need to look for a solution, and the most natural way of moving is working with a cloud-based solution. These are our early adopters, and they will pave the way to new methodologies for the rest of the large enterprises.
The big question to me is what is the better strategy to moving companies to the cloud. Early adaption or go with the mass?
If the technology growth is exponential as we experience it today, early adoption could have a technology benefit for the smaller enterprises, which could help them to outgrow the existing players in the market.
Cloud provides access to e.g. markets via social media, cloud-based analytics that is not part of the core ERP business model today. The evolution of these systems and plug-ins can change a reactive enterprise to a pro-active model. It is especially important where the consumers are rapidly changing their demands. Access to the customer is becoming more difficult and the customers becoming more self-efficient with existing cloud-based technologies. Just think of the recent revolution of the 3D printing technologies, or how the photo or music industry changed, big players disappeared by the change of the technology.
Looking at the world and the speed of change we experience I think there is no better time to be consultant than now. As long we keep up with the cloud, our knowledge will be needed.