An exclusive preview of the "Making Business Dynamic" whitepaper.
What is a dynamic business?
The best businesses today operate at what Bill Gates calls "the speed of thought" meaning they are able to do an outstanding job of integrating business process with technology to gather, manage and use information in a way that gives them competitive advantage. They’re able to do this because they are supported by software that delivers valuable insights in real time. To truly achieve the aspirations you have set for your business, you need software that is built for speed and forward-looking. But how can you be sure your software is up to the task?
Microsoft can turn your business from a static state into a dynamic one that thrives on change, one that’s quick to recognise and seize new opportunities to maintain a competitive edge. The concept is Microsoft’s "dynamic business" vision, and to play at this level, an organisation has to accomplish three things:
- Maximise the productivity of its people by arming them with complete business solutions that automate common tasks while helping workers communicate, collaborate and analyse data to gain insights that would have previously required the help of IT, thereby serving as a catalyst to make swift decisions and take effective action.
- Achieve process agility to quickly adapt to new requirements, with business applications that enable visibility into both activities (what you are doing) and the processes (how you are doing it). Such "smart" visibility enables a business to effectively respond to change.
- Encourage connections across an entire ecosystem of suppliers, partners and customers, by effectively removing barriers to communication and collaboration. These connections — whether one-to-one or one-to-many — should be fully integrated into the business applications.
People, process and ecosystem are the pillars of the dynamic business. The right business software should ignite these pillars — driving applications more broadly and deeply into the business and continuously delivering compelling benefits.
Industry trends requiring a dynamic business
Let’s look at some of the trends your company is probably grappling with right now, and consider how becoming a dynamic business would better equip you to deal with them.
The past 10 years have seen a dramatic increase in business disaggregation. Companies are now looking outside their organisation for competencies that are not part of their key strengths. The trend toward specialisation in business — focusing on a small number of core capabilities where a business can build differentiable advantage — takes this new approach to the next level.
UPS is a classic example, investing to excel and differentiate in logistics and distribution to a level that other companies could not match internally. As a result, retailers turn their distribution over to UPS, outsourcing something that was not their core function to a specialist that can deliver a better service more cost effectively.
The dynamic disaggregated business therefore requires a system view that lets it see its entire business from source to end customer (and back for returns) with the same level of integration it had before the change. Its people need tools that easily connect them to the right processes and the right people so they can easily exchange data with their business partners, vendors and suppliers across the supply chain. Business solutions must support people in their day-to-day tasks, helping them improve communication and collaboration and discover better ways to work with one another, regardless of location.
New work force, new patterns
A changing population of workers is entering the work force. This new generation has grown up with a plethora of constantly evolving technology at their fingertips and therefore they have vastly different expectations of their workplace. The ubiquity of search and the ability to use it as a navigation tool, and support of multitasking and social networking, are important requirements. These individuals expect an intuitive user experience that facilitates their ability to experiment, which means their business applications should take advantage of their technology savvy and willingness to explore.
The way they work is also new. Many are neither full-time workers nor stationed in a single commercial location. Increasingly, mobile and home office workers are the rule more than the exception, and there is a growing reliance on part-time workers to suit both the needs of the person and the business. JetBlue Airways' adoption of a reservations and customer service work force that works entirely part time from home is a celebrated example of this innovation. In a dynamic business, software must seamlessly work across firewalls and basic Internet connections, with zero-impact deployment on remote client machines.
Change as opportunity
Historically, business applications first emerged as accounting aids — a way to record transactions — and later took on a control function. Today, although they still have audit and control roles, business applications must increasingly shift their focus from the backward-looking view on work already completed ("What have I done?") to a forward-looking, strategic view that drives planning and decision-making ("What can I do?" or even "What should I do?" or "What if I do?"). This evolution requires companies to implement increasingly sophisticated models of the business, and requires the people using the software to develop increasing trust in the application. As it moves from passive recording to active optimisation, the business application becomes a more significant enabler of business success.
As your business requirements change, dynamic business applications must help you anticipate the impact of that change so you can adapt and respond quickly.
Strategic use of IT
Aligning technology spending with strategic business objectives — and applying the discipline of IT governance — is becoming an increasingly important topic for business executives and IT managers. By connecting people and processes across every division of your business, you catalyse your organisation’s ability to work efficiently and consistently. Likewise, new business imperatives and practices such as outsourcing or merger and acquisitions require flexible systems that can support extremely flexible models of organisational structure. From a business perspective, IT investment must enable efficiency, tap expertise and enhance the ability to respond to change.
Dynamic businesses should be able to continue to support a function that is delivered through the ecosystem and keep alternative structures to provide effective analytics across periods of dramatic structure change. At a more fundamental level, your IT investment must be anchored in delivering value through a relentless focus on minimising total cost of ownership, and enabling improved business results and reduced operational costs through software.
Expanding across the user base and ecosystem
A recent survey by Gartner Inc.1 indicates that the percentage of employees licensed and using the ERP system among companies that have deployed so-called "global solutions" is still less than 50 percent, so there is some merit to the notion that the rest need connecting. Expanding penetration is a clear requirement for making every role and every person in the business more efficient, more controlled, more informed and more adaptive — in short, creating a more dynamic business. Extending the power of software to this broader user population will require a combination of more role-specific business intelligence and functionality, and the ability to reach people through mobile and specialised devices.
Another dramatic opportunity emerges in the contrast between the isolating, inward focus of many business applications and the need to compete in an increasingly connected global landscape. The promise of an end-to-end electronic supply chain, free of obstacles, has remained unfulfilled for too long. In a dynamic business, applications enhance the connection and collaboration between companies and their customers, partners and suppliers without the usual limitations to communication and collaboration imposed by firewalls, geography or proprietary concerns.
To read more, download the "Making Business Dynamic" whitepaper here.
1 Gartner Inc. Two-Tier ERP Suite Strategy: Considering Your Options,Nigel Montgomery, July 28, 2010