Uber in particular shows how revolutionary harnessing the power of information can be. Unlike the taxis it competes with, Uber tells you everything you need to know: where your Uber is, when it will arrive, what your trip will cost, your driver’s details, and the ability to rate your service. So revolutionary, our CEO Alastair Sorbie calls it “the Uber effect”.
In case you think your industry isn’t in any immediate danger of disruption, consider the huge range of potentially disruptive technologies, many of which are now gaining traction. These include 3D printing, drones, next-generation batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, wearable devices and the Internet of Things.
In the oil and gas industry, for example, companies are already springing up to offer unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) services for offshore and onshore inspections. GE Oil & Gas already uses 3D printers to manufacture control valve parts used in the energy industry.
The applications for UAVs in construction are also numerous, including surveying, aerial overviews, worksite monitoring, inspections, even replacing cranes for delivery of lighter materials. 3D printing could slash delivery times for out-of-stock parts and wearable devices will allow workers to access plans, visualisations, and detailed specifications as they work.
Before you panic, there are three things your organisation can do to benefit from disruption and not fall victim to it:
First:Know your business, be prepared to change.
Second:Be agile and respond quickly, as changes are hard to predict.
Third:Employ low drag systems which push you forward, not hold you back.
In the oil and gas industry, companies are already springing up to offer unmanned aerial vehicle services for offshore and onshore inspections.
The bottom line is this. Identified and employed effectively, disruption can actually supercharge business growth – provided you have an agile system.
What constitutes an agile system, as opposed to one that holds you back? Based on IFS’ experience there are seven key characteristics to look for in your main run-the-business system or enterprise resources planning (ERP) application:
1. Enterprise-wide visibility:The first thing you need is visibility into and integration of information across the enterprise. You can’t change or improve what you can’t see. To truly know your business you need to consolidate all your financial and operational information into a single system.
2. Real-time operational data: Organisations need a “single source of truth” for operations in real time. If information is not real time, it cannot drive new services or processes in real time. Capturing information at the source and communicating it immediately is vital.
3: Facilitate customer service: Does your ERP system facilitate customer service, including new services and apps? Can you optimise your service operations with integrated enterprise service management (ESM) software with mobility support? If not, how will you empower your customers?
4. Tailor information to people’s roles: To make disruption your friend and not your enemy, your organisation needs to tailor information to people’s roles so they can consume it and act on it in an easy-to-use way. As more information becomes available, can you easily distil it down to what is needed for a particular job role or project and present it intuitively?
5. Support digital devices: Companies like Uber can put information into the hands of users wherever they are and whenever they need it. Is your ERP system accessible and useable across all devices – from PCs to laptops, tablets, smart phones and smart watches – and easily extendable to new devices?
6.Quickly integrate new technologies: Identifying disruptive technologies that can supercharge your operations is just the first step. The hard part is integrating them into existing business systems. Is your supplier constantly demonstrating new solutions to overcome challenges as they arise?
7. Configurable with minimal customisation:Disruptive technologies won’t give you a long lead time to adapt to. Expensive customisation – when deploying systems or adapting them to business changes – is a drag on agility. To enable change, minimise customisation and use systems that are easily configured to meet new business requirements.
Make sure that your ERP system has these seven characteristics and you will be well placed to turn disruption into a force for good rather than being on the receiving end of it.
Editor’s note: Rob Stummer is managing director, Australia and New Zealand for global enterprise applications company IFS. He has a master’s in information technology from Melbourne University and has consulted to many of the region’s Top 500 companies.
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