Organisations can maximize value by working under-utilised Enterprise Applications harder

In a low capital expenditure climate organisations need to know how to unlock the financial and intellectual value hidden in existing assets

(PresseBox) ( London, )
When capital is in short supply the pressure to optimise existing resources and assets intensifies. In the IT space, enterprise applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) are prime targets. A new report by Europe's leading IT research and advisory organisation Butler Group, points to the strategic importance of these applications in terms of running businesses efficiently and effectively, and how changes in the way they are architected, delivered, and used are altering the entire application value proposition and lifecycle. Titled "Evolving Enterprise Applications", the report says there is a tendency to focus on cutting costs. It argues that cost reduction and value generation are two sides of the same bottom line so should be tackled together as part of a unified strategy with savings in one area being used to fund smart investments in another.

"Cost cutting is a natural reaction to a tough economic climate, so is freezing budgets and halting additional expenditure, but these actions can be counterproductive if they are carried out in asiloed fashion with little attention paid to long term and strategic implications," says Angela Eager, Senior Research Analyst at Butler Group and the report's lead author. "Challenging times are times of change, but change also brings opportunity and that means taking a fresh view of what is being done, why, and how, and being prepared to adapt both business operations and applications."

Organisations need to start viewing enterprise applications as enablers of change, not static back-office transaction engines

"Enterprise applications form part of the DNA of anorganisation and are core to its ability to do business but that integral status means they are often overlooked. They impact so many areas of the business that they become almost invisible. As a result when it comes to developing value-generating initiatives they are back of mind, yet no new initiative can be fully effective if the core it relies on is not tuned," says Eager. "Organisations will benefit from a change in perspective in which enterprise applications are perceived as fundamental enablers of change, with the capacity to adapt to new business demands and add further dimensions to new technologies, rather than as static back office transaction engines."

Technology changes such as the move to service oriented architecture (SOA) that brings modularity and therefore technical and business agility, increased use of business process management (BPM) capabilities to enable enterprise-wide process standardisation, embedded business intelligence (BI) for actionable insight, and participatory Web 2.0-type technologies for collaboration and real time interaction, all play a part in opening enterprise applications up, changing the way they are used, and enabling them to be used for more. Each technology would be so much less without the enterprise application DNA structure. However, for this transformation to be effective, closer alignment between business and IT is a prerequisite.

Strategic spending is necessary to maintain the value of existing investments and deliver fresh financial benefits

Maintaining the value of existing assets can be achieved through internal optimisation - opting for standardization over customisation, general license and user housekeeping, upgrade and maintenance strategies, and so on - which in addition to reducing operational costs will improve operational efficiency with minimal investment and prevent investments falling into the application equivalent of negative equity. Yet, strategic investment in application extensions at the micro level is also a requirement: for example investing in functionality that reduces waste in production planning by a few percentage points can deliver substantial direct financial returns. "Existing implementations are the perfect platform to deliver these sorts of micro-based incremental benefits, rapidly, with minimal risk and in a cost efficient manner," says Eager.

Evolution has multiple dimensions and change is being enacted in the way applications are delivered - organisations seeking ultimate agility should look at SaaS

The economic climate has highlighted the need for business agility and as agility is ultimately enabled by the supporting IT and application infrastructure, the situation is playing well to the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) movement. This alternative delivery method offers flexibility and cost efficiency, providing the essentials to enable organisations to bring about change in the way they carry out their business. With the advent of development platforms SaaS no longer means having to take what you are given, and with an architecture built for the Web and for integration, it provides a valuable adjunct toorganisations looking for application technology to support business development.
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