Thinking beyond CRM and ERP

Organisations don’t invest in Microsoft Dynamics because of a burning desire to record debits and credits, or a desperate need for a contact list.  The business drivers are much deeper than that.

The productivity of the entire Microsoft Dynamics platform was on show at Convergence 2015.  View some key Convergence highlights from a Dynamics CRM perspective.

Businesses rely on IT to enable their strategy, to be a platform for growth, or a means to engage customers, clients, citizens, students – in fact anyone – more effectively, productively and profitably. 

Let’s look closer at that word “platform”. Many organisations are looking for more connected, integrated and engaging experiences across their technology landscape, and at this year’s Microsoft Convergence conference held in Atlanta, Georgia, the productivity of the platform itself was on show – rather than the features and functions of a couple of applications. 

So much so, in fact, that throughout the conference there were mutterings that ‘they hardly mentioned ERP or CRM’. Well, good! It’s time we focussed on enabling business strategy. ERP and CRM are business platform enablers that have been around for some years now – it’s what we do with them that counts! Gone are the days where we implement “Systems of Record” like Dynamics in its native form without thinking about how to make it engaging, or how to drive connected experiences across the business, or how to create actionable insights from the data we can now capture, or how to … well, the list goes on. 

That point was powerfully made by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadalla, who provided a fresh take on Gartner’s pace layer architecture which at the time was “a new methodology for categorizing applications and developing a differentiated management and governance process that reflects how they are used and their rate of change.”

Along the way, Gartner introduced the world to three system categories: Systems of Record, Systems of Differentiation and Systems of Innovation.

While Satya agreed that three broad categories of systems collectively underpin the potential of connected and dynamic businesses, he suggested another way of categorising them that provides new insights. His categories: Systems of Record (as per Gartner), Systems of Engagement, and Systems of Intelligence.

First, and aligned to Gartner’s view, Satya highlighted the importance of “Systems of Record”, the core components within the Dynamics CRM and ERPs of this world. These systems, he said, must be agile enough to respond to the rapidly changing environment around us. Or, to paraphrase Jack Welch, “if the pace of change outside the organisation is quicker than inside, the end is near.”

Research by Forbes contributor Steven Denning confirms this. Fifty years ago, the life expectancy of Fortune 500 organisations was around 75 years. Today, it’s less than 15 years – and declining. Systems of Record must enable your business to respond to market opportunity.

Systems of Engagement, said Satya, are crucial for delivering connected, seamless experiences to the forefront of your organisation. In fact, these systems and applications typically reinforce your brand in the hands of the users, creating empathy among those dealing with your organisation. They are found in service and call centres, and include apps, portals, live chats, social media platforms and websites that truly engage customers, clients, citizens, students, patients… 

When Apple launched their iPhone, they created a new awareness, and consequently demand for, consumerised IT – and so the ubiquitous “app” was born. Today, we live in a highly connected, commoditised world where people want everything to be available, simple, easy to use, functional, capable, instant and increasingly ‘beautiful’. Engaging systems must meet these demanding criteria, and you can’t be truly engaging without having the platform to underpin it. In many respects Systems of Engagement are your sales people in this 24/7 connected world – and we all know what happens to non-performing sales people.

Which brings us to Systems of Intelligence. Satya suggests that by 2019, there will be 26 billion internet-connected devices providing 44 ZB (zetabytes) of data serviced in the cloud.

The pace of data capture through machine sensors, devices, web usage, consumer preferences, and drone data collection is increasing exponentially and, with it, the need to “train” machines to learn from it and help us make sense of it all. Systems of Intelligence is the technology that enables, that allows big-data, data analytics and machine learning to all come to light.

Logically, Systems of Intelligence, backed up by connected Systems of Record, actually make Systems of Engagement more ‘engaging’. By learning more about how the end user wants to be engaged with, we can create a personalised experience across all media and channels. That is the ultimate objective – a seven-billion-strong global community, where we are each treated as one, as unique.

What excited me most at Convergence was experiencing, first hand, how important it is to understand the whole in order to make the most of opportunities. As with so many things in life, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As market leader in Systems of Record, Engagement and Intelligence, Microsoft is uniquely placed to enable business to extract the full benefits of connected and engaging experiences across the enterprise. The challenges are significant, and the pace of change will likely be epic.

For those who embrace both challenges and change – and that certainly includes Microsoft and Intergen – the future is bright.

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