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Date posted: September 21, 2015

In a recent column on CIO, Mike Lamble, CEO of Clarity Solution Group, addresses the movement of enterprise analytics to the cloud. As Lamble notes, it’s not a question of if analytics will move to the cloud, but rather when:

In terms of the Innovation Curve, we’ve moved from “early adopters” to the “early majority.” According to a recent Gartner survey, this year saw a 50 percent jump in the portion of respondents who said they plan to run mission critical applications on the cloud, from about 30 percent in each of the previous four years to 45 percent this year. Many companies – even Fortune 1000 – are mandating that all new infrastructure will be in the cloud.

When technology adoption moves from if to when, the next thing to look for is how. Lamble proposes five project profiles where companies with on-premise enterprise data warehouses (EDW) can look to begin leveraging the advantages of the cloud. They’re worth considering here:

  • One time big data projects
    Gigabytes to petabytes can be provisioned quickly and brought down when the project is complete whether it’s weeks, months, or indefinitely until the job is done.
  • Anything where you might be considering a massively parallel processing appliance
    Projects that require terabytes and up— and target tens to hundreds of users rather than thousands— could be a great place to start. Sophisticated appliance IT managers will be delighted by the cloud’s flexibility. You won’t need to pre-pay for capacity, and adding resources is done on a configuration screen as opposed to buying a new rack.
  • Machine learning projects
    Hadoop’s architecture suits this class of solution, and leading cloud service providers (CSP) offer robust Hadoop distributions and machine learning analytic software.
  • Departmental dashboard projects
    These are ideal for getting acquainted with a CSP’s solution stack and development nuances. In fact, many of these are already up and running.
  • IoT Data Lakes
    These include both structured and semi-structured data, with volumes that can be enormous. Data lake projects are often constrained by Hadoop clusters being out of the box for on premise data centers. This isn’t an obstacle for CSPs, whose offerings decouple storage and compute resources in order to economize on storage of less often used data.

Date posted: September 14, 2015

One of the major developments I’ve observed over years of writing about enterprise applications is how those applications have become connected. A recent article on R&D by editor Lindsay Hock underscores the importance of this. In the piece, Rich Carpenter, Chief Technology Strategist at GE Intelligent Platforms Software speaks to the development of intelligent manufacturing and the move to the Industrial Internet, and one of the most interesting points he makes is about the importance of what he calls “the digital thread.”

Many companies have fully realized the benefits of Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma and other initiatives driven to improve manufacturing productivity. These initiatives are focused on driving efficiency in manufacturing to deliver production goals at lower costs with higher quality. “It’s the digital thread that takes these principles to the next level,” says Carpenter.

The digital thread helps to lean out the new product introduction cycle from initial product concept and design, through manufacturing, the supply chain and, ultimately, through operations, maintenance and service. However, to leverage the digital thread’s full potential requires connecting previously islanded systems such as PLM, ERP, EAM, MES, M&D and supply chain systems.

The benefits of this digital thread are profound, including:

  • Faster product cycles
  • Higher quality products
  • Lower manufacturing costs
  • Faster response to real-time changing market dynamics

The digital thread can enhance manufacturing in many ways. “For example, a great new product may be sent to manufacturing where it is determined the product can’t actually be built in volume,” says Carpenter. “This may be because parts with the right specifications can’t be acquired cost effectively, or state-of-the-art equipment can’t make the parts.” Traditionally, this is a very long process of discovery, re-work, escaped product defects and re-designs.

“When the digital thread is connected, the design from the PLM system can lead directly to a manufacturing plan,” says Carpenter. And that plan can automatically produce the manufacturing execution system configuration and bill of materials. “Quality can be collected in the context of the design,” explains Carpenter. And, if during manufacturing, non-conformances are identified, they can immediately be sent back to engineering for resolution. This closed loop, continuous feedback loop helps to ensure quality products are built and the risk of recall is minimized.

Such connectivity is unleashing the power of enterprise applications in a way heretofore unrealized, and is leading to what Carpenter calls “a massive change in process with the Industrial Internet.” While this is at an early stage, its momentum is clear and worldwide. (Germany’s Industrie 4.0 can be seen as a parallel approach to this connected technology.)

Carpenter nicely summarizes the scale of the industrial change being driven by connectivity:

“We are collecting and organizing the world’s industrial knowledge in a way that makes it accessible to the broad community of businesses, thus creating a form of industrial ambient intelligence that is always available.”

This isn’t your grandfather’s or your father’s industrial world. It should be riveting to watch its further development.


Date posted: September 10, 2015

Those considering ERP would do well to revisit the words of futurist John Naisbitt: “Trends, like horses, are easier to ride in the direction they are going.”

A recent article by Drew Robb on enterpriseappstoday.com points to a number of trends in ERP that are driving the direction of this enterprise software sector:

  1. The Cloud is the Future of ERP
    Market forces such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), the need to provide enterprise access to mobile devices, increasingly connected machine environments and virtualization are propelling more and more functions toward the cloud— ERP won’t be able to stand on the sidelines. “The cloud and everything that entails continues to be the future of ERP,” says Andrew Marder, an ERP specialist at business software analyst
  2. The Hybrid Cloud Continues to Gain Support
    Not everyone is convinced that we will see an all-cloud ERP future. Forrest Burnson, ERP market research associate at Software Advice, favors the hybrid cloud model in which an organization combines on-premise applications with cloud applications in its broader ERP package. “For many firms, it’s the best of both worlds and it’s making the whole cloud vs. on premise debate irrelevant,” he said.
  1. Better ERP Reporting
    Improved reporting, facilitated by analytics and tighter integration, is another trend championed by Marder. He sees ERP as being uniquely placed to see an entire business system, find the weak spots and make more out of the existing resources.
  1. Bucking Tradition
    Some ERP vendors are encountering a growing resistance to traditional ERP. Companies aren’t looking to purchase a back-office system; instead, they want something that can help them solve their problems with relatively simple solutions. That causes them to avoid traditional ERP, which some believe is synonymous with cost overrun.
  1. SMB ERP Adoption
    The move to the cloud has led to greater SMB adoption of ERP. Despite its reputation for complexity, high cost and significant staff resources to keep it going, SMBs that have historically avoided ERP are manifesting less resistance. “Although the majority of SMBs still do not understand the concept of ERP, they are beginning to realize that it is becoming the de-facto system to have in order to cut down integration costs to other packages,” says John Miles, president of Enterprise Resources International, a technical staffing firm.
  1. ERP Platform Approach
    The first wave of cloud adoption in ERP saw a rush to point solutions, often as a result of individual departments choosing a cloud app based on their specific requirements. The consequence for some was trying to manage multiple applications with separate databases, different user interfaces, workflows and collaboration tools. That could lead to users wrestling with multiple logins, and manual data export or import steps. Now some say there is a move toward businesses making a strategic platform choice first, and then working with individual departments to choose applications that fit the overall platform strategy.
  1. Continued Vendor Consolidation
    Over the last decade or so, Microsoft gobbled up smaller ERP vendors such as Great Plains and Navision. Oracle and SAP also made acquisitions. And earlier this month Infor picked up GT Nexus, which is one of many acquisitions in its history. Miles sees more mergers in the near future. “Some of the big players will be swallowing some of their smaller competitors to capitalize on market share,” he said.

 Not everyone is convinced that we will see an all-cloud ERP future. Forrest Burnson, ERP market research associate at Software Advice, an ERP software consulting firm, favors the hybrid cloud model in which an organization combines on-premise applications with cloud applications in its broader ERP package. “For many firms, it’s the best of both worlds and it’s making the whole cloud vs. on premise debate irrelevant,” he said.

Date posted: September 8, 2015

Over the past year we’ve been writing more about Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and it’s really not a mystery as to why. Everything an organization does needs to be focused on customers, from production to marketing to sales to service. As an increasingly sophisticated tool that provides data on how the customer is responding to corporate activity, CRM is increasingly on the mind of those responsible for enterprise applications.

A recent article on homecaremag.com provides a nice summary of the necessary steps to assure that CRM is adopted successfully. It takes around 10 to 12 weeks to fully implement a CRM system, and there are five key stages a company’s implementation team can expect during this time:

  1. Establish Goals
    Before you interview CRM providers, you and your team should have a clear understanding of what you want from a CRM system. This may require a little introspection within the company to identify what you need most from a CRM resource. Involve all departments in the decision, and find out what each requires.
  2. Create a Timeline
    Once you have selected a CRM provider, it’s important to establish a timeline up front from both the client side and the CRM vendor. This creates shared expectations where each party can hold one another accountable for established milestones. This is a good time to discuss best practices and define specific milestones with dates attached. Set expectations about how you want the CRM platform to work for you.
  3. Discovery
    The discovery phase is utilized for data gathering. This is where the CRM team drills down into your company’s data. The CRM provider will request a sample data set pulled from a previous enterprise system.
  4. Connectivity Set-Up
    This is the “nuts and bolts” stage of implementation, where your data team works with the CRM provider’s team to connect the data. There are different ways this can happen, but the three main elements you want to track include accounts, contacts and referrals.
  5. Training
    As the purchaser of a CRM system, you should expect the vendor to provide in-person training, web sessions, online training guides, video guides and/or Web-based training. This service should be included in the CRM package. Post-implementation, you should have ongoing access to training and customer support. Remember, it’s you—the client—who creates value from the CRM system. Make sure you use the available training to make the most of your system.

As Peter Drucker said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” Having an effective CRM solution in place will help you reach this aim.

Date posted: May 19, 2015

My article, “From Coke to the Cloud and Beyond,” appears in the inaugural issue of Packaging and Process OEM. The article discusses how remote and control operations continue to evolve.