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This isn't your father's enterprise software

Katherine Noyes | March 16, 2015
When Patrick Benson joined Ovation Brands back in September 2013, he was given a tall order: modernize an array of legacy IT systems that could no longer keep up with the restaurant-chain conglomerate's business processes.

Simplicity, in other words, was a key driving principle. Personalization was another one.

"Personalization is even more important here than in the consumer world," Said explained. "Facebook fits everyone, but for us, the same user experience needs to be tailored for each role within the organization."

Responsiveness was the third pillar that drove SAP's creation of Fiori, he added, with heavy reliance on the real-time capabilities of the company's Hana in-memory database.

Oracle is another company that has focused on providing a modern interface, and part of that has been ensuring that the experience for users is consistent across devices, said Rajan Krishnan, the company's vice president for applications development and product management in the Americas and EMEA.

Also at the forefront of Oracle's efforts has been making analytics an integral capability.

"It used to be that you'd go into a transaction processing application, move out the data you wanted and then get the reports you needed," Krishnan explained. "Now you don't have to leave a process hanging and go elsewhere to finish it — you can take action right there."

Social capabilities, meanwhile — often with interfaces emulating the style of Facebook or Twitter — help to facilitate collaboration, thus closing the gap between insight and action, he added.

With easier-to-use applications, business users can more often serve themselves without needing to rely on IT for reports or other basic functionality. That lightens IT's load, and it also makes those users more likely to make data-driven decisions, noted Rick Schultz, senior vice president of marketing for analytics-platform provider Alteryx.

Other benefits include faster deployments and less time spent on training, SaskPower's Smith said.

Change management also becomes easier. "Everybody shops on Amazon — everybody's used to this kind of stuff," Ovation's Benson said.

If there are any downsides to the consumerization of enterprise software, one might be that there's less room for the elaborate customization that was once common in enterprise applications, he noted. Ovation, however, has made a deliberate decision to embrace the best practices typically at the heart of today's ready-made packages — "we're often far better off," Benson said.

Overall, there's little doubt that by making users happier with their work tools — and being able to deliver them faster than ever before — IT stands to gain at the very least in terms of customer satisfaction.

That, in turn, can elevate the IT department's focus. "As opposed to having an IT group who are coders, developers and tinkerers, we've been able to change the perspective and discipline to focus on business partnership," Ovation's Benson said. "We've become business professionals who understand and have tools to quickly develop business solutions."


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