There’s a tectonic shift under way and it’s changing the way people work. Do you feel the rumbling?

Core ERP systems have been the mainstay for managing business operations for decades. They’ve done a fine job, but they’re not perfect. The functional gaps are enough to drive users crazy and manual workarounds are not acceptable to the millennial generation, which makes up the largest segment of today’s workforce. This first generation raised in the digital age grew up in an automated world. For a millennial, automation is what they want at work.

Their search for automation combined with the rise of mobile devices, cloud environments and social media has put the millennial generation at the forefront of the Digital Process Revolution. Add the “big data” that allows a business to report on and analyze every nook and cranny of its operation and you have the recipe for creating a sustainable competitive advantage.

You may not realize it, but a large percentage of employees are accessing applications that automate the processes your core system can’t execute. Most are in the cloud and are free, or have a very low subscription price. They are using them to streamline processes and increase productivity.

Like your core systems, the millennial approach to automating manual processes makes them more productive, but this system isn’t perfect. IT cannot see most of these added-on applications and, therefore, they have not been vetted or approved. Also, the data collected still resides outside of the ERP system making it difficult to report on. But even among these problems, the Digital Process Revolution offers leaders a golden opportunity to transform their business and assure their ability to compete long into the future.

Adding automation and efficiency

So where is this opportunity and how do you take advantage of it? Look no further than the very ones who are using contraband applications, for it is they who are leading the way to technology that fits the process, rather than the process fitting the software’s functionality. And therein lays the key.

Enterprise software is the tool you use to increase operational efficiencies. It will make you more competitive, to a point, but when you’re forced to abandon proprietary processes or continue executing them outside of the ERP, your operation is not optimized and your competitiveness suffers. Fortunately, technology continues to advance to the point where enterprise software can be tailored to fit the way a company does business and re-tailored if those processes change. Companies are building custom, cloud-based applications that run proprietary processes and integrate to the core ERP, capturing the data necessary for reporting.

To be clear, I am not advocating a blanket rip and replace strategy. In fact, this is one transformation that doesn’t have to require drastic action on your part, leaving you free to put your energy into other areas of the business that need retooling for growth, such as your processes. This option delivers the productivity you’ve been seeking, along with agility that has been beyond your grasp.

The Digital Process Revolution is well under way and sitting on the sidelines is not an option if you want to survive, much less grow. Take a cue from the millennials in your midst; identify the manual processes that give your business an advantage and find the apps that will automate them and integrate the data to your ERP.  It’s an excellent short term adaptation so when you do make a more substantial change, you will be prepared and knowledgeable on the processes that work best. The sooner you get started, the closer you are to creating a sustainable competitive advantage.

David Warford

As co-Founder and Managing Partner at KnowledgePath Consulting, Inc. David applies his 30+ years of experience in the technology industry, exceptional leadership skills, and his commitment to honesty and transparency to ensuring client success. He drives customer relationships that span the globe in numerous industries and product categories.