By Dave Ives, Business Applications Leas, Altron Karabina
The Digital Core has traditionally tended to refer to the core application of any business, typically an accounting or ERP solution – one of the first applications that the business started with to manage their processes and keep track of financial information. However, with modern business needs growing both in number and complexity, these organisations should start looking toward a platform-based approach covering more of their processes, if they are to drive productivity and efficiency.
Every single transaction within a business needs to reflect in its financial ledger at some point, it is the seamless integration between finance and operations that is required to make this possible. This is especially challenging to organisations in the supply chain, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), manufacturing, retail, NGO, engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) and energy sectors.
At its heart, the Digital Core is about providing a platform that helps with rationalising a business’s existing finance and operations systems in order to enhance its product and service leadership, improve customer engagement, and ultimately deliver operational excellence. By unifying business management across finance, inventory, retail, supply chain, transportation and warehousing, a brand can now ensure that customer needs are being met on time and that brand promises can be adhered to.
Legacy accounting and ERP systems simply do not meet these requirements, making businesses reliant on too many third-party applications, which leaves master data scattered across multiple systems, and complex integrations or manual paper based processes being needed to bring it all together. This often leads to a lack of standard processes, document management and control, and too many shadow IT functions, all of which create additional points of failure. Many customers bring this together in legacy Data Warehouses and BI platforms which also require major updates and upgrades adding cost to this legacy platform.
Critical to a successful platform implementation and migration to a new Digital Core is working with a partner that not only has extensive experience in IT implementation for cloud architecture, but also an intimate knowledge of business operations and finance. By carrying out a thorough diagnostic beforehand, they can gain a deeper understanding of an organisation, its business model, processes, current challenges, existing architecture, and identify the prevalence of manual processes. They should further provide both advisory and consultancy services before developing and implementing a platform solution based on the outcome of this process.
According to a three-year study by Forrester, shifting toward a platform resulted in benefits including operations and efficiency savings, employee productivity savings, increased wholesale profit, increased retail profit, and legacy cost avoidance. These were driven by automation, better user experience, enhanced forecasting, improved inventory tracking, increased customer retention, real-time analysis, and more.
In all, the interviewed organisations experienced benefits of $74.9 million over three years versus costs of $46.8 million, adding up to a net present value of $28.1 million and a return on investment (ROI) of 60%.
By adding a strategy on top of this solid foundation, businesses can improve efficiency, build new operating models, and even transition to eCommerce more easily. This is made possible as they can now monitor and manage multiple processes across the organisation, improve visibility through consolidated and detailed reporting from within a single platform.
As a platform that controls key business processes and data within an organisation, the Digital Core should also support the quick development and implementation of applications to support growing business requirements such as fleet management and delivery, lab monitoring, Safety, Health, Environment, Risk and Quality (SHERQ) Management, amongst others – all of which are vertically applicable, and can be scaled.
Having a platform that is updated constantly via a cloud based infrastructure, is important for regular regulatory and feature enhancements that the business can take advantage of. This is particularly helpful when there are updates to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), where companies must make the changes within a certain timeframe if they are to remain compliant. On the other hand, a Digital Core should also allow businesses to develop and deploy tailored applications that are not normally found in a finance or supply chain environment. This includes apps to monitor and manage the finances related to a company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives or associated stakeholder programs in specialist fields like agriculture, chemical distribution or mining.
Key to this is the use of a low-code platforms, where applications can be created without having to hard code them, typically by business users, leveraging the managed core data and processes within the Digital Core. Ultimately, all of these improvements ensure that decision makers can focus on what really matters – ensuring that their core business continues to meet and exceed their customers’ future needs – rather than on trying to figure out how subsystems and processes from across the organisation will fit together.