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The first step is full process transparency.

Modern businesses are constantly under pressure to innovate and transform, but the fear of breaking their legacy ERP systems often holds them back. In this blog post, we'll explore the concept of "process brittleness" and how it can slow innovation. We'll also discuss how business process transformation solutions can help de-risk the process change process by providing full process transparency and best practice-based recommendations.

Figuratively speaking, ERP systems remain the backbone of the modern enterprise. Like your body’s spine, which supports your body and the nerve connections needed to walk, twist, and move, your ERP is what enables your business to function. It does this by linking the people, processes, and data in your organization for optimal productivity, keeping all projects flowing, providing insights, and more.

As with any backbone – physical or digital – excessive rigidity and brittleness isn’t a good thing. It’s dangerous for any organism, be it a person or an enterprise. Backbones need to bend and flex in an instant, handle changing workloads, and adapt to support new positions required by sports and everyday activities. When they are brittle, they can’t adapt or flex. They are prone to injury and harder to heal once damaged. They can even break, putting all or part of your body or organization out of commission.

Business leaders with brittle ERP systems are keenly aware of this fact. It’s why they live in fear of having to change their processes. The typical mindset is: “Why risk breaking something that’s technically still working?” For example, in our work with thousands of banks and insurance firms around the world, we see lots of large institutions that still operate as big, brittle “black boxes” of legacy ERP systems, automation, people and paper, manual handoffs, and outdated infrastructure. Few processes are documented, and the people who build customizations left the company years ago. So, no one really understands how work gets done today. This makes process transformation – and even implementing a small change – so risk-laden. Heads of departments are afraid that even a small process change in another line of business could have catastrophic effects on their downstream processes.

All of this results in a kind of process “brittleness” that can foster active resistance to innovation – and at a time when financial institutions and insurance firms must embrace it. Today, we live in a world of continuous change. Businesses are being charged with restoring the environment, harnessing the latest technologies, meeting ever-increasing customer demands, responding to continuing geopolitical and supply chain issues, and more. In response, companies are having to transform and innovate business models, products, and services to create new revenue streams, operate more sustainably and profitably, and deliver differentiating customer, supplier, and employee experiences.

This requires a flexible, adaptable ERP backbone based on best practices and full transparency into how your processes currently operate. Business process transformation solutions help by enabling you to:

  • Understand what your processes look like today – the good, the bad, and the ugly – including where steps are manual and where interdependencies between functional areas are

  • Identify what you can do better – for example, by digging into performing KPIs (such as days sales outstanding, credit rating, cash on hand, and time to pay invoice) and performance levels in key areas

  • Make change recommendations using automated insights and process intelligence – from quick fixes that will have a material impact on process performance to end-to-end process overhauls

  • Collaborate cross-functionally to map out how to improve or transform processes so you can optimize operations, innovate, and differentiate your business

  • Provide recommendations on how to best utilize and deploy prebuilt workflows that come with an enterprise software solution to support non-differentiating processes

By providing real-time process transparency based on facts, intelligent insights, and best practice–based recommendations, business process transformation solutions help you de-risk the process change process. Put simply, you can go from no to yes – from fear-based inaction to confident, low-risk action.

At SAP, we’re even using business process transformation software – specifically, the SAP Signavio portfolio – to de-risk entire ERP migrations. Customers using the RISE with SAP solution on digital transformation journeys can go from rigid, legacy ERPs to a flexible, agile SAP S/4HANA Cloud solution with confidence because the software helps them:

  • Prepare for migration (with detailed process discovery)

  • Visually map out processes from end to end – both standardized and customized – so departmental silos can easily collaborate on them

  • Develop transparent process models to drill down into process operations, so they can identify and resolve bottlenecks and other issues with the company's process framework

In conclusion, a flexible and adaptable ERP backbone is essential for any enterprise to thrive in today's rapidly changing business environment. Organizations can de-risk the process change process by leveraging business process transformation solutions that provide real-time process transparency and intelligent insights and confidently take low-risk action. If you want to learn more about modernizing your ERP and transforming your business processes, I invite you to join me for an upcoming web seminar on April 20, 8am PST | 17:00 CET: Modernize ERP: Business Process Transformation. Moderated by Paul Saunders (Chief Evangelist for SAP S/4HANA at SAP), I’ll be joined by Phil Carter (IDC), and Andreas Hauser (head of SAP Apphaus network) to discuss how to safely move from complex, rigid business processes to modern business processes powered by automation, intelligence, and instant insight.

Let's de-risk the process change process together.