Blog - Digital Connections of a Different Kind

Digital Connections of a Different Kind

Revenues up, costs down, and all to be executed with improved productivity metrics, summarises the corporate drum beat from hereon in, as the impact of economic realities underpinned by higher global inflation rates and changing fx rates all go to influence corporate behaviour.

Internal Headwinds

Although the remainder of 2022 sees a little more economic clarity than 1H 2022, businesses know that the outlook is somewhat fragile. As well as the formidable headwinds mentioned above, there are still those unquantified risks associated with any new strain of covid, plus a variety of others such as the impact of the great resignation hitting your key processes, the war for talent if it does, fluctuating covid sickness related leave, not to mention ad hoc supply chain disruptions. Never a dull moment!

External Pressures

Moving forwards there will also be a cocktail of external influences and factors that will need special attention from within your organisation. This range of influences will be very diverse, from your company driving to achieve far higher levels of social licence, to the ultra-granular management of your data, the latter being undertaken to ensure that your business remains fully compliant with both evolving in-country and cross border data transfer regulations.

Resilience

Businesses so far have pushed through a broad range of adversities and have focused on key priorities to achieve their ongoing business continuity. As the “new normal” continues to evolve, and as corporations hopefully move away from major ad hoc short term externally driven disruptions, any lessons learnt will no doubt find their way into future corporate playbooks.

We all know and appreciate that unpredictable change will always be a fact of life, but also have seen in recent times that latest technologies can go a long way in helping us build more resilient businesses.

Leveraging Current Investments

As far as practical, one should protect any past investments in technology, until it makes business sense for you to make a change, rather than being unnecessarily forced into it by a vendor. Another more typical reason for replacement is often down to not being able to expand your current property management system to achieve specific business outcomes. After all, in overall terms you can only move as fast as your slowest process step.

Extensibility

Assessing future extensibility for deeper work collaborations or more sophisticated processes is often underestimated in property management software deployments, and therefore does not receive the full level of scrutiny that it deserves. In some ways this is understandable and reflects the complexity of both software and hardware worlds.

Some ERP software vendors are certainly more prepared than others. Their ERP solution sets in property management system, financial and human resources aspects are more deeply optimised for the specific issues associated with particular domain areas and vertical sectors, thereby giving them the edge when it comes to the driving of value creation and competitive advantage. After all PropTech is fundamentally similar to FinTech and Insurtech when it comes to the building of powerful x-application and x-ecosystem processes.

There is certainly more to extensibility than meets the eye and there will always be specialist areas to handle. Taking a more tangential example: as digital enablement continues there needs to be the flexibility to handle multiple types of sensors, recognising that in some cases that subsets of data might only be needed to facilitate a secondary connected process.

Example: for sustainability combining utility unit consumption stats with $ values, so that year on year progress can be reconciled to its underlying statistical components for purposes of interpretation, and all achieved on an auditable and repeatable basis to facilitate future levels of productivity.

Why Digital Projects Fail

One often reads in professional journals that a key weakness that prevents a domain functional area moving forwards is that its “members” need to spend more time understanding what technologies can and cannot do in order to manage expectations, as well as deliverables. This perhaps explains why corporations on the one hand have a high level understanding of what might be achievable, but fall short on the details of how to do it.

It also provides a high-level explanation as to why a high proportion of digital projects can fail to deliver against expectations. One major example here relates to integration issues that are often discovered relatively “late into a project”, as these can be challenging and expensive to resolve. Another is that project teams often need the involvement of more types of domain stakeholders to maximise operational efficiencies, so that data processes are not being partially or fully replicated or re-invented by users (noting that this replication can also drive up shadow IT costs).

Transition from Applications to Processes

As a macro point, looking backwards over the years there used to be a lot more vendor focus on larger generic applications, rather than specific processes. As technology has advanced there is now unparalleled capability for the building of a process with the exact functionality required to achieve it, without the purchase of unwanted functionality that would typically be bundled with these more specialist but generically packaged applications.

However, many businesses are still getting their heads around how to acquire and fund ERP software technologies for applications and processes that can deliver modern day outcomes, when each specific process might require unique and distinct components i.e. Artificial Intelligence (AI), sensors etc.

At a more fundamental level one should always cast a deep eye into these processes to ensure that they would stand robust expert scrutiny in any detailed audit, as this is an area that is sometimes overlooked in the overall scheme of things due to the project team structure.

What Do Businesses Want

Most organisations can describe what they want to achieve at a high level, which can be abbreviated into getting the right information to the right person at the right time, all without information overload, and all with the required prerequisite compliance i.e. to deliver actionable contextual reports and workflows.

Achieving this on the surface appears to simply require information to come together from different sources and be presented in a meaningful way, whilst taking into account user-defined dollar materiality. When looking at this from a technical perspective many different and often detailed questions can emerge around transformation, despite the fact that solution sets have many no-code or low code capabilities. 

However, it is only recently that technologies from certain vendors have allowed this technical gap to substantially narrow, without there being any excessive compromises between what businesses want to achieve, and the technical capabilities plus dollar investments to make it happen.

Modern Day Process

So what can modern day processes do, and more to the point why could they not do it before. Today, your unique Digitally Enabled Processes (DEP) can be defined with a lot more colour at a very ultra-granular detailed level, i.e. functional steps, calculation logic dependencies, more in depth data enrichments, and overall flexibility to get you to your desired end result.

ERP Processes are defined from data collection, through all required data transformations / enrichments to contextual actionable reporting & visualisations + workflows @anywhere @anytime + computational simulations within a process. If required, and at a deeper technical level, design considerations can go even further to include processor prioritisation or even cloud bursts.

This depth of ERP process design becomes a powerful enabler to drive both qualitative and / or quantitative processes that are more future-proofed by virtue of being so granular, noting that specific algorithms developed by leading third parties, such as Google, can also be incorporated into a process via API’s as well.

API’s

API’s can be incorporated @anywhere to your other applications or ecosystems. These might include Open Banking API’s, or your unique business orientated AI algorithms, or even looking further forwards to your required metaverse components.

The end result is that data can move as required more fluidly, noting that compliance is built from the ground up. Whilst one often hears about cloud being an enabler it is simply a deployment option in an overall ERP solution scenario that might contain on-premise, cloud, multi cloud or hybrid process components, as per the user’s choice.

In a more complex example, multi-cloud can be used to leverage alternate cloud vendor cover in geographical areas not covered by other providers e.g. in China. Multi-cloud solution sets also allows for the seamless switching of infra-structures between these vendors to drive cost savings (Walmart saved 18% of overall annual cloud costs thru seamless switching: Source Bloomberg), as well as providing another level of system redundancy.

The secret sauce of today’s powerful hardware and software systems is being able to work as seamlessly as needed, or to deploy as practically as the situation requires. This approach fits both the needs of complex processes across many people ie FP&A, Consolidations etc and also specialist processes undertaken by a few e.g. Lease Management, Property Portfolio Management, Contract Management, Real Estate CRM, Bond Management, Appraisals etc.

Key Success Factors

Two things that are differentiators. First is the ability to work at an ultra-granular level, and secondly to have the practical computing power at any point in time to drive the process forwards.

This provides a corporation with the ability to transform data from across multiple applications as well as ecosystems, whilst leveraging existing ERP systems as far as possible for both qualitative and quantitative processes. It also enables different types of information to be included, where relevant, to provide more colour for decision making i.e. climate related trends, weather extremes, traffic congestions etc.

The resulting repeatable, auditable processes can partially or fully automate events as required, freeing resources for other tasks. More importantly it creates a meaningful environment for company or domain driven value creation.

Whilst the above sounds logical, one should quickly appreciate that the process design is created with different levels of complexity driving order from chaos, particularly as underlying data points are coming from different systems with different designs from different vendors that may or may not be fully supported at the time that any specific project work is undertaken.

Processes and Reporting Across Applications

One major pain barrier to facilitate increased productivity surrounds creating and maintaining those many reports for property management activities, financial controls and decision support. This is due to the fact that typically data has to be combined from different systems to create meaningful reports or KPI’s / OKR’s (Objectives and Key Results), all sequenced as required by the business. In many cases, due to the transformations required to reach an end result, corporates all too often rely on inefficient spreadsheets that typically contain errors and which are harder to maintain over time as staff leave / join.

Examples Front Office: Portfolio Management, Property Management, Property Search, Tenant Management, Lease Contract Management, Stacking Plan, Property Engine, Real Estate CRM etc.

Examples Back Office: Focused processes to avoid Business Process Compromise; Procurement authorisation routings; Decision Support (DEI, ESG); e-Forms; Staff Surveys; Last Mile processes etc.

Processes and Reporting Across Ecosystems

Another pain point comes in the form of multi-stage processes where outcomes are required from professional external parties before “something” moves to the next stage. In these cases automations simplify process outcomes adding to productivity gains. Fintech and Insurtech would be examples of where these technologies are already making a difference.

Other examples: Open Banking API’s including Payments, Global Treasury; Sanctions Management; Learning and Development.

Why is Granular Processing Important

One traditional weakness with process flows in the past has been associated with older style work flows. These have worked well to facilitate the ERP process across departments, but have suffered from the inability to undertake intra-departmental workflows once a document has reached its destination. New technologies solve this.

Thinking ROI vs Long Term

As was touched on above the pivot from i) applications to ii) applications + processes continues to cause operational challenges. How should these projects be justified, and how should one pivot the procurement process to prevent short term ROI thinking to dominate outcomes.

In other words other justification factors are needed that would provide heavier weighting to specific process investments. This should also include factors around project team creation, required ERP software integrations, and specific process related additional investments, all of which need to come into play for the reasons given above.

One of the most challenging discussions is how far to extend an automation both in terms of geography, and also across functional domain areas. In some scenarios the decision here will be very easy based on overall entity structures, but it does open some interesting discussion that would surely drive improved productivity, timeliness of information and quality of data.

Conclusion

Modern day technologies are very powerful and can increase productivity by being able to get the right amount of information to the right person in a timely manner, without information overload. This is achieved by being able to efficiently build smart ultra-granular connected end to end processes for both quantitative and qualitative processes that go both x-application and x-ecosystem, thereby building powerful outcomes for value creation. The end result is a data driven organisation augmented by humans.

GaiaPM, a member of the FlexSystem Group, provides international lease and property management software designed to help you drive performance up and costs down. As a global solutions provider in over 38 countries GaiaPM, together with its proven solutions for multi-currency financials, human resources, and operations, is a business software vendor to 1 in 10 Forbes Global 2000 (May 2020), and 1 in 5 Global Fortune 500 (August 2020), operating at the intersection of new digital process and payment technologies, whether on-premise, hybrid or cloud, to provide you with iterative opportunities for value creation.