Those of you in the market for a new ERP (enterprise resource planning) system are likely to have heard the term ‘postmodern ERP’ bandied around. While it might sound as if a philosophy professor has infiltrated the IT industry, the term was actually coined by tech research pioneers Gartner to refer to a newer approach that enables businesses to maximise their use of multiple suite/s rather than sticking to a one-size-fits-all approach. Business functions – while still integrated – are distinct and deconstructed, maintaining looser relationships to each other than in a more rigid, traditional ERP setup.
We’ve listed the most important pros and cons to bear in mind if your organisation is on the lookout for a new strategy:
Pro: Agility and flexibility
This is the first advantage that springs to most people’s mind when they think of postmodern ERP. Indeed, the best postmodern systems allow multiple users to make configuration changes, for example, as well as using several applications from the cloud that allow them to regularly implement upgrades as they’re released by software vendors.
As anyone who’s tried to work with a poorly designed postmodern system will tell you, the flip side to all this wonderful sounding agility is, inevitably, increased complexity. A traditional, single suite ERP might be rigid, but it is consistent and integrated by its very nature. An under-considered postmodern version runs the risk of increasing workloads rather than minimising them, often leading to mounting costs and a red faced CIO.
Gartner recommends implementing two or more individual ERP strategies, depending on how many categories of application there are in a particular organisation. The vast majority can be classified as either ‘administrative’ (finance; HR) or ‘operational’ (supply chain management; manufacturing). A postmodern approach allows for a truly bespoke system that caters much more effectively to the needs of each category than a conventional one, taking advantage of the most suitable offers from different vendors that can be housed either in a cloud-based or on-premises suite.
Con: Risking data integrity
The sharpest, high-speed algorithms and analytics mean nothing if the data quality they’re dealing with isn’t up to scratch. Ensuring the highest standards of data integrity is a crucial consideration when it comes to a dispersed postmodern ERP system, especially as the Internet of Things and digital business concerns become ever more important.
Pro: More efficient use of IT resources
A decent postmodern ERP environment can save considerable time. An efficient and well implemented strategy enables IT departments to focus on moving forward and differentiating rather than spending time maintaining an oversized legacy system.
Con: Integration isn’t as easy as it sounds
While the idea of individual, bespoke elements sounds wonderful in theory, many firms have discovered that integrating them effectively is another matter entirely. There are widely acknowledged, inescapable integration challenges to implementing postmodern strategies when compared with traditional, on-suite approaches – ignore the experts’ advice at your own risk.
The vast majority of workplaces have long taken on board the advantages of building a decent team. Studies have shown that groups tend to have a definite edge over individuals when it comes to solving complex problems, but – as any experienced IT manager can attest – there’s a lot more to putting a productive team together than arbitrarily putting people to task. The best ones makes the most of members’ individual skills while also managing to reap the benefits of the ‘hive mind.’ We’ve put together our top tips for proven success:
Foster open communication
Cultivating an environment where people communicate their best ideas openly and enthusiastically starts with great leadership. If the person at the top has fostered a culture of trust – where information is freely available and accessible, decision making processes are shared with the whole team and regular feedback goes both ways – morale is boosted and the entire project benefits. Increased transparency leads to increased trust which, in turn, makes for the most productive team possible.
Another massive advantage to nurturing a culture of trust is that employees will work towards shared goals even in your absence. If you’ve succeeded in getting to know each member of your team – their individual competencies and how they’re motivated – job satisfaction will increase and they’ll be much more inclined to feel invested in the best possible project outcomes. It’s also key to build connections between members by taking necessary steps to improve cooperation and trust. An obvious way to do this is to brainstorm solutions to any disagreements as a group – employees will feel much more empowered and, again, the project will feel the benefits.
The most successful teams are ultra-aware of the importance of balancing autonomy and teamwork for the very best results. While an ability to work together is crucial, no one enjoys being micro-managed. As a manager, it’s essential to remember that your role is to ensure employees understand precisely what the project needs from them, but that how that’s achieved is down to the individual.
Small is beautiful
While this isn’t something that every manager has control over, there’s now plenty of research pointing to the idea that smaller teams are much more effective than larger ones. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has described what he calls the ‘two pizza rule’ when thinking about how to conduct a productive meeting, and the same can be applied to building an effective team. Fewer people means less resorting to negative sheep mentality as members are more inclined to communicate their own ideas rather than simply agreeing with the more confident voices.
Out with the old
Many organisations are misguidedly holding onto old fashioned ideas and systems that can cause more harm than good. Are constant expenses approvals, bi-annual performance reviews and hidden, top-down decision making processes really still the best ways to run an organisation? It’s worth having regular rethinks about how whether these entrenched processes still make sense for a company operating in the 2010s. Successful organisations consistently challenge assumptions about how to get the best from employees – LinkedIn has a program where employees take an ‘interesting person’ for coffee on company time, for example, and Adobe has completely jettisoned the annual performance review.
The scale of October’s Ddos attack on internet infrastructure provider Dyn came as a nasty wake up call to some in the tech industry, hitting seven out of ten of the world’s most visited sites, from Spotify and Twitter to the New York Times. Not everyone was so surprised, however – cyber security experts have been warning of the risks posed by the rapidly expanding internet of things for the last couple of years. According to them, it was really only a matter of time before assailants used hacked devices to launch a sizeable attack.
So what are the main lessons tech professionals should learn from the incident? We’ve listed the key take aways:
Cover the basics
One of the most frustrating aspects of the attack, especially to anyone with an ounce of knowledge about internet security, was its utter lack of sophistication. This was no refined network breach, simply a large number of undersecured devices that were easy for the (as yet unidentified) hijackers to bombard with increased traffic. We may think we’re being ultra-edgy by hooking up our ‘smart’ baby monitors or refrigerators to the internet, but if you fail to protect them using basic measures such as replacing default passwords when you buy a new item or regularly updating firmware on your router, you’re leaving the door wide open to crooks.
Questions of regulation
Calls have increased for governments to bring in specific IoT security regulation as a result of the mammoth breach. Just as the finance industry eventually had to be regulated after years of web-based fraudulent activity, so the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NFTA) are seriously considering what standards and protocols they could implement to stop similar or worse attacks. Businesses can start by implementing their own best practice codes, starting with configuring their networks to do decent ingress filtering.
Not Just the IoT
Although it’s the internet of things that’s shown itself to be too susceptible to attack this time, there’s still a substantial proportion of websites out there with security that’s just as flawed. Many badly secured or under-patched sites that act as malware distribution servers for attacks on PCs are otherwise completely legitimate, meaning blame is often difficult to pin down and they can often be used by attackers repeatedly because simply removing the malware isn’t enough. Follow advice from security experts around decent firewalls, using tools such as Nmap to scan for holes and regular patching, to ensure your home and business are adequately protected.