The New Tech Canoe: Paddle Less, Go Farther
November 7, 2016 Dan Burger
The unevenness of enterprise IT due to rapidly changing technology invariably puts pressure on companies unwilling or unable to invest in transforming their established core IT infrastructure consisting of primarily systems of record to a higher octane blend with greater emphasis on systems of engagement. Strategic reactions to this shift are happening throughout the IBM midrange, where the IBM i community–end users and software vendors–has a major presence and a conservative perspective.
At the recent VAI Conference 2016, navigating transformation was the key ingredient in discussions around building efficiencies, reducing costs, increasing market share and resulting in profitability gains.
Many of the technology trends highlighted at the VAI Conference 2016 are familiar. We have covered these topics from various angles relative to IBM i and in a wider context of all enterprise IT, other news and analysis sources have beat the drum that we’ve all heard.
VAI vice president Joe Scioscia, in one of the keynote presentations, emphasized technology that’s actually being used and fast becoming mainstream IT (real world experiences in IBM i shops). He also journeyed into the realm of what’s being developed at VAI and IBM. Stuff that is expected to be in widespread use in the coming years. Many of these trends overlap (or will overlap in the future) to create synergistic effects in the corporate world.
The message: Take steps now to be in a position for success in the next decade.
As an IBM i ERP vendor for almost 30 years, VAI has a pretty good insight into the evolution of IT development in small to midsize organizations that do manufacturing, distribution, and retail operations. Scioscia, who’s been at VAI for nearly all that time, is focused on data how to collect it, access it, and use it more effectively. He’s a marketing and sales guy with a keen appreciation for product differentiation.
The tech trends he identifies are social media, mobile applications, analytical capabilities, and cloud-based alternatives to licensed products.
“If you are not part of the social revolution, your business will suffer,” Scioscia says while advising organizations to “get familiar with the things that can be done in this arena.”
VAI uses Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube as avenues to provide content. Scioscia points out that social media sites rank high by the Web search engines. “If you do a search for VAI, the LinkedIn, YouTube, and Facebook sites come in first,” he says. “Put a personal face on your business, keep news current, champion what you are doing and the products that are being announced.”
He considers LinkedIn to be very important. Becoming a member of groups and associations helps him be recognized as an expert. His advice to executives and sales people is to get LinkedIn pages.
Although YouTube is not thought of as a search engine, he believes a lot of people use it to answer questions and he considers it a great place to post success stories.
VAI is investing more in mobile applications than in any other technology that goes into its S2K ERP software.
“Enterprises are being dramatically impacted by the new wave of mobile technology,” Scioscia says. “It turns ordinary smartphones into powerful business tools that boost sales.”
VAI has developed mobile applications for order processing, proof of delivery, route sales, and warehouse management. Scioscia says sales forces are using mobile apps to track customer interactions and look up account and product information, consolidate day-to-day activities, and provide year-to-year sales comparisons.
He’s also a believer in creating self-serve mobile apps that can be used by customers to place orders and make payments.
In the warehouse, mobile apps are improving efficiencies in receiving, picking and shipping.
The voice to text applications are helping workers complete their day-to-day tasks quicker.
“ERP systems are generating massive amounts of data,” Scioscia says. “And the analytics trend leading to better demand responsiveness cannot be ignored.”
The separation between the traditional means of analyzing data and new technology shows up in the capability to drill down deeper to identify issues and opportunities and have control with the end users rather than making all reporting efforts go through the IT department.
Its real-time capabilities improve strategic decisions regarding product success and failure, individual and store performance, inefficient processes, contract negotiations, and other types of value propositions.
IBM is investing heavily in cognitive analytics that have the potential to integrate internal, external, structured, unstructured, voice, and visual data. Its efforts are referred to as the Watson Data Platform and its goals are to make data simple and accessible, remove silos created by systems and tools, innovate using open source tools and open source communities, provide self-service access with trust and security, and drive more intelligence faster than before.
“CIO’s are no longer solely responsible for the management of IT,” Scioscia. They are also responsible for supporting business growth by reducing costs and driving innovation in effort to build a strategic advantage.”
The number of cloud computing solution providers has grown substantially in the past several years. It includes all types of managed services such as software as a service, platform as a service, and infrastructure as a service. The IBM i vendor community and IBM itself have moved in this direction and IBM i shops have become increasingly engaged.
VAI has a PaaS deployment model that hosts customers’ ERP applications VAI data centers, a data center belonging to a managed service provider, or an IBM data center, rather than the customers’ onsite servers. The applications are delivered via the Internet, and end users access the applications at their offices or via mobile devices. With a cloud delivery model, VAI assumes responsibility for hardware set-up, hardware upgrading, maintenance, and supporting the applications.
At the VAI Conference 2016, IBM was promoting its hosted cloud services specializing in commerce and marketing, social and email, human resources, and industrial applications with embedded analytical technology.