Alarm Clock Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay Research carried out by DJS Research and sponsored by Unit4 has revealed a striking change in attitudes about transformational readiness and progress. The survey is entitled: Digital Enterprise Strategies for People-Led Transformation. Its objective was to “Understand the views of knowledge workers using enterprise applications and decision-makers implementing enterprise applications. How are digital transformation strategies changing?”

The survey sample was significant with 4,171 respondents made up of 507 decision-makers and 3,664 users. Respondents were from a range of companies led by (France (14%), Germany (14%), UK (14%), US (14%). Other nations involved included Australia, Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Singapore, Canada (all 7%), Republic of Ireland (3%) and Norway (2%).

The report indicates that COVID has not just been a catalyst for change but also the rate of change in organisations. Key findings backing this were:

  • 49% of organisations are now more agile in their planning.
  • 42% of respondents say the pace of innovation in their organisation has increased

As a cloud vendor, Unit4 will be cheered that organisations are now seeing cloud as the go-to technology. 86% see cloud as offering the flexibility required for change with 77% saying that on-premises software cannot adapt. To back this, 69% will have shifted to using cloud technology within two years.

Mike Ettling, CEO at Unit4 (Image credit Linked In)
Mike Ettling CEO at Unit4

Mike Ettling, CEO, Unit4 commented: “If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that the business environment can change almost overnight, and as business leaders, we have to be able to reimagine our organizations and seize opportunities to secure sustainable competitive advantage.

“Our study shows what is possible with continued investment in innovation and a people-first, flexible enterprise applications strategy. As many countries go back into some form of lockdown, this people-centric focus is crucial if businesses are to survive the challenges of the coming months.”

The user perception

It is not enough to replace on-premises solutions with cloud solutions. The research also revealed some of the changing expectations of users. 44% want to be able to access systems from anywhere, and 29% expect to use mobile applications. 34% find collaborative tools for sharing information and documents useful, and 33% expect automation to reduce repetitive data entry with 32% expecting automation to simplify and speed up workflows, processes and tasks.

Users also expect modern user interfaces. However, two of the findings potentially conflict. The report says that 43% of business and IT decisions makers are prioritising simple and intuitive interfaces. However, 38% are focused on delivering interfaces to the users’ preferred tools such as Slack and WhatsApp for enterprise applications. These are not necessarily contradictory. However, understanding whether they overlap or if they were two disconnected responses might have been interesting to know.

What is clear is that business leaders need to ensure that their applications are modern and deliver the usability that employees expect. Are Enterprise applications important? Yes. 88% at least agree that they are important for retention. In the US this number rises to 100%. Younger generations also see enterprise applications as important. However, they have a higher expectation that those systems are integrated with people systems such as HCM. This unified approach is something that the people-centric Unit4 ERP already has, and the vendor will welcome this insight. Other applications bolt on HCM, the Unit4 applications, specifically ERPx, is microservices-based and goes beyond a mere integration.

Other findings

There is a lot in the full report that makes this a worthwhile read. There is no defined opinion on vendor relationships with respondents split over whether they want a close or open relationship. More budget (39%), more skills (38%) and change management (35%) are the key requirements to complete enterprise application strategy. Barriers and challenges still exist, silos of information still exist within organisations (34%), and users are reluctant and resistant to change (31%).

That resistance is also found in IT departments (31%), perhaps indicating job protectionism. Perhaps surprisingly, despite the rest of the findings, there is still a mistrust of cloud applications (31%).

The full report also breaks down some of the answers by geography, with some interesting differences.

Decision-makers in the UK, US and Singapore felt that applications and systems are completely different from before COVID. The Nordics, as in Norway and Sweden, embraced cloud earlier and the change was felt to be less radical. In one finding that seems at odds with other surveys, decision-makers in Europe and Canada are less likely to feel that their workers have been more productive. However, it is significantly up in the US, Australia and Singapore.

Another highlight is around innovation. In the US 46% describe themselves as innovators. In Europe, the figures are far lower with only 4% of Germans describing themselves as innovators. There is some hope for the UK (26%) being the highest figure in Europe. This was still lower than Australia (33%) and Singapore (46%) though.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

This is a significant body of work from which Unit4 may reveal further insights. The information provided to Enterprise Times did not include any breakdown by Gender, despite more than 50% of respondents being female. It may provide some interesting insights.  While the information did separate out responses from HR leaders, they were not strikingly different from the average in most cases.

The report highlights several things:

  • COVID accelerated plans for a shift to cloud
  • COVID also acted as a catalyst for organisations to embrace a mentality of change
  • Barriers remain, and technology is not the only solution, change management is critical
  • User expectations are evolving, but the youngest generations are not that different
  • Business Leaders need to ensure enterprise applications are collaborative within themselves and with other applications for users.

While technology and applications are important, organisations need people-led transformation. This means that applications as well as fulfilling the business requirements they also need to meet the expectations that users have. Unit4 will argue that people-centric applications can help drive the business to success. They will help employees to increase productivity and they will also help retention.

Some things are still evolving; one of these is the nature of the relationship between vendors and decision-makers. Is that because organisations have not yet completed their journey to cloud applications? A qualitative survey might have answered some of these nuances. What is clear is that if your organisation has not heard the alarm to wake and embrace cloud that COVID provided, can you afford to hit the snooze button continually?


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