According to the website futuretimeline.net, a legitimate website for rational thinkers who wish to debate ideas about the future, by the year 2057 computers will make most of the critical decisions in business, healthcare, and government. Until that time, mankind will limp along with the closest thing we have to a virtual universe - the Enterprise Resource Planning system or ERP.
ERP systems debuted in the early 70’s with a new software product called Systemanalyse und Programmentwicklung, or simply SAP. Since that time, ERP systems continued to evolve and adapt in ways that no one imagined 40 years ago. Senior leadership in corporations that utilize sophisticated management tools like SAP, will be faced with critical, expensive and potentially life-changing decisions…soon. Decisions like – should we upgrade, should we add Human Capital Management, should we leverage in-memory computing, or how can we benefit from SAP hosting? All these decisions will move us closer to a virtual, cybernetic real-world.
Well CIOs and CEOs can take heart; the big-picture of ERP technology is clearly visible to anyone paying attention. ERP systems are getting bigger, faster and more intelligent…we know that. This means that enterprise resource planning systems will be here for a long time, most likely well past 2057, and will continue to play a huge role far into the future. So, continued investment in ERP systems is not a matter of if, but when and how much will it cost.
The even better news is that the cost of ERP is likely to be coming down. According to Jon Reed, an independent analyst and SAP Mentor:
“outdated pricing models (such as ERP maintenance agreements) and ERP’s slow pace of innovation are going to be two critical areas for the vendor community in the near future.”
According to an article in CIO Magazine written ‘way’ back in November 2009 called The Future of ERP, Thomas Wailgum talks about the inevitable change in ERP with the advent of cloud computing:
“…as enthusiasm for traditional, on-premise, expensive and complicated software deployments wanes even further, web-based software options hosted in either public or private clouds will become even more attractive for companies big and small that are looking for low costs and easily consumed apps.”
Since we are barreling headlong toward a ‘brave new virtual world’, maybe it is worth taking a quick moment to reflect on what awakened our drive to use technology in virtually (gotta love that word) everything we do.
Perhaps the drive began in 1839 when Thomas Edison was able to harness electricity adequately enough to build and illuminate a practical light bulb. His bulb burned for over 13 hours! Maybe the technology urge was started by Luigi Galvani who, in the late 1700’s, figured out that you could stimulate a frog’s muscle with a weak electric charge and the muscle would twitch (a Galvanic muscle response). The very first seed may even have been planted in 1600 when William Gilbert raised interest in a new science he called ‘electrica’ with his experimentation on electricity and magnetism. That happened 412 years ago!
Obviously, the trend in technology is to grow and grow and grow…inevitably becoming so strategic, so useful and knowledgeable in fields like financial services, healthcare or manufacturing that we cannot live without it. In a scholarly paper, Computing for the future of the planet, co-authored by Andy Hopper, University of Cambridge and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, he says:
“Computing provides the opportunity for an unbounded upside. If everyone can shift their activities to a virtual world then there is huge potential for growth and innovation whilst reducing environmental impact.”
That’s the main point! With SAP or any other ERP system, the goal is to virtualize everything and use our physical efforts only when we cannot accomplish the same results in the virtual world…using technology. With technology as our ally, we don’t have to waste our energy (physical, emotional or mental) on things that can be done better, faster and cheaper by a computer.
So let us turn our attention to SAP and look at some scenarios of how our world, using ERP systems, is being transformed into a virtual landscape.
Currently SAP is positioned as the backbone for all computing applications within a given organization, whether those applications are SAP branded or non-SAP applications. Any software that ‘bolts on’, integrates with or leverages core SAP modules could become a node or spur connecting to a vast SAP backbone. If this trend continues, it is possible that we will see a single instance of SAP for a single organization, no matter how large or complex that organization might be. This single instance could, in theory, run every system within the organization and even within the entire supply chain of that organization. To further boggle our imaginations, this single instance could even be an SAP cloud. We certainly aren’t there yet, but SAP is positioned to support this scenario when the time is right. This same scenario applies to any large ERP system, such as Oracle, JD Edwards, etc.
To move ahead a few more small steps, the trend in ERP is evolving towards mobile computing. The idea of sitting at a desk and operating a computer, even a small laptop, is becoming old school (many will say it is already old school). To conduct business in a virtual world, the dream is to perform any function, anywhere in the universe, no matter what time of day, or what else you might be doing at that moment; and to perform that function at the highest possible level. Oh yes, when you do whatever it is you want to do virtually, it will be done…immediately.
Although it seems as if we are always standing right at the pinnacle of the technology curve, truth is each one of us is simply climbing up a fascinating and picturesque technological mountainside with the summit still much above our heads…in the clouds.
John has been in the field of Information Technology since 1981when he co-founded one of the first PC-based software development and consulting companies in the Midwest. Since then, John has been involved with technology in various capacities as a senior consultant, project manager, sales person, business development manager, and a vice president. John is currently the Southeast SAP Sales Director for Secure-24 and has been in this capacity with Secure-24 since 2009.