In 1992, SAP had just released the first version of its R/3 system. The big selling point for SAP’s software? Essentially, they said, “It’s an all-in-one solution. Your company installs it, and it takes the place of all those old, nasty, standalone systems that don’t talk to each other. You have one place to maintain your business applications and one version of the data.”
They had a pretty straightforward ecosystem in those days. Users were sales, account management, software development, support and, of course, customers. In a few years, that ecosystem grew to include add-on modules written by small companies for R/3, and SAP either tolerated them, sued them, or purchased them and integrated their software into the base ERP system. Those were the days—a simple ecosystem that housed SAP’s creators, constituents, customers, and collaborators. I almost choked on my coffee as I typed SAP and simple together. I’m fine now, though, don’t worry.
Fast forward 24 years, and you have a much different picture. Even very powerful global companies are finding their future is a return to the past. Those all-in-one ERP systems? Turns out they now have to interact with outside partners, co-opetitors, and the proprietary systems of their customers.
Welcome to the digital world’s ecosystem, which I’ve termed the D-cosystem. All the nasty, difficult-to-maintain applications and quirky data-integration issues of the 1980s? They’re baaack. And just to make it even more interesting, let’s throw in the ability of customers to reach directly into your company’s data and processes. With their own device. 24x7. While looking at your competitor’s information in another app or window.
This is the new reality. There’s no single center to a digital enterprise’s universe. The business processes, data, applications, and reporting are not only distributed amongst their own operating units, but also out to partners, customers, and peripheral players (or competitors). There is no single place to describe, design, or manage a business process. It’s a constantly evolving mix of application and information. And if it’s done correctly, it’s changing at least every 90 days.
I am not saying ERPs should be immediately uninstalled. I’m not saying that datalakes must be drained and diverted to minor tributaries. I’m simply saying that integration, security, and compatibility are now the keys to our digital future.
Welcome to the D-cosystem. It’s limited only by your imagination, your pocketbook, and your influence.