One of the key focus areas of SAP TechEd 2019 at Las Vegas & Barcelona was on how to leverage SAP Innovations to help organizations become Intelligent Enterprises for innovation, customer experience and growth. SAP TechEd 2019 Bangalore is also focused in this direction.
The buzzword that is the “intelligent enterprise” would invoke random thoughts of smart applications using Internet of Things (IOT), integration, Machine Learning, Robotics process automation (RPA) and host of other innovation to improve the user experience, and to convert digital data into business value.
Before becoming an intelligent enterprise one has to be a digital enterprise first.
Are there manual processes that depend on the clerical expertise of experienced personnel? For example, is the Exports documentation being done in a glorified word-processing application outside the ERP landscape? When an Exports shipment happens late night, are Exports executives staying awake to ensure that the Exports documents were error-free and in line with the Exports Letter of Credit kept in one among the many office cabinets? Is there a way to capture Exports LCs, Vendor invoices and Imports Bill of Entries into the ERP application? Are the tax managers spending hours to download and process GST data using various versions of spreadsheets held in file-paths / workstations that only a few people know? Are the Tax Returns (GSTR1 for instance) being done without manual interventions directly from the ERP? Does the Return filing end up with error at GSTN due to an incorrect GSTIN number keyed in manually under the master data? Does the GST vendor reconciliation process involve manual downloads, “VLOOKUP’s and still end up with discrepancies due to data differences between the ERP and the GSTN?
A truly digital solution would do away with data downloads / redundancies and encourage collaboration. Forget hard-copies for manual data entry, even emails with PDF attachments would soon be considered passé, if not already. The smart users would expect collaboration (shared data) to minimize data entry. If this is not possible, they would expect OCR based solutions to extract electronic data from email attachments or scanned documents. SOPs would give way to workflows and even workflows would give way to empowerment, with certain delegation of powers.
It is not just about manual data entry. What a Digital Enterprise does with the data is equally important.
How agile are the users and managers? Are they focusing merely on timeline-driven compliance? Is the cash-flow improvement opportunity being evaluated seriously? For example, are the Exports benefits being processed efficiently to reduce tax payments in purchase? Are GST Refunds for exports handled effectively? Is the input tax credit (from vendor invoices) at risk due to vendor delays/errors that are identified well after the period is closed? Are there checks and balances to evaluate vendor compliance and link it to the Accounts Payable process? Are decisions being taken by individuals themselves (without looking at the data insights) and merely executing their ad-hoc decisions using the software in hand?
Once the digital data is available in ERP – quickly and without much manual intervention – sky should be the proverbial limit for the intelligent enterprise. Important decisions like restructuring of sales distribution network under GST regime, preferred partners/ geographies to do business with, predicted tax liability based on static orders and dynamic trends can be taken by Enterprise with the intelligent insights.
Given the manual steps mentioned above, that could be prevailing in many organizations; the intelligent enterprise may look a distant thought. However, these are minor impediments as there are smart applications available now. The stimulus for an organization to become an intelligent enterprise is likely to come from the industry itself rather than from the compliance authorities. The need to remain competitive is one obvious reason. Another potential push would be from the changing user profile within an organization. The smart generation is getting to the workplace now, if not already. They are used to smart applications for personal and domestic needs, and are well connected with their peers using social media. The combination of smart workforce and demanding customers is likely to make the intelligent enterprise come alive in no time.
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