by Brian Turner

As a 30-year veteran of the consulting industry, I think a lot about the commercial and social value Point B and our competitors bring to our collective customers every day. You find the consulting industry at the forefront of the transformation happening inside and outside organizations – bringing innovative technologies, ways of working, and insight to unlock the potential of the 21st-century organization. Our team at Point B is also at the forefront of pushing our customers' thinking about how transformation can power an organization's employee & customer engagement, financial resilience, and contributions to the broader communities and environment they support.

While we are often enamored with digital transformation and the allure of artificial intelligence, it's the ground game of business transformation that moves organizations forward. In the ground game of business transformation, you find the evolving role of the ERP project.

I've been part of several waves of ERP innovation. In the 90s, we built custom mainframe ERPs that produced volumes of paper reports within massive data centers. I like to think of those days as focused on consistency and efficiency. We automated things that were manual, coded complex algorithms to reduce human error, and produced reports that allowed leaders to understand "what happened to their business." As consultants, we emphasized our ability to translate business requirements into code that worked and methodologies that were thorough and predictable.

The second wave was the introduction of packaged software and the move to client-server. Data centers shrank, standard, reusable code and best practices emerged, and work became more distributed. Leaders put more decisions in the "hands of the business," data and analytics improved, and standard workflows freed up valuable time for front-line workers to focus on more strategic tasks. As a consultant, it was a time of significant process change within IT and the business – pushing on adopting industry standard practices, creating workarounds for complex situations, and solving for hand-offs between units. I like to think about the value of this wave as focused on building resilience in organizational performance through process efficiency and expanding data collection to provide a better understanding of what was going on in the business.

At this point, my usefulness as an ERP historian breaks down. But my impression is that the third wave, characterized by new software focused on self-service, put more decision-making and control in the hands of the employee, improved workflows, increased the flexibility and adaptability of software, and provided better decision-making tools. As a consultant, this was a fun time of focusing on organizational change, leadership decision-making, and understanding transformational impacts outside the organization. It was fun because we got to think about employee behaviors and mindsets, interactions between technology and human beings, and the intersection of strategy and results.

I'm not even sure I can fully explain where we are today! There's as much innovation occurring now as in the first part of my career. ERPs are tackling new domains like Environment, Sustainability, and Governance. Process automation and artificial intelligence are contributing on a broader scale. We see advancements in using data to drive insights into the future. This chapter may be more about adaptive strategy and modernizing the workplace. It links the customer, the employee, the supplier, and the ecosystem more closely than ever. And it forces us to expand our inductive thinking, range, and creativity to drive more insights into organizational performance and more creativity into customer, employee, and supplier experiences.

For those of us lucky enough to play in the management consulting industry, we may be in a period of rebirth. We need to find new lines of collaboration across competitors and customers to unlock resiliency and organizational performance on a global scale.