From transactional to experiential data and artificial intelligence

ERP systems offer real-time analytics to the media industry

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Ryan Smith, chief executive officer, Qualtrics and Bill McDermott, chief executive officer, SAP
Ryan Smith, chief executive officer, Qualtrics and Bill McDermott, chief executive officer, SAP

Indian print media has been a front-runner in using software, since the growth of language dailies using non-Roman scripts in the last 40 years was accelerated greatly with computer-aided phototypesetting and image processing. In the 1980s Adobe Postscript and Acrobat initiated a period of explosive growth by enabling the creation and transmission of entire pages, including images, to multiple locations.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems like SAP have been used from the early 1990s perhaps initially, most advantageously with ad booking systems. Being an industry standard for many years, SAP modules have been implemented by all the major newspaper groups.

Media organizations in India can be fairly large and diversified with multiple editorial and printing centers with multiple media channels across several languages. Print, digital, radio, television, out of home signage – each of these has different revenue, production, distribution, procurement and HR requirements. In addition, there is cross-selling across the media channels.

All this makes collection and analysis of data extremely complicated and tedious. Millions of readers and thousands of advertisers with varied requirements and payment methods bring in a lot of diversity into the entire operation. This requires a very powerful and customized ERP system that can bring all the above variables on to a single platform.

Commercial, signage, education, variable direct mail and packaging printers also supply to multiple brand owners and clients who already have professional ERP systems. Printers equipped with ERP systems can acquire the logistics and procurement modules and improve their efficiencies. Online systems would drastically improve their productivity and reduce costs by avoiding wastage and duplication of work in their setups.

Need of ERPs in the digital world

All enterprises today use data and finance management systems. These may be independent systems or integrated in various ways. Many use legacy systems that can lead to various problems and underutilization of data for analysis.

ERP systems provide several advantages to organizations in various operations such as finance, material management, production, HR, compliance with regulations and best practices, marketing, sales and overall governance. ERP systems keep data in secure, retrievable relational databases within the premises or in the data Cloud while avoiding duplication. The data can be analyzed and cross-functionality is available as and when required within the organization or in the public domain to all authorized users. The data can be updated and modified on the fly and provided to users 24/7.

ERP systems make data usable across organizations and help in end-to-end procurement and logistics. This brings increased efficiency with automation, promotes collaboration between cross-functional teams and remote offices, ensures data security and reduces data pilferage helping in compliance with industry regulations. With accurate and consolidated cross-functional data, forecasts are structured and more accurate. With the use of business intelligence and machine learning tools and predictive algorithms, forecasts become logical and more accurate. Internet access increases operational flexibility and reduces operational costs.

Some of the popular ERP solutions worldwide include Business Cloud, Netsuite provided by Oracle Corporation, Syspro, Oracle ERP Cloud, SAP S/4 HANA, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Brightpearl, Odoo, Deskera and BatchMaster. Each of these ERP solutions is customizable for industry specifics and applications; and to make them suitable for the organization’s size. More than 50% of the ERP space is served by the generally smaller or less known vendors across the world.

Bringing the X factor into play

SAP Sapphire Now 2019 and the ASUG user conference

The SAP Sapphire Now 2019 and the American Sap Users Group (ASUG) conference gave a new perspective and thinking for its customers. A company predominantly focused on the ‘O’ factor for the past 47 years, has now started working on the ‘X’ factor. With the acquisition in January 2019 of Qualtrics for US$ 8 billion, SAP SE filled the gap of the X factor.

Qualtrics is a feedback and survey software maker that collects and reveals brand, product, customer and employee experience. With Qualtrics providing the customer experience (X) and feedback, SAP plans to touch 78% of global transactions giving visibility across the entire customer journey, including orders, product creation, delivery, invoicing and so on.

The experience economy

In the keynote session at the Sapphire Now and ASUG Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, Bill McDermott introduced co-founder and CEO of Qualtrics, Ryan Smith who said, “With the rise of the internet, smartphones and social media, it’s never been easier for customers, employees and stakeholders to evaluate which companies provide great experiences and which ones don’t.”

Today organizations are disproportionately rewarded when they deliver a great experience, and absolutely punished when they do not. For the first time in history, experience has become the growth engine for business. “We live in the experience economy where organizations are either intentionally racing to the top or unknowingly racing to the bottom,” said Smith. “The difference between the companies that will win is determined by their understanding of how X-data and O-data work together to tell the story of what is happening in an organization, why it’s happening and how to act in real time to deliver breakthrough business results.”

Right from the start, SAP CEO Bill McDermott captivated the 30,000 attendees and the over one million online audience with a clear plan for winning in the ‘experience economy.’ Putting a figure on the experience economy at US$ 1.6 trillion market, he said, “Experience is now the organizing principle of the global economy. Bring experiential data together with operational data and perform analytics, and you’ll be in a position to close the gap between what people expect and what people receive. When that gap exists, customers get frustrated and go elsewhere.”

Re-architectured HANA

Presenting the keynote on Day 2, SAP co-founder and supervisory board chairman, Hasso Plattner announced a major development in S/4 HANA. In the new HANA, storage is separated from computation. This was necessary to accommodate the massive influx of data from social networks and the internet of things (IOT). It allows for the processing of structured and unstructured data stored in data centers or the Cloud. This Could also makes the SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) attractive to non-SAP customers to build applications, according to Plattner, who noted that the re-architectured HANA is too powerful a platform not to share with outsiders.

Intelligent iOS powered by SAP Leonardo

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook also joined McDermott on the keynote stage. The availability of CORE ML, Apple’s on-device machine learning technology, made available at the end of May, will help companies create custom, intelligent iOS apps powered by SAP Leonardo. Machine learning models will automatically download to iPhone and iPad so apps can run offline, and then dynamically update while connected to the SAP Cloud Platform. Cook explained how retailers could use machine learning and augmented reality (AR) to speed up in-store inventory management and streamline product maintenance in the manufacturing industry.

The gap between O and X teams and silos

The CEO of the American Sap user group, however, expressed reservations about many of the technological changes announced by SAP. He said that only 44% of SAP users were willing to shift to SAP S/4 HANA while the rest were still undecided.

Regarding the Qualtrics-related announcements, he felt that the user group here was more of an operational group and had less understanding of the X (experience) factor. However, he conceded that in the long term, SAP is probably right and the gap between the operational (O) teams and the experience (X) teams was narrowing fast. He felt that the silos must vanish before any productivity could be expected from the new development.

A newspaper industry veteran on the technology and printing side, V Siva Raja is based in Noida. Recently a founder of the Five-I Innovation factory LLP, he can be contacted at fivei.innovationfactoryllp@gmail.com +919818278760