Sustainability today is one of the biggest and most compelling forces business has to face moving forward, a five year study by MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group has revealed.

The effect of sustainability on business is so far reaching, the research states that “today’s IT systems don’t sufficiently support companies that are seeking to understand and manage the full impact of their activities throughout the extended value chain”.

With sustainability not fully integrated into business strategies and operations, businesses are increasingly reviewing how enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have improved, and how these information technology (IT) systems can be used to create more sustainable financial and operational practices.

“Today business is rediscovering that ERP systems are capable of transforming businesses at the core, and that they can enable the kind of transparency and openness that enterprises need to transform and modernise operations and supply chains in step with increasingly sophisticated consumers who are demanding change, fast,” says Stephen Howe, co-founder and joint CEO of Times 3 Technologies.

The study by MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group shows that most IT systems don’t sufficiently support companies wanting to integrate sustainability into core strategies, activities and the extended value chain into operations. This is where ERP is coming to the rescue. The research clearly shows that ERP provides an integrated view of business processes across companies, and as such can become the nerve center and system of record for many businesses.

Similarly, a 2020 Accenture survey of 122 CIOs shows that only 1% of ERP-using organisations operate without a cloud, and only 33% are still in the throes of shifting to cloud connected ERP. All the rest have already established their cloud presence and are investigating ways to expand or improve it.

“What we’re seeing is that cloud ERP is no longer just a back-office system. With a multi-cloud approach, back-office analytics can inform your client-facing data and vice-versa, improving accuracy and decreasing data entry across the various business functions,” adds Howe. “The big push for ERP is happening because of the flexibility and maturation of these systems, which today are proving incredibly useful to fuel transformation,” the systems specialist says.

Howe points to the Accenture research and his own experience with leading organisations in Africa which indicates that moving to cloud connected ERP is essential for businesses for a number of reasons:

* Technology is moving fast. It doesn’t make sense to invest in big iron that will be redundant in a year or two. “Renting” space on servers that are constantly upgraded, updated and replaced at the cloud providers’ expense makes good financial sense.

* Disaster Recovery and true redundancies can more easily be put in place for an organisation.

* Collaborating up and down the supply chain becomes easier in a cloud-connected environment.

* Enabling work at the edge becomes more practical.

* Implementing AI and data analytics does not interfere with your day-to-day computing needs.

* Flexible cloud plans allows one to scale up and down as the need arises, for example at month end when processing payroll and reports.

“What business needs today is an effective ERP solution that can lead digital transformation,” says Howe. “When choosing an ERP system, we always say that business must look at scalability with systems that can grow from five to a few hundred concurrent users simultaneously.

“What CIOs want to see today is a solutions set with a complete development framework that allows for the building of unique custom requirements, and a workflow engine across the application.”