At The Center of Any Successful Enterprise Is Technology

Rosa Akhtarkhavari, CIO, City of Orlando
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Rosa Akhtarkhavari, CIO, City of Orlando

Technology plays an increasingly critical role in supporting all aspects of an enterprise such as meeting strategic goals, optimizing operations, and delivering relevant and timely information to decision makers. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems manage two of the major components for any enterprise. Human and financial resources play a critical role in supporting the enterprise’s mission and objectives as well as ensuring daily operations run smoothly.

The days of the ERP system’s sole responsibility of tracking employees, processing payroll, and paying bills are far behind us. The ever-changing expectation and demands on timely services, access to timely and relevant information, the cyber security landscape, and financial volatilities, as well as the commitment to transparency requires agility in the implementation of a solution with a solid plan for continuous improvement cycles. Human resource experts utilize trends to plan for work force development and retention. Financial professionals utilize analytics to understand the projected availability of funding, revenue trends, expected operational needs, and management of funding availability for new initiatives. Understanding the patterns of spending and flagging anomalies are what mature financial teams expect from analysis.

Historically, financial experts worked with “what-if” scenarios, manually generated or semi-automated to create revenue, budget, and expense projections based on historical information and known influences. I believe that coupling machines with expert human intelligence creates a perfect balance for charting the future direction of ERP planning. Artificial intelligence finds the perfect fit in the financial model utilizing advanced analytics and predictive analysis focused on the financial landscape, taking into account organizational risk tolerance that advances and grows with organizational maturity.

During the last few years, tier one ERP companies recognized the value enterprises place on agility and rapid deployment. These ERP companies invested in building SaaS ERP solutions using their vast experience and success in building in-house enterprise ERP. This offers commoditized ERP as a scalable, pay-as-you-go model eliminating the need for life cycle replacement or upgrade planning.

Cloud ERP offerings are getting more mature and competitive. SaaS ERP subscriptions enable the enterprise to implement new systems without the need for large initial capital investments for hardware and licenses and a predictable expense for a stable operational model. As with any SaaS implementation, it is crucial to assess not only system functional alignment with business requirements, information security assessment and compliance, but also, client readiness, product readiness, vendor financial stability, and product roadmaps (forward innovative companies).

As the enterprise entrusts data and systems to the Cloud, it is important to ensure the organization understands the risk the Cloud model poses. It is also important to ensure t hat contract terms minimize such risk including the ability of the organization to audit and conduct risk assessment and define clear data ownership and access.

Additional recommendations for implementing Cloud solutions are to ensure the enterprise has a robust and sustainable interface mechanism that supports in-house and cloud system interfaces. A clearly defined and practiced exit strategy is a must along with a strong service level agreement, accountability, and well-defined contract termination terms.

In 2014, the City of Orlando’s leadership approved the move to the ERP Cloud, utilizing a fix cost implementation. The city implemented human resources, payroll, and the full financial suite in 16 months. Today, with multiple release upgrades and an internal review process to ensure continual improvement of our internal process, the city’s ERP continues to evolve to meet the needs of our business units by providing timely information to the frontline.

The city’s dependence on the ERP information and processes flow continues to be enriched with building interfaces to internal and other cloud solutions utilizing the employee information maintained in ERP system as the master source of information following across multiple systems and solutions. Having a sustainable internal support model and a strong collaborative user base makes it easy to adopt new features and models to support new city initiatives and evolving needs.

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