Chief Technology Officer at Unit4, overseeing development of intelligent software for service organizations.
No enterprise software operates in isolation; it all has to be integrated. However, keeping integrations up to date can be a burden. Now, there’s a simpler, more effective way of doing it — enterprise mesh.
Mesh is a term usually associated with Wi-Fi. It refers to connecting multiple base stations so users get a seamless experience as they move from one place to another. Enterprise mesh takes this concept and applies it to an organization’s suite of software.
A typical enterprise may have 100 to 250 systems such as sales, CRM, ERP, business management, financial, reporting and HR. They don’t function in isolation; they need to be joined together.
Traditionally, there were two ways of doing this — either by paying external consultants to write numerous one-to-one integrations or by using an enterprise service bus to map data across multiple systems.
However, what organizations really want is to offload the burden of integration altogether. Their ideal would be a seamless, plug-and-play experience across all of their software without having to worry about setting up or maintaining integrations.
Enterprise mesh is now making this possible.
Industry-Specific ERP With Mapping Built In
Enterprise mesh is where one of the core pieces of software the enterprise uses (the ERP) does the work of integration across the others. The ERP’s extension kit comes with a set of ready-made connectors that use APIs and microservices to set up integrations in a low-code/no-code manner.
An industry-specific ERP will already include that industry’s best-practice business processes as standard. If you can find an industry-specific ERP that also includes ready-made software connectors, you’ll get the added ability to integrate all of the software commonly used in that industry.
A dedicated vendor of industry-specific SaaS ERP software will have invested time in researching which systems most organizations in a given industry use. They will follow those vendors’ products, and when they change, the ERP vendor will reflect those changes in the ready-made connectors they provide in their own systems.
SaaS ERP is the easiest way to mesh.
All ERP vendors are promoting industry-specific versions of their software, but SaaS ERP vendors are best placed to deliver the benefits of enterprise mesh. The reasons are, in many ways, the same as those that make SaaS preferable to on-premise ERP in general: Implementations are easier, and you know you’re always on the latest version.
Getting your meshing capability as part of an industry-specific SaaS ERP shifts the responsibility of keeping integrations up to date to the vendor. Instead of having to constantly rewrite integrations to the other industry software you use, updated integrations will automatically be included in the next release of the SaaS ERP.
This approach places what comedy science fiction author Douglas Adams called a “somebody else’s problem field” around the whole issue of enterprise software integration by transferring the problem from the buyer to the vendor.
Three Good Reasons To Find A SaaS Vendor That Offers Enterprise Mesh
1. Finding a vendor that offers ready-made software connectors as part of their SaaS ERP extension kit means you can offload the responsibility of keeping integrations up to date to them.
2. If a vendor offers industry-specific integrations as part of an industry ERP SaaS, you can be sure they really understand that industry and that you can therefore have confidence in their industry best practice processes as well as their integrations.
3. It also indicates that the vendor is aware of the rest of the world outside their software, that they think holistically and can provide their clients with solutions to a greater proportion of their business challenges.
How To Begin The Journey To Enterprise Mesh
First, you need to do an audit of your current enterprise software estate to see what integrations you have, analyzing how the ERP interacts with adjacent systems directly or indirectly. Then, compare these integrations to what your shortlisted SaaS ERP vendors offer. If they provide most of the integrations you need, it’s obviously a good match.
If they don’t, however, it could be for one of two reasons: either the vendor doesn’t really understand your industry, or you have an over-complex software ecosystem that’s out of sync with modern industry best practices.
To make a successful transition to enterprise mesh, organizations need to be prepared to change. Think of it as an opportunity to review and potentially simplify, standardize and rationalize your business processes, integrations and software estate.
One of the main challenges in this process is potential resistance from members of the IT team. They understand the complexity of the existing setup better than anyone else, and they may have even created it themselves years ago and hold a sizeable emotional investment in maintaining the status quo.
To overcome this, IT leaders need to persuade their teams to keep an open mind and be prepared to accept the possibility that a simpler software ecosystem, in which integrations are the responsibility of the SaaS ERP vendor, could be better not just for their organization but for them personally as well.
If it’s not core business, don’t do it.
Enterprise mesh is a continuation of the trend to offload anything that isn’t core to an organization’s purpose. Unless you’re an enterprise software vendor or systems integrator yourself, it’s not your core business to keep integrations up to date.
Subscribing to a SaaS ERP that comes with ready-made industry-specific integrations can leave you more time to get on with whatever it is your organization is really meant to do.