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Is your technology stack fit for purpose?

The third in our series looking into the digital transformation, Baker Tilly breaks open how businesses are changing workflow practices and assessing their technology stack.

A review of the business systems technology that powers an organisation appeared to be on almost every to-do list at the start of 2020 – but there was no urgency, just in the next couple of years.

But caught on the hop by the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations quickly discovered that their technology stack was often not fit for purpose in the digital transformation.

A recent survey of Baker Tilly members firms revealed that those clients who had been early movers on technology were better prepared for the transition to remote work.

“It’s not just, ‘let’s bolt this on to whatever we’ve got’, it’s ‘let’s re-examine the entire process, are we doing this correctly?’”
– Deepak Upadhyaya

Organisations who already had established secure remote access, including VPNs, responded better according to 80.9 per cent of respondents, followed by those who had:

  • Pre-existing use of cloud access (68.1%)
  • Pre-existing use of mobile technologies (55.3%)
  • Company investment in technology prior to the pandemic (51.1%)
  • Pre-existing use of web technologies (46.8%)
  • Company investment in IT/training to support remote working (44.7%)

Determined not to be caught out again in the future, business leaders are taking a critical eye to their tech stack and bringing forward plans to review or upgrade their systems.

Deepak Upadhyaya, Partner and leader of Baker Tilly WM’s Digital Technology and Risk practice, says there is a strong trend among organisations to consider a different approach to their technology.

“It’s not just, ‘let’s bolt this on to whatever we’ve got’, it’s ‘let’s re-examine the entire process, are we doing this correctly?’” he says.

“It varies between industries, but I think in about 70 per cent of cases, people are reinventing the way they approach digital technology as a whole.

“In concert with that, technology is so much more powerful now and at some point they were going to re-examine their technology stack anyway.

“Some had pushed it out for a year or two with the thinking, well if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but the pandemic has suddenly made them re-examine it and now they’re saying, ‘we could push this out another two years, but it’s time now to re-examine our tech and make sure that we’ve got the right technology that’s going to keep us driving forward.’”

Read more: The digital transformation

Do all businesses need an ERP?

An enterprise resource planning system (ERP), once the sole domain of large corporations, are accessible to small and medium businesses thanks to the power of cloud technology.

While there are many advantages to having a seamless technology stack through a vendor such as Oracle or SAP, the downside is the process of installing and customising the software, which can be disruptive and take many months to bed down.

The alternatives – such as Microsoft’s suite of add-on products or a smorgasbord of third-party tools that play nicely together – are not quite as seamless working with the existing systems but adequate to keep things running.

A comprehensive ERP is the gold standard for business systems but is that the only way forward?

“In many cases, organisations more aggressively looked at how technology can drive efficiency, automate, or provide better data to drive decision making, because of what had happened during the pandemic.”
– Amanda Klein

Amanda Klein, Principal in the enterprise transformation services team at Baker Tilly US, says a change mindset brought about by the pandemic presented an opportunity for companies to reinvent the way they do some things.

“Many companies had projects in place already to start their modernisation journey as they as they moved into the pandemic,” she says.

“And, frankly, beyond temporary adjustments, we didn’t see many slow down, which is which is a good thing.

“In many cases, organisations more aggressively looked at how technology can drive efficiency, automate, or provide better data to drive decision making, because of what had happened during the pandemic.”

Ms Klein says before embarking on any transformation initiative, business leaders need to align on the goals they’re looking to achieve.

“An organisation’s approach to digital transformation largely depends on the maturity and the complexity of the client, the industry that they’re in, as well as their unique business,” she says.

“In some scenarios, we are seeing organisations go with a best of breed solution, which means one tool for their human resources and payroll, another for their financials and another to support their specific CRM needs, and perhaps a suite of custom add-on applications that support other unique needs.

“New technology is allowing organisations to prioritise key areas in their organisations and focus on those where they’re going to get the biggest bang for their buck. It’s allowing them to sequence priority areas, rather than trying to boil the ocean and waiting 2-3 years for the full big-bang type of implementation.”

Technology and workflow

As technology changes their business processes, Ms Klein admits some have been more willing than others to change the way things had always been done.

“We’ve seen a lot more of workflow automation solutions, basic things like getting sign off and approvals on job orders or owner requests and things like that,” she says.

“A key here is some of those things can be done without a holistic set of new technology, or a full revamp of your core systems.”
– Amanda Klein

“Changes to processes, such as passing the file folder around to route a document for signature, have been long time coming. Organisations are leveraging new technologies (like workflow automation) to close the gap on some of those items.

“A key here is some of those things can be done without a holistic set of new technology, or a full revamp of your core systems.”

Mr Upadhyaya’s clients include three who have consumer-facing online store fronts, and it quickly became clear that the ‘just good enough’ approach to e-commerce wasn’t good enough.

“These clients, all in consumer or retail businesses, have recently moved and upgraded their ecommerce platforms,” he says.

“Traditionally, their ecommerce platform wasn’t strong enough, it was tokenistic, they had a platform and if people want to go to it, they can go to it.

“But with the volume of sales that they experienced because of the pandemic, it has certainly made them reflect and say this is not good enough, we have got to be better in terms an e-commerce platform.”

Start preparing for digital currency

Change begets change and as business leaders are moving to update their current systems, feelings towards emerging technology are also softening.

“There has been a whole change in attitude around things like blockchain, digital assets and digital currency,” Mr Upadhyaya says.

“People are not even using credit, everybody’s just using apps like Venmo, so companies need to start thinking differently to remain relevant in this marketplace.”
– Deepak Upadhyaya

“The North American marketplace is just going crazy with digital currency at the moment. Everybody is investing in digital forms of payment.

“And, in fact, Canada is in the process of re-examining its entire banking infrastructure and saying, ‘this feels a little antiquated, people aren’t getting cash anymore.’

“People are not even using credit, everybody’s just using apps like Venmo, so companies need to start thinking differently to remain relevant in this marketplace.

“We’re advising clients that they should start to examine how they are managing their digital portfolio. If you haven’t started to think about it, start to think about it, because it’s going to come down the pipe very, very quickly.

“We are in the process of working with Baker Tilly Digital around how we can work with clients in helping them embrace the whole digital platform, especially as it comes to the value transfer of money.”

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Meet the experts

Amanda Klein

Baker Tilly United States

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Deepak Upadhyaya

Baker Tilly Canada

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