Social media inspired ERP aims at removing the chore for consultants

14 August 2017

Working in ERP systems doesn’t have to be a chore for consultants, as utilising social-network techniques could see productivity thrive, according to the UX architect behind professional services application VOGSY.

Google’s Cloud Next 2017 conference in San Francisco, held in March, was attended by more than 10,000 customers, developers, partners and other professionals, kicking off a global tour that has since taken place in London, Tel Aviv, Madrid and Tokyo. On June 21, the roadshow reached Amsterdam, with the digital giants showcasing how enterprises and entire sectors are benefiting from the latest in cloud technology which leverages the company’s innovative G-Suite.

G-Suite – formerly known as Google for Business – is the company’s attempt to break into the business market, which has to date been dominated by large players such as Microsoft. VOGSY may be in unchartered territory, but it has been gathering momentum since its launch, and has already gained a network of business partners looking to build on their new ERP system.

Attending the Google NEXT event, Ruben Kruit, CTO of Young Capital, one of the fastest growing companies in the Netherlands, told that the archetypal millennial business had switched from more traditional systems for greater ease of systems integration, stating, “Growth is hindered exponentially by the old ERP methods, which have not kept pace with current digital innovations. Leveraging G-Suite gives us the chance for more engagement with the system, and for more enjoyable ERP experiences.”

Social media inspired ERP aims at removing the chore for consultants

While facing stiff competition from the globe’s most successful business ERP systems then, Google argues its system is much more malleable, allowing for other groups to leverage specific parts of the suite, tailoring packages to the needs specific industries.

The G-Suite Marketplace features a wide range of enterprise apps from certified and trusted partners that do this, adding functionality and features to native Google Cloud apps, such as Drive, Gmail, Google Docs, Slides and Sheets. Admitted to the G-Suite market in March 2017, VOGSY, a platform for the internal operations for consulting groups, is the first such app aimed at the professional services industry, with the programme aiming to transform the way consultants work on the go by leveraging the G-Suite.

VOGSY’s ‘Holy Grail’

Despite key players across the industry constantly encouraging global business to embrace technological innovation, the professional services sector itself remains relatively traditional when it comes to change, in particular when it comes to managing internal operations. “Even in the digital era consultancies remained stuck using inefficient, old modes of business, with paperwork usually ending up buried in a stack on each manager’s constituent desk,” Wim Keizer, the chief UX designer behind VOGSY commented. “By leveraging G-Suite to meet the specific needs of the consulting industry, we can cut those huge processes into manageable, fast moving chunks.”

VOGSY brings what it calls a unique new perspective to ERP systems – providing a mobile-exclusive platform with a user interface inspired by social media.

Speaking to following VOGSY’s session at the Google NEXT conference in Amsterdam, Keizer, the senior front end designer behind VOGSY’s intuitive newsfeed-style platform, was keen to point out his belief that UX design could be used to innovate every aspect of business, not just customer interactions, while further warning that failing to utilise such innovations, companies could risk falling behind disruption from more dynamic competitors.

“The ‘Holy Grail’ we were searching for over the two years of developing VOGSY was to find a way to simplify business processes to the point where there was no longer a delay in handover between team members.”

Social media inspired ERP aims at removing the chore

Development on the project began in 2015, with designers originally experimenting with traditional ERP systems such as SAP. However, according to Keizer, it quickly became apparent that for what the team were aiming for a more fluid system would be required. VOGSY went on to launch the app based on G-Suite in late 2016.

Social network inspired collaboration

Aimed at firms with staff sizes between 25 and 5,000, VOGSY is based on interaction, rather than action as per more traditional ERPS, with the app’s newsfeed-based workflow aiming to stimulate speed and collaboration between team members. The system gives some level of access to all members of a consultancy, with different levels of control assigned accordingly, in a similar style to the Admin structures on many social networking ‘Groups’. Users can also ‘follow’ other projects they are not directly involved in, as well as complimenting co-workers posts, leading ideally to an enhanced cross company knowledge of projects, as well as an improved camaraderie among employees.

The application is browser-based to minimise memory usage, while the newsfeed will only load a top few items unless the user scrolls further, to maximise mobile battery life. It also comes complete with VICTOR, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) function which acts as a kind of digital PA, reminding users of the days priorities with push-notifications – which can be managed by users to avoid ‘overkill’ – along with improving the usability of the new technology.

According to Keizer however, it is unlikely anyone using the app should experience difficulty understanding the platform. With no need for multiple log-ins across various platforms, even previous technophobes can make the most of the platform’s streamlined process. “While younger generations of consultants can thrive on VOGSY, non-millennials should not be daunted by the prospect of using our app. They will recognise the intuitive lay-out from the consumer products they and their families already use in their daily lives and at home.”

While he believes the app represents a major leap forward in how a 24/7 industry can deal with multiple workloads however, VOGSY’s interface architect is keen to stress that there is still room for further development, noting an offline-mode as a key target for the future, to enable remote work in emergency cases where network coverage falters. Keizer concluded, “We are constantly looking for ways to improve – we will blend our focus on feedback-driven alterations with the next trends across all levels of social media and digital technology to translate their usability to the needs of the modern consulting industry.”



Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.