Digital transformation in the face of economic uncertainty

Chief Product and Technology Officer at Epicor Vaibhav Vohra discusses AI, data, and how it is fundamental to unlocking long-term business value

Vaibhav Vohra, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Epicor, discusses how businesses can tackle digital transformation in the face of economic uncertainty — highlighting how with proper analysis of digital transformation systems, it’s possible for businesses to do more with less, with understanding the important role of data central to success.

Vohra was appointed Chief Product and Technology Officer (CPTO) at Epicor in June 2023 following a stint as Chief Product Officer and SVP. His current role sees him responsible for product strategy, development, management, learning, and design at the software company, which offers mobile solutions and has data centres to support demand for cloud solutions. As CPTO, Vohra has unified the Epicor Product Development and Product Management teams to enable us to deliver best-in-class customer-centric SaaS solutions and continued innovation through AI, automation, and design.

How did you come to work in software development?

Throughout my career, I have worked across a variety of sectors, including manufacturing, retail, and aerospace. My first job was building satellites, which gave me a passion for new technologies. I then moved to SAP, where I helped to manage the company’s ERP product portfolio and SaaS transformation. From this experience, I wanted to focus on working with disruptive technologies in AI and robotics, bringing my attention to helping build and scale start-ups, one of which focused on supply chain automation in essential industries. We built the largest production AI and Robotics systems operating in a consumer setting.

From here, moving to Epicor was a natural progression that gave me the opportunity to use the experience and skills I had gained so far in my career.

What is Epicor and what does it do?

Epicor equips hard-working businesses with enterprise solutions that keep the world turning. For 50 years, our customers in the building supply, distribution and manufacturing industries have trusted Epicor to help them do business better. Epicor is the only ERP solutions provider building connected data supply chain solutions across the manufacturing, retail, and distributor value stream. This helps small and large companies easily integrate key processes, workflows, and data sources from previously siloed areas of their businesses — enabling them to increase resilience and drive growth. 

We want all businesses to achieve their full potential, regardless of where they are on their unique digital transformation journeys. From point-of-sale to implementation and post-sales support, we deliver the industry-specific tools and channel support services our partners and end-user customers need to scale their operations and strengthen their supply chains.

What key trend/s are you finding most interesting currently?

AI continues to astound us with how rapidly it’s evolving, and it’s fascinating to see how technological innovations are disrupting all aspects of our society. This is why we’re investing in developing solutions that leverage AI-enabled insights to optimise and improve business operations.

The most interesting trend is some believe AI is most successful when it replaces people.  From my experience, when we unlock ‘superpowers’ and empower knowledge workers, we really can harness the power of AI. 

We believe that the combination of automation and intelligent recommendations – for everything from part configurations and ordering to delivery and field services – that are driven by AI-powered low code/no code cloud solutions is a gamechanger for essential industries. This is why we created our award-winning Automation Studio as a way for businesses to easily integrate all their distribution and supply chain data sources into a single platform.

What has been your greatest achievement so far in your career? And your greatest challenge?

I would say bringing AI and robotics to the essential industries has been my greatest achievement. Often, when we think of digital transformation, we don’t think how transformative it can be for the make, move, sell economy that runs the world. Being able to unlock this at scale has been my greatest achievement. 

The greatest challenge has been building robots and AI in difficult work conditions – boilers, mines, digesters. Part of the challenge is to get technology to scale in difficult environments, not just a pristine lab.

Talk to us about the importance of extracting actionable insights from data and how it is fundamental to unlocking long-term business value

At Epicor, we have a clear vision for the connected data supply chain. You can think of an ERP provider like a system of data records, which our customers use to make decisions about everything from sourcing to pricing. The key to success is enabling makers, movers, and sellers to easily exchange data with one another, transforming customer ecosystems into communities by driving value throughout the supply chain.

By collaborating across different industries and bridging knowledge gaps, our customers can make better informed decisions and ensure time-to-value, and we have been developing innovative solutions to make sure these insights can be shared safely and securely across our platforms.

However, many companies still struggle when it comes to analytics, which is why we are working with our customers to help them convert their data into actionable insights and unlock its true value. We are proud to provide the tools and guidance that businesses need to build long-term Business Intelligence (BI) strategies, enabling them to become data-led companies that can do more with what they already have.

How does migrating key workloads to the cloud ensure processable data across businesses?

Migrating key operations and workloads to the cloud is the first step to ensuring you have a digital foundation in place to analyse disparate data sources across your entire business and supply chains. Data silos prevent effective data analysis, but with the right data-centric IT infrastructure and analytics solutions in place, any company can unify previously disconnected areas of the business.

Industry-specific cloud solutions enable organisations to integrate multiple data streams with business flows so workers can easily access data remotely from anywhere for rapid data-driven decision making. According to the latest Epicor 2023 Industry Insights report, 46% of businesses that make, sell or move are now primarily or entirely in the cloud, with 89% either strongly or somewhat agreeing that ‘Cloud ERP’ is their favoured decision.

Some smaller companies may be overwhelmed by the idea of moving to the cloud, but the benefits are worth it and become evident almost immediately.

How does leveraging AI and ML solutions lead to more powerful decision making? 

Typically, AI solutions are used to improve singular tasks, but businesses can implement them to analyse multiple business flows for actionable insights across their entire organisation. To leverage these tools effectively, business leaders need to work with a technology partner that can help them effectively harness the capabilities of these emerging applications. This is especially true for the essential industries that haven’t had a great deal of exposure to emerging technologies before.

AI and Machine Learning (ML) tools can help businesses drill down to unearth the full value of their insights. Once a company’s IT infrastructure is cloud and data-centric, they can start incorporating AI and ML technologies to automate data analysis and augment their ERP systems.

How important is it that data-centric solutions are also people-centric?

Data-centric solutions must be people-centric. A common mistake that organisations make is looking to replace people rather than equip them with the tools they need to succeed in their roles. Businesses must invest in the latest BI solutions as well as providing relevant data training for workers, so that they have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to make more informed decisions.

Ultimately, people - whether employees or customers - need to be central to technology investment decisions, as they’re the ones who are using these systems every day. The more people-centric your digital transformation strategy, the sharper your competitive edge will be.

What does the future hold for Epicor and the wider industry?

We believe that data is the future, and we recently demonstrated our vision for a connected data supply chain at our annual Insights 2023 user conference. To ensure success, essential industries need to adopt a data-first strategy to interpret key signals and indicators – both within their business and across connected supply chains – so they can optimise business flows and drive time-to-value.

As part of our data supply chain vision, we have a range of services and platforms that we’re implementing to support even more businesses. This includes Grow, a full stack, no code/low code BI platform that combines data integration, warehousing and visualisation into one solution. We also have the Epicor Virtual Agent (EVA) that delivers fast predictive analytics and contextual recommendations to users.

By integrating internal and external data sources using Epicor Prophet 21 and Grow, companies can gain deeper insights across their supply chains to make the right strategic decisions. It won’t all be plain sailing, and businesses will still have to grapple with a lot of economic uncertainties, but this is why we’re committed to working closely with our customers. We want to help them become truly data-led so they are better prepared and more resilient to overcome whatever unforeseen challenges are on the horizon. 

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