For the world of business applications, the shade of Covid-19 faded somewhat in 2022, as the energy crisis, informed by the war in Ukraine, and concomitant economic crises emerged to bedevil the field instead.

Steve Miranda, executive vice-president of Oracle Applications product development, gave his thoughts to Computer Weekly on what the crisis in the economy means for its customers, at Oracle Cloud World in Las Vegas in October 2022. His view, most likely shared with his peers at SAP and Salesforce, and the rest, is that such times of crisis are precisely no time to slack on digital transformation programmes.

Such modernisation will mean more than cloud, but it does mean cloud delivery of software for many companies. Cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) seems to be maturing, with customers taking a more piecemeal approach, looking for more industry-specific functionality from a more diverse supplier community than was the case a decade or more ago.

Even Oracle propounds the view, and strongly too, that it cannot do it all on its own, saliently in the field of healthcare, to which it has made a turn, if not a pivot. SAP is, if anything, adopting even more of a consortium approach as it builds its ERP – signally on its Rise business transformation as a service programme – on cloud platforms from the hyperscalers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure.

As in 2022, enterprise software suppliers and users were and are looking to a nimbler future, with more loosely coupled ERP systems, more flexible business process management (BPM) and improvement, and a renewed focus on customers and employees as they gravitate to digital channels.

Meanwhile, from a CIO perspective, Yiannis Levantis, from Unipart, endorses SAP’s approach with Rise (in its case using AWS as the cloud platform). He also makes an interesting case for CIOs to re-deepen their technical knowledge. He believes the pendulum has swung too far from technology expertise to generic business knowledge in the CIO community, as he explains in this interview with Computer Weekly.

As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, with customers and employees becoming poorer, companies and organisations are using customer experience software and newer forms of HR software to empathise and engage more deeply with customers and employees alike. Employee retention in a market where wages are depressing in value but jobs are still plentiful is a big problem for companies and organisations to solve going into 2023.

This is amplified all the more by the low-code/no-code movement, which found expression in 2022 in the form of the launch of SAP Build at TechEd in Las Vegas. If, as SAP executives contend, the next wave of digital transformation will be driven by business professionals developing apps for themselves to solve particular business problems, then the war for talent can only intensify as people see the value of their incomes shrinking.

Covid may be receding into history, but the macroeconomic and environmental crises besetting organisations will demand ever-greater creativity from the suppliers of the software that runs those entities in 2023. Salesforce co-CEO and founder Marc Benioff, at Dreamforce 2022 in San Francisco, sounded a positive note as he argued that Salesforce’s customer base is evincing a good deal of energy and hope, despite a backcloth of grim economic news.

It’s not all doom and gloom – but, let’s face it, mostly, it is.

Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 business applications stories of 2022.

1. Best-of-breed cloud ERP applications proffer a modern strategy

The ERP market looks very different now compared with 10 years ago. Back in 2013, SAP and Oracle accounted for 38% of the ERP market between them, with the top 10 suppliers owning 64%, according to Gartner.

Find out how organisations are using best-of-breed SaaS products to fill gaps in their enterprise application strategy and deliver a modern approach to ERP 

2. Oracle’s Steve Miranda on the value of turning inside out

In a Q&A with Computer Weekly at Oracle Open World, applications head Steve Miranda discussed the supplier’s opening out and its intensification of an industry cloud approach, signally with healthcare. 

3. SAP Build launched at TechEd to appeal to business user developers

SAP launched a low-code platform, SAP Build, aimed squarely at line of business users, at its TechEd conference in Las Vegas. Build is part of the supplier’s Business Technology Platform.

At a briefing ahead of TechEd, Julia White, chief marketing officer for SAP, said the next wave of “business transformation” would be driven by business users whose expertise has so far been untapped, especially regarding identifying opportunities for business process automation. 

4. Oracle CloudWorld 2022: Ellison vaunts centrality of healthcare to mission

Oracle chief technology officer (CTO) and founder Larry Ellison put healthcare front and centre of his keynote speech at Oracle CloudWorld 2022 in Las Vegas.

The supplier’s annual conference, formerly known as Oracle OpenWorld, has moved from its traditional home in San Francisco to Sin City. The Venetian hotel and casino now plays host to one of the pioneering companies of Silicon Valley. But, if anything, its very own “Doge” Ellison delivered a keynote laced with an evident passion for human health, following the Covid-19 pandemic. 

5. Dreamforce 2022: Benioff and Taylor uncork real-time Genie to toast ‘new day’

Salesforce co-CEOs Marc Benioff and Bret Taylor vaunted their Genie customer data platform as real-time harbinger of eventual post-pandemic new normal at Dreamforce 2022.

Benioff took a passing potshot at rival SAP as he noted that Salesforce has surpassed the Germany-based enterprise applications provider in revenue, in a keynote that recalled pre-Covid 19 pandemic performances. “We are now the world’s biggest enterprise applications company,” he said. 

6. Sapphire 2022: Klein majors on sustainability and supply chain resilience

At SAP’s first in-person Sapphire customer conference in three years, CEO Christian Klein and his top team revisited the themes of sustainability and supply chain resilience, which were prominent in 2020 and 2021.

The 2022 iteration of the supplier’s annual customer and partner flagship event was broken down into nine regional conferences, with the first being held as a scaled-down live event in Orlando, Florida. North European SAP customers will meet in The Hague on 17 May. 

7. CIO interview: Yiannis Levantis aims at total quality for Unipart IT

Turning a company’s IT function into an exceptional business in its own right must be the dream of many a CIO. Yiannis Levantis, group CIO at UK logistics company Unipart, envisions doing precisely that, drawing on his experience of a long career in corporate IT, which includes periods at Unilever and Rolls-Royce.

Unipart has a heritage in quality manufacturing and services that CIO Yiannis Levantis is building on, in part by harnessing SAP’s cloud-based business transformation service Rise. 

8. Efficiency to empathy: Customer experience in cost-of-living crisis

The cost-of-living crisis is already having a major impact on spending. UK retail sales decreased by 1.6% in August 2022 versus a 0.5% forecast; banks withdrew mortgage offers as interest rates were expected to rise by several more percentage points; and many people have been left wondering how they will afford basics like heating and food as gas and product prices soar.

Find out how businesses can shore up their CX strategy to support consumers struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. 

9. Candidate experience evolves to engender more emotional engagement

Despite the cost-of-living crisis, employment is high and companies need to create a compelling candidate experience when competition is strong and “ghosting” is common.

At a time of ongoing skills and talent shortages across most areas of the economy, the idea of wooing prospective employees with a compelling candidate experience is garnering increased attention. 

10. Employee experience joins CX for total enterprise view

One of the many impacts of the Covid pandemic was to accelerate a nascent trend among progressive organisations towards adopting the discipline of so-called “total experience”. This total experience is emerging to join up employee and customer experience for organisations intent on being holistic and progressive.

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