Mid-market firms need breakthroughs in business visibility & decision-making to adapt to new conditions, suggests FHL research


As UK mid-market companies face huge pressure to adapt or transform their operations in the current situation, new research suggests they will need to significantly improve operational visibility, planning and decision-making, to do so successfully.

The survey of 250 UK mid-market organisations by Sapio Research on behalf of FHL Cloud Solutions found that only one in seven (13%) mid-market businesses had followed best practice by carrying out detailed reviews of core processes before adopting new ERP and business systems, and fewer than half (48%) had made any serious efforts in this regard.

The research also found that many mid-market businesses (56%) still struggle to identify and improve core processes at each stage of digital transformation projects.

These findings suggest that the current process of change is bringing to light deficiencies in organisations’ core processes and systems − moving them to consider strategies such as automation and adopting cloud-based technologies in the future. In addition, the data indicates that senior management teams could be making do with incomplete information for decision-making − without ever getting the insights they need from their ERP, planning, management and reporting systems.

The survey also revealed that some companies’ usual approaches to planning may leave them slow to adapt to uncertain conditions.  More than two thirds (67%) of respondents are tied into strategic planning cycles of three years or more, suggesting they are likely to be challenged by the current demands of short-term re-planning and decision making.

Darren Birt, operations director at FHL Cloud Solutions, says: “Many UK mid-market businesses are trying to adapt their organisation or find new markets but they often don’t have the necessary business visibility due to outdated systems and lack the necessary data due to inefficient corporate planning and reporting tools.  They therefore struggle to draw up definitive change management plans for times like these.”

The research also showed clear differences in emphasis among owners and senior management on whether technology-based transformations had made their business nimbler, with 77% of directors saying so, but only 48% of managers agreeing.  This indicates there may be a gap between plans to adapt their operations and successful execution in some organisations.

In addition, only 43% of organisations had leadership teams that were actively driving transformation of the business, indicating a potential lack of readiness at the top to successfully recast the business in extreme conditions.

The survey data also suggest that many mid-market businesses are not getting advice from a wider spectrum of third party experts to help them align transformation plans with fast-changing business priorities.  While 65% of those questioned rely on some form of partnership to help manage the business transformation, only 32% bring in business consultants to develop their early plans.  In addition, only 23% engaged with technology partners when planning.

Darren Birt at FHL Cloud Solutions, further commented: “Our research also indicates that many mid-market companies place too much reliance on software platforms being the complete answer to their operational challenges in isolation − without considering the degree of preparation, planning and effort required to successfully implement them and the degree of change that these products bring about.”

“The results nevertheless show that a solid core of UK mid-market organisations is taking the detailed planning and process improvement steps needed to deploy smarter, cloud-based ERP, business and finance systems effectively.  These flexible systems will help give mid-market companies faster and deeper business insights and allow them to develop the clearer plans they need to adapt to challenging trading conditions or implement longer-term recovery plans.”