Now that I have received the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the numbers have started to look less scary around where I live, I feel a glimmer of hope that we might be gradually returning to some level of normalcy – call me a cockeyed optimist. So, what better time to reflect on the past 14 months and the future of CTRM?
At the beginning of the pandemic, lockdowns around the globe posed a significant threat to business continuity. As employees had to move from their offices to ‘home offices’ (or in my case, the dining table), businesses had to adjust to this new way of working, including remote access to systems. Companies that were already cloud-savvy were better prepared for this sudden shift, as they had already moved to a model which enabled remote access. Others were reminded of the need to accelerate, or in some cases, start their move to the cloud.
As businesses gradually accepted the fact that the pandemic is here to stay with us for a while and not just a few weeks or a couple of months, new implementation projects, which were put on hold due to the pandemic, were picked up again. As they started searching for solutions in the marketplace, they quickly realized the challenges of remote implementation of traditional CTRM systems which are built on architectures that are not optimized for cloud deployment. This was another sharp reminder of the benefits of a cloud-based platform, or more precisely, to a SaaS model. CTRM companies with platforms as true SaaS offerings were well positioned to take on these new implementation projects (and successfully see them through).
The acceleration of the move to the cloud, and specifically, to SaaS platforms, is also one of the three trends that were identified by our friends at ComTechAdvisory in their recent whitepaper, Three Trends to Look Out For in CTRM.
Another trend that ComTechAdvisory highlights is a move toward ‘commodity management’ (CM), which they define as a subset of ERP for commodities and CTRM. The dividing line between ERP and CTRM has always been somewhat blurred, especially for traders of bulk commodities. Over the years, CTRM vendors have added more and more ERP-esque functionality, while ERP vendors have ventured into building functionality to support trading of commodities (albeit in fits and starts and with mixed results).
Interestingly, a move towards CM (or, a combination of CTRM and ERP-like functionalities) might end up translating into further ‘over-consolidation’. And if that were to happen, that would be in the exact opposite direction of another trend we – and ComTechAdvisory – have observed: a move away from highly complex and monolithic legacy systems to an ecosystem of modern, modular, agile software services. Admittedly there are a few new vendors out there which define themselves as ‘commodities ERP’ solutions, but a possible merging of the ERP and CTRM categories would most likely play itself out in the marketplace as further over-consolidation of vendors and solutions.
Consolidation frequently leads to a decline in the quality of software and service as well as innovation, which ultimately translates to out-of-date, stagnant, and sub-standard, which are not only expensive to maintain but also increasingly unfit for purpose as technology and markets move underneath them. We’ve observed this in the world of CTRM – the knock-on effects of over-consolidation and the perceived vendor risk is forcing buyers to look elsewhere for modern solutions which can replace parts of their current solution.
For every force, there is an equal and opposite force. On one hand, we have the lure of an integrated, consolidated solution (with its myriad aforementioned flaws) and on the other hand, we have the promise of an ecosystem of smaller, best of breed solutions, which are modern, agile, affordable, faster, and more flexible. Seamless integration of disparate systems has always been the Xanadu of business software – frequently ending up in Tower of Babel type of scenarios where systems just don’t speak each other’s language.
At CTRMCloud, we believe in the value of a modular, service-based architecture with well defined APIs. We think this enables us to offer our customers the best of both worlds. Incidentally, it also happens to be good practice to build a software platform, as it walks hand in hand with better quality solutions, faster development and continuous deployment of new features, scalability, resilience, and ease of integration.