Unlocking ERP: the past, present and the future
the past, the present and the future
Today, business directors need to work hand in hand with their CIOs and IT teams to develop business-focused strategies that embrace technology that delivers competitive advantage. All too often, I come across business leaders who lack understanding in the software and IT infrastructure being utilised or available to their organisations, leaving this part of the business for CFOs, CIOs and IT managers to lead the charge writes David Jackman.
Acore technology for businesses across industry sectors is Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, one that has been facilitating organisations for decades and undergone significant transformation in recent years. ERP has evolved from being viewed as a purely back office application to now operating as a strategic business management platform that encompasses all areas of an organisation.
In this piece, I’ll pull back the curtain often draped over ERP and break down the bones of its core functionality, as well as explore its transformation over time, and predict where this remarkable platform is heading.
Breaking down ERP
In order to best understand how ERP solutions can benefit and enhance a business, an understanding of how ERP works is crucial. First of all, step back and think about all the various processes that make up the tapestry of your business operations and what information you need to make decisions.
Daily processes are varied pending industry focus, for instance, from payroll, purchase orders and inventory management to point of sale, CRM, and forecasting. Broadly speaking, ERP software ties various business
functions and applications into a seamless system that helps foster more effectiveness by streamlining operations and enhancing efficiency across the entire organisation.
In essence, I see three clear business benefits when it comes to implementing modern business management software: Productivity gains through automation: By automating processes that are commonly time intensive and repetitive, and do not require mandatory manual labour, ERP allows staff to be more efficient, accurate and spend their time on tasks that truly require their expertise. It also eliminates any double-handling of tasks, driving more effective use of resources across the entire organisation. Real-time visibility into the business: A superior ERP system moves beyond just the internal operations of a business, but extends outside an organisation to integrate with supplier and customer systems and reveal real-time insights. Enabling third party integration: Seamless connectivity between business applications has become critical, especially for organisations with a mobile workforce. There is strong demand for core business management software to integrate with and extend any other web-enabled software.
Increasing transparency into operations
The transformation of ERP has been dramatic and now deeply intertwined with Business Intelligence (BI). We are seeing our clients experience significant gains by increasing transparency into operations through their business management solution. ERP integrated with BI means that the reams of data being accumulated daily from all corners of an organisation, can be digested into something meaningful for people to take action.
Traditionally, BI has only been made available to a few people in a business, with only senior managers and key people at higher levels of an enterprise able to access and analyse the data. At Pronto Software we are seeing demand from many businesses to provide staff at all levels with full access to BI and to be able to extract and analyse information to help them make smart decisions, maximising business success.
For instance, if you’re a retailer and can see the real-time daily sales, you can better predict and ensure the appropriate stock is in each store. Alternatively, if a particular item is prompting a high number of repair requirements, senior management can make an informed decision as to whether the item should be taken from shelves, to avoid further customer complaints.
As powerful as BI is for delivering immediate insight into business performance, it relies on the level of integration of the BI and ERP systems. Some systems, like Pronto Xi, come with the ERP data for BI usage, out-of-the-box.
This means that you can start building your reports, dashboards and analytics instantly without having to understand the ERP database structure. This is an enormous time and money saver as the highest cost in a BI implementation is the mapping of the data, usually done by consultants, and the ongoing cost of interfacing two systems with different upgrade cycles.
Mobile access, anywhere
Most individuals have become accustomed to consuming information such as email, news and social networks on their mobile devices. Now, decision makers are demanding their business applications and data sets are just as accessible.
Recent research by IDC found 74% of companies are increasing their spend on mobile application deployments, platforms and application lifecycle strategies in 2014. It’s a trend that transcends industries, from the travelling salesperson accessing orders and sales data from the road, to warehouse managers updating inventory numbers on the floor. The key is providing instant access to critical information no matter the location.
Cloud business management
Central to operating in a mobile business world is a reliance on Cloud technology. Cloud has been a technology buzzword for several years now, and while it’s not a new term, its impact on the world of ERP is significant.
Most companies own and manage their ERP implementation on-premise but ERP can also be delivered via the cloud for those looking for a lower upfront investment. Cloud ERP lets the vendor manage the software and infrastructure remotely, which is a huge benefit to those without an in-house IT team.
By selecting a solution that offers flexibility in delivery, including on-premise, cloud or hosted, users have the opportunity to implement and access information on the platform of their choice.
The future of ERP
The integration of ERP and BI has evolved to become an intuitive platform that enables real-time access to foster faster, informed decision-making. Through flexible and tailored solutions such as Pronto, businesses can now create a bespoke system, customised to the specific needs of the organisation. With the rise of mobility, born from a reliance on smartphones and tablet devices, and an increasing focus on cost-saving and efficiency, the future of ERP is dynamic and exciting.
After all, gone are the days of rigid systems where the business was forced to comply with the way a solution was built. Today, the consumerisation of technology has changed the way employees engage with IT in the workplace and our clients are demanding flexible, agile solutions to meet these needs. Increasingly, mobile devices and cloud technology will be frontier platforms for the way businesses access and interact with ERP and BI systems.
David has more than 30 years business and technology experience spanning C-level roles, recognised as an expert in generating business value from IT investments. Since joining Pronto Software in 2000, David has doubled the company’s profits and expanded the business into new, international markets including the US, Canada and PNG. www.pronto.net.