We’re over half way through 2020 and what a year it has been. It’s certainly not one we’ll forget soon. Indeed, it’s been a year that has seen many businesses re-evaluate their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). The adaptability of which to handle unprecedented and challenging times has never before taken such center-stage.
Technologies are evolving so fast it can sometimes be difficult to focus on the changes that matter. To help you, we’ve selected six of the current top ERP trends that will open up a world of opportunity for your business.
- Business process automation (BPA)
- Deployment, your way
- Continuous process improvement (CPI)
- API & integration
- Vertical ERP
A common thread runs through all six points, and it’s an encouraging one for business:
ERP systems are already delivering significant business benefits – but they have the potential to do so much more.
1. Business Process Automation (BPA)
ERP has always been a software solution that automates certain processes in a business to increase efficiencies and enhance accuracy. It’s why companies invest in ERP in the first place.
But in 2020, the automation conversation is being highlighted like never before, thanks to the growing market buzz surrounding AI, robotics and machine learning. And the need today to improve automation to reduce human interaction in this new low-touch economy.
The reality, however, is that robotics and AI currently offer limited opportunity to make a positive direct impact on your business. Business process automation, on the other hand, comes to the fore as a real, current and actionable trend that can give you the control and the ability to transform your organisation by:
- Accessing data and insights into your business in real-time
- Automating mundane, repetitive and frequent tasks to free up your employees’ time
- Creating workflows that are lean, designed to cut down on time wastage whilst improving margins and cost controls
Is your current ERP system delivering on all of these benefits? In-built automation capabilities like these are helping businesses just like yours to power ahead of the competition, enabling them to grow without the need to employ more staff.
Recent research suggested that while 95% of businesses experienced process improvements after implementing an ERP, they were only actually getting 30-80% of the possible benefits out of it. This means there is still huge scope for businesses to get much more out of their existing systems.
Maybe it’s time you carried out a review of your systems. Are you maximising all the functionality within your system? Are you still doing tasks manually when they could be carried out automatically?
An annual review of your ERP system should help you spot gaps, discover inefficiencies and help save you a lot of money. You may even find that your current ERP system is built on a legacy platform with limited process automation capabilities.
Find out if your ERP solution is fit-for-purpose – ERP Needs Analysis Assessment.
Modern ERP solutions are built with immense automation capabilities and they should be a hygiene factor in any growing business.
Another trend of modern ERP software is for more personalised and flexible solutions that make an ERP system far more configured to your business needs.
Modern ERP systems are transforming how users can customise their dashboards and interfaces at company, role and user-level to capture up-to-date data, and support real-time decisions.
Many modern ERP solutions can offer this level of personalisation as they are designed to support ‘code-free’ customisation.
Screens, reports, dashboards, notifications and alerts can all be easily configured by the business themselves, at the user-level. Role-based policies can be implemented to allow for easily-managed access to the information your teams need to efficiently carry out tasks.
This means that teams across your organisation can instruct your assigned in-house system administrator to build dashboards and screen layouts that pertain specifically to them. No need to revert back to your ERP vendor.
It also means your ERP solution is no longer a static entity. It will evolve with you and support change as your business grows.
Consider a pharmaceutical client who operates a huge, central database. They compete on price on a minute-by-minute basis to ensure that their retail customers receive the best value from them. Their ERP system is designed to share snapshots of consumer demand, stock levels and price points in real-time via their dashboards so that the whole company can work towards their goals.
Data-rich reports are now also easier to understand. Employees, across your organisation, from procurement to marketing, from sales to supply chain and finance, can identify the state of your business, and their teams, in real-time. The information they need can be programmed to find them in the form of a pop-up, alert, mobile SMS, email etc. and these alert based conditions can be easily set up by you. Again, no need to constantly rely on your ERP vendor!
The increase in personalisation and the customer-centric focus of modern ERP systems will enable you to ensure your individual business processes are accommodated in your ERP solution. It is these efficiency gains that will enhance the ROI of your ERP solution. Plus, if you need to adapt your software to handle business in the ‘new norm’, you won’t have to incur huge expense or revert to your software vendor to do so.
3. How you deploy your ERP solution: think business benefit first.
When it comes to ERP deployment there is no longer a one-size-fits-all solution.
While the Cloud has brought with it greater flexibility for organisations, the buzz around it has obscured the pros and cons of hosting your ERP system within it.
As a wholesaler and/or retailer, you’re no doubt considering what security and compliance requirements your organisation needs depending on the data you hold. You should know where, and how often, team members need to access information, and what scaling plans your business has. All of these factors have to be considered to ensure you choose the right hosting plan.
Cloud ERP solutions have been a trend for the last few years. And there’s no doubt that true Cloud ERP (as opposed to a cloud-hosted ERP solution) offers some real benefits (reducing the need for maintenance, improved user experience and lowering cost are just three examples).
But even though the benefits may be significant a Cloud ERP solution may not be the most appropriate option for your business. If broadband speeds and bandwidths for your business are limited, cloud deployment just doesn’t make sense. You may also have a perfectly good server that you wish to depreciate a little further before it becomes null and void.
The point is to not get carried along by the Cloud vs Hosted vs Hybrid vs On-Premise hype or misinformation. It’s important to interrogate the range of solutions your ERP provider is offering and the SLAs (Service Level Agreements) that support them. Many host their solution in the Cloud and market this as Cloud ERP when it’s not. Don’t get dragged down a path as a result of a provider pushing their own agenda.
For you, the customer, knowledge is power. You need to ignore the hype and look at the various deployment options through the lens of ‘what are the related benefit/s for my business?‘
Stop and ask yourself why are we, as a business, considering an On-Premise, Hosted or Cloud ERP solution? How will it help our business? Now, and in the future.
Ultimately, think purpose first and technology second and make sure you are working with an ERP provider who shares this philosophy and can offer you the options you need.
4. Continuous process improvement (CPI)
Research into the main reasons companies have for implementing ERP software shows that, aside from the obvious business performance requirement, the top reason is to embrace change and quickly adapt to shifting market conditions.
In the past, ERP systems have had a reputation for being inflexible and complex to use. This is no longer the case, with newer ERP technology placing a high value on flexibility and ease of use.
In recent times, businesses are asking about their systems’ ability to rapidly and intuitively react to changing market conditions – 2020 has certainly been a test for how adaptable your business software is to unprecedented and challenging times.
Today’s modern ERP solutions are now geared towards continuous improvement. They embrace lean thinking at their core ensuring your ability to rethink, reinvigorate, react and reinvent is not impinged. This is something that has been vigorously tested and highlighted this year. Some businesses found their ERP systems enabled them to quickly pivot their business, others where limited by their inflexible, legacy software solutions.
For instance, future-fit ERP software gives you the functionality you need to be able to customise fields, layouts etc. across your entire system at company, role or even user-level. This differs dramatically to traditional legacy systems where such fields were hard coded, and made you reliant on the software provider at a time and cost that suits them!
This level of autonomy and control makes you more agile as a business as you can make a significant number of system changes in an instant. Such swift turnaround times will also encourage your employees to work with, not around, the system.
Today’s ERP solutions are built for growth. The technology stack they are built upon enables ERP solutions to easily expand and extend in line with business ambitions and changing market conditions.
They facilitate the addition of new branches or diversifying into new business areas with ease. And they act as a digital fabric that can spread out across your entire business, and stretch further when required to accommodate growth, in whatever forms it comes in.
Acceptance that your ERP system is a static beast is at odds with your organisation’s ever-changing environment. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day operations and overlook the benefits that modern ERP solutions should bring to your business.
So ensure your system is able to facilitate self-service changes, enable growth with ease and allow you to seamlessly take advantage of advances in new technology such as accessing your ERP solution via your mobile device. It’s these qualities, layered on top of the functionality that traditional ERP solutions offer, that will truly enable you to elevate your business today and for many years to come.
5. API & integration
Seamless integration has always been a central ERP ambition. In 2020, with the availability of new API technology and the proliferation of niche best-of-breed software applications, integration becomes an even hotter topic for organisations seeking to maintain a robust, central business hub but also drive a competitive edge.
With new developments in ERP integration such as RESTful API, ERP solutions can now more swiftly and cost effectively adapt and embed any best-of-breed applications you need to run certain areas of your company.
For example, perhaps your ERP system supports your entire business very well. However, you also use a leading marketing CRM solution to manage your business development and marketing functions. With RESTful API technology integrated into your ERP system, your business can enjoy the benefits of both pieces of software without compromising having a single source of truth (SSOT). Your whole team will still know, in real-time, exactly how your company is performing.
In addition, RESTful API technology speeds up integration projects and at lower cost.
Aidan Lawless, CTO of Intact, says:
“The emergence and adoption rates of API standards like OpenAPI/Swagger and GraphQL along with the constant development of protocols like OData and the interest in technology like IFTTT is, in part, a reaction to the desire to make system and process integration simpler and more flexible.”
Choosing an ERP that can grow and expand as the needs of your business change is essential for the success of your business. An ERP system that can seamlessly and cost-effectively integrate with the solutions you need both now and in the future is crucial.
If your ERP system can’t integrate with new and advanced technology you could be confining the success of your business to a legacy system that will foster information silos throughout your business. You may even run the risk of missing out on huge business opportunities, and the chance to make your ERP as robust and efficient as it can be.
So if there is a best of breed solution out there that you feel will enhance your business for the better, there’s an ERP solution with RESTful APIs that will enable you to take advantage of it.
6. Vertical ERP
One of the lesser apparent, but extremely important, trends to watch out for is vertical ERP. Simply put, a vertical ERP solution is a software platform that is built exclusively for a particular industry.
This means that businesses in certain industries now have the option to use a vertical ERP solution that comes with functionality that pertains specifically to them; rather than having to work with generic features.
Since these systems are so closely aligned with solving the unique business needs of a particular type of industry, bespoke development needs are drastically reduced.
Additionally, vertical ERP vendors spend so much time in the industries that they serve, that they’re fully aware of industry best practices, regulation requirements and any nuances in them.
Justin Lawless, CEO of Intact, says:
“I think something to watch for is ERP becoming much more flexible to really match the processes of the organisation. Too often ERP is described as mid-tier or top-tier i.e. based on the size of a company regardless of what they do. Real value in ERP comes not based on the size of an organisation, but what it is they do i.e. what is their line of business. The verticalization of ERP is something I believe we will see more and more of in 2020.”
The trends for 2020 show that many businesses are really only scratching the surface of what ERP systems can achieve for their organisations. Whilst these trends may not be apparent for users of legacy ERP systems they are alive and well and are helping to set companies in good stead for whatever the world throws at them – even Covid 19!