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Fiona McGuinness17-Jun-2020 17:32:538 min read

8 business leaders discuss the future of ERP

Since Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) has the ability to impact an entire organisation, it’s under the spotlight like never before. Customer expectations, the ecommerce revolution, disrupted supply chains and an even more fast paced omni-channel environment are just some of the big challenges merchant, retail and distribution businesses are dealing with today.

We recently chatted to 8 ERP experts to ask two fundamental questions about ERP:

  • How can ERP help companies achieve their goals to stay competitive in a digitally transformed environment?
  • What are the ERP trends to look out for in the next year?

You’ll find their responses in our post below.

Digital transformation – how to execute it right

Many organisations are eager to “do” digital transformation correctly, but don’t have much insight on where to start. We spoke to some of the leaders about how companies can approach this massive remit.

Intact: With the digital transformation buzzword only becoming a bigger topic for businesses, what role do you believe ERP plays in practically helping companies to enable digital transformation in their businesses?

Liz Quirk, Web Content Editor at Solutions Review:

“Digital transformation is about leveraging investments in technologies and improved business processes to drive value. Today, businesses of all sizes are undergoing this transformation to drive innovation, making the engagement between businesses and IT even more critical.

That being said, I think ERP plays a huge role in enabling digital transformation, as these systems are a critical part of any company. ERP systems streamline and completely automate key business processes. They act as a “central hub” that unites, streamlines and standardises processes of the company across different departments, such as human resources, finance, distribution, procurement, manufacturing, and customer relations.

With a successful ERP solution, a company can manage its processes more timely and cost-effectively. By collecting an organisation’s shared transactional data from multiple sources, ERP systems eliminate data duplication and provide data integrity. Digital transformation projects involve a lot of detailed outlining, planning and monitoring of business and operational plans with the end result of integrating and utilising the latest ERP technologies available.”

Ian O’Toole, Consulting Manager at Lumenia:

“Digital transformation initiatives may mean capturing, analysing and managing vast volumes of unstructured and experiential data from consumers, devices or elsewhere. ERP systems manage structured and transactional data. However, back office systems like ERP and CRM are key foundations supporting the business processes that more agile and innovative digital platforms and apps may feed into. This digital core is usually a prerequisite, or maybe a first step, for any digital transformation programme.”

Daryl Crockett, CEO at ValidDatum:

“ERPs are designed to be the “heart” of an organisation; therefore your digital transformation project should encompass your ERP implementation, upgrade or conversion. Due to the volume and complexity of data integrations with most ERP’s, it would be a poor financial decision to do a large digital transformation project around an outdated (or soon to be unsupported) ERP.”

Morgan O’Flaherty, ERP/CRM Projects Director, Freelance Consultant:

“ERP provides the key building blocks for the majority of digital transformation projects in that it holds a significant amount of the key data, functionality and processes that are required for driving corporate transformation initiatives.

So while an application like CRM will allow you transform your Sales and Service departments, ERP typically has a corporate-wide remit and covers all aspects of a business’ operational activities.

ERP improvements will be much more transformational across an organization and provide many more opportunities to drive cost savings through more efficient processes and automation as well as providing better information which can, for example, help leadership teams decide on which products to market to customers as well as how best to deliver those products in the most efficient manner.”

Aidan Lawless, CTO of Intact:

For me true digital transformation of a business at an operational level means the adoption of technology in more than just the ‘traditional’ parts of the organisation like ePOS, billing, CRM, inventory management etc. At the simplest level it means 3 things:

  • Capturing the data required to support those traditional activities from previously disconnected sources in a smarter and more efficient way
  • Delivering the precise data to the individuals or automated processes to facilitate and validate data that capture
  • Being able to leverage the new possibilities and opportunities that integrating these processes provide for the future.

And just in case you’re still wondering about digital transformation (it’s a big topic), Eric Kimberling, CEO & Founder at Third Stage Consulting Group has helpfully shared a video with us on the difference between digital transformation and ERP implementation.

As you can see from the responses above, an ERP solution enables organisations to adopt a digital mindset, rather than view digital purely as one aspect of a business. Automating repetitive tasks, and integrating tools and analytics platforms, enables you to focus on strategic value and grow your business.

ERP trends of the future

In the world of business, nothing ever stays the same way for long. Same with technological developments.

How do you keep up with the key changes in your business to ensure that you stay relevant and competitive for your customers? One way is to keep an eye on upcoming trends.

Intact: In your opinion, what are the ERP trends to watch for (and implement) in 2020 and which of these are likely to make the largest revenue impact?

Liz Quirk, Web Content Editor at Solutions Review:

“Mobile and Machine Learning (ML) are two huge trends to keep an eye on.

Mobile ERP applications allow companies to benefit from improved quality of service, deeper business relationships and more accurate data capture – not to mention access to important data from any location at any time. These applications can improve the efficiency of separate business processes too. For instance, a manufacturing business may often run into risks of production delays because of delivery issues. Mobile ERP apps can dramatically shorten such risks by sending notifications about delivery troubles. In turn, employees will be quickly informed in order to search for the best solution to avoid losses of time and money.”

Machine Learning: “When a system goes down, it costs a business valuable resources, such as productivity, time, and money. Through machine learning, not only can the cause of a problem be identified quickly, but it’s also possible to predict– and thus prevent– a problem as well. Machine learning creates this kind of advance preparation for ERP. As technology advances, the ability to prevent shutdowns and wasted resources will become better; diagnostics will be used to prevent rather than diagnose.”

“In light of the volatile political climate at present, there’s also a question of how businesses can adapt to unknown scenarios.”

Aidan Lawless, CTO, Intact:

“There are a few interesting emerging trends like AI and Blockchain adoption but right now the single biggest demand I see is for ‘integration with everything’. Our users are really seeing the value of opening their digital doors to their vendors, customers and partners for all sorts of reasons and rewards. In previous years the most common integration tasks we dealt with were around EDI transactions or connecting to a company’s website for stock availability, pricing and order processing. With the advent of IoT and the accelerating availability of public services and APIs we are integrating with third party logistics systems, mapping services, business intelligence tools, electronic labelling solutions, website analytics, smart buttons, parcelling devices to name just a few.

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 this – a desire to make system and process integration simpler and more flexible.”

Justin Lawless,  CEO at Intact, shares how ERP can future-proof a business:

“With Brexit and trade wars in the news constantly, “Trusted Trader” status will, I believe, require a more transparent transacting model. I see it getting to the point where each and every shipment moving across borders will be visible by government bodies before trucks/ships get to the point of a border. I believe that in order to get into the ‘fast lane’ at borders, your ERP systems will need to provide the associated bodies with all relevant information from supplier, to product, to customer, to weight, and all associated attributes of the transaction, in advance of the goods reaching a border.

I think the second thing 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.

Daryl Crockett, CEO at ValidDatum highlights a critical point that many businesses could agree with – the Cloud isn’t always the best solution:

Forced migration to the Cloud: “This is not necessarily a positive trend from the business’ perspective! Nor do I think that cloud-based vs. on-prem will lead to increased revenue or bottom line for businesses, despite what the software sales teams tout. It is after all a sizable project and budget needed for most ERP migrations. And there is a second, more alarming aspect to this forced migration trend. Since every ERP vendor seems to be hopping on the same bandwagon, there will be an implementation quality crisis – there are simply not enough skilled system implementers to go around. Poorly run implementations mean project delays and cost overruns.”

To read more on this topic check out our blog: ERP Trends in 2020

ERP and your business

There are multiple benefits to implementing a modern ERP solution in your business.

One of the most valuable benefits is how ERP establishes one source of truth within your organisation and future-proofs you for the current, and impending, business environment.


Fiona McGuinness

I've been part of the Intact family for 16 rewarding years. After completing my Business Studies degree, I knew Marketing was a field I wanted to pursue. Prior to joining Intact, I primarily worked in the financial sector, focusing on marketing for credit unions. When I started at Intact, I handled all the marketing tasks by myself. Over time, as our team expanded, so did my role. Now, I specialise in crafting compelling content across various platforms, from blogs to video scripts. No two days are the same, and I thrive on the dynamic nature of my role. Whether it's diving into customer case studies or lead campaigns, I'm driven by the positive impact our solutions bring to businesses. In an age where AI plays a significant role, I remain a firm believer in the power of authentic content. When I'm not working, you'll find me enjoying quality time with my family, sewing, or watercolor paintings.