In this week’s Sunday Business Post article, ERP – More than the sum of its parts, Justin Lawless, Intact CEO, discusses how trends related to hyper-personalisation, ongoing regulatory changes, AI, data analytics and digital transformation are affecting the current generation of ERP solutions.
How buoyant is the Irish ERP market?
I think it’s a great time to be in the Irish market offering ERP systems. There are always challenges but these challenges are always interlaced with opportunity. We are seeing businesses weigh up the implications of external factors like BREXIT, increased regulatory controls such as GDPR, and Making Tax Digital, and realising their current business software system has limited ability to cope with the level of innovation and agility required in their businesses to stay relevant. These external factors combined with current or expected growth surges reinforce the need to ensure their entire team has access to a modern ERP solution that is highly flexible, fast and fully integrated across the company’s functions.
What are your customers seeking from a new ERP solution and what typically brings them to your door?
A high percentage of the people we meet are in or planning a growth phase and are experiencing related growing pains. Their current ERP or accounting or business software system simply can’t deliver the speed, accuracy and efficiencies required to adequately support current and future strategic objectives. It becomes apparent that these growing pains will simply amplify as time goes on.
Those who fail to appreciate that they are standing on a burning platform are often forced to change their software in a hurry. A rushed decision and implementation project is no good for anyone. In these scenarios, the reason why the company decided to change its ERP system can get lost in a sea of software features and demo checklists.
We, therefore, encourage customers to dedicate adequate time and resources into both the ERP vendor selection process and their ERP implementation project to ensure the solution put in place doesn’t just resolve those growing pains. The ambition should be to create a much better version of the company’s current system; one that will help them operate at their best. All very achievable with the functionality modern ERP solutions, such as Intact iQ, can deliver.
What do you feel is the future for the ERP industry?
Rigid, closed ERP solutions can and should be a thing of the past. ERP solutions need to support, not inhibit, innovation and to do this they need to be open and flexible.
No two businesses are the same, therefore ERP systems must be capable of flexing to support the nuances and often competitive advantage of a business, not the other way around.
With our customers, we’ve found that they all have important intricacies to their business that cookie-cutter software systems simply can’t support. Some businesses try to resolve this issue through the use of multiple software solutions to manage various, niche elements of the business. However, the disparate nature of such an operation will create silos, reduce data accuracy and increase duplication. As our Intact iQ solution was built to support unique ways of working, scale and change, our customers are working with a unified platform that provides them with a digital fabric that extends right across their entire business. This provides a level of control and a continuous flow information, in real-time, across their business that often enables them to enhance their operation by the margins necessary to outpace their competition.
Are there any trends in this area you think are indicative of the way the market is going?
ERP may not be the ‘hippest’ technology platform but it is the one most capable of facilitating innovation across the business. Though often overlooked, ERP should form the bedrock of any digital transformation strategy. If it isn’t, you’re guaranteed to be duplicating data entry and introducing inaccuracies and ever-growing inefficiencies. Your ERP solution may not address all of your digital transformation objectives, but a modern ERP system will enable you to innovate throughout your business. It will also enable you to use best in breed tech solutions for any specific problems not addressed by ERP, but that are fully integrated into the line of business system that is used across the organisation. This is important as all of your technology solutions are now talking to each other in real-time and feeding back into one unified platform.
Another trend is greater awareness of both the pros and cons of cloud deployment of ERP solutions. It was the fashionable thing to include on RFP documents for a few years but now businesses are asking what problem are they trying to solve and which deployment method will best address this problem? For some it’s the cloud, for others it’s an on-premise solution, but most adopt a hybrid solution. It all depends on the businesses particular set of circumstances and ERP vendors (and third-party consultants) are there to advise their customers on the most appropriate deployment solution for their business.
How important is AI and data analytics in relation to ERP?
There is a major reluctance to let AI run your business, and rightly so in my opinion. Predictions like AI automatically running your purchasing department, for example, scares many business operators and owners. The well-known phrase, ‘people buy from people’ has an importance in all areas of a business. ERP should support decision making by providing real-time and accurate information at the right time. It should facilitate warnings, force authorisation in certain circumstances, but robust general AI is too far off to be making critical business decisions. For the team at Intact our attention is focused on using AI in a more practical, robust way to ensure the right information gets to the right person, at the right time to radically enhance their decision making and maximise their efficiency.
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