While ERP software is deployed by businesses globally to run everything effectively and make proper decisions, leaders and ERP consultants now must stay aware of new-age ERP trends. The second half of 2016 brings a lot in this regard. Comprising data on sales, materials, distribution, manufacturing, HR, accounting, project management etc. in real-time visibility, even more features and integrations are being added, and more attention paid to UX and user-friendliness.
With new business software innovations the times when companies had to work with expensive systems and lengthy implementations are gone. Today radical changes are happening in the enterprise resource planning software market. Big vendors risk to be overtaken by upcoming competitors who recognize current ERP trends quicker and offer easier solutions.
Gartner is even suggesting the term “Postmodern ERP”, meaning the strategy that automates administrative and operational business tasks and connects them together. HR, purchasing, manufacturing and distribution etc. all need to be integrated and balanced out with software package. This marks two categories of ERP strategy – administrative and operational. Administrative ERP strategy primarily deals with financials and human capital management, though not all industries need operational capabilities (manufacturing, distribution) so they focus more on industry-specific functionality. Product-centric organizations (manufacturing, retail, etc.) are likely to extend their ERP strategy beyond administrative functions into operational areas. Thus, order management, supply chain management, asset maintenance, more operational features are more in demand to be covered by ERP systems of our day.ERP market evolves into one focused on users and sophisticated technology.Click To Tweet
Numerous technologies are put to use by small and mid-sized enterprises today. One great example of tech ERP trends is real-time data analytics. As ERP systems collects large amounts of data valuable to business owners, powerful real-time analytics becomes a must for a ERP system. Further on, here we look into some major current ERP trends in 2016 that every CEO should take a look as well.
Enterprise UX – a priority
UX/UI prioritization stands firmly ahead of everything else in ERP trends dominating the market. Cloud usage is the norm now and it has changed the expectations of users and customers. The drive for smooth user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) has entered all aspects of technology. It has always been integral to software to cope with user expectations. How does it look? How to get from point A to B and/or to C? What should be clicked on? What is the overall feel to use an application?
That is why ERP systems are expected to evolve from difficult-to-use to clean and easy-to-use systems. And many of them already do. User experience is driving the development of new systems, new business intelligence tools. Insights into business activities are crucial, but also customer personalization, customers needs, customer feedback are the fresh air for businesses. Response to customer and market demands means everything.
And users are demanding clean and easy interfaces. Managers and employees have no time dig through files and spreadsheets to find the relevant information. Generally, ERP users form 2 groups: casual users who need to perform simple tasks, and power users who need easy navigation to take action. The essence of ERP application design is the ability to browse quickly through and understand what the next step is. Regardless of system complexity, consistent design is essential to bring positive ERP UX. That suggests, of course, a main page with everything you need available. Different modules, like invoices, sales, project management etc., should all look like the same experience.
In ERP only the critical information for users to complete their tasks should be exposed not to cause disorientation. Lesser chunks rather than all of the possibilities. Optimized design, easy-to-hit buttons, tasks and reports should be a light action. Presenting data visually whenever and wherever possible is of great importance. For example, dashboard sales visualization in EasyERP – see below.
Here, one can choose a time-frame (day, week, month) and see the activity – peaks and lows of leads conversion, as well as general number of leads by day, all in one simple chart.
UX matters as strongly as ever, form and function should be considered together. User experience in ERP matters to employees, customers, and ultimately to one’s business. Requirements like “low error rates” or “easy navigation for first time users” may be replaced by tasks like:
- ability to tab through form fields in order
- no horizontal or vertical scrolling on data entry pages
- low page-load times.
Low error rates and intuitive navigation should not be omitted for sure, but the role of “power users” of ERP system becomes more relevant to the value of business and better efficiency.
So why is UX so crucial for ERP systems?
- Simplicity – as ERP solutions tend to be complex, a pleasant simple user experience can eliminate that complexity by letting users to get to where they need to get to when they want to
- Pleasure – if something is fun and enjoyable, it is likely to be done, this logic applies to ERP UX too, of course. Accomplishing a task in a simple and yet elegant way leads to increased user adoption of ERP.
- Personality – ERP application that allows users to add their own touch, in other words the ability to personalize is definitely a winning ticket. Users interact better with the system when they see it in preferred colors, styles, indicators, etc.
- Empowerment – ERP should bring proactive content that is easily consumable, and it’s a kind of a blend of system functionality and UX to foster an empowered ERP end user.
Industry specific, standard features and innovative capabilities of ERP systems are on the rise. Businesses may possibly require change in process, compatibility with future legal regulations and so on. ERP solutions should be able to cover and adapt to such changes. Multi-currency support, multilingual interface, IoT can be named as some of the most up-to-date features already.
Innovative business models are emerging permanently – from cloud computing to predictive analytics and software as a service (Saas) etc. Outdated legacy systems are a major concern on the path of innovation within a company. Gartner research states 80% of companies budgets for IT are used mostly to support existing systems. Stunning number! While vendors engaging in trending technologies like industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), wearables, mobility, smart manufacturing are way ahead of a ERP game.
IoT & ERP
The internet of things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items – embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
In other words, IoT is when the Internet and networks expand to places such as manufacturing floors, energy grids, healthcare facilities, and transportation.The IoT links smart objects to the Internet and it can enable an exchange of data. Tech company Cisco estimates the IoT will consist of 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020.
How is this related to ERP software? Think of possibilities to increase the productivity of ERP systems if paired with IoT? As example, if shelves at physical objects that store employee information can identify key data and send it back to the ERP system, this could automate business processes even better. The ERP system is essential for connecting unstructured data and it should be able to process, analyse and show all this data in real time. With IoT this process will be more event-driven and intelligent, it will cope with larger amounts of data.
Just as the “internet of things” allows consumers to turn lights on/off at home, IoT coupled with ERP will enable users to control facilities better, even when out of the office. Once internet-enabled sensors applied, the machinery can send data to quality and compliance departments, or wherever else as programmed.
In honesty, it should also be mentioned this is one slowly moving ERP trends, as in spite of all opportunities IoT represents, many manufacturers are still finding out ways how to incorporate it into their activities.
Another top tech trend among current ERP trends of today. We’ve all turned mobile within last decade, this includes the workforce as well. Employees prefer if any work related information is always at hand. ERP systems not an exception. It should be accessible on any mobile smart device, facilitating better and faster task completion.
In the past, ERP software was purely the on-premise installation. Now many ERP systems are available on mobile devices and have a cloud-based data storage. They are fully functional and provide secure and real-time access to the enterprise data. For instance, with mobile ERP you can process sales and check up on information away from the office.Looking for mobile cloud-based ERP system?
Though not all mobile ERP applications are the same. A good one should be fully integrated into your ERP system, provide real time access to data, be user friendly. These are 7 crucial elements of efficient mobile ERP:
- full integration into ERP software: not just the basics, but with access to CRM, inventory management, business intelligence, quality control, workflow and data analysis etc. in real time.
- real-time data access: live updates, no lag time, inventory visibility, workflow approvals production reporting, demand alerts, and more.
- enhanced sales performance: taking advantage of sales opportunities anywhere anytime with CRM module, when quick response to customers on prices, availability, order and shipping status, payment history is key.
- cross-platform flexibility: ERP solution should offer mobile applications for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and other smartphones, as well as various tablets like iPad or Playbook.
- security: as valuable data can potentially be transmitted over insecure networks, mobile ERP application should be able to manage such risks.
- ease of use: UX with mobile ERP should not be a frustration to users (as discussed previously regarding UX ERP trends), it should be user friendly. Touch screens, easy to understand interfaces, fine design are a must.
- evolving with technology: continuous updating with the newest features and functionality.
Business Intelligence (BI) and Integrations
A good ERP system should have built-in analytics functionality. New data models, artificial intelligence, machine learning are becoming a part of future ERPs. These technologies are being implemented to help improve customer satisfaction and reduce overall costs. Bots for example – these items of software use artificial intelligence and machine learning, they can be programmed to identify anomalies in performance over time.BI is enterprise-wide platform for reporting, analysis, decision-making.Click To Tweet
BI users are going to be business owners, executives and department managers, mostly. They require reports from operational systems like ERP, CRM, HRMS. They may also need to be able to interact with that data, slice it, compare it or filter it. As practice shows, BI projects if done properly bring a positive ROI. However, businesses should apply a rational, measurable approach to setting BI strategy, while IT-departments should be prepared to support the BI culture.
Another critical aspect is the issue of proper integration of all systems. It used to be accomplished by a third-party to write a code, link APIs etc. Now, more companies are introducing products to integrate and manage data easier. But there are still areas of trouble in this regard, e.g. the flow of information across a whole business environment. Only few companies seem to deliver such options. Implementation partners to ERP systems and ERP consultants should be catching this train too.
Cloud ERP for SMB
Cloud computing is particularly helpful for small businesses due to it’s cost effective way of installing and maintaining hardware/software, hiring and training staff. In addition, saving on the physical use of space. Using cloud-based ERP helps with business accounting, operations management and reporting. Tools like Customer relationship management (CRM), human resources (HR/HRMS) and accounting have adapted quickly to the cloud model, but ERP systems has taken longer to join. This happens due to the complexity and advanced computing requirements.
However, more ERP suppliers now are making their products available via cloud. While top players are lagging behind here, smaller and mid-size market ERP systems like our EasyERP provide software with online access. There are 2 major concerns for companies putting cloud ERP into action – training and human side. Many companies are still reluctant to employee training sessions, that’s one. And two, the change to web-based ERP technology may have a tough effect on employees, especially if the staff is downsized as a result.