Take a moment to reflect on how much cell phones have changed over the past 15 years. The technology has moved from a glorified pager to a mini computer that fits in our pockets.1 2
Similarly, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems became widely adopted in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and have been constantly evolving ever since. ERP systems have moved from “green-screen”, text-based screens to user interfaces that look and feel like Facebook. Given the average ERP system life cycle of ~10 years, many companies are operating on outdated and potentially unsupported ERP systems. These outdated platforms typically do not utilize the many innovative, new features that are being included in the current version of ERP systems.
Examples of some of these revolutionary features include:
Intuitive, social media design: ERP companies have learned from the social media revolution and have incorporated similar design elements into their applications. Take Infor’s Ming.le for example: 3
As you can see, Ming.le adds social media style content and feel to Infor’s ERP applications. Within the ERP application itself, users can instantly communicate with one another and directly share the business data they have questions on, view dashboards for KPIs, receive alerts based on critical business information, and see lists of outstanding tasks.
Configuration: One interesting analogy of the evolution of ERP systems compared to cell phones is the area of configuration. This process entails setting up various options which will determine how the system will behave, from enterprise structures (companies, plants) to financial settings (currency, accounting posting rules). Modern-day ERP systems, which run in the cloud as SaaS offerings, offer configuration options that are managed centrally and distributed to various system types (example: testing, QA). Modern-day mobile devices work in a similar fashion; all you need is a user account and all device settings can be stored in the cloud and downloaded to any new device you activate. Older versions of ERP systems had to be configured on-premises and those settings needed to be migrated through the entire system landscape.
Usage of web services: Modern, cloud-based ERP systems make use of web services to perform tasks, such as “painting” the user interface or performing application processing, either at the client or the server layer. This has allowed for a seamless integration between front-end applications, such as CRM, to what used to be more traditionally back-office ERP functions, such as Accounting and Finance. Likewise, the latest smartphones thrive on the app ecosystem, most of which are application “wrappers” calling on web services and rendered on 5″ mobile screens. The cloud ERP experience available today is as elegant as a modern, “Web 2.0” site on the Internet. As an example, below is a sample of NetSuite’s standard user interface: 4
Voice control: As discussed in our blog, 10 Reasons to Upgrade Your ERP System, IFS has recently developed “Siri” voice-control for their ERP applications. Voice-control allows users to work in the ERP application while on the road, or enable shop floor users to access job related information while using both hands to complete a production task.
As mobile phone manufacturers and technology providers continue to evolve and innovate, we expect to see ERP vendors follow suit. The explosion of mobile technology has definitely influenced the world of ERP. The next time you upgrade you mobile phone, consider also upgrading your ERP system and contact Ricardo or Ryan to see how West Monroe can help!