Most ERP vendors in today’s market have realised that ERP can no longer be presented in the traditional way and must be adapted to suit the modern workplace, which, as researchers like Gartner have pointed out, will be dominated by the emerging millennial entrepreneur.
These employees are always available, constantly connected and thrive on blending their personal and professional lives. The office has changed, forced to adapt to the forces of mobility, the cloud and the internet – and resource planning has had to move with the times, no longer linear but fluid, and no longer based on large, complex systems but now accessible through clear, simple and user-friendly interfaces.
As Gary Regan, Chief Operating Officer at IT systems and solutions provider Dac Systems, explains ERP is now almost entirely consumer-driven.
“Consumerised ERP is, in my opinion, what almost all ERP vendors are striving for at the moment whether they know or have ‘tagged it’ as such or not. It is the complete refresh of the way tasks and data are presented to the user and as a result, the way the consumer interacts with the ERP. It places control in the hands of the consumer,” says Regan.
Regan says the trend is a by-product of the broader consumerisation of the IT discussion, it is inevitable that the user would be in a position to – as much as possible – dictate the device of preference and therefore a user interface that is familiar and more comfortable.
“The consumerisation of ERP specifically is the result of the consumerisation of IT, both as a platform and as a service and one could argue that cloud adoption has accelerated the pace thereof tremendously,” he explains.
Unravelling the ERP riddle
Regan says that a consumerised approach to ERP is all about the user experience. This becomes quite apparent in a comparison of what the traditional ERP experience was like in the past, and what the user can expect today.
“ERPs are inherently large and complex systems and historically, their user interfaces have loyally followed suit. As a result, consumers or users of these systems are subjected to archaic user interfaces of legacy systems that demand weeks of training prior to them being let loose on their respective ERPs. Even then, users are still more concerned with, and focussed on how to actually interact with the ERP to conduct a specific task as opposed to the actual task itself as these actions or functions have traditionally been hidden many screens down in multiple layers of menus and sub menus,” he continues.
However, today if executed correctly, the user would be able to only expose the areas, features or functions of the ERP that requires regular focus. “The interaction with these features would typically be via a user interface similar to that of the device on which it is deployed and the device itself would be of their choosing. The nett result is an environment in which the user is already familiar with the means of interaction and navigation. Add to this the fact that they’re only exposed to role-specific functionality means that they now focus on the task itself rather than how to go about executing the task.”
Given the extent to which mobility has transformed the workforce and presented all businesses with the opportunity to gain competitive advantage through strategic use of resources, increased productivity and availability, it was to be expected that ERP would link up with- and contribute to a mobile-driven market
Regan says ‘mobility’ in this context refers to more than just tablets and smartphones, and consumerised ERP will enter the realm of wearables and the like.
“The organisations that utilise these technologies and embrace cultures that support this will by definition have a competitive edge as they will generally have more accurate, up-to-date and relevant information at their fingertips no matter where on the planet they might find themselves, allowing dramatically shorter decision cycles and faster turn-around times,” Regan adds.