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What’s That in Your Pocket? ERP!

Date posted: October 5, 2016

No, Mae West, that’s not a banana in our pocket—it’s enterprise resource planning (ERP). And you can bet those looking for a return on that enterprise investment are happy indeed to see it there.

We recently posted on the development of cloud-based ERP, specifically the path being cleared by CFOs coming on board with the idea of moving their core enterprise application to the cloud. A number of reasons were cited as drivers for this movement. Here’s another: leveraging smartphones and tablets to get ERP data off old servers and into the hands of decision makers wherever they are, whenever they need it.

A recent column on the Australian website INTHEBLACK has an interesting discussion on the emergence of smartphone-friendly ERP as a means of mining and using the data often lost in traditional ERP deployments. In that situation, getting desired data is often so delayed it results in a rear-view mirror perspective of what’s going on in the organization. In today’s rapidly moving global markets, that’s not a view that will keep companies abreast or ahead of the competition.

Makers of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are trying to address this problem with a new generation of tools such as ERP “dashboards.” These can serve up regularly updated reports on a smartphone or iPad and aim to give management clearer vision out of the windscreen and a firmer grip on the wheel.

INTHEBLACK gives two examples of how this is working in widely different markets: entertainment (i.e., registered clubs) and agriculture. At clubs, management responsibilities include organizing food, beverages, gaming, functions and membership services, as well as managing staff. Many clubs’ annual revenues run to millions of dollars, and there are significant compliance issues to navigate.

“Joe” is a New South Wales club CEO who doesn’t want his real name published, because he’s using his ERP to keep an eye on one of his senior staff. “I’ve got figures day on day, week on week—I’ve got a dashboard,” he says. “I open it up, with the beverage manager sitting in front of me. Let’s look at gross profit on bar since November. It’s been 64 [percent], 63, 64, 64, 65, 64, 65. What is it this month? It’s 58—that’s 7 percent down, and I’ve got that anomaly instantly. He finds $4,500 of stock. Do I think he’s lifting? No, but he’s got to know I’m watching closely.”

The bottom line: everyone in business is watching closely, and the insights they’re looking for are likely to be in ERP.

The technologies holding the promise of changing the view of ERP from costly and complex systems spinning along in the IT department without delivering much direct insight to management to a much more incisive tool are dashboards and mobile devices.

Today’s systems are also getting better at adding data from outside sources. The problem with old ERPs was that companies often had to shoehorn their processes into what the computer system would allow. That’s no longer an option for innovating businesses. There has to be flexibility, and to get that, the ERP is increasingly a hybrid solution woven from different vendors’ systems.

For example, agricultural businesses might want to integrate information from the ERP with long-term weather forecasts. Today this is eminently doable.

According to Denise Ganly, research director at Gartner, today’s ERP is less about transactions and more about analytics and information. This has led to what Gartner calls “postmodern ERP,” where data may be drawn from multiple systems supplied by a raft of different vendors, some in the cloud and some in-house.

Gartner estimates that 77 percent of organizations currently operate this kind of hybrid environment. Oracle’s Australia-based general manager of applications says that Australian enterprise is at the 80:20 point now in terms of adoption of mobile ERP: 80 percent of organizations continue to rely on manual intervention to get insights out of their ERP, and 20 percent are early adopters embracing dashboards and mobile devices to get instant insights. What’s not in question is that today’s ERP is clearly not your father’s, and like the rest of the advancing digital world, it’s positioned to deliver what you desire much more rapidly than ever before possible.

As Miss West once noted, it is better to be looked over than overlooked. Such is the case for smartphone- and mobile-enabled ERP.