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The Role of ERP

Aligning business processes for better performance, organizations rely on ERP solutions for lifecycle management.

By Cassandra Balentine

Efficient business processes protect profitability. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management solutions are increasingly essential, especially as the role of business data evolves.

To remain relevant, ERP software applications adapt to the latest demands while providing a solid platform for the businesses they serve. In addition to traditional functions, these solutions must incorporate mobility and cloud computing. Further, emphasis on social networking and big data also affects the future of ERP.

"The ERP solution essentially runs the entire business," says Dan Miller, GM, software verticals, NetSuite. "Companies without a proper system in place to manage their financials are setting themselves up for failure; managing financials through tedious manual processes and spreadsheets, working off of inaccurate data, manually processing financial consolidation, and missing opportunities to grow their business." He explains that ERP solutions should enable users to obtain complete visibility into their business, gaining insight into performance.

Malcolm Fox, VP, product marketing, Epicor Software Corporation, states that ERP has moved beyond data entry and reporting, emerging as a real time, "access anywhere," platform for strategic business execution and enhanced customer experience. "To make this a reality, ERP will become more agile, supporting and rapidly deploying process changes and have the ability to evolve business processes to meet ever-changing demands and requirements in the customer experience journey," he predicts.

While the role of ERP continues to expand to encompass more processes, the system foundation provides the most fitting functionality and utility for an organization, adds Joey Benadretti, president, SYSPRO USA.

"The market is looking for software solutions that meet their needs and work in today’s fast changing, uncertain world—without creating additional pain," suggests David Turner, group marketing director, UNIT4. He points out that 2013 was characterized by some "rather spectacular ERP project failures." One consistent theme Turner sees in analyzing these failures is the ability of an ERP solution to cope with change.

The next wave of ERP centers on automation across the entire enterprise, suggests Bob Vormittag, president/CEO, VAI. "Already, we’re seeing enterprise-level companies working to fully automate their operational and IT processes. For both financial and operational efficiency purposes, the benefits of ERP automation are clear," he says.

Vormittag adds that social, mobile, and cloud technologies significantly influence ERP. "Regardless of business or type of industry, visibility is paramount to company growth, and social media marketing is one of the most efficient and affordable methods to interact with existing and prospective customers," he explains. "Mobility and the cloud allow customers and employees to access the information they need anywhere, and at anytime, enabling faster communications, optimized customer service, efficient sales processes, and greater employee flexibility."

Agility is also essential. Jack Saint, president/CEO, Visibility Corporation, notes that the constant change in technology and manufacturing philosophy requires an agile approach to product improvements. "Five-year market-driven product plans are evolving into a thing of the past. ERP firms need to be quick to adopt," he says.

The progress of ERP is often driven by the user, points out Duncan Angove, president, Infor. It’s about what they expect and what they need to do their job better. "That’s why we’re seeing current trends around mobility and social business, because the next generation of users is entering the workforce, and they have a different relationship with technology than their predecessors," he says. "These next-gen employees want business systems that mimic today’s most popular customer devices and Web sites in usability and appearance, and can be accessed from any location at any time, while still delivering the in-depth functionality of a traditional ERP."

ERP software systems exist to serve as a backbone to many different types of organizations. In addition to core functions, the solutions extend well beyond traditional capabilities and have evolved to the cloud.

Epicor designs and implements business software solutions for distribution, manufacturing, retail, and service, and inspires organizations to consider their business from a fresh perspective. Leveraging an innovative approach to architecture, mobility, embedded analytics, and built-in business process management, Epicor provides the choice and flexibility in solutions including on-premise, as a managed service, or in the cloud. The company delivers a range of business software solutions along with a single point of accountability, empowering customers to achieve operational excellence and sustained market leadership.

With Epicor’s ERP, businesses move beyond transactional efficiency to radically improved, game-changing business performance, through adoption of an agile application development paradigm. According to the company, the platform is architectured in a unique manner, with a separation of the underlying architecture from its functionality. The embedded functionality drives business efficiency but tends to change incrementally whereas the underlying business architecture not only delivers agility but changes at a much greater cadence.

Microsoft Dynamics ERP offerings include Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, and Microsoft Dynamics SL. The products are designed to respond to market needs that address ERP plus operational workflows, including supply chain management and operational applications.

Microsoft Dynamics AX is the company’s global ERP solution, designed to support operational and administrative processes and offer customers specialized retail, manufacturing, service industry, distribution, and public sector capabilities. It has localizations for 36 countries. Microsoft Dynamics NAV, GP, and SL are the Microsoft Dynamics ERP offerings for small- and mid-sized businesses.

NetSuite’s cloud-based ERP solution provides comprehensive financial/ERP capabilities that integrate with broader, back-office sales and service processes. NetSuite ERP allows companies to manage financials, supply chain, inventory management, order management, billing, revenue recognition, and recurring revenue management in one unified cloud system. The company’s financial management capabilities streamline accounting processes by accelerating financial close times, improving revenue recognition processes, and automating billing. NetSuite ERP also readily handles different currencies, taxation rules, and reporting requirements.

The company’s cloud-based ERP acts as the backbone of a company, vanquishing old, standalone computer systems in finance, human resources, manufacturing, and other departments and replacing them with a single, unified suite.

Infor ERP solutions deliver built-in functionality to address the specific needs and challenges of customers across many focused industries. According to the company, its current customers include 19 of the top 20 aerospace companies, 12 of the top 13 high-tech companies, and 31 of the top 50 industrial distributors. With continued investment in applications such as Infor LN, Inform M3, and Infor SyteLine, Infor ERP helps businesses such as Ferrari and Bangla CAT improve operations and performance.

The company’s ERP solutions differ from the competition due to its micro-vertical approach. "Rather than delivering a one-size-fits-all application, we delve deeper into the needs of specific niche markets within our target industries to give companies the necessary functionality right out of the box, rather than calling for extensive customization by offering unique solutions based on an industry," says Duncan Angove, president, Infor. For example, a $50 million metals fabricator has different requirements than a $200 million bakery, $500 million windows/doors company, and $1 billion aerospace defense company. "These companies face different challenges and process different requirements that don’t come in a one-size-fits-all box. Therefore, Infor delivers deep functionality per industry, based on the ERP, to address differing processes within broader market categories," he adds.

With more than 40 years of experience and nearly 50,000 customers, SAP’s ERP application is a leading solution. It delivers integrated business functionality that organizations need to increase competitiveness. The application enables accelerated time to market, simplifies market channels and business scenario management, and improves asset utilization and customer satisfaction. It provides a foundation for the latest mobile, cloud, and in-memory apps.

Based on the SAP ERP application, SAP Business All-in-One products are industry-specific solutions available to mid-sized or fast growing small companies. In addition, SAP Business ByDesign is a complete, fully integrated, and adaptable on demand solution specifically designed to address the needs of high-growth small or mid-size companies that want to limit IT infrastructure. The SAP Business One application offers software for key business activities, eliminating both the complexity and expense of integrating multiple solutions.

SYSPRO Software is an ERP solution designed for on-premise and cloud-based utilization. It offers features that include simplicity, information visibility, in-depth analytic and reporting capabilities, business process improvements, and rapid deployment methodology. While customers represent all industry segments, SYSPRO offers rich extensions for food, medical device, electronics, and machinery manufacturers and distributors.

SYSPRO 7 is the latest evolution of the company’s ERP solution. Styled along the lines of Windows 8, the solution brings active titles and touch capabilities to its enterprise user interface, enabling manufacturers and distributors to create tailor-fit and social-ready environments for their SYSPRO solutions. Features inherent in SYSPRO 7 include new customization and role-based optimization capabilities, newly added functional features, SYSPRO Espresso mobile solution, SYSPRO-developed industry specific layout templates, efficient implementation, extended scalability, and reporting service capability enhancements.

UNIT 4 Software’s Agresso is a fully integrated, role-focused ERP system available in the cloud. It is ideal for service- or people-based organizations that need financial accounting and other back-office software integrated with a broader range of core business functions in a single, unified system. Agresso lets organizations replace traditional ERPs or multiple systems with a complete, integrated ERP solution that supports them in the future. Focus areas include education and research, public, and commercial sectors including financial services and retail distribution.

"Traditional ERP solutions need ongoing, costly, and time-intensive recoding in order to support business changes after they are implemented, which usually involves expensive external consultants," warns David Turner, group marketing director, UNIT4.

Agresso from UNIT4 is designed to help users easily adapt the system in line with ongoing business or operational change. "Post-implementation agility is a fundamental part of our solution design. Our ERP architecture keeps the system components for data, process, and information delivery in step with each other, ensuring that when a change is made in one area, it does not have to be redone and rechecked for accuracy in another," he explains. "As a result, users are not tied to a rigid information system that hinders growth. Staff is empowered to respond to business change, their organization’s spend, and reduce dependency on external resources."

VAI designs configurable, on-premise, and cloud-based ERP software that allows mid-market businesses to better anticipate customers’ needs and optimize workplace productivity. Its ERP solutions include S2K Enterprise, S2K Enterprise for Food, S2K Warehouse Management, S2K Analytics, S2K Sales Force Automation, S2K Enterprise Portal, S2K Mobile, and S2K Integrator. Additionally, the company’s newest product release, S2K Smart Center, is a cloud-based solution with mobile and social capabilities.

VIA offers personalized one-on-one service to its customers. Since ERP is not typically a one-size-fits-all solution, the company devotes personalized resources to reviewing and analyzing a company’s needs and requirements, and advises them on the selection, implementation, and configuration of an ERP solution best suited for a company’s unique business needs. "The purpose of ERP is to optimize an organization’s efficiency and effectiveness, and to provide the most significant return on investment (ROI) requirements and goals, via personalized and constant customer service," says Vormittag.

Visibility provides enterprise software solutions for to-order manufacturers. The company helps its clients manage the complexities associated with engineer to order, make to order, configure to order, and hybrid/mixed mode-manufacturing environments. Its ERP solution delivers enterprise efficiency, operational innovation, and global collaboration. "Our one ERP product is scalable, offers IT cost savings, makes businesses more agile, and delivers real-time, anywhere access to information," says Saint. "Our lean implementation approach delivers a fast ROI."

Its products provide broad and extensive capabilities while allowing for rapid implementation with simplistic power, therefore enabling its customers to gain a faster ROI.

Significant Impact
ERP application providers move forward with current demands by making their services available in the cloud, incorporating big data extensions, and adding mobility.

"ERP has historically been kept hidden from ‘mere mortals,’ a bastion of the finance departments and manufacturing shop floors in dark gray buildings. Further it has been managed through on-premise software installed on services that lack flexibility and integration, which are crucial for growing businesses," says NetSuite’s Miller. "Market demands for an easier, more streamlined, flexible, and effective way to manage financials has led to running ERP in the cloud," he concludes. SW

Feb2014, Software Magazine



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