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What’s around the corner for ERP?

6/3/2015

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It’s a truism that technology is changing our world faster than most of us can hope to react to it. At Epicor Insights 2015, Malcolm Fox, VP Product Marketing for Epicor, explained not only how changes in technology are influencing the ERP industry, but also how Epicor is monitoring those changes on behalf of its customers, to become a technology partner which can help manufacturing businesses remain ahead of the curve.

Fox said, “Here in the heart of the first industrial revolution, we’re experiencing what major tech companies like Siemens are calling the fourth industrial revolution: the bringing together of a huge variety of data sources and computing power for interacting systems. In the big data world, ‘communities of machines will organise production lines and supply chains themselves’.”

Disruptive technologies are “coming at us from every angle,” says Fox. “Think of the global changes (and challenges) in energy; materials science developments like nanotubes, 3D printing, the mobile internet, the Internet of Things, or the economies of scale technologically afforded by cloud computing…”

All of us are impacted by at least a few of these trends. Most of us are affected by several; and it pays for CEOs to see the future. Fox gives the example of Kodak, which was not only a corporate giant which went into administration; but whose final blow was cruelly dealt by the likes of Instagram, a billion-dollar upstart with only thirteen employees. Says Fox, “Business leaders must embrace the use of data and analytics to anticipate disruption.”

And everyone can use data. Take “the connected cow”, not an urban myth but farming reality. Today’s dairy farmers – who need data-driven efficiencies in their dysfunctional marketplace more than most – are connecting their cows to the Cloud, to monitor the health of the animals, analyse milk yields, forecast livestock requirements, streamline distribution and offer data downstream to the rest of the supply chain. Daisy is the icon of a business being transformed through the judicious application of technology.

What does that mean for ERP? Well, in the words of Ventana Research, “In many respects today’s ERP systems are exactly what people don’t want anymore” Why? The problem is that traditional ERP was all about enforcing a process: driving efficiency through top-down management of concrete process implementation. But life is no longer like that. The smart money is on agility, evolution and responding to external triggers. Companies must evolve in response to competition and customer demand. Institutionalised processes are now a liability: the future is individualised, mobilised and responsive. Smart businesses respond to triggers at the bottom, on the shop floor or in the street. They spot and fill customer vacuums.

To achieve this whilst not sacrificing the underlying resilience and strength of ERP as a proposition, Fox says we can look to the world of apps for an answer. “Apps – whether on mobile or other platforms – give users the data they need without complexity and in interfaces they find engaging, whilst remaining connected to the full depth of underlying information.”

Similarly, widgets for reporting, social collaboration, exception management and remote admin (to take just a few examples) allow everyone to work with ERP data in bite-sized technological chunks and see immediate value. And for developers, this also makes sense: instead of Big-Bang releases, we can deliver a steady stream of incremental improvements. Disruption in the technology business is allowing Epicor to take advantage of tangible changes in the ERP landscape and deliver greater agility to clients.

The Epicor product strategy is therefore focused on helping clients resolve the challenges we all face:

  • Drive innovation (digital-first, use the cloud, remain agile)
  • Operate a fact-based business (data-driven, optimise business intelligence opportunities)
  • Simplify the user experience (mobile support, user-centricity, social activation, apps)

You can expect Epicor to be progressively streamli ned both behind the scenes and above the waterline. It has an ‘anywhere/any device’ ethos, consistent both in the cloud, on premise or anywhere in between. And as customers, an agile development cycle means incremental code releases for core Epicor products. It’s all about making more aspects of the product more usable in more situations, for more users, from Day One.

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