This is a short one – the 4th post of a series on Next Generation ERP. If you missed the first three in the series, take a moment and catch up with Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. You can find the links to the right in “Recent Blog Posts.” Next up after this will be a series of posts featuring some of the major ERP players.
A Final Step “Into Darkness”
Have you forgotten how we started with our Star Trek analogy? The latest movie, Star Trek Into Darkness, has the crew of the USS Enterprise saving the world from destruction. So the story line doesn’t really support our analogy. ERP might help your business gain competitive advantage, but it doesn’t save the world. The title “…Into Darkness” is however quite relevant to the final stage, and perhaps the final frontier of ERP.
As the basics of ERP become more of a commodity it becomes all that much more of a basic necessity of business, including the more advanced technology that enables easier access and configuration (without customization), better integration and more innovation. As those basics become commoditized, ERP might appear to slip into the background: “The darkness” of uniformity, of non-differentiation. While all companies have common needs, specific industries create specialized needs and it also becomes increasingly important for companies to seek competitive differentiation. But it is not in the core functionality where this source of differentiation lies, but in the services and functions that surround the core.
So let’s continue our space analogy and imagine ERP in the center – as in the center of the solar system. Circling the sun are planets drawing sustenance in the form of light and heat, which makes them habitable. Equate habitable to easy access and intuitive user interfaces that can be configured and personalized. In a real solar system it is gravity that holds the planets in orbit, and the source of gravity is the sun at the core. In our software solar system with ERP at its center, the gravity is drawn from the platform on which the ERP is built. Building ERP and all the surrounding applications on a common platform and standardized business objects will insure a strong connection but with a loose coupling that can be easily disconnected and reconnected.
What about other components not developed on these native platforms – components that might be based on pre-existing or acquired technology? Of course other satellites can also be circling the sun, but it might take some additional propulsion to keep them in orbit. Similarly, it might take some remedial effort to make that older technology compatible enough to reap some of the benefits of the next generation platform.
Next generation ERP is a far cry from traditional ERP solutions of the past. New technology platforms allow users to engage with ERP in new and different ways with intuitive and visually appealing user interfaces, which don’t rely on intimate knowledge of how the system or the data is structured. This opens doors to a whole new level of executive involvement.
Next generation solutions are more easily custom configured, eliminating invasive customization that prevents companies from moving forward with updates and upgrades. This is particularly important in light of the increased pace of innovation that is supported through the use of web-based services, object-oriented data models and component architecture. All these combine to support more rapid development of new features and functions, which are more easily consumed as needed.
If your current ERP solution has you stuck in the 20th century, look for an ERP solution that can take you into the darkness and into the light, both at the same time. Look for an ERP solution that can satisfy all your basic, generic needs, quietly in the background, but one that is built on a next generation architecture that supports rapid development and innovation and rock solid but easy integration. Pick one with sufficient gravity to hold all the necessary components in place and let your competitive advantage