ERP Market Changes in 2014: The Expert’s View

This fortnight’s guest post comes to us from ERP vendors, Lakeview. Business Systems Consultant, Will Wilson and Business Development Executive, Russell Godward navigate the current ERP landscape and reveal some interesting predictions for ERP in 2014.

With over 40 years combined experience in writing, implementing and answering the ‘how do I do that’ questions of ERP software projects for some of the biggest ERP vendors, here’s what they had to say:

What's among the Top Priorities for Buyers of ERP Software?

RG: The two ‘s’ words. The first is support ‘support’. Whatever happens, be it upgrades, human error or system flaws, buyers want minimal, if not zero downtime in their ERP systems. While you might be able to get 24/7 support from an ERP provider, it’s often at serious. You should expect an ERP solution to be in itself supportive and intuitive, one that is built around your processes.

Which brings me to the second, ‘specialisation’ - solutions that are designed with the mass-market in mind tend to throw up more problems, for example trying to record shelf-life data on generic business ERP software. Your solution should not only be built around you, it should be scalable, with little downtime on upgrades or updates and provide a thorough help tool to navigate and rectify any errors.

What Can the ERP Industry Expect to Observe in 2014?

RG: The ERP buyer is savvier; they are investing more time in the selection process, which means overall ERP implementation failures are likely to reduce.

In the case that an ERP system does fail, more often than not it’s not the ERP software itself that fails; it’s down to quality of the implementation and unfortunately in some cases a lack of understanding from the vendor.

Have You Noticed a Change in the Kind of Companies Who Want ERP Systems?

WW: Lots of recent customers are completely new to ERP. They’re either so young as a company that nothing exists in place of it, or they’re a larger company who have been drowning in a massive paper trail of Excel and documents for years.

For the most part, they often think the integration with ERP is going to be a big change they effectively need a spiritual ERP project guide to provide reassurance.

Where Do You See the ERP Industry Going in 2014?

WW: The thing that’s really changing is the size of the clients. Increasingly, we have start-ups and small companies that want to get their processes right from the very start.

RG: It used to be that only big companies could afford ERP, but now we’re seeing a real shift. It’s benefiting all types of start-up, from the one-man-bands to small to medium-sized businesses.

Rather than start on spreadsheet-based paperwork for planning and logistics - and drowning - they’ve implemented clever systems from the start. It’s so encouraging that these smaller and newer clients have considered all the operational challenges up-front and see that starting off with the right planning technology has multiple benefits.

How Has ERP Functionality Changed?

WW: Well that’s another key shift. We’re really seeing ERP being deployed differently: people are moving away from internal staff or hardware in favour of the Cloud. Now ERP has become something they use just like any other programme, without having to go through the old-fashioned and lengthy processes to process an order.

There’s lots of talk about multi-tiered ERP vendors – it’s quite a common arrangement State-side – and ERP vendors, ourselves included, have had to change their business models to suit the demands of the market. We know that the scale of clients really vary and so the solutions we create have to be scalable now more than ever.

What Should ERP Buyers Demand from ERP Vendors in 2014?

  • Understanding – Whatever industry, vendors need to go the extra mile to uncover core business requirements unique to that sector. The main way for vendors to do this, is to highlight the industries, not the functions they specialise in.

    A quality vendor will present previous examples of proven success. The investment in the relationship by the vendor is critical for the customer. The closer the vendor and customer work together during audit and planning stages, the stronger and more successful the implementation will be.

  • Demonstrated knowledge – Vendors not only need to be able identify core needs of individual businesses, but provide real solutions too. Using food wholesalers as an example; traceability is increasingly a top priority within ERP systems, but many organisations will still use a combination of systems to manage this. It’s no longer good enough to have a “this is how the system works” style approach to ERP when users need to see ingredients and stock back to their source.

  • Two ears and one mouth – It’s an ERP vendor’s job to be a sounding board for their customer. They also need to provide assurance that if you discover a unique problem that needs solving along the way, they’ve the flexibility to improve the software. Unfortunately many mass-market ERP resellers of multinational brands are too restricted to promise this.

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Will Wilson

About the author…

Will has been with bespoke ERP provider Lakeview for around a year, but in the ERP industry for over thirty - both writing and implementing ERP systems from large to small-scale projects. Will has worked for smaller more bespoke ERP vendors, right up to well-known ERP brands.

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Will Wilson