The Future of Enterprise Resource Planning

Written by Laurie McCabe- Select Hub

An  ERP software system is often one of the most significant investments a company will make. Not only is it a major financial decision, but it’s also a practical one that can impact all parts of your business, like human resources, accounting, manufacturing, marketing and more. Before selecting a new system, buyers should research currently available solutions and ERP trends coming down the pipeline.

To help our readers out (and sate our curiosity), we spoke with several leaders about the ERP trends we might see in 2022 and beyond. Between a movement to the cloud, disruption cycles, competition from Amazon and more, it looks like 2022 is shaping up to be an exciting year for ERP.

What is a Modern ERP?

ERP software launched in the ’60s and has received numerous modifications since. Here are several characteristics of a modern ERP:

  • Cloud-Based: Unlike old legacy or on-premise systems, modern platforms are switching to the cloud. The cloud enables vendors and resellers to host the program and client information on third-party servers via the internet. No installations are required, and you can access vital information on any device in any location.
  • Mobility: Most buyers either work remotely or are always on the move. Mobile ERP helps you keep tabs on different tasks and processes anywhere on phones, tablets, PCs and other devices.
  • Affordability: Most systems offer affordable prices and subscription plans, especially for small and mid-sized companies, depending on the vendor.
  • Scalability: Whether you’re looking to grow into a mid-size or enterprise-level business, most applications scale as you add more employees, departments, machinery, etc.
  • Centralization: Keep all of your HR, manufacturing, accounting, customer relationship, supply chain and other sectors unified in one system for accessible communication.

Common Modules

Accounting and Finance

Accounting can streamline bank reconciliations and general ledger balancing, assort account payables and receivables, generate thorough reports and more. Whether you need modules or stand-alone systems for cloud accounting, church, billing and invoicing or small business bookkeeping and financial tools will simplify your number-crunching.

HR

Managing current and incoming employees isn’t always a walk in the park. The proper HR software  provides you with several handy tools including talent management, financial management, payroll, time and attendance management, employee information management and more. You can even monitor vacation days, training and certification courses and more in an organized space.

Inventory Management

Keeping up with inventory without an inventory management system or module is like navigating an unknown trail without a GPS or compass. This system provides a real-time view of your raw materials and products in stock. You can also leverage shipping, transfer management, deployment, purchasing, tracking, order management and other requirements.

SCM

This module helps you supervise your supply chain at all times to catch bottlenecks and ensure products reach their destinations punctually. Whether you need to strengthen processes, rate suppliers, govern warehouses, initiate demand forecasts, conduct shelf-life monitoring, carry out analytics or other features, this feature or standalone software is a much-needed asset in your corner.

Procurement

Lastly, procurement ensures you garner all the essential goods and services vital to your company’s goals. Popular features within a module or separate system include catalog buying, billing, contract management, spend analysis, requisitions, purchase order approval and mobility.

Top ERP Trends

Here are 11 trends that will matter most in the future of ERP market:

1. Cloud Deployment

In 2020, we saw a lot of movement toward the cloud from all software categories. But ERP’s shift to the cloud is fascinating to small- to mid-sized businesses. When we chatted with Laurie McCabe of SMB Group Inc., she gave us some insight into how this may affect smaller organizations.

ERP has really lagged behind a lot of the other areas like CRM and HR in terms of cloud adoption,” she said. “But we’re definitely seeing in SMBs that this is now becoming the norm for new implementations … SMBs are increasingly selecting cloud-only or hybrid ERP. The original cloud value proposition of a ‘faster, cheaper, easier’ way to automate and integrate operations still resonates, but SMBs increasingly see cloud ERP as their on-ramp to new technologies.”

The benefits of cloud-based ERP are numerous and often provide the most help to small businesses. Cloud-based solutions make it so small businesses don’t have to maintain their own systems, drastically reducing the need for in-house IT. These software types make it possible for small companies with just one or two IT employees to take advantage of an ERP system they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to maintain.

In summary, the cloud ERP software industry offers users easy-to-use apps and cross-platform or mobile-native capabilities in recent years. However, legacy ERP software vendors struggle to measure up to their pure-cloud counterparts; we often see that their apps lack robust integration capabilities.

MarketsandMarkets predicts the total cloud-based market could reach $832.1 billion by 2025. Barring limited internet access and specific industry standards that make on-premise solutions a must, cloud ERP  is often the better choice for businesses.

2. The Internet of Things (IoT)

The internet of things (IoT), aka direct machine integration, refers to the connectivity between computers and other devices. IoT provides improved asset management, greater efficiency, improved forecasting, real-time business insights, enhanced communication, improved business intelligence and more. It also supports autonomous vehicles, real-time analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), e-commerce retail and more.

However, this is not an exhaustive list, and customer demand, among other factors, has necessitated a growing IoT presence in the business world. As a result, IoT integration will be seen everywhere within the ERP software industry and become an asset for ERP software buyers.

Shelly Gore, CEO and co-founder of A Bigger View, explained to SelectHub about this trend’s growing influence in the past few years:

IoT was a mere buzzword until the full power of what it had to offer began to be realized by companies, and the many great advantages it gave these companies over their competitors, for a very reasonable cost,” Gore explained. “Proactive maintenance, rapid increases in quality and idealized production scenarios are just a few of the many advantages. Remote work and automation heighten the need for these technologies which provide critical data to taking smart decisions.”

IoT has spread across several industries, including manufacturing and construction , and shows no signs of slowing down. Statista predicts the IoT market will hit $1.1 trillion worldwide by 2023.

3. Personalized Solutions

We spoke to Nick Castellina, vice president of Infor’s Go to Market Management, for his thoughts on ERP systems trends in the upcoming year.

In the future, ERP users will look for solutions that are tailored specifically to their industry so that they can avoid customization and ensure that they stay current,” he said. “Instead of modifications, manufacturers will personalize their solutions and look to extend their solutions to support needs without altering code.”

Essentially, buyers realize the benefits of relinquishing control over their systems, matching McCabe’s cloud prediction. Configurability might not give a company total control over every facet of their software, but this feature can provide companies with a specialized solution with minimal effort. Again, this will vastly reduce the need for extensive IT teams solely dedicated to managing an ERP solution.

Additionally, Castellina gave us insight into the specific technologies ERP vendors are implementing in the next few years.

ERP will be looked upon as the foundation for digital transformation. Solutions will be embedded with emerging technologies like analytics, IoT and AI to support new processes, business models and ways of doing work,” Castellina declared. “The experience of using ERP will be much more consumer-focused.”

There’s still time to become an early adopter of things like natural language processing and machine learning, which might put certain businesses ahead of their competition in the next few years.

4. Advanced Technologies

Lisa Anderson, founder and president of LMA Consulting, shared her thoughts on upcoming ERP trends. Anderson touched on the disruption cycle.

In today’s marketplace, not only is the Amazon Effect in full force — requiring rapid deliveries and quick, data-driven decisions — but disruption abounds,” she said.”

Anderson mentioned that her clients attempted to navigate these challenges using business intelligence and reporting last year. But she also noted many are eager to try more advanced solutions. As ERP buyer interest grows, we’ll likely see an increase in these new technologies.

She said, “[Buyers] have started to gain an interest in going beyond these new standards with predictive analytics as artificial intelligence and IoT create a buzz and are increasingly interested in capabilities that will help them proactively navigate disruption and change, such as predictive forecasting and inventory planning.”

But many are wondering what IoT can do for their business specifically. McCabe explained the significance of this new technology when we spoke to her about the cloud.

She said: “[IoT] has a lot of applications in ERP, particularly in product-centric businesses where you’ve got to look at things like shipping details, supply chain logistics and performance of your systems out in the field. If you can look at what’s going on in those systems in real time, you can really cut off a lot of problems before they even happen.”

IoT can help businesses diagnose issues and determine which parts of vital equipment need fixing or replacement. It ensures efficient service call usage, increasing customer satisfaction.

Therefore, functionality that supports innovation and creating a superior customer experience is of paramount importance,” Anderson added. “Yet, since speed is of the essence and the business environment is changing at a quick pace, functionality that supports agility, flexibility and resilience is also valued.”

5. Digital Transformation and ECommerce

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up the world in more ways than one, including a rise in eCommerce, digital transformations and remote work. Globe Newswire predicts the global B2B eCommerce market will hit $18.5 trillion by 2026.

Sam Gupta, principal consultant at ElavatelQinc, spoke to SelectHub about his ERP predictions:

There is going to be a massive shift in how we work and shop,” he explained. “The companies will also be vigilant of another disruption similar to COVID-19 and incorporate that as part of their supply chain planning. Finally, the companies will be looking to reduce the dependencies on specific countries and geographies to reduce supply chain risk due to geopolitical tensions.”

The eCommerce boom and direct-to-consumer trends will create blurred lines between traditional retailers, manufacturers and distributors,” Gupta continued. “The manufacturers and distributors will invest in the e-commerce channels while distributors and retailers are likely to manufacture their products. This will increase business model complexity and would require ERP systems to have support for multiple business models, including distribution, retail and mixed-mode manufacturing. With the significant traffic from the eCommerce channel, the tight eCommerce integration may be a key driver for most ERP implementations.”

While digital transformation is still in its infancy, the demand for eCommerce integration will continue to accelerate this trend. The pandemic has further increased this trend’s onset, given the global lockdowns and increases in online shopping reliance.

6. Two-Tier ERP

Two-tier ERP is a concept where mid-sized and small companies run two merged solutions  simultaneously. It’s also accessible to companies that have multiple locations or subsidiaries.

This system type is on the rise because we see an increase in companies seeking these systems. This ties in with cloud computing and, in general, makes ERP systems more accessible for all companies. Due to a surge in digital transformation and e-commerce, businesses today require mobility. Customers must access the companies’ offerings via the web due to increased demand for this technology and convenience.

7. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

PR Newswire predicts the global AI market will be worth $641.3 billion by 2028. AI is making huge strides in everyday technologies like Alexa, Siri, Spotify, Netflix, Xfinity and more with voice activation and providing movie/TV show recommendations based on what you’ve already watched. If AI can improve our leisure and personal time, it should easily fuse with ERP programs to automate business protocols. It’s already thriving in the manufacturing and accounting  realms.

Gupta predicted that as more solutions receive AI capabilities, the easier they will be for users.

The biggest challenge with most ERP systems have always been to remember the complex workflows and feature sets that may take longer time to learn for users that might not be familiar with the design or inner workings of the ERP systems,” he said. “The AI technologies are going to tailor the experience for these users, which could make a massive difference in adoption and usability of these products,”

Gupta also provided some examples of ERP leveraging AI.

“Automatically assign bins depending upon the availability during receipt of the product in your warehouse,” he added. “Entering data automatically from the invoices that may be sent in the PDF form via email through a physical copy. Changing the buttons and workflows depending upon the users’ actions on a specific screen so that the user doesn’t have to remember [a] 300-page document to navigate through the ERP system.”

Anderson spoke about how AI can offer predictive analytics and sales forecasting for better process transparency.

She explained, “In today’s supply-chain-disrupted world, getting a better picture of future customer demand and understanding how that translates into people and capacity requirements is critical to achieving OTIF (on-time-in-full) [and] customer service goals and successfully scaling the business.”

Gore weighed in on this technology adding more layers to data insights to make better choices.

AI can analyze large amounts of data, selecting the few nuggets of information that are critical to decision-making,” she said. “Merging AI’s power with a wealth of good ERP data puts the right data at the right time in front of the exact person who needs to act on it in an organization.”

8. Mobile ERP

With everyone on their smartphones, tablets and other devices, mobile ERP is becoming a juggernaut in the industry. Who wouldn’t want to keep tabs on their business consistently even when they’re away from the office?

Gore stated how this trend could boost efficiency.

For example, in a warehouse or production facility, scanners allow all workers, even new hires, to report real-time inventory movements as they happen,” she expressed. “This data, in a centralized ERP, can then be seen by sales, purchasing, quality and senior management at all other locations globally. Mobile ERP connects every person and activity in an organization regardless of physical location.”

Gupta mentioned that mobile ERP could automate processes that most users don’t have much background knowledge about, such as business, accounting or marketing.

The mobile interface simplifies the interaction that they need to understand only a few scenarios and how they navigate their way around exceptions,” he described. “For example, warehouse workers may be able to scan a whole pallet with one scan and that could potentially receive the inventory in the warehouse, register the number of cases and products, update quantity in appropriate locations, etc. Now, this seems to be a very complex workflow if you were to teach these warehouse workers how to enter this data. But with the mobile scanners, it makes it easier to scan multiple data fields and assign to the entire form without having to do multiple scans.”

Mobile also increases the lead and cycle time of transactions,” Gupta added. “If an executive need to be always in front of their computer to approve a specific amount on a purchase order or a quote on a sales order, it might delay the cycle time, especially if you may have [a] mobile workforce. The mobile interface expedites the transactions and their processing, which will result in superior customer and employee experience.”

According to Precedence Research (gated), the global shared mobility market could exceed $945.83 billion by 2030.

9. Digital Marketing

PR Newswire forecasts that the digital marketing market will reach $786.2 billion by 2026.

Leveraging digital marketing helps businesses reach clients online in numerous ways, from email campaigns to social media targeting. Anderson relayed that merging digital marketing with ERP will help companies stand out from their competitors.

She said, “It will require seamless integration with your ERP system to quickly tailor and personalize to changing customer expectations to gain their attention and focus.”

Gupta advised that unifying this trend with ERP will help internal and external data analyses while strengthening customer experiences.

Most digital marketing organizations operate in silos, and they very rarely interact with the ERP system,” he conveyed. “In fact, eCommerce, ERP, CRM and marketing automation systems are very rarely connected and speak to each other. The limits in getting the insights into the end-to-end customer journeys and providing consistent experience through each stage of the customer and order lifecycle. The other advantage will be to utilize the pricing, upsell and cross-sell opportunities as you will have richer insights into the customer and order lifecycle.”

10. 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing

3D printing, aka additive manufacturing, is currently a major staple. Instead of waiting on other facilities to make complex shapes or pieces, you can do it yourself. You can also craft and assess cost-proficient prototypes and ideas before sending them to mass production. MarketsandMarkets predicts the global 3D printing market will reach $34.8 billion by 2026.

Anderson explained that 3D printing can adjust to customers’ rapidly-shifting needs.

Due to significant supply chain disruption, customers and consumers are rapidly changing their buying behaviors to accommodate for what is available, and they are trying new products and services,” she said. “Manufacturers are reshoring and near-shoring to locate closer to the customer pivot with changing conditions. Additive manufacturing provides the ultimate flexibility and resiliency to print on the fly to changing customer expectations. Proactive ERP systems will incorporate 3D printing to provide seamless connectivity, business intelligence and ease-of-use for their clients.”

Gupta added that you can create parts at a cheaper rate.

Manufacturers can now test ideas quickly and produce parts at a much cheaper cost [than] what would have required changing of tooling and production line in the traditional settings,” he declared. “3D printing can also help with additive manufacturing, where you can reduce the risk of your R&D by producing your parts iteratively. Testing the materials and models before you go for full-blown production is what makes printing so effective for certain applications.”

Gupta also commented on this trend’s disadvantages.

3D printing and additive manufacturing create additional process challenges and require far tighter integration of PLM, quality and ERP systems,” he informed. “Just like Lean and JIT require very different process flows and KPIs, 3D printing and additive manufacturing might need to be supported natively by the ERP systems once the adoption becomes mainstream. As the manufacturing floor adopts more additive manufacturing practices to expedite the development time of products, the need for these capabilities in the ERP systems is likely to grow.”

11. Headless ERP

The last trend on this list is headless ERP or the concept of separating frontend from backend operations.

Anderson predicted this model will open the door for customization.

Headless ERP will prove essential as the ability to customize and personalize grows as well as the need to publish on multiple devices increases,” she said. “The more efficient the exchange of data and ability to customize, the more efficient the operation.”

Gupta thought this trend sounded great in theory but much more challenging to bring to fruition.

It’s much harder to implement in practice and could be fairly expensive for most SMB organizations,” he declared. “There are some interfaces they might be able to create for specific use cases, such as providing [a] better user experience for the dealers by providing [an] easier interface.”

Gore believed headless ERP could boost connectivity, adaptability and business intelligence.

She explained, “[Decoupling backend and front end operations] allows for rapid development and deployment of information-specific and task-specific interfaces that put just the right data into the hands of exactly who needs to see it without the overhead of a tightly coupled interface.”

Business Wire predicts that the headless CMS software market will reach $1.62 billion by 2027.

Final Thoughts

To carry out a successful implementation, it’s imperative buyers perform thorough research on today’s ERP market. You need to understand which products suit your business’ size, industry, and functionality requirements. The solution should also help your business field future challenges.

Once you understand the available options, it’s time to compare ERP solutions. Your comparison must be organized and thorough, much like our ERP comparison scorecard, which evaluates and ranks the top vendors by 19 benchmarks. However you end up comparing your top systems, find the best solution and ERP trends to help your company succeed in the new year.

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About TimeLinx
TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.

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