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Four developing ERP trends the C-suite must know

To successfully lead their companies into the future, business leaders must take heed of these emerging ERP and business application trends. Here's what to know.

Nimble technology startups, widespread mobility and social collaboration have exerted major changes on society at large, and enterprise application vendors are finally following suit. Where enterprises were once tied to extremely expensive systems that required lengthy implementation cycles -- and to the vendors that sold them -- today, radical changes are occurring in the ERP and enterprise systems market.

ERP and business applications vendors are in danger of being caught and passed by born-in-the-cloud competitors that are just quicker to recognize developing ERP trends and other disruptive forces. Software vendors that want to play catch-up face a number of obstacles, but with proper planning, positioning and focus, they can identify a niche and capitalize on today's market needs.

However, business leaders, who must also adapt to this change, have much to gain as the ERP market evolves into one focused on users and sophisticated, forward-looking technology. Here are four trends happening today that CEOs and other business leaders should watch. 

Enterprise UX and UI are quickly becoming a business priority

One of the most important ERP trends is the step away from clunky, difficult-to-use systems. Indeed, user experience is driving the development of new systems. In the high-velocity, data-driven world we live in, many CEOs want an integrated supply chain where they have real-time intelligence and visibility across the entire network to ensure they can make effective decisions and actions. New tools are becoming available that give companies real-time insight into not just business activities, but also customer personalization, including what their customers need and what products and services they can offer. Consolidating contextually relevant information into a single, customizable dashboard has become vital for ensuring businesses can quickly respond to customer and market demands. Further, users are demanding interfaces that are clean, easy to use and customized to fit the way they interact with the system. Executives and employees no longer want to search through files, tables and systems to find the information relevant to their role.  

Integration is offering new opportunities

One of the most critical aspects and, oftentimes, the most challenging issue for companies is getting their systems properly integrated. Historically, integration has been accomplished by paying systems integrators enormous amounts of money to write large amounts of code that link APIs, processes and legacy or disparate systems onto a common infrastructure. In recent years, more companies are emerging that develop products to integrate things like information and data, and advances in data management tools are making it easier for companies to coalesce multiple data formats and sources into a common information model or data standards.

On the other hand, there is more complex business process integration -- the flow of information across a business process or workflow that touches a constituent -- whether those are customers, suppliers, partners or employees. To be successful, process integration must merge information in a way that appropriately solves business problems. As such, it is both more expensive and difficult to integrate, with fewer companies that can deliver. But that is changing. In addition, as vendors rise to meet this challenge, so too must implementation partners and consultants who must work on updating their skills to meet new demands.

Collaboration is becoming more sophisticated

Mobility, social networks, cloud and collaboration are no longer new, disruptive factors -- they are the norm. Mobile and social capabilities allow companies to better track customer interactions with the company and respond to customer demands or product issues more quickly -- capabilities that enterprise application vendors are responding to. Indeed, more vendors are incorporating into their products the more sophisticated mobility, collaboration and notification systems to help to facilitate improved communications and process among lines of business, customers and employees. This is critical, since real-time collaboration across functional business areas improves application usage and adherence, faster response times and streamlined workflow by giving employees the tools necessary to make informed data-driven decisions dynamically. Further, more companies are attempting to access and use structured data -- including data on parts, suppliers and components -- and pair it with unstructured data from social networks on pricing trends, quantities and global intelligence to gain revenue-generating insights. With more vendors focusing on such capabilities, a greater number of choices will become available.

Machines and customers will interact in new ways

New data models, artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics are becoming the most compelling elements of the future of ERP. These new technologies change how we interact with customers, develop sales pipelines, and bring awareness and consideration to marketing opportunities.

These technologies are being used today to help companies improve customer satisfaction while reducing overall costs. Take bots: These pieces of software use artificial intelligence and machine learning, and can be programmed to identify anomalies or degradation in equipment performance over time and automatically make adjustments autonomously. If something breaks, these bots open a trouble ticket through the help desk, schedule the maintenance, order the replacement parts and have them delivered to the technician without any human interaction. Once the technician repairs the unit, the system then closes out the trouble ticket and resumes its monitoring.

In another example, sensors are being applied to train doors to measure pressure when the doors close.  How the doors close is an indicator of the overall health of the train, and taking a train off the tracks for maintenance is costly. As pressure declines over time, these sensors proactively notify maintenance to schedule the train for repair. This gives the operators the ability to ensure scheduled maintenance and upkeep are coordinated and downtime is reduced. Each of these examples use integrated internal business systems, such as MRO, ERP and field service automation to perform each task.

Developing ERP trends and other changes to the business landscape will demand profound transformation from organizations over the next few years. Companies that wish to thrive will need to make drastic changes -- not only to their enterprise systems, processes and technologies, but a fundamental change in philosophy, metrics and workflows.

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