By Mark Hughes, regional vice president UK and Ireland, Epicor.
The introduction of Industry 4.0 technologies is changing expectations around what insights and capabilities ERP software should deliver to the enterprise. This has heralded the rise of what has become known as postmodern ERP—an integrated solution approach, designed to deliver enhanced business agility.
A few years ago, the research and advisory firm Gartner pioneered the concept of postmodern ERP, calling for ERP solutions to be both simple, and flexible enough, to support access and interaction from anywhere, and by anyone.
According to Gartner, postmodern ERP is a technology strategy that “automates and links administrative and operational business capabilities (such as finance, HR, purchasing, manufacturing and distribution) with appropriate levels of integrations that balance the benefits of vendor-delivered integration against business flexibility and agility.”
In other words, the goal of a postmodern ERP strategy is to enable the enterprise to select and deploy the best applications for individual business areas and continually innovate and enhance, without disruption.
It’s an approach that represents a radical rethink of the traditional monolithic and inflexible single-instance ‘one-size-fits-all’ ERP on-premise systems of the past.
The evolution of ERP systems
Postmodern ERP effectively consists of a core ERP solution that is tightly integrated with a mix of specialised solutions that are accessed either through the cloud, or via business process outsourcers that can add value through innovation, differentiation and user-centred design.
Ushering in a new era of ERP that enables companies to embrace a ‘best-of-breed’ app strategy for specific business areas without the integration headaches of the past, postmodern ERP gives companies much greater control when it comes to shaping their ERP systems to the very specific requirements of their unique business environments.
Bringing together a wide variety of connected technologies, data and processes into a fully integrated end-to-end system, postmodern ERP enables enterprises to update and replace functionality as often as needed, quickly and with minimal disruption.
In an era when organisations need to successfully embrace Industry 4.0 technologies to build competitive advantage, the ability to seamlessly integrate these applications with the ERP system is a game changer.
The business benefits of postmodern ERP
ERP has always been associated with operational efficiency but, going forward, the delivery of enhanced intelligence and insights will be prove vital to building competitive advantage.
As manufacturing businesses embrace new technologies—utilising everything from the Internet of Things to AI, robots, automation and big data and analytics—postmodern ERP makes it possible to seamlessly integrate all planning, materials management and procurement, manufacturing, and financial and business intelligence processes through one single streamlined system. Enabling manufacturers to forge connections between planning, supply chain and production processes that were previously difficult to achieve and, as a consequence, to interact with suppliers and customers in more agile and responsive ways.
In addition to the centralised availability of 24/7 business intelligence, today’s postmodern ERP systems also make it easy to evolve with ever changing needs and take the business to the next level. Enabling organisations to build on their ERP core solution and pave the way for ‘what’s next’. There is no need for business re-engineering—applications can be replaced, and systems reconfigured, as often as required. Allowing precious IT resources to be targeted on enabling innovation, rather than maintaining bloated legacy systems.
Finally, postmodern ERP delivers an improved user experience that boosts productivity and efficiency by making it easy to for business users to generate their own data analytics and insights—transforming data into meaningful information, decisions and actions. Alongside making it possible to access information and interact and collaborate with colleagues wherever they maybe, postmodern ERP makes it possible to connect people, devices, and machines via the cloud. Ushering in new ways of working that feature voice-recognition, wearable tech and human-machine interactions.
The postmodern ERP era is upon us
It is rare for a customer to approach an ERP vendor and ask; “We’re embarking on a postmodern ERP strategy—can you help us?” However, these businesses understand the concepts behind postmodern ERP, and absolutely see its value.
Many such companies are embarking on their second or third ERP implementation. Typically, their first deployment was a legacy system with baseline or limited capabilities—their second, a generic solution that required significant integration efforts to connect to other business systems or align the ERP platform to “work” with processes unique to the business.
Now, these organisations are preparing for the next wave of ERP—a postmodern ERP solution architected to support data flows and processes that make work more intuitive and collaborative for users, suppliers, and partners.
In fact, postmodern ERP goes beyond simply improving processes and day-to-day operations. Enabling companies to find solutions to the challenges they face in today’s Industry 4.0 setting.
As we move towards an increasingly digital business landscape, organisations that equip themselves with the latest enterprise resource planning strategies will benefit from greater agility, flexibility, faster time to deployment, and an enhanced user experience.
With postmodern ERP, the enterprise is at last able to initiate and build an extensible ERP strategy that supports fast-changing business needs. Making it possible to adapt fast, and prepare for future growth, with ease.