Mid-way through 2020 it is now clear that business will be done a bit differently over the short to medium term – with some changes likely to be with us in the long run too. During this “new normal” companies will need to operate with greater agility and greater resilience as we continue to see disruption to business as usual.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions have a long history of helping companies cope with uncertainty, disruption, and change. After all, ERP delivers visibility and also enables planning and execution. For example, according to Maggie Slowik at IDC Manufacturing Insights, ERP is credited with helping European manufactures buffer the impact of COVID-19 on supply chains.
However, your ERP solution as it stands might not be fighting fit for the new normal. Your ERP capabilities might not reflect changing business needs – and your employees may not engage with your ERP as much as they need to. It’s worth pausing for a minute and considering whether your organisation is making maximum use of the potential of ERP to help adjust to today’s changing business circumstances.
Consistent, convenient remote ERP access
It’s a testament to the power and pervasiveness of technology today that most companies can accommodate remote working with relatively little effort. Legacy ERP is accessible via tools such as remote desktop. Companies that use ERP delivered in the cloud – think of Microsoft’s Business Central, for example – face virtually no changes in the way ERP is accessed.
If your ERP is in the cloud then chances are you have little to worry about throughout the new normal. Remote working requires little configuration for cloud-first businesses as your colleagues simply log in using a different endpoint.
Companies that use on-premise ERP should, however, think twice before assuming that a couple of months of remote ERP access will translate into consistent remote ERP access year-in, year-out.
So, for on-premise ERP, take a view on the technology you currently depend on to deliver ERP access. Who is looking after the remote desktop servers that enable access? Is your VPN solution robust enough for large-scale ongoing remote working, or are your employees experiencing disruption due to VPN drop-outs or poor performance?
ERP is business-critical technology and given that it looks as if large-scale remote working is going to see ongoing extensions your tech team should verify that your ERP access will remain reliable in the medium term too.
The user experience also matters: you don’t want your employees to avoid your ERP system because it’s hard to access, or clunky to operate remotely.
ERP can help you adjust business operations to be fit for today
Legacy, on-site ERP can hold your organisation back in other ways too. But, first, let’s take a step back. Where does the new normal leave businesses that are yet to deploy an ERP?
At the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, one of Acora’s clients approached us to get help replacing a paper process that was broken by government-mandated remote working requirements. A team that previously triple-checked printed purchase invoices could no longer do so.
Acora rapidly replaced our client’s paper-based system with an OCR application that taps into modern ERP – delivering much-needed approval continuity even with employees now working remotely.
If your company does not have ERP in place, now might be the time to start an ERP project. Even where ERP already delivers core business functionality, reconsider how adapting or expanding your ERP solution can help your organisation adapt to a changed business world.
Here are a few things you should think about:
· Use ERP to bring continuity. In an environment where in-person meetings and paper-based processes are no longer viable, ERP can restore critical continuity. Your ERP system can serve as a single source of information that helps your colleagues make decisions even where they can’t meet as frequently and as casually as they used to.
· Drive efficiency with ERP. With all the critical facts in one place, and easily accessible, your ERP solution will help your staff members work just as efficiently as before. ERP can automate decision making too, automatically tracking KPIs, with dashboards giving an accessible overview of the business.
· Boost planning and decision making. 2020 is a year of changing circumstances and uncertainty. Your ERP solution will assist your decision making: use its tracking and reporting capabilities to help you assess the status quo, and to support planning and decision making over the coming months and years.
In essence, check whether your existing ERP functionality meets the changing requirements of your business, and look for opportunities where cutting-edge ERP technology can fill the gaps created by the new normal.
Don’t skip ongoing training
Finally, don’t forget about training. IT professionals will know the day to day struggle of user adoption. As good as ERP solutions are, user adoption remains critical for ERP success – you don’t want users to sidestep your powerful, capable ERP solution simply because they’re not sure how it works – or because they’ve become less motivated about the benefits of using ERP.
Training under the new normal is a bit different but it’s nonetheless worth doing what you can: organise a couple of Zoom sessions, or drip-feed training material via email.
Time to consider an ERP upgrade?
If your ERP as it stands is not coping well in a changing business environment it’s probably worth rethinking your ERP solution. A shift to the cloud could be one option, moving from Microsoft’s Dynamics NAV to Business Central, for example.
Or, you could ask your technology partner to help you review existing ERP functionality with a view to adjusting to the new normal. Of course, if you have no ERP in place, it’s without doubt worth considering how using a modern ERP solution can help your business run more efficient operations, and make better decisions.
Wherever you stand with ERP, Acora is ready to be your enterprise resource planning partner – getting you started with a cutting-edge ERP solution, or upgrading your existing solution to better meet your business needs.