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What’s trending in ERP? A look at ERP trends in 2021 and beyond

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions are becoming increasingly popular in organisations of all sizes and in fact, the ERP market is expected to exceed more than $78 Billion USD by 2026. Powering this popularity is the ‘user-centric’ approach of the latest generation of ERPs providing organisations with the flexibility they need for future growth, transparency and data-driven insights for them to remain competitive in our increasingly complex post COVID19 business environment. With large scale change continually bringing new developments and advancements in ERPs, it is critical for businesses to be up-to-date, and digitally savvy.

At a glance:

  • ERPs are becoming increasingly modular, mobile,and better integrated because of advancements and better adoption of cloud computing technology and software as a service (Saas) licensing.
  • ERPs are continuing to be improved thanks to user interfaces and personalisation of workspaces with intelligent design.
  • ERPs are getting smarter with increased access to data and the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities that allow for insight driven decision making and predictive analytics.

Modular, mobile, scalable, better integrated ERPs 

Traditionally, ERPs have been difficult to implement and maintain and were historically only utilised by the largest of organisations. First implemented in the manufacturing industry in the early to mid-2000s, they were often described as ‘bloated with features’ as they endeavoured to keep up with the broadening base of ERP users. All that changed, however.

Postmodern ERP solutions are increasingly modular, mobile and better integrated because of advancements and better adoption of cloud-based deployment and software as a service payment options. The result is easily configurable systems that can be adjusted to the size, needs and budgets of small, medium and large enterprises alike.

What does this all mean in real terms? Let’s say you purchase your ERP solution today to include core modules of finance and purchasing and then down the track you decide that you want some additional modules such as warehouse and inventory management. It’s easy with modern systems. You quite simply turn on these modules. Contrast this to earlier systems which meant having to buy a completely new ERP system; costly and inefficient.

Another key characteristic of good postmodern ERP systems is their simplicity to integrate with other enterprise software solutions and applications.

In the past ERP systems often attempted to build as much functionality as possible within their own platform. But an increase in applications and third-party developments, that could be purchased on ERP specific marketplaces in the 2010s, resulted in a significant shift in mindset. That being, many ERP vendors recognised that some specialist functionality is best handled by standalone solutions that integrate into the ERP ecosystem.

This trend has continued into the 2020s with further simplification of integrations in cloud-based ERP systems to cloud based best of breed software like Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs) and increasingly Human Resource Management Systems (HRMs).

Whilst this trend is not new, the movement towards modular cloud-based ERP to leverage lower costs, improve scalability, access new functionality, and simplify deployments with lower internal IT (Information Technology) costs, has been accelerated due to the pandemic.

COVID19 led to an increase in flexible working arrangements that called for increased mobility but even before COVID19, companies were increasingly adopting mobile devices like tablets and smartphones for work purposes.

Now, in the post COVID19 era there is a basic expectation from employees that they be able to choose to work remotely. This expectation is not specific to discrete sectors as may have been in the past, but across many industry sectors.

User specific personalised design 

There is also an increasing desire for more user-friendly designs, coupled with an increase in employee and customer expectations for better mobility. As broad, as this expectation seems, it comes down to the belief that ERPs systems should be as intuitive and as simple to navigate as consumer like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Uber.

These applications show how simple it is for users to be alerted to, and shown information that is relevant to them without the need to click through several tabs, run and download a report or worse convert data into a usable format on another software tool (Did someone say Excel?).

ERP developers have been working on improving the personalisation of user dashboards for years and juggling to keep them balanced with the templated nature of modular cloud-based ERPs. This trend is continuing in the 2020s with an increased infusion of artificial intelligence capabilities to assist in improving the usability of ERPs, thereby predicting and suggesting user actions and customised views otherwise known as intelligent design.

Smarter, more automated, predictive ERPs 

 Continuing from the last point, the key defining characteristic of the next generation of ERPs is their ability to leverage advancements in data analytics, AI (Artificial Intelligence), machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), neural networks, clustering algorithms and deep learning of other types of statistical analysis to automate and augment work. This is an ever evolving and developing field and the more advanced ERPs are leading the charge.

Intelligent automation is already being used by ERPs to perform repetitive tasks based on learned patterns from observing users. A real-life example is the ability to go beyond rule-based invoice matching to machine empowered invoice matching, whereby the ERP learns to match invoices based on past financial data as opposed to needing to be told what to look for.

AI is so disruptive in all aspects of day-to-day life there is no wonder that there is such a high expectation around its use in ERP systems. In fact, would you believe that parts of this article was generated utilising an AI empowered content creation bot coupled with our insights into the industry?

AI is here to stay, and Gartner predicts that 65% of CIOs will be using it in some way within their ERP solutions or as an add-on solution by the end of 2022.

AI is touted to be the most critical functionality that is required in ERPs in order to gain competitive advantage from 2021 and beyond.

In fact, we believe that AI and data analytics will be so embedded into the way organisations work and think that there will be a shift from labour intensive analytics to better informed decision-making in much the same way ERPs made it almost impossible for finance to be separated from technology.

What does this mean for your organisation? Quite simply, you will need to have a solid digital strategy in place that includes the collection and management of data as one of the key imperatives. You can find out more information on this subject by downloading SMC’s recently published Data Vendor Guide on Business Intelligence, Data Management, Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation.

It’s a fast and exciting future for ERPs and for organisations that want to be take up and be part of these latest technological developments. For sure, it will create a digital divide for those who choose not to keep up and who get left behind.

At SMC (Solutions Minds Consulting) we are continually staying abreast of the rapidly changing developments and evolutions taking place. Whether you are a start-up or an enterprise organisation, we can share our insights, intelligence and expertise with you.

SMC is a 100% independent advisory and consulting company that specialises in enterprise software to enable your digital future.

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