(3) Define a roadmap for continuous enterprise resource planning improvement
Most enterprise resource planning software is continually developed through customer feedback and pressures from competitive enterprise resource planning products. However, after the initial implementation phase and when the enthusiasm for the project wears off, the enterprise resource planning software becomes passively used and often becomes taken for granted.
It is important to keep reviewing the enterprise resource planning in the context of the organisation’s objectives. By maintaining an enterprise resource planning roadmap detailing ways to optimise the use of the enterprise resource planning, as well as ways of broadening the scope of the current capability, it promotes a culture of continual system improvement.
Implementing a proactive plan of continuous improvement leads to:
- A much higher level of user acceptance and approval
- Optimisation of business processes and operating efficiency
- A better understanding of what the solutions can do for the business
- A much greater return on investment
(4) Integration is key to operating efficiency
Many businesses make use of other specialist software applications to help manage aspects of the business, typical examples being:
- Customer resource management (CRM) for sales and marketing
- Document management systems (DMS) for document storage and retrieval
- Warehouse management systems (WMS) for day to day warehouse management
- Computer aided design systems (CAD) for design and documentation
- Electronic point of sale systems (EPoS) for point of sale
- Ecommerce systems for online information and sales
It is advantageous to seamlessly integrate these specialist applications with the centralised enterprise resource planning to:
- Remove the need to re-key data more than once
- Reduce data inconsistencies and errors
- Improve operating efficiency and data congruency
- Provide visibility to data across all systems
- Improve timely decision making
A common feature of legacy enterprise resource planning systems was their lack of user friendliness and the level of difficulty in retrieving relevant information quickly and easily.
Operational intelligence (OI) is the process of providing real-time visibility and insight of relevant data during the day to day operation of a business. The higher the quality of operational intelligence provided by the enterprise resource planning the more efficient and enlightened the business will appear.
Providing users with personalised “Active” desktops can deliver a 360-degree view of relevant operational information. For example: on retrieving a customer account, it might be helpful to have visibility of:
Contact names and their key details including a picture
- Recent communications across all departments
- Recent sales history with products and pricing details
- Outstanding sales orders
- An aged debt summary with a highlighted list of overdue invoices
- Recent customer service issues showing the ones that are still in progress
Should attention transfer to products then on retrieving the details it might be useful to have visibility of:
- Inventory levels at each warehouse
- Picture of the product
- Suppliers with their cost and lead times
- Outstanding purchase orders with expected delivery dates
- Sales orders with requested due dates
- Recent product transactions
- Quotes for the product
Being able to provide instant access to context sensitive information empowers users to provide the highest level of customer experience thereby improving customer satisfaction and retention levels.
(5) Management needs business intelligence
Enterprise resource planning systems are great repositories of valuable information which in the past has been notoriously difficult to capitalise on.
Most enterprise resource planning software includes some form of Business Intelligence (BI) capability, providing a “self-service” approach to querying, analysing and presenting the enterprise resource planning information, using clear and simple visualisations rather than traditional tabular reports.
Organisations that make use of Business Intelligence are able to improve their decision making, forecasting and planning through being able to interpret the wood from the trees.
Many enterprise resource planning software installations do not fulfil their expected potential, especially in the medium to long term, because the project is under resourced or neglected over time.
These points should help businesses make the most of their enterprise resource planning software investment and realise more of the software’s true potential.
Martin Craze is founder and MD of Applied Business Computers, a UK business management consultancy
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