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This is an online forum to share experiences, lessons and learning about the selection, implementation and return on investment for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems. We also like to discuss Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) systems, Social CRM (SCRM) & social media, Manufacturing Systems, Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems and Payroll & HR Applications.




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An ERP Industry Update with Analyst Kevin Benedict

The ERP Market Advances with Enterprise Mobility

If you think that the business value of your company's Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application is past its prime, then you may need to readjust your thinking. In fact, says Kevin Benedict, the CEO of Boise, Idaho-based Netcentric Strategies LLC, the use of ERP systems is getting a whole new life due to the growing popularity of mobile communications, mobile applications and the need for business agility.

"A client just asked me about where they should start with enterprise mobility," Benedict said. "Everyone's asking about it." Benedict, an enterprise mobility consultant, social media expert and executive advisor says he keeps very busy working with clients and partners to develop thoughtful and comprehensive enterprise mobility strategies which help companies work better, faster and smarter. And what that means today, he says, is finding new ways to leverage corporate ERP applications by connecting them to a wide range of mobile devices being used by workers in a myriad of locations and industries. It's happening everywhere, he advises.

Highly-capable mobile devices and smartphones such as the iPhone, Android and others are enabling businesses to connect their ERP applications and company data with mobile employees in real-time, making companies more agile and better able to serve their customers and partners.

And that, Benedict says, is huge today, particularly in the embedded mobile device market, where mobile capabilities are giving rise to business transactions that would have been unheard of just a few years ago.

Today, embedded mobile devices are allowing machines to talk to other machines in ways that directly leverage ERP system data. "You have newspapers like USA Today digitally distributing their stories to an audience of iPads, and you have Redbox movie rental machines that can communicate with your mobile device to inform you which movies are in a particular Redbox outlet," he explains. "And if it does not have the movie that you want, it can tell you where the movie you want is located and it can then reserve it for you. It can give the status of its inventory quantity levels and you can see that. That's an enormous business change that's happening right now."

Benedict indicated he recently wrote about how IBM's enterprise asset management product, Maximo, is now capable of managing many types of machines that can report their operational status to a company's ERP application via mobile communications. That means machinery such as heavy construction equipment can be automatically monitored by other machines without human intervention. All of this is possible due to the increasing convergence of more adaptable ERP systems and mobile devices, he said, and the industry is expected to continue to explode over at least the next few years.

"This is what's happening," Benedict says, which will make the value of ERP applications soar by allowing companies to connect their valuable data with customers and partners on the fly. Companies will also be doing this to better serve their internal IT needs, he said, such as for plant maintenance so that critical data can be monitored and fed back and forth.

"The development of wider mobile infrastructure and capabilities is giving many more uses for ERP systems," Benedict notes. "In the past, the effect of ERP stopped at the four walls of your building. Companies formerly managed external operations on paper, losing productivity." Now it can all be done with communications via wireless and mobile devices, wherever the business operations or staff are located. "It's giving ERP new life and tools," he explains.

In the past, only about 5 percent of the staff in an average company actually accessed their ERP software systems as part of their role, he said. The other 95 percent of the staff were away and separated from the ERP processes, working on a plant floor or in a warehouse or other facility.

So when ERP software vendors began looking to find new ways to extend the value and use of their expensive and complex ERP systems, they realized that the applications would be much more valuable to their customers if more users could access them in real time and use them to aid their business operations. "If only 5 percent of your employees are using your $1 million ERP system, then it's not very efficient."

Now companies can have their truck drivers replacing their clipboards and paper delivery confirmation forms with mobile devices, tablets or iPads that send data back to their ERP systems in real time to directly report merchandise deliveries. "Sales guys can now take a live look and check orders, credit and account and payment status before they visit their customers," he said. "They can plug into their business intelligence (BI) applications to see predictive reports on what categories of products customers might also find useful. This can add value to the people who never used your ERP systems previously."

Across the board, ERP software vendors are working to deliver these capabilities to their customers, Benedict said.

Part of this came from techno-savvy IT staff who would use their personal mobile devices and discover immense capabilities, he explained. "They would use their iPhones when they were away from work to do things like access Major League Baseball apps so they could see real-time scores and get instant data on the games. Then they would come back into work the next day and wonder why they couldn't get that kind of data via their mobile devices from their work applications."

Making this technology transition today is even easier because mobile business apps can be distributed to workers as easily as having them download them on their own devices, Benedict said. "The implementation of an enterprise mobile application used to be a big deal. We'd have to go to 1,000 people, one at a time, and install the applications. It doesn't work that way anymore. We can just load the app onto an app store and let users download it to their mobile device, which removes that burden from the IT operation."

These are sea changes among enterprise resource planning systems capabilities, he said, which are making ERP applications that much more valuable to businesses. "You are mobilizing your own environment and exposing that to your customers and partners. It really changes everything, from your product managers to your sales people to your marketing staff and everyone else."

It's the next big thing in ERP.

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