Where ERP is going next

what's next in ERPI spent the beginning of this week at a robotics conference where I was surrounded by everything from surgical robots to lawn-mowing robots to telepresence robots and everything in between. It was a high-energy, full-immersion way to experience all that technology can do for us. After spending 10+ years marketing enterprise software to manufacturers, however, I couldn’t help thinking that now more than ever, ERP systems must push into the frontiers of technology in order to keep up with the incredible speed and change around us.

PC Magazine had a nice write-up a couple of weeks ago highlighting some of the biggest ERP trends to know this year. The common thread in their top five list was the SaaS takeover that’s becoming dominant in the ERP space. The article starts off citing a Forrester report that not only will SaaS ERP deployments increase, they’ll become the preferred deployment model for many businesses. Even where a full shift to cloud*-based ERP may not be possible (with very large and/or dispersed enterprises, e.g.), the article acknowledges that on-premise vendors are bringing in SaaS elements and accessibility, as well as playing nicer with other cloud-based applications, such as CRM, that are popular with ERP customers.

In our year-end blog post looking at sustained and new trends for manufacturing, we touched on ERP (specifically that cloud-based systems only continue to improve in their ability to meet business’ and users’ needs) as well as CRM being key tools in a manufacturer’s arsenal when it comes to providing exceptional customer service on top of a smooth and orderly back-of-the-house. With the world’s leading CRM platform, Salesforce, being entirely cloud-based, it’s unsurprising that companies who got comfortable with the idea of SaaS for CRM are now getting cozy with the idea of their ERP existing in the same way.

One thing the PC Magazine article also touched on was the idea of two-tier deployments, where in a company (usually a large one), implements something of a SaaS ERP trial run by plugging it into a piece of the business. In our NetSuite Cloud ERP practice, we’re seeing more of this approach as well, because it gives some flexibility but also gives some nice constraints. A finite subsidiary or area of the business can fully try out a cloud-based offering and decide if it’s going to work for more of the company. Keeping it within a specific space, though ironically contrary to the idea of a from-anywhere cloud promise, takes away some of the risk while improving the SaaS experiment.

The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to be a big theme not just in manufacturing, but in every industry, as we continue to grow the possibilities of how data and systems can be connected to improve visibility and efficiency. As the PC Magazine article points out, this concept is still pretty much that–a great conceptual idea–since many products, processes, and systems are not connected to nor built on the internet; but this could start to change as more and more large enterprises move major operations, such as ERP, to SaaS models. In the manufacturing space, a groundswell of cloud adopters will only make IoT more of a reality. With at the center of most manufacturers’ operations, when it moves fully to the cloud, so too will the ancillary products, processes, and systems that support it.

If cloud-based ERP is something you’re interested in, struggling with, or excited about, reach out to our team of NetSuite Cloud ERP experts and we’ll be happy to talk to you about your best options for enjoying the benefits of what’s next in ERP.

* For the purpose of this article, we are using SaaS and Cloud-based interchangeably. While cloud-computing and SaaS are not quite the same thing, cloud-based ERP is generally agreed to be synonymous with Software as a Service.