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ERP software gets a makeover

Bruce Harpham | Feb. 18, 2016
Can typically staid ERP software take a page from leading consumer apps when it comes to improving usability?

ERP software is known for providing valuable services to a variety of users. Finance relies on ERP to obtain reports and maintain compliance with regulations. Marketing and sales staff serve customers, pull reports and measure their performance based on ERP generated reports. Supply chain professionals, shipping and customer service units use ERP to serve customer needs. With hundreds or thousands of active users, even small improvements in ERP productivity and user experience add up over time.

Unfortunately, ERP applications have lagged behind consumer apps in user experience. Without the need to market aggressively for users, the early approach to ERP simply assumed that a system could be built, deployed and used without much attention to the user experience. That approach is no longer good enough. Incomplete or ineffective user adoption means companies are failing to realize the full value of ERP. To address that trend, ERP experts and vendors are bringing a variety of improvements to the market.

Improving ERP productivity and effectiveness

 “A lot of ERP vendors have made major progress on the user interface front over the past two years,” says Pavel Krumkachev, principal at Deloitte Consulting. Krumkachev’s ERP experience primarily focuses on Oracle products. “Cloud ERP products are leading the way in providing a better user experience,” he says. “In terms of implementation and customization, I am seeing demands to accommodate the iPhone, Android devices and wearable technology,” he says.

The next trend in mobile ERP is to provide powerful mobile interfaces. “Early efforts to bring ERP to mobile devices focused on displaying data. The next generation ERP allows users to complete actions using a mobile device. For example, I am now able to file business travel expense receipts while I wait for a flight,” Krumkachev says.

“There is a strong business case for improving the ERP user interface. Increased productivity and better user engagement are the main benefits. For example, organizing and fulling service requests used to take days to be completed. The latest improvements reduce the processing time to minutes or seconds. For service and support departments, that productivity improvement provides excellent benefits.

“Achieving 20-30 percent efficiency improvements in order entry and other ERP activities is achievable,” says Bjorn Hill, principal at RSM LLP, a global consulting firm that provides consulting, audit, tax and other services. “I hear a lot of complaints about the default design and structure of forms. For example, irrelevant fields or data are getting in the way,” Hill says. “Removing clutter and data fields from forms is a great way to improve staff productivity.”

Fortunately, adding these capabilities does not require multi-year IT projects. “A lot of IT organizations have legacy applications and are not interested in changing them right now. Fortunately, there are user interface products that can be installed that provide a better experience without having to changing the entire infrastructure,” Krumkachev says. Improving the ERP user interface may be as simple as installing dashboard software for management users. “To deliver a better user experience, it is essential to begin by asking what users want rather than focusing on technology first,” Krumkachev adds.

 

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