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ERP technology trends

Today’s information technologies are fast, powerful, and readily available. Your management team will be able to identify a variety of applications and benefits – in fact, you may gain a competitive advantage by deploying them. However, the adoption of any new ERP technology trend will have an impact on your organization and should be considered in an informed, systematic way.

 

In some cases, you may need to develop pilot programs to test new technologies. These efforts require an investment of time and resources, but they also provide your team with an accurate understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of taking an innovative direction. The challenge is to have a proven method for evaluating your options so you can implement them wisely and achieve your business goals.

What are some of the top ERP technologies and capabilities?

There are many new technology choices, including products and services. They are being enhanced routinely to simplify their installation, application, and ongoing maintenance and improvements.

 

Here are some of the popular options available in most modern ERP systems today:

 

  • Self-service configuration: Configurable, easy-to-use tools for PCs, tablets, and phones allow for a better user experience, with both high security and privacy. You can tailor dashboards, workflows, business rules, and alerts for self-service and advanced business processes.
  • ERP analytics and reporting: Get fast access to your data, reports, and analytics to turn insight into action. Modern databases, dashboards, and KPIs run in-memory on the cloud, not on outdated servers. They provide a single source of accurate, real-time business information as well as built-in document management for checking details in contracts, specifications, purchase orders, invoices, and other business documents. This functionality is critical for a growing business.
  • A complete, integrated software solution: Rather than using separate software packages to run your departments, today’s ERP systems have wide-ranging functionality for customer relationship management (CRM), e-commerce, operations, supply chain management, manufacturing, field service, accounting, and multinational management. The old islands of isolation resulting from non-integrated systems hinder productivity and impact the bottom line.
  • Company-wide customer data: Improve customer service with access to company-wide data. In addition to capturing transactions, the latest technologies capture information on how your customers work with your team overall. Sales, quoting, pricing, customer portal, order fulfillment, field service, and costs are rolled up to evaluate your competitive performance and profitability.
  • Artificial intelligence in ERP: Artificial intelligence (AI) can enhance productivity. Your business information provides insights into your business processes, showing opportunities to shorten lead times and reduce costs. Expert systems can be built based on those insights, for example, creating a troubleshooting system for field service to use when identifying equipment malfunctions.
  • Embedded machine learning: Streamline workflows with machine learning. Computers can “learn” from your data, improving their ability to automate standard procedures such as determining where to post accounting transactions.
  • Extended functionality: In addition to broad software functionality, modern ERP systems can integrate with other technologies to provide alerts and improve decision making. For example, the Internet of Things (IoT) integration includes sending and receiving critical information across your ERP system, equipment, and vehicles.
  • Cloud services to provide wide-reaching access: Every company needs fast, secure, and private access to their business systems. Cloud services meet that need worldwide, and also provide your team with anytime, anywhere access on mobile devices such as phones and tablets. Plus, ERP cloud technologies easily connect to other cloud applications, such as sales tax calculations in sales order processing.

Where should you focus your efforts?

Start by reviewing company initiatives. They may be planned by department or by business process depending on the complexity, duration, number of people involved, and importance to the business.

 

For example, in the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chains have been stressed, particularly with international customers and suppliers, small warehouses, consignment inventory, and escalating freight costs. One database with built-in analytics and AI can provide the speed, insights, and automation to reduce costs and improve inventory velocity.

 

Below are some scenarios driving the adoption of the ERP technology trends:

 

  • CEO initiatives can impact many parts of the company, and information systems’ speed, accuracy, alerts, and intelligence can contribute to them – particularly when replacing legacy systems.
  • The CFO needs accounting, cost, budgeting, tax, and cash management processes to run accurately and quickly. For example, financial close may benefit from a single, fast database with artificial intelligence to streamline transaction postings.
  • CIOs lead technology efforts across the company, and they benefit from cloud, mobile, integration, in-memory processing, and other capabilities to improve productivity and responsiveness.
  • Sales and service starts with marketing, e-commerce, pricing, and sales, continuing through order fulfillment and customer and field service. Given the importance of customer retention and the role of technology in many industries, these business processes are top candidates for new IT.
  • Operations are a large part of many businesses, including distribution, supply chain, supplier management, purchasing, and manufacturing. A multi-site, modern ERP system will include many new technologies, such as cloud, mobile, dashboards, and KPIs.

What pitfalls should you avoid?

Many applications of the latest information technology are impressive, but they may not meet your requirements. It’s important to check the details, ensuring that you are saving the time and money to justify the investment.

 

Focusing on the “wow” of the technology rather than the benefits.
Many applications of the latest information technology are impressive, but they may not meet your requirements. It’s important to check the details, ensuring that you are saving the time and money to justify the investment.

 

Relying on hypothetical examples rather than checking references.
You can learn a tremendous amount from other companies that have been successful in adopting these capabilities. It’s important to meet with them to discuss the project benefits, phases, critical path, and resource needs.

 

Adding projects to prior plans rather than making them a priority for a dedicated team.
Include executive sponsors, department managers, and in-house experts. It’s important to identify implementation consulting partners as well. They will have practical field experience with the technologies and software, as well as trained resources available for all your locations.

How should you get started?

The latest information technology (IT) typically requires additional implementation steps when compared to legacy technology.

 

  1. Research the technologies. It’s best to start with your industry sources, such as customers, suppliers, trade associations, and competitors. How are they using new technology? How did they implement it? How is it performing?
  2. Review your company’s IT priorities. Current projects may be good candidates for a technology upgrade. For example, using cloud services and mobile devices can quickly improve communications across multiple facilities and departments.
  3. Evaluate your business processes. Make a comprehensive list, identifying those processes that are routinely challenging for the company.
  4. Check with your sales and service team. Investigate customer requests for new or custom products, services, and business practices. Look at how competitors are responding to those demands. Evaluate how sales channels are changing, particularly for international customers.
  5. Discuss process improvement options. Work with suppliers regarding products, services, logistics, forecasting, and pricing to see how these new technologies can improve the relationship.
  6. At this stage, you will have several options to consider. All of these new technologies cannot be implemented simultaneously. Look for opportunities to innovate that will provide the results that match your company’s goals and priorities. Create your strategy in the order you want them implemented
  7. Use a phased implementation. A small or large ERP digital transformation project with new technologies requires a staged implementation. Start the project planning process to define the high-level process changes, new technologies, expected improvements, and estimated costs.     
  8. Schedule tasks with slack built in. Use reasonable timeframes for completion of major milestones and remember that this is new territory for you. This requires you to build in extra time to address all the surprises that come with implementing new technologies. Some are small and some are not.

Is adopting new technology trends worth the effort?

Yes, it is worth the time and work to take advantage of these business improvements and move your technology forward. The latest information technology can benefit many growing companies – but it needs to be implemented cost-effectively to achieve business goals. In many situations, building a business case will be straightforward. In other cases, you may find that this is not the time to implement a specific technology.

 

The key to realizing all the benefits lies in selecting the right leaders for the project team and giving them the time and resources to drive the project – and your company’s digital transformation – to success.

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