Editor’s words: The Year of the Customer

image of a red dragon for the lunar new year

As our magazine hits the presses, the Year of the Dragon has arrived, with the lunar calendar bearing another reminder that 2023 is over, and time is edging closer to the end of the tax year. Well, in some nations at least.

Looking back at 2023, what was the biggest takeaway? In ERP Today’s view, last year was the year of the partner, with software and hardware giants cozying up in the name of all things AI.

Lost in all the fanfare of these corporate relationship announcements was, arguably, mention of the customer. Many people coming across the grandstanding probably came away thinking, “What’s in this for me? I don’t see any AI in my services, let alone use it.”

Vendors were so busy teaming up on chips and joint services that they may have forgotten the end user of their software. All the trumpeting on AI made for an echo chamber, designed to satisfy boards and spice up earnings calls.

But in the experience of ERP Today, vendors have woken up to this almost one-sided discourse. In various conversations, we are seeing a fight for every customer, and that’s for both big vendors and small. That fight has been emboldened by a weakening global economy which all the AI talk tried to distract us from. In some ways, AI was part of that same discussion, with offerings of automation hinting at the potential cost-cutting to be gleaned from carving up the workforce. Yet, it became pretty clear in 2023 that AI still needs a human-in-the-middle approach, especially at this nascent stage.

Those humans in the middle are not only needed, but they want their work to be made easier for them. They know AI can help, but they want to see it in action. They want the benefits of low code, too, and better ways to delve through data. The end user and the customer are bringing this message to the market, and for the vendors to stay on point in 2024, they need to listen.

The real dragons deciding vendors’ fates aren’t the execs in the boardroom or the partners waiting in the wings. It is the customer who holds all the cards with their purchasing power, for cloud, on-prem, integration and more.

This means it’s time for vendors to really sit down with user groups. They need to see how customers are actually using their software in the wild. We’re at the point where the ERP big names need to look at their pricing, the sectors they’re focusing (and not focusing) on, and the cultures behind their customers.

Are their people in need of a digital transformation, or looking for the Next Big Thing? How do partners fit into this echo chamber, and what conversations are the consultancies having on an implementation level? The likes of the Big Four should also pay heed to these dragons, with less of an eye on flashy futuristic trends and more concern paid to what’s needed in the here and now.

ERP Today readers, welcome to the Year of the Customer – and while we can’t promise everyone is listening, you can rest assured that we hear your mighty roars.