ERP, in reality, is ERP + XYZ

When we talk about operating systems, we also fundamentally consider microprocessor power, Input/Output channels and memory. When we talk about cloud computing, we also fundamentally concern ourselves with instance capacity, interconnectivity integration issues and security provisioning.

Equally then, when we talk about Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, we rarely keep the discussion centred around the core component elements of ERP in isolation of all other related ancillary, dependent and coexisting technologies.

Yes, ERP will always mean finance, procurement, supply chains, warehousing, inventories and a slice or two of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). But ERP must also encompass almost every other aspect of the way modern technology systems are now being architected and threaded together.

ERP and more starts here

It is from this viewpoint that ERP Today starts a (potentially infinite) thread of discussion in our online news/blog portal pages. We will be examining areas of technology that have an impact upon the mechanics of ERP itself and – in return – we will consider those technologies that are being changed by the presence of ERP in modern business.

Let’s take a few choice examples from a possible many.

Let’s think about Robotic Process Automation (RPA). At its most basic, RPA is sometimes described as nothing much more than ‘screen scraping’ i.e. programming systems to record what happens on screen in forms-based applications and then encoding those actions with a view to automating the tasks normally performed by a human.

Of course, we now know RPA to work at a much more sophisticated level than this basic level. When combined with wider Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) power, RPA can start to shoulder more and more of the repetitive donkey/grunt work that humans find so numbing and that machines find so apparently enjoyable.

From our perspective in an ERP world, RPA will fit into many of the layers of a modern enterprise software stack. How and when and where RPA next develops to change the fabric of the way ERP systems function is the question… and we expect a variety of possible answers.

Mobile ubiquity, it’s still an issue

It might sound a bit latent to state the need for mobile-first application functionality in ERP, but it is still an issue worth tabling. We’ve moved past the time when users should be expected to ‘pinch and zoom’ to use enterprise software on mobile devices effectively. Modern ERP apps need to be mobile-optimised from first principles to avoid this type of clunky reality.

Talking of mobile, which we were, in the realms of modern ERP use cases we also need to think about edge-compute functionality. To clarify here… what we mean is, where devices running ERP suites and applications will occasionally need to function without the data pipe connection of the Internet and the cloud at the backend (because they’re being used in a basement, on an oil rig or some other remote location), then the ERP applications themselves will need to be smart enough to bring about a certain amount of on-device computing (and store the results of actions carried out) while disconnected.

We could go on, go on, go on and go on here. What about log file analytics to get the inside smarter track on ERP app performance and health? What about identity management platforms and the way their use will now dovetail with ERP foundations? Where will Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technologies be applied into ERP systems next? How should we plan for ERP and quantum systems? We could go on.

We will go on… and we will aim to table the opinions of industry technology advocates, evangelists and practitioners as volubly as possible as part of this discussion.

Nobody is an island, but some are peninsulas

So they say that no man is an island after John Donne’s use of the term in a 17th-Century poem. It was actually the late great comedian Robin Williams that augmented Donne’s original quote by saying that, “No man is an island, but some are peninsulas.”

Although both quotes need post-millennial gender diversification, the peninsula concept could apply to humans and also to any ERP-related technologies that fail to integrate comprehensively with the wider fabric of modern IT systems. If we find ourselves stuck out on any peninsula, we hope there will be enough community spirit out there to save us from the rising tide onshore.

Come with us on the ERP + XYZ journey, wetsuits and breathing apparatus will be provided where necessary.