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Is your ERP designed to support growth and optimal service delivery?

Posted by  Kamal Rifai

‘Imagine no possessions’ (John Lennon)

It was probably not what the ex-Beatle meant when he sang this line in Imagine, but ‘no possessions’ seems to be exactly where business is heading. Owning things is of less and less importance, being able to use them is what it’s all about. Delivering services that make people’s lives simpler. Think about it: when was the last time you bought a dvd instead of streaming a movie?

Or, as Tom Goodwin recently described it on Techcrunch:

Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. How did these service providing companies get so big in a relatively short time?

First, let's take a closer look at the characteristics of the services companies mentioned above. ExponentialOrgs.com published a list of the Top 100 most innovative companies in the world. What do the top ten digital disruptors in this list have in common other than delivering services? Companies such as Uber, Airbnb, Indiegogo and Reddit grew so quickly because their offerings were built as a platform, are self-learning and extremely user friendly. They don't suffer from possession, where legacy systems purchased through long-term software developer contracts hamper their ability to make changes to their service offerings quickly. Thanks to cloud and digital technology they are agile and flexible to quickly adapt to new circumstances and business change.

Making people’s lives easier

These new circumstances are important to reflect upon in order to understand just how rapidly the business world is changing. Consumers demand different things from companies, and those companies need to adjust in order to avoid being disrupted by newcomers. It is worth noting that in the innovative Top 100 there are hardly any manufacturing companies, apart from a single 3D printing innovator. This shows that the future of the economy does not rely on production companies, but is largely determined by companies that make the lives of consumers easier.

The big difference between the new and fast players and the inert all-rounders (not just legacy ERP players, but also every big service provider with a broad portfolio of services) from the past is that the new companies distinguish themselves with specific knowledge. They unburden customers through sector-specific solutions, which is something that legacy players often aren't capable of. This can only be done by working together with all the partners in the value chain, which means that the services portfolio expands and this paves the way for innovations. It is about utilizing each other's strengths in order to optimize the service to fulfil the actual demand.

The innovators are those that can rapidly adapt and improve. ERP was typically developed for the manufacturing industry and focuses on keeping inventory. The services sector demands much more from the underlying software. Traditional ERP is very useful to do what it was designed for, but in the modern age, companies don't have the time or patience to wait for consultants to make customizations every time they want to make a change to the system.

Post-modern ERP, or what Unit4 calls Self-Driving ERP takes a new approach. It delivers the necessary functionality an enterprise requires to grow, be efficient and competitive while being responsive and helpful to the user.

Is your ERP designed to support service delivery?

Research by Canadian based analysts TEC, shows that Unit4 Business World is ideally suited to support service industry business change. Native to the services industry, designed to meet the challenges of these organizations from the outset, it is one of the only ERP systems built for today’s service businesses. The flexible ERP system scores above average compared to the market average in almost every area analysed. According to the report Unit4 Business World is an integrated suite of solutions, developed for project-based organizations in an environment of constant change.

For decades Unit4 has served clients in the services industry, by helping them to reap the benefits of change through flexible systems. In recent years the software itself has been transformed from a product to a service; upfront investments in software have been replaced by cloud subscription models that offer the flexibility to upscale or downscale usage whenever needed. Software no longer needs to be ‘possessed’, but in a cloud deployment scenario ERP systems have to deliver rich functionality, consumer-grade user experience and a services mindset. Can you say that about your ERP system?

The full TEC report is available here

Kamal Rifai

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