Higher levels of productivity with existing head count in a disruptive market

Posted by  Ben Gordon

The global economy is experiencing a period of uncertainty and disruption. Notably Brexit and a Trump administration in the USA; it is of course early days and the full ramifications of both are yet to unfold but we are all hearing confusing and divisive messaging coming from all angles, which is destabilising.

There is however one clear trend for Professional Services Organisations (PSO’s) that is certain, they are having to work harder, without adding substantial cost, to achieve increased productivity. So here are five ways modern Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions have adapted to assist with these demands: 

1. ERP solutions are becoming more accessible

It is worth remembering that older and more legacy ERP systems are traditionally designed for processes, rather than people. In today’s society, work and home life are increasingly intertwined and as a result the workforce is demanding immediate and reliable access to business systems  and from any browser, smartphone, PC or tablet wherever they are. Whether it is checking a budget on an overseas project in the evening or submitting their timesheet on the way back from the school run, it’s the norm now. Without this flexibility tasks can build up, take longer to do and ultimately result in a negative impact on productivity.

So with this all in mind, organisations are demanding a different approach and ERP vendors are focussed on turning the traditional ERP model on its head and bringing technology to people, rather than tethering people to technology. 

2. ERP solutions have embraced the Cloud

Cloud solutions have been available for years now and are highly sophisticated. That said it is surprising that a large proportion of multi-office/international PSO’s are still slow to adopt a cloud based approach to ERP deployment.

So why should PSOs look to the cloud? Well, for me it’s the accessibility, scalability and agility advantages that cloud brings, allowing the PSO to focus on growth but it also has other benefits worthy of note:

  • Cloud offers a more ‘pay as you consume’ pricing model and better approach to upgrades than the traditional perpetual licence model.
  • It also tends to have fuller, more advanced data disaster recovery and security standards baked into its service in the form of ISO/IEC 27001, SSAE16 type II, PCI DSS and so on.

3. ERP solutions are becoming intuitive and modern

This trend has been spurred on by the changing workforce demographic, The Millennial generation (defined here as people born between 1980 and 1995) are now having a significant impact in the workforce. They have being using device-agnostic cutting-edge technology in other areas of their lives since childhood. They are accustomed to using software featuring modern user interfaces and are able to download software from an app store in just a few seconds. Unsurprisingly, they expect that same easy experience and interaction with business technology in the workplace. We are seeing demand for modernisation from employers to ensure they can attract and retain young, new talent and ensure this next generation of employee can be focussed 100% on their role and optimising their productivity, rather than having to wait for and deal with issues around software and process.

4. ERP solutions are further leveraging professional services automation (PSA).

We have talked for years about how automating processes and workflow liberates employees from low value manual tasks and how this has a significant and positive impact on both controls and productivity.  In more recent times we are seeing a trend for ERP vendors to further leverage PSA to take care of tasks that are better served by technology and by utilising advanced analytics to predict, propose and assist users, the business system is actually helping users to get their jobs completed more quickly and accurately than ever before.

5. ERP solutions are being built for the requirements of tomorrow through AI and ML

Artificial intelligence, especially machine learning has advanced rapidly and we expect it to continue to do so. Apple, Microsoft and Amazon are trail blazing the way, making advanced technologies as well as their Digital Assistants or ‘bots’ (Siri, Cortana, Alexa etc.) available through their open platforms.

ERP solutions are now exploiting these advances to deliver new great applications with much more inbuilt intelligence. Indeed, machine learning can process and analyse large amounts of data in seconds to uncover patterns and trends, tasks that historically would take humans days to complete and as a result can vastly increase productivity. From a PSO perspective effective use of ML can, for example, assist with budgeting of new PSO projects by analysing hundreds of previous projects or extracting quick answers to control costs, utilisation etc., without manually working through masses of reports. In addition, support desk tasks and departments such as HR will be revolutionised through self-learning and self-serving capabilities. 

In a nutshell, the increasing prevalence of digital assistants and bots in ERP solutions will remove basic, low value and tedious tasks such as expenses, timesheets, purchase requisitions and absence bookings from an employee’s to do list, streamlining these tasks and ensuring accuracy. In so doing the employee can focus on more the value add, interesting and strategic elements of their role.


Ben Gordon

As a Business Development Manager at Unit4 Ben is focussed on delivering ERP solutions to meet the needs of people and project centric organisations. Specialising in Professional Services Organisations (PSO) and using the latest technology, Ben’s role is to help organisations become more efficient and productive, liberate staff from unnecessary manual tasks and improve key processes in order to meet current and future business goals and objectives.

Ben has a wealth expertise across all areas of Finance and Project Accounting, Procurement, Workflow, HR/Payroll, Budgeting/Forecasting and Business Intelligence having spent over 15 years working with customers to define complex technology solution requirements and deliver those solutions on time and on budget.

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