Get More Out of Your ERP: Creating One System that Works for Everyone

Paul Yarwood, Chief Strategy Officer, Hubble
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Paul Yarwood, Chief Strategy Officer, Hubble

The original ERP system sought to be one system for everyone. Businesses envisioned ERP as the centralized connection of their data, people and processes within a single ecosystem to drive superior business performance. But the technology’s promises resulted in disappointing delivery. While ERP could automate business processes and collect enterprise-wide data, there was a large gap between the gathering and visualization of data.

Many companies tried to bridge this gap with highly technical team members who could build reports and deliver data in the way decision makers needed, but it rarely worked. This meant that many business leaders reverted to their old ways of clunky spreadsheets when it came to retrieving and visualizing big data analytics.

Because of this gap, Business Intelligence (BI) emerged, designed to help fulfill the one-system vision that ERP systems were unable to complete. Even though BI offered more robust capabilities, it came with big costs, long implementation times, low user adoption rates and poor return on investment. Enterprises and organizations were being let down by their hopes of both ERP and BI.

Settling for Compromises

These downfalls have driven organizations to lower their expectations for ERP and its accompanying technologies. IT teams and business executives have relinquished the fight for one system for everyone, and made difficult compromises in an attempt to find solutions that work, at least in part, with their data and information needs.

Slower Speed

Many organizations have compromised speed to support larger datasets. As their businesses grow, so do these volumes of data. With larger compilations of data come slower time to access, aggregate and deliver data sets. As this slower time has become more and more of a hindrance, many information requirements involving large data are now taken offline and run in batches (often overnight). This process means that data is not available in real time, and key decision makers in the business are forced to make choices based on outdated information.

Less Visibility

In search for a technology to subsidize ERP, many organizations have compromised visibility. While ERP is an exceptional transaction system, it isn’t able to successfully deliver information in any other form. However, in order to meet all of their information requirements, companies need both a transactional form and a summary form.

  ​One system for everyone should empower organizations to better measure and manage business processes about data and people   

To deliver the summary information ERP lacks, technologies such as On-Line Analytical Processing (OLAP) emerged. While OLAP’s cube capabilities are exceptional at summarizing limited quantities of data, big data sets create unacceptable calculation times and performance problems. More importantly, integrating OLAP with an ERP introduces two systems — one for summary data and one for transactions — that need to be managed and synchronized, leading to duplication and data integrity issues. Many companies have settled for this model, however, resulting in convoluted data synchronization.

Unsatisfied Audience, More Complexity

From financial analysts to executives to sales representatives and beyond, everyone needs something a little different from their ERP system. Each team within an organization requires different data at different levels of summarization and presented in different forms. Instead of seeking one system that satiates these separate parties, organizations have implemented different tools for each department — dashboards for executives, customer relationship management (CRM) reports for sales, transactional inquiry tools for finance and operations, etc. Data now lives in many different silos, with many data management challenges. From a user perspective, simple information requests have to be addressed through multiple systems, and fragmentation of systems leads to fragmentation of the data they receive.

Creating a Better System for All

Historically, many companies have made compromises that ultimately thwart their business performance. But more organizations are beginning to realize that their original vision of one system for everyone is still a possibility if they focus on the key aspects that matter most to creating such a system.

When reestablishing the goal to create one system for everyone, many organizations have learned from the past. They’ve pondered on the root causes that forced themselves to make compromises, they’ve identified the technology imperatives that can overcome the challenges that forced the compromises in the first place, and they’ve highlighted the essential elements they need from their system to truly catch their vision.

One system for everyone is still all about improving the ERP. ERP is the center of the business universe; it automates business processes and connects every aspect of business activity. The software that supports it, such as corporate performance management (CPM) software like Hubble and others, should inherently understand the ERP to leverage its business logic and mitigate its weaknesses.

As organizations create one system for everyone centered around ERP and its supporting CPM capabilities, here are the three drivers they should be focusing on.

Focusing on Data

Without strong CPM to accompany it, ERP is just another generic source of data that requires heavy manipulation to deliver valuable information to the business. Many CPM systems offer built-in ERP intelligence, and therefore come with lower implementation risks, quicker implementation times and faster time-to-value than many BI tools.

Using CPM, organizations can keep ERP at the center of the solution and connect all other critical business system data, like CRM, to the ERP data. This connection eliminates most data integrity issues, fosters master data management and enables holistic views of business data within a single environment powered by a cohesive ecosystem. This model also allows the data to be real-time and easily deliverable, even with large sets of data.

Focusing on People

A system could hold all critical data but ignore user adoption. While so much effort is invested in connecting different data systems together, many have forgotten the fundamental factor of an intuitive user interface. In order for a system to truly work for everyone, people within an organization should be able to seamlessly connect to the information they need.

By permanently improving an ERP, widespread user adoption should follow. However, people are only willing to adopt a new technology if it’s understandable to use. Thankfully, the new capabilities of CPM solutions can provide the intuitive interface needed for extensive adoption by employees across departments.

Focusing on Processes

One system for everyone should empower organizations to better measure and manage business processes about data and people. Streamlining the process presents an opportunity to grow data interpretation and productivity. In the past, compromises have forced businesses to build inefficient business processes around their information as compensation for the lack of ERP intelligence. The new single system of a CPM solution can eliminate the complexities of synchronization and cut lag time between data gathering and data readiness to inform key business decisions.

One System for Everyone

Using these three essential elements as a roadmap, companies can (and have) finally pinpointed a solution that works for everyone. Many have discovered an approach called information morphing through which they can address the broad spectrum of needs for inquiry, reporting, analytics, dashboards, etc., all from within CPM solutions. Information morphing makes it so information can transform from one state to another and back again, enabling data to move from report to dashboard to CRM and more without the need of separate tools or extensive lag time.

But not every company will identify CPM solutions as the system that works best for all their employees. Even so, organizations are now empowered to choose a better system in an effort to eliminate many – if not all – of the compromises of the past. By prioritizing the data it’ll provide, the people it’ll affect and the processes it’ll move under, businesses can find a solution that’s faster, more streamlined and higher functioning to truly get the most out of their information.

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