The app and the evolution of ERP

By on November 12, 2014

Like many other aspects of the technology industry, mobility has an indelible impact even on enterprise software. That’s probably most obvious in the recent introduction of apps which are fully capable of running small enterprises, either as stand-alone modules, or as a fully integrated suite, writes Alan Sher, HansaWorld SA Director and Product Manager. 

These apps reflect a remarkable evolution of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software from the once monolithic, very expensive and highly complex software of yesteryear, to flexible, inexpensive and easy-to-use applications of today.

But why an evolution, and not a revolution? After all, aren’t ERP vendors the ones who have traditionally provided those large, complex and expensive applications in the first place?

The answer is yes, most ERP vendors are behind such software, which in addition to being expensive, also have a reputation for being risky and time consuming to implement. But the key word is ‘most’, not all.

Other vendors have seen mobility and the necessity for ERP to reach further down the food chain, as it were, for a very long time. These vendors have long provided solutions for the mid-tier and even the entry level, with an approach to ERP that is modular, capable of meeting limited immediate requirements, but also capable of scaling to meet the needs of growing businesses, even if those businesses become multinationals.

In other words, the introduction of ERP apps isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to the movement of the market, but instead is the result of an ongoing process that started years ago. The vendors that have a track record of delivering ERP, even for small companies, and on the platforms those small companies prefer to use (Microsoft, Android and Apple iOS), provide something else that other vendors scrambling to catch up, cannot: Maturity.

And in enterprise applications, whether they are mobile apps or full-scale server-side software, maturity is a central pillar for success.

Inevitably, the ERP apps space is shaping up as a new vendor battleground. It’s (very) hip and sexy. It is undoubtedly exciting. And it provides headroom for growth percentages that can only be dreamed of in the mature traditional ERP space. However, it also raises possible pitfalls for interested customers.

Vendor choice should be driven by the maturity of the apps, already mentioned. Other considerations include assessing whether or not the apps are fully scalable and properly mobile, with online and offline functionality. Completeness of the solutions should also be examined; does the chosen solution deliver the modularity to assemble an eventual complete ERP solution, or does it quickly reach the limit of its capabilities, forcing a switch to more costly traditional software?

These questions can all be answered satisfactorily with mobile apps available today, which also deliver an even more exciting prospect: Distinct affordability and the ability to expand as the company does (essential for entrepreneurial enterprises that plan on eventual substantial growth).

The final word is that the ERP vendor landscape is changing irrevocably thanks to the power of mobile. What that means for people running even small businesses is access to better tools that support proven processes for higher performance companies.

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