When executives sponsor a project to upgrade to a more robust ERP solution they expect to have better decision support and analyses at their fingertips. No doubt, a worthy objective – yet, if you ask most C-level ERP upgrade project sponsors whether they saw meaningful value delivered once the project was over, you’ll hear “well…” or, “meh!” or “maybe”. I’ve written many articles about why this happens and how to avoid it. However, today’s post is a positive one: ERP applications are showing signs of great maturity as decision-support tools.

Over the past few years, the bigger ERP publishers (e.g.; Microsoft, Oracle, SAP) have been working hard at developing their cloud-based versions of software aimed at the “SMB” – or smaller mid-market. Assume this is any business under $1billion in revenue. Having been through many ERP evaluations, it’s clear to me and my team that the vendors have really stepped up with newer offerings that are wide in functional breadth and sharply focused on delivering data and analytics to users in specific roles.  This stems from having improved work flows and built-in predictive analytics to both push decisions and approvals to the right people and to share insights from business data or activities in more of a push orientation. The improvements go far beyond just a fixed dashboard fed to a systems user.

Imagine being a production planner or supply chain manager for a manufacturing business. Having the ERP’s toolset provide you with anticipated production capacity issues based on real time production challenges, as well as being informed of real-time delays in the receipt of key components in your bills of materials (from sensors and tracking devices in your supply chain) seems normal these days – when in fact, this wasn’t available to SMB organizations a few years ago. The publishers have added so much functionality in these areas. They seem to be in a race to out-insight the next software publisher. That’s good news, if it works for you, and if it really does what it appears in a demonstration. Ultimately the business consumer has more choice and receives more benefit from what used to be seen (ERP) as more of a transactional software environment (read: not “insightful” or “predictive”).

Publishers are also taking greater steps to provide very tight, sometimes seamless integration between the core ERP modules and their own business intelligence and analytics software. The ease in which users can generate data into meaningful analyses, including pulling in data from non-ERP databases, has never been this appealing and required less education and technical prowess. I’ve been particularly impressed with the pace of developments and improvements that publishers have made recently – witness: Microsoft’s Power BI which expands in capability each week it seems, and Oracle’s EPM Cloud which provides tightly integrated analytics in a suite environment that is becoming more integrated and appealing every month. I normally don’t mention products here (we’re independent and objective) but I felt that credit was due. I’m a former CFO in the SMB market – I only wish these kinds of tools were available when I was looking for our ERP solution.

To that end, it’s a good time to be a buyer of newer, upgraded ERP software if you’re seeking to improve your analytical, planning and insight capabilities and find more value from an upgrade project. We’re here to help with objective project leadership, from planning and chartering through the oversight of your chosen implementation vendor.  I can be reached through LinkedIn, of course, or email at [email protected]