ERP, Enterprise Resource Planning, used to be sexy. Designed as an extension of MRP (initially Material Requirements Planning but later Manufacturing Resource Planning), it was designed to automate the back-office functions that did not directly affect customers and the general public and also include product planning, manufacturing control, and distribution in addition to the basic inventory control and production planning capability that was found in the precursor MRP technology.
But that was in the early days back in the nineties when design, manufacturing planning, and distribution planning was still largely paper-based. Then came the noughts with e-business, e-commerce, CRM, SRM, and e-Sourcing. Then ERP became boring old back office software that no one wanted to talk about. If you could afford the new fangled front-end systems, you were a Fortune 500 / Global 3000, you already had ERP, and there wasn’t much to talk about.
But now things have changed. The prices for e-business, e-commerce, CRM, SRM, and e-Sourcing have come down, the mid-market is starting to become saturated with basic “e-” functionality, and the new mid-market manufacturers and distributors need an ERP to take those orders, send those invoices, and manage the inventory they need to produce to meet your JIT inventory requirements. But, until now, they’ve had two choices — either fork out high six-plus figures for a stripped down version of Oracle or SAP (and the expertise to get it installed and integrated) which likely won’t meet all of their needs, or a custom implementation of an open source package such as Compiere, which probably won’t meet all of their needs either (but at least won’t cost them the virtual arm and leg). And neither solution is sexy.
As per SI’s recent post on how Mid-Market Manufacturers and Distributors Need an ERP That Works!, the solution needs to support the needs of the mid-market manufacturer, distributor, and even retailer. These needs include the need to deal with electronic purchase orders from customers, real-time demand planning and order management when customers inquire about availability and ship dates, inventory management, electronic purchase orders to your suppliers, automated invoices from your suppliers, and automated invoices to your customers. Without an ERP that gives them these capabilities, mid-market manufactures and distributors are left in the dark ages.
But if an ERP is to truly be effective, it not only has to provide you with these capabilities, but it has to be easy to use, which would make it appealing, and eliminate a lot of the manual data processing and tactical processes that organizations with traditional ERP systems tend to drown in, which would make it exciting. And if you want to get the new ERP system widely adopted, it should be glamorous, trendy, and even a little bit risqué. And that is the very definition of sexy.
Will ERP be sexy again? Stay Tuned!