A Look Ahead to ERP Software in 2014

Mark Canes

Businesses that are planning to implement ERP software are now, more than ever, focusing on specific needs, and doing their homework before approaching software providers. We expect to see the following trends in 2014:

1.       Smarter buyers

With the availability of information in today’s world, consumers are increasingly well-informed, making it easier to conduct research and compare products before ever speaking with a salesperson.  With the help of a company’s website, online review sites, smartphone apps, forums and other information, consumers looking for inventory and accounting ERP software are now spending more time educating themselves on their purchase options and evaluating these options more carefully. This means that salespeople are becoming involved in the sales process a lot later than before (and sometimes not at all).  If salespeople do become involved, it is important that they take on a more consulting based role as an industry expert – spending the time to understand a customer’s business and software needs.  The traditional sales approach is no longer valid, and consumers are becoming more and more wary of  "the used car salesperson".

2.       Higher demand for mobile options

Being able to access real-time data on-the-go is no longer a feature that businesses consider a bonus – it is becoming a necessity. Many companies are developing software that is available on devices such as cell phones and tablets, and developing creative ways to integrate certain components of their software with these devices. For example, warehouse inventory wireless barcode scanners for iOS devices may provide a more affordable and flexible scanning option for smaller businesses. It is these types of developments that are making complete ERP systems a more viable option for smaller businesses and start-ups.

3.       Continued growth of cloud solutions

We’ve been hearing for a few years now that "the cloud" is on the rise, and this is still the case. With traditional on-premises ERP systems, infrastructure and hardware needs may be very costly and require regular maintenance and upgrades. Although ERP systems are valuable for companies of all sizes, many smaller businesses or start-ups simply cannot afford the capital costs associated with on-premises options. Furthermore, these smaller firms often do not have full-time IT staff to manage the hardware if there are any maintenance issues. In order to maximize the benefits from your ERP system, consider vendors who offer both hosted (cloud) and on-premises solutions for added flexibility.  The benefits of having the option to switch between implementation methods as a company grows and changes, without having to change ERP software, are self-evident. 

4.       Simplification of software functions and look/feel

As the breadth of functionality provided by ERP systems continues to increase, more and more people within an organization come into contact with the software. Many of these people are strapped for time, or do not come from a technology background, which is why it is very important for software vendors to focus on developing a simple and intuitive system that offers convenience. A well-architected system will provide businesses with increased efficiencies and help to automate many manual processes.

5.      Increased importance of automated analytical tools

A sophisticated system will be able to pull data from the system easily, and customize reports to meet individual needs. The ability to automatically generate reports provides managers access to real-time data for better decision-making.

The business software world, in general, is evolving and growing to become more client-friendly. 2014 will bring more informed buyers, the increasing flexibility of mobile and cloud options, and user-friendly systems that provide real-time data.  If you are looking to invest in an ERP solution, be sure to consider these trends, and find a provider that meets your specific needs. Happy 2014!