How to Humanise your ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) System

CONTRIBUTION BY Alexia Christofi – FMCG Client Development Director

Imagine a world where your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system behaved more like a human being…We’re not talking about the quirky things that humans do (picture your best friend after a few drinks) but the human ability to be logical yet caring, and to turn apparently random connections into meaning.

ERP systems can’t meet stakeholders’ demands

Over the last fifteen years, most corporations have adopted an extensive Enterprise Resource Planning strategy often led by IT. It often means that once an organisation standardises, using a particular system, they are bound by its structure. But these systems are not human and, with the best will in the world, they often can’t meet all the demands of all the different stakeholders.

Organisations spend lots of money implementing them, specifically tweaked and designed for their business requirements at the time. We’re talking hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars or pounds, spent on systems like SAP, JDE, Oracle, and others. And then it seems that every time I speak to them they’re upgrading it (and spending even more money to do so).

What does this have to do with humans?

In order to avoid incurring extra costs, more often than not, when new business requirements mean that a system change has to be made, people develop ways of working around these problems (and these manual workarounds are often undocumented).

We’re living in a world where the power of the huge Enterprise Resource Planning system giants is being challenged.

[blockquote style=”1″]According to Gartner: The ERP suite is being deconstructed and replaced by a more federated, loosely coupled environment in what Gartner calls postmodern ERP. In this environment, much (or even all) of the required functionality will be sourced as cloud services or via business process outsourcers, resulting in a more dynamic and confusing landscape than at any time since the mid-1990s.[/blockquote]

The proliferation of small, useful software tools – often delivered via SaaS have forced organisations to reconsider where IT sits in the hierarchy, and how they can get control over their internal systems – and still help people in the process. More and more, departments around the business – from marketing to HR, sales to project management – are using software tools (often SaaS or cloud-based solutions) that exist alongside their system, but don’t necessarily integrate.

What if information DID NOT live in siloes?

But what if all of the documentation and data that was relevant to your supply chain didn’t exist in siloes… What if all the information that you needed to discover exactly where your goods are, at every single point in time, was available at your fingertips… What if you had full visibility of orders and deliveries, when you want it? Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this is only possible if multiple data types and information silos (most of which exist outside of any Enterprise Resource Planning environment) are synchronised – so your EDI transactions, faxes, phone orders, GRNs, PODs etc. become more than a mass of information, they become a single source of the truth.

Your system has the potential to be human(ised)!

The point is that your system can be great – but it also has to have some uniquely human characteristics, namely: adaptability and agility. Computers can only do what they’re programmed to do. But humans have the ability to stop and think to challenge the status quo, to ask ‘Why?’

[blockquote style=”1″]In fact, if you can’t or don’t humanise the process of implementing your ERP system, you will fail. The internet is littered with stories of implementation failures, as well as guides on how to avoid such failures, and they all include a common theme: get your employees on board. Source: Mantralogix[/blockquote]

Your system has a duty to become human!

Not only does your system have the potential to incorporate human elements or to behave in a more human way, it has a duty to become humanised!

So what if you could make it more human? It’s possible.

There are two ways of humanising it. Firstly, it’s possible to make data accurate by applying human-like intelligence (to validate data and apply certain conditions – we call them business rules). In this way, intelligence can be put in place to check minimum and maximum order quantities, delivery lead times, or quantity conversions before they hit your system – so you can still input the data in the format that you want it. Secondly, it’s possible to translate data from any format to any other format, seamlessly. Together, both of these solutions are a great alternative to spending a lot of money reconfiguring the system to fit the new process or training your team to manually adjust to the new rules – before the document hits it.

This alternative would be like a magic box – you would shove your data in, say ‘Abracadabra’ and the format you want would come out the next end.

That’s all great, but what’s the answer?

Warning: this is where I talk about my company. I know – it might seem arrogant or self-serving – but I’m only doing this because I believe this problem can be solved! OmPrompt, the customer automation management company, makes the magic happen (just call me a magician!). We translate data from any format to any other format – so you don’t have to. And here’s the great bit: we also apply all of those multiple, complex and time-consuming rules and validation steps that are needed in the process. We apply clever business rules to deal with those quirks that your customers have, so your people’s valuable time isn’t wasted! And, even better, we can adapt and change the rules at any time – add, remove or edit them. Our business adapts as your business needs it to.

You don’t have to spend the money on adapting your Enterprise Resource Planning system

The consequence is that you don’t have to spend the money on adapting your system – and you don’t have to get people to make the changes before they hit. Instead, you can get your people to do the things that humans do best: ask questions, help other people, be proactive, provide excellent customer service, and make your customers happy – all at the same time.