Demand for mobility, analytics and social, along with the rise of the cloud, is contributing to the emergence of a new breed of ‘next-gen’ ERP platforms. The ERP suite, originally a functional tool for entering and recording data, is changing, with increased emphasis on mobility, analytics and social. Alongside this need to enable collaboration, interpretation and changing approaches to work is the drive, both from the vendor community and, increasingly, the end user side, to deploy solutions in the cloud.
Monzer Tohme, country manager, Middle East at Infor, whose organisation develops ERP suites for verticals, is clear how he sees next-gen applications being deployed. “The next-gen ERP is a cloud offering that provides industry specific functionalities, a beautiful user experience and adopts an open architecture,” he says.
“At Infor, our focus is on micro verticals, adopting and embracing an open architecture, and improving the user experience. All these key pillars are cornerstones in transitioning the typical on-premise business applications to cloud or next-gen business applications.”
Frank Forndron, head of quality management, SAP MENA and EMEA emerging markets, emphasises the role of analytics. “With next-gen ERP, business users can now get any insight on any data from anywhere in real-time: planning, execution, prediction, and simulation – all decisions that can be made on the fly with the highest level of granularity for faster business impact,” he says.
Prabu Balasubramanyan, executive director at TransSys Solutions, a Dubai-based Oracle Platinum Partner, also sees next-gen ERP as being in the cloud and supporting mobility, analytics and social. “It is usually cloud-based, fully mobile and social,” he says.
“It offers organisations swift business value, agility, cost-savings, flexibility, improved productivity and much greater efficiency and responsiveness to the external needs of the organisation.”
“Since the next-gen ERP is usually cloud-based, it is scalable and can be extended to other countries, connecting the organisation’s operations, customers and suppliers across the globe. Since the ERP is mobile, decision makers have better access to real-time data, which helps them in making quicker decisions.”
Ali Hyder, Group CEO of Focus Softnet, believes there has been tremendous evolution in ERP, from the days of simple data collection to today’s world of sophisticated data analysis. “Earlier the sole purpose of the ERP was to capture and remember data,” he says.
“Since then, the ERPs have learned how to remember more and more volumes of data, recall them faster, sort and organise data, present data in formats as required, analyse data intelligently, take decisions based on analysed data, and now allow users to execute their tasks through it by virtue of workflows and authorisation modules. ERPs have undoubtedly come a long way.”
He also sees mobility and support for cloud as key features of next-generation ERP platforms. “The next-gen ERPs are multi-dimensional, ever present on the computer environment, but now extending to the cloud to serve multiple locations, get onto thin clients and serve data to smart mobile devices, ensuring that accurate, relevant, secure and up-to-the-minute data is within easy reach of the data consumer,” says Hyder.
This, he adds, reinforces the need for ERP to embrace multiple platforms and employ various synchronisation capabilities, security protocols and integration tools to ensure seamless, secure accessibility across the user base.
The core ERP modules of financials, material management, costing, warehousing, sales & distribution, asset management and HR remain very much a given. Next generation ERP is characterised by built-in CRM or tight integration with a third party CRM platform, similar integration with an office productivity suite, business intelligence tools and mobile-enabled apps
Focus Softnet’s own Focus 8 integrates a business intelligence tool that can generate real-time reports. It also comes with modules for retail, restaurant management, property management and other verticals, a feature that Hyder again sees as characterising next-gen ERP.
Increasingly, ERP is also in the cloud, with CIOs having the option of taking the entire suite or just parts of it as a software service. Tohme at Infor believes the future lies in the cloud. His argument for taking the cloud route is the ability to access applications securely and reliably whether at home or on the road; live reporting capabilities through a browser or mobile; and the fact that the user is always using the latest version of the application.
Customers are rapidly moving towards adopting cloud business applications. This trend is driven by the need to lower the total cost of ownership and focus on what is important for customers: their core business,” explains Tohme. Infor’s CloudSuite is delivered as a service through the Amazon Cloud, which is a solid platform for private sector companies and multi-nationals that want to opt for cloud deployments.
In the Middle East, however, government-linked entities are generally obliged by law to keep all data within the country. For these organisations, hosting data and applications outside the region is simply not permitted. This is why SAP and Oracle have recently announced that they will offer cloud solutions hosted in local data centres. In SAP’s case, the company has collaborated with Injazat, du and Mobily to bring hosting to the region.