6 Ways Cloud ERP Supports Innovation and Growth
By Stewart Florsheim
Whether you’re a growing single-site specialty manufacturer or a large multinational organization, business does not stand still. Instead, there’s a constant need to grow, seek new opportunities, and react to new competitive threats along with changing market conditions. While there are many factors that determine how your organization responds to market conditions, one key driver of success is the flexibility of your software infrastructure.
Cloud-based ERP supports rapid innovation and growth, and also provides a framework for operational efficiency, in six important ways.
1. Easy Configuration Enables Innovation and Growth
Creating innovative products and services is usually driven by new business models. For example, companies that used to sell products directly to the end-user are now offering subscription-based services that require a different approach to managing customers, revenue, and inventory. One example is a manufacturer of MRI machines that traditionally sold the expensive devices directly to hospitals. Now, they’re changing their business model so they continue to own the MRI machine, while billing the hospitals by the image. This new model enables the company to increase their footprint to new hospitals that otherwise would not have been able to purchase an MRI machine.
Unfortunately, while legacy ERP systems provide a solid foundation to run a business, they do so only if very little changes. Legacy ERP systems tend to be rigid, inflexible, and hard to configure. So as companies transition to new business models, they’re not able to leverage their existing legacy ERP solutions to support them. By contrast, a system like Kenandy — a cloud ERP system built on the Salesforce 1 Platform — is designed for flexibility and adaptability, enabling the rapid configuration of new business processes to support innovation.
2. The Importance of Extensibility
Most manufacturing enterprises that have been in business for years have their own versions of ERP. Even considering all the benefits of cloud ERP, it’s often impractical to replace the existing systems all at once. That’s why cloud ERP includes extensive integration points and application programming interfaces (APIs) to ensure that legacy data flows freely between new cloud apps and your system-of record. Likewise, the extensibility can also be used to integrate new, complementary applications.
Extensibility also means being able to quickly onboard a new workforce during an acquisition or partnership. In the days of on-premises ERP, there would be new hardware to install, software to distribute, weeks of extensive training to bring the new workforce up to speed. With cloud ERP, you set up sign-on security and all your users have access via their desktop browser or mobile devices. With the intuitive browser-based apps, training is minimized to understanding business processes, not memorizing menu navigation and reporting toolsets.
3. How Real-Time Visibility Supports Innovation and Growth
Transactions by day, reporting by night. This is the work cycle of legacy ERP. Need a report to make a pricing decision while the customer waits? Place your request in the IT queue and hope for the best. Need to understand the yield on your production line right now — in Taiwan? Setup a conference call and hope everyone with the right information can attend.
With cloud ERP, you get real-time visibility into your business when you need it. Even with a global organization, all the data is updated in real-time on the cloud, so you can drill-down to the single source of truth using intuitive reporting apps and analytics. Being able to monitor the flow of goods and services within your organization provides the ability to react quickly to changes in customer orders and supply chain bottlenecks, letting you innovate as needed to adapt and keep on top of today’s challenges.
4. Collaboration Lets Everyone Contribute
Cloud ERP is designed to facilitate connectivity to business information anytime and anywhere. This provides the foundation for being able to “work socially” — an enhanced form of collaboration among employees, partners, and customers made possible by immersive apps and always-available connectivity.
Cloud ERP built on the Salesforce1 Platform includes collaboration through Salesforce Chatter. The unique aspect of this form of social working is that knowledge can be tied directly to data objects in the workflow of business. If a production manager comments on a particular object such as a customer order, that information is attached to the data for everyone — who has permission — to see it and add to the conversation. Knowledge travels with objects throughout the system, ensuring that data is up-to-date and relevant to getting work done. This ability to work socially is one reason millennial employees take naturally to cloud ERP applications. It’s like an extension to their world of social sharing, except focused on the context of business.
5. Mobile Applications Enhance Productivity
Applications delivered on mobile devices — smart phones or tablets — need to be designed to take full advantage of the interface, not just re-painted onto a smaller screen. A hard-to-use mobile app is an unused mobile app.
Mobile apps native to the Salesforce1 Platform are designed with a toolset that takes full advantage of the touch interface and appropriate screen size of tablets and smart phones. The apps display always up-to-date corporate information in a mobile-friendly way, presenting the most relevant content and using native input controls, geolocation, barcode scanning, and imaging capabilities of the devices. Apps designed for mobile devices increase the freshness of data in the entire system. When workers can access production data, add to knowledge bases, and make updates on the go, productivity is higher and information flows throughout the organization.
6. Easy-to-Use Applications Encourage Innovative Action
The complexity of legacy ERP systems usually restricts its use to highly-trained personnel. Traditionally, only a few employees used the system for data entry, report generation, or managing production. The modern, intuitive, and consistent interfaces in cloud ERP make it possible for any employee to use the applications with minimal training. Every employee or trusted partner with the appropriate secure sign-on credentials has instant access to your business applications and information. Production employees, for example, can update inventory and schedules from mobile devices right from the warehouse or manufacturing line. Sales can enter and check on orders no matter where they are, accessing up-to-date information with the swipe of a screen. Managers can generate reports as needed, adding fields and rearranging layouts with point-and-click ease.
ERP for the Innovative Enterprise
Disruptive innovation usually means that an upstart company comes up with a new product or service that makes the products of established companies obsolete. Chaos ensues. But what if you disrupt yourself first? What if you can reorganize your products and services to create new value? To do so, your information systems need to run in an always-on, always-available mode with flexibility, agility, and extensibility.
About the Author
Stewart Florsheim is the VP of Marketing at Kenandy, Inc., and is responsible for all marketing and technical communications. Kenandy produces cloud ERP software for enterprises, built on the Salesforce1 Platform.
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