ERP – The new electricity

Posted on 9 Apr 2010 by The Manufacturer

In the run up the ERP Connect 2010 Jane Gray, TM interviews Paul White, MD Microsoft Dynamics UK to hear his views on progress in the ERP market and implementation methods.

ERP sits comfortably among the top three IT priorities for any organisation across a range of sectors, the other big hitters being CRM and BI. The complication and expense of investing in these systems is notorious and a distinct repellent for MDs and CEOs undergoing a dawning realisation that no amount of process re-engineering will make their current systems good enough for the current and future demands on their organisation.

Given this situation what is the vendor community doing to redress this image and add value to their important client base in manufacturing?

Paul White sees the market consolidation that has been taking place over the last seven years as being a major necessary step in value adding. “Consolidation in the vendor world has lead to better, more appropriately focused R&D from market leaders. As smaller, niche providers have realised that they cannot compete on research – due to limited budgets and capacity – they have taken the strategic decision not to compete on these grounds but to differentiate their offerings in other ways. This is great for the manufacturing industry as globalisation progresses and there is ever more demand for standardisation.”

For Paul Microsoft’s investment in R&D is possibly its most important contribution to the ERP market and the key to value in their products. “For manufacturers concerned about ongoing maintenance contracts it is crucial that they know their supplier is constantly reviewing and innovating on their offering so that upgrades can be made painlessly. Microsoft has realised the potential that their products can add to continuous improvement, and are seeking for continuous improvement themselves, so we must be able to prove to clients that the percentage they pay year on year for their ERP system will come back to them. There is no point in investing with a company who does not have a track record of taking R&D seriously.”

When asked what he saw as the most important research trend for Microsoft now, and for the future, Paul was swift to reply that usability was the key to their appeal. “This is something of a hallmark for Microsoft, we take products that are require high level expertise and are an elite privilege to own and we make them easy to use and available to many.
Largely speaking there are three different kinds of companies out there at the moment, those who use IT to differentiate themselves, those who see IT a means to key capability and those who simply regard IT the way they regard electricity. It will be there when they will turn it on – they use it without thinking. In this world vendors must make sure their products require minimal training for users.” This all sounds like great news for midmarket organisations who are aspiring in escalating numbers to own the capability of their larger corporate cousins but who cannot match their investment budgets.

For manufacturers looking to invest in ERP Paul is forthright about what he sees as the most important step to be taken before implementations, yet also the step most commonly missed by decision makers. “It’s all about expectations. Leaders looking to invest must identify exactly what they are expecting to achieve through their technology investment. This will be different in each companies case but it is crucial that they spend time looking at their processes, budgets, sales figures and so on, decide what is critical to them and put a figure on the improvement they want ERP to make. This is the major cause for disappointment and disengagement from IT projects – there is no clear expectation or milestone against which to measure success. If this is so how can you keep track of ROI?”

Paul looks forward to speaking extensively on this subject during his keynote presentation at ERP Connect (April 22). “This event will be a great chance to connect and communicate with our users and with an industry which is so central to our ERP market. I hope that my contribution will help attendees see their way forward with ERP, define the needs of their organisation and think about whether or not they have set appropriate measures. It is also of course our key opportunity to gain feedback and learn more about what the manufacturing industry needs from us.”

To learn more about Paul White and his presentation at ERP connect please click here. The event is FREE to attend and offers a unique format including meetings with vendors, conference seminars, thought leadership and live case studies.