New demands will shake IT up

Posted on 18 Dec 2009 by The Manufacturer

Will changing the way IT is used save companies big money in 2010? James Norwood of Epicor asks

In this economic climate our customers have typically been most concerned with reducing business related costs and at the same time improving customer service and responsiveness. However, many also see investments in IT as a way to reduce costs throughout their organisation, by making people more productive and enabling them to be more efficient.

It has been a tough year for all businesses globally, yet our customers tell us they expect to emerge stronger in 2010 based on a solid foundation built in 2009, and it will be those companies that will have the greatest opportunities, as opposed to those that are held back by older less adaptable IT systems.

The key challenges that our customers told us they faced during 2009 included:

• Business restructuring, including plant and entity consolidation, pushing a need for lower costs and improved sales channels.
• IT cost savings, including data center consolidation, targeted outsourcing, and virtualisation of servers and storage.
• Business productivity, making in certain cases fewer people more productive by giving them the right tools and information at the right time.
• Focus on IT procurement, such as deferral of capital expenditure in areas like desktop and laptop replacements, and consolidation of hardware and software contracts.

So what’s in store for 2010?
The Gartner Group’s predictions of the top 10 strategic technology areas for 2010 ( include Cloud Computing, Advanced Analytics, Social Computing, Virtualisation, and Mobile Applications. This confirms what we are hearing from our customers who are now turning their attention to how they can maximise their investments and get the most out of the data they already have, as well as investigating how options such as Mobility and the Cloud could potentially work for them.

The key enterprise themes for 2010 therefore look set to be about increasing employee productivity, leveraging existing ERP investment via Cloud or software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, and how to gain better business insight with embedded business intelligence.

Increase employee productivity
With many companies having shed staff and taken drastic cost cutting actions to ensure not only survival through the downturn but also a need for being well positioned in the upturn, more attention will be given to how staff can increase their productivity and a prime example of this is the increased demand for mobile solutions; literally putting the business into the hands of the workforce.

Enterprises regard mobility as a key investment because it can help them:
1. Improve service quality levels – give mobile field representatives access to relevant functions and data so that they can deliver on-the-spot, real-time information to customers.
2. Operate more efficiently – reclaim time previously lost to travel and connectivity issues, build deeper business relationships and improve productivity.
3. Gain a competitive advantage – instant access to data, including pricing and inventory levels.
4. Extend business borders and enter new markets — transact business where it happens, regardless of location or connectivity.
5. Make employees more productive – with the increasing ubiquity and cost effectiveness of mobile technology the ability to access and work with essential information is now 24/7

Cloud Computing
Clouds computing options such as SaaS or on-line storage presents a real opportunity for businesses to make quick and simple savings in terms of IT spend on ERP systems. The way a company’s users see the benefit of this is that all their applications become web-based; so you produce invoices, track staff time and plan your resources using a web browser as your principle tool.

Customers do have concerns though, particularly around risk and security. Data location and security are key issues, as are many aspects of compliance. Any IT spend cannot ignore these issues, and needs to show short term ROI alongside clear evidence of longevity in terms of the systems themselves. Manufacturing and logistics businesses rely on their technology lasting a long time and adapting with them, rather than ripping and replacing when money becomes available which plays directly to the Cloud’s strengths.

Business insight
Web 2.0 in the enterprise has seen the development of a number of plug-in applications for office productivity suites that give a transparent user experience of ERP information, in context but within a familiar desktop productivity environment. Business users now have access to more far-reaching and detailed data from across the whole of the enterprise, enabling them to make more informed business decisions.

With the collection of more data comes the need for more sophisticated analytics options and some of the key trends that we will see emerging over the next year will be embedded role-based analytics, contextual and predicative analysis, to better predict production and business growth.

Planning for 2010
During 2010, Epicor plans to bring to market a series of releases, applications and industry solutions designed to address both the challenges and opportunities in front of the manufacturing industry. We expect to release several new modules to our next generation ERP solution, Epicor 9, so get in touch with us for more information.

There will also be enhancements in the areas of Project Management, Financial Management, Customer Relationship and Supply Chain Management as well as new technical innovations in the areas of Analytics, Mobile and Cloud computing.

2010 is not going to be an easy year, but as many have found in 2009, the right technology can play a pivotal role in managing costs and enabling efficiencies to support business growth.

James Norwood, Vice President, Product Marketing, Epicor Software Corporation