April 27/May 4, 2015; Volume 29/Number 2
By Bryan White
There are a number of technologies you are probably already utilizing such as automated warehouse systems that reduce inventory requirements; enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that allow distributors to monitor their overall businesses more closely; PRM software or partner portals, which improve communications between suppliers and distributors, and social media, which helps retailers improve their relationships with customers.
In addition to these helpful tools, there are many new and evolving technologies that have become increasingly relevant to distributors today. But, with things changing at such a rapid pace, it can be daunting to prioritize and stay current. Which technologies and trends should you be keeping an eye on?
Enterprise Suite vs. ERP
The basic difference between a traditional ERP system and an Enterprise Suite (cloud-based ERP) is clear: Traditional ERP solutions are installed locally on your company’s hardware and servers and then managed by your IT staff, while cloud ERP (also called SaaS, or Software-as-a-Service) is provided as a service. With this type of system, a company’s ERP software and its associated data are centrally managed by the ERP vendor and accessed through a web browser.
The trend toward cloud-based ERPs is increasing. Initial costs of this type of system are typically lower because you access it through an Internet connection. The cloud ERP provider hosts and maintains all the IT infrastructure and ensures the system is always running, the data is secure and product enhancements are rolled out without breaking your previously implemented customizations. Ultimately, this all allows your IT resources to focus on innovating and helping grow the business more effectively rather than spending time on maintaining and managing your traditional ERP system.
Mobility enables a workforce to have instant access to information through mobile applications anytime, anywhere. People are fundamentally changing the way they work and in order to remain competitive, organizations are making enterprise applications accessible through mobile devices.
One example of this may be a company that requires a large degree of off-site marketing and sales. It may need laptops for sales teams in order to make sure they have the information they need, when they need it. Mobility offers the alternative solution of having all of the information and functionality that a CRM application can provide without the costly expense of purchasing more equipment.
Systems of engagement
Social media has reshaped the way organizations primarily communicate. With the current generation of Instagram, Facebook, tweeting and texting, businesses have had to adjust to new communication channels and techniques. Therefore, business technology platforms must be able to quickly integrate and manage multiple kinds of devices. We are moving from a dependency on systems of record to systems of engagement, which are more decentralized and incorporate technologies that encourage peer interactions.