Enterprise resource planning (ERP) has moved into the small- and medium-sized business space. No longer are ERP solutions the domain of big corporations with a lot of resources at their disposal, as there are now services and solutions that lower the barriers to entry as far as ERP is concerned.
Small businesses are taking notice of the potential of enterprise solutions in helping them scale and grow. And for this reason, enterprise consulting has increasingly become a lucrative and profitable business. There are those that consult with large-scale ERP implementations that run on big name solutions like Oracle e-Business Suite, Salesforce and SAP, among others. Small businesses may be attracted by SaaS-based ERP solutions that target the entry-level market, such as Netsuite, Epicor and even Microsoft Dynamics NAV. And because most SME IT departments may not have the right ERP expertise and experience, skilled ERP consultants are called in to help ensure a successful implementation, upgrade or update.
But what separates an expert ERP consultant from just any IT professional? For one, ERP consultants worth their salt are updated with the latest tools and trends in the ERP space. They do not only rely on what they already know, but they also keep abreast of the latest in ERP technologies.
So what are the key trends in ERP and ERP consulting?
This has become such a buzzword in the recent years. According to a Forrester prediction, the total spending on IT services, social media and software with respect to big data and data analytics will reach $125 billion this year. However, only 29% of businesses surveyed by Accenture in a 2014 study use predictive analysis to improve their businesses. Although companies that rely on facts for decision-making, like research and engineering firms, as well as Web native companies, have been earmarked as the ones that would benefit most from big data, all companies in general stand to gain something from it.
ERP solutions would need to have the capabilities and tools necessary to understand the insights and knowledge that companies can get from big data. There are tools that allows you to easily join data from various sources into a centralized dashboard in order to build data visualizations, see trends and discover insights, and share with the people who need to see and know these insights and data.
Another key trend in ERP consulting is automation, which enables professionals, consultants and IT departments to focus on more important tasks instead of spending too much time in repetitive ones. By automating the repetitive and tedious processes, professionals can free up their time to do their core activities. Both enterprises and consultants can employ automation tools such as Panaya, which leverages big data and automation in collaborative testing for ERP updates. This tool uses big data analytics to test change impact simulations using different situations and outcomes, as well as provide automated code correction. This points out the potential bugs, errors and hurdles in ERP upgrades, patches and changes, and correct these before finalizing any changes. Automation helps you do more with less time, and this translates to agility in ERP deployments.
The rise of self-service
SaaS solutions are particularly attractive to small business owners because they can scale without having to pay the high costs of buying hardware or paying for software up-front. As small businesses start building capability in managing cloud-based deployments, does it mean the end of the line for ERP consulting? Or at the very least, will self-service platforms take away a significant portion of consultants’ customers?
Not at all, but their roles will change. For instance, roles may focus on change management, as well as migration to the cloud, especially for businesses that wish to switch from on-premises deployments to a cloud-based ERP, or even a hybrid setup.
ERP consulting continues to grow due to the increased interest of businesses of all sizes in enterprise solutions. Agility will be a key driver of change in this case, and consulting professionals should be able to leverage the gains from big data and automation, as well as adjust to the self-service trend in services and provisioning today.