Business software, accounting, workflow, process management and MRP… for many people these terms are almost sleep inducing. In the heyday of hi-tech when everyone dreamed of fortune and glory, top developers and creative thinkers were rarely lured away from lucrative and exciting positions by companies in the business management and/or ERP field. But with the economy still teetering towards recovery and companies streamlining their business processes, closely watching where every penny is spent and reining in costs, more and more eyes are looking at companies and products in the business software and ERP space. And with new developments in technology that challenge developers to create better products, incorporate new features and give customers more options, little by little ERP is becoming sexy. For consumers, corporations and developers. And for the most part, sexy sells.
What makes software or technology sexy? Historically that would be design and technology: think ipods. For business software the focus had always been on different traits: functionality, reliability, stability and availability. But more and more ERP developers are tapping new technologies and incorporating them more rapidly than ever before. Perhaps this is driven by better development tools, or simply by the technological innovations that continually sweep into our lives, and vendors are “riding the wave” of customers’ demands. With more people using VOIP and social networking for business, for example, it was only a matter of time before they would want functionality to support these tools in their ERP system. WPF, Cloud Computing and SaaS are only some of the sexier adjuncts recently coming up in the ERP dialogue. With new design and graphic options ERP software is becoming more attractive and easier to use, and many ERP/CRM programs can now be accessed via a browser window from anywhere in the world. And of course the range of functionality is growing.
ERP is made sexier with more options. And as one company put it – ERP options are now limited only by as far as you can think. Product innovation not only attracts customers, but it attracts talented and creative engineers and designers, which in turn leads to creative thinking and design. In some programs users now have more control over certain features, even some basic level of design and customization. As long as you can trust that the traditional aspects of the system are sound (functionality, reliability, stability and availability), you can look for a product that excites the users and promotes adaptation within an organization. Employees who can control their user experience will have a sense of ownership of the product, and they will be more inclined to make the best use of it.
Companies should look for vendors that are excited about their products, not only for what is in place on the day you evaluate it, but in terms of what innovations and developments they have in the pipeline. Vendors that are familiar with and take advantage of new media and technology options are ready to incorporate them into their systems once reliability and stability are established. Look for vendors that issue regular version releases, keep up with new developments in back- and front-end technologies, and encourage their customers to keep up as well. ERP vendors should listen to their customers and help them manage the processes they have in place, but they should also be able to challenge them to do things better. ERP should be about empowering companies and individual users, and not forcing them to make do with inferior technology and products that look and feel outdated. In today’s ERP market, functionally, reliability and stability can be found in products that are at the same time making inroads with the technologies that do excite us. Solving business problems and streamlining is the driving force behind most ERP sales, but there is no reason that the UI can’t be exciting and inviting, platforms flexible and the user experience empowering. And that’s sexy.