The COVID-19 pandemic crisis and following economic crisis have caused companies to rethink their traditional business operations. As companies navigate new realities following the pandemic and economic crisis, they need to rethink their business strategies on multiple fronts: internal business operations, supply chains, distribution networks, value chains and the role that technology plays in each of these.

I believe next-generation Intelligent ERP is a vital part of this reconfiguration. Many enterprises still operate a foundational enterprise resource planning (ERP) system on-premises in their corporate data center. Here are the challenges that we’re facing during the current crisis and beyond, and how moving to a next-generation ERP can help.

Support for Remote Workers

Internal business operations require employee engagement. Moving employees to a work-from-home model tests technology and assumptions to business processes. 

In the new reality, companies must consider how to change these assumptions and technologies to accommodate a new operating model. 

It is likely that many positions will shift from an office environment to a work from home model, if not intermittently, permanently. This requires a change in strategy around how organizations function culturally. For example, we have already seen a dramatic uptick in video conferencing: The technology is not new but is being put into operation overnight en masse.

When employees are working in the office, they connect directly to the applications via their secure corporate network. When working remotely, this connect shifts to leveraging a virtual private network (VPN) secure their connection back into the corporate network. That works well on an intermittent basis with a limited number of employees. Moving everyone remotely creates a new challenge in scale. Intelligent ERP can more readily handle these issues of scale, security and accessibility.

Supply Chain and Distribution Management

Beyond internal employees, supply chains and distribution networks will see a dramatic overhaul in the new reality. We have already seen the challenges that siloed and inflexible supply chains have caused. One does not need to look further than the situations happening with toilet paper, milk and vegetables. Plenty of both on the commercial side, but hard to move to the retail side. This causes shortages for retail while the commercial side is literally dumping milk and tilling over farmland with vegetables ready for market. These examples show huge missed opportunities for the companies playing in each of these networks.

Another example are brick and mortar companies that maintain two discrete supply chains for their in-store and online businesses. This creates situations where products are not able to move and be sold from either supply chain. Customers may enter via one model, but the product they want is in the other model…and therefore a missed sale.

Manufacturing is another area where companies are looking to diversify. Companies are looking to diversity their supply chains to support manufacturing across different countries and geographies. Doing so may come at a higher cost but provides greater flexibility in times of crisis. It does not have to be a pandemic crisis that impacts supply chains. Political unrest, weather, economic shifts have all impacted supply chains at one point or another. There is always an issue that could impact your supply chain. 

Intelligent ERP makes it easier to gain more visibility into the supply chain, increase efficiency, and promote resilience and agility.

Customer Experience

In the end, the ultimate objective is to address the value chain for the customer. The customer experience with your service or product is paramount. As companies navigate through the pandemic crisis and into the economic crisis, addressing the customer changes will separate those that ultimately survive from those that perish.

Understanding customer behavior and decision criteria is fundamentally based on data. In order to know your customer, gaining access to data is key. And that data will change over time. Having the insights and flexibility to adapt to the customer is key in our new reality. Intelligent ERP provides the data collecting and processing power to drive better customer experience.

Intelligent ERP Is the Foundational Layer

There is no part of our business operations that won’t be touched coming out of the pandemic and economic crisis. As we rethink how we change the way we operate and conduct business, so should our underlying technology. Shifting to cloud-based Intelligent ERP is a crucial part of the equation.

Companies will need to improve business efficiency for internal operations and customer engagement. Those insights will only come from a higher degree of process automation through the use of newer technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). AI is the powerhouse that drives greater insights for customers and process automation.

Traditional enterprise systems lack the ability to leverage AI and data insights required in our new reality. As companies look to drive changes in the way they adapt and change over time, so should their underlying technology change.

Data and speed are at the heart of the new operating model. Companies need to remove the friction and structure that limits their ability to shift gears as customers and economic climates demand.

The ability to analyze the volume and variety of data coming into the enterprise will set companies apart from their competition. Only next-generation ERP can support these shifts.

Do you have to make these changes? No. But it would be akin to using a 40-year old car to run the Indianapolis 500 car race. Will you finish? Probably. But will it matter if the race is long-since over and the fans have already left?

This post is sponsored by SAP.

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