Enterprise resource planning software can give businesses a major competitive advantage -- that is, if a firm's staffers can successfully deploy and implement the application.
Vendors have made strides making ERP easier to use, but tighter IT budgets mean that users have little patience for implementation problems.
ERP (enterprise resource planning) has never been the easiest software to deploy. After all, its tentacles spread into just about every facet of the organization. So it's never going to be a plug-and-play proposition.
But customer complaints about lengthy deployment cycles don't always fall on deaf ears. Vendors have been working for many years to make their products more user-friendly. So how are they doing?
China Martens, a Forrester Research analyst, thinks there is still plenty of room for improvement.
"Today's ERP applications are still too complex and inflexible," she said. "Organizations continue to be plagued with customization and upgrade headaches as a direct result of the software's rigidity and poor match with real-world business processes."
Her view is that mismatches persist between how companies want to run their businesses and their ERP applications. In particular, they want to use the data in their ERP systems in a much broader way. Instead of the traditional financials, HR and order entry, they seek to plug that data into other business applications and processes.
Graphical Workflows, Cloud ERP Could Help
However, Martens sees hope on the horizon on two fronts: The emergence of next-generation apps with graphical workflow tools, and broader development possibilities offered by platform-as-a-service (PaaS) cloud environments.
Vendors such as Infor, NetSuite, SAP and Syspro, she said, are beginning to offer their graphical business process orchestration tools. Some are for developers, while others target business process professionals who want to customize existing business processes.
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