Greater flexibility and better customer service top ERP users’ wishlist

Friday, 11 March 2011 01:22 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Over one in three (35%) UK IT decision-makers cite greater flexibility as the top improvement they would make to their existing ERP systems, according to an independent report launched today by global enterprise applications company IFS. This is closely followed by higher standards of customer service, with 29% seeking improved relations.

Better training and usability top the respective wish lists of 18% and 9% of those surveyed. Notably, all of these desired improvements come before clearer visibility of return on investment (4%), despite the current business focus on cost efficiency.

Additionally, 15% of IT decision-makers couldn’t express confidence that their current ERP system is flexible enough to work efficiently alongside other tools and business systems. Tellingly, only 5% of those surveyed would not alter any element of their existing ERP suites.

Alastair Sorbie, CEO of IFS, says: “It’s significant that most businesses desire greater flexibility in their ERP systems and better customer service from providers above factors such as clearer measurement of ROI. It reveals that many CIOs and IT managers are fed up with enterprise applications and ERP providers that fail to deliver on the promise of meeting changing business needs and improving business agility. It also shows that they are waking up to the potential benefits of enterprise applications that have flexibility and agility built into their architecture.

Sille Gavnholt Jygert, Consultant & Programme Manager at analyst firm Frost & Sullivan, agrees, saying: “The emphasis on ERP delivery is changing from cost focus to effectiveness; it is more about doing the right things, and in the right way. This often means that more flexibility has to be built into how ERP is delivered and used. We believe there are three core areas that can help users get more out of their ERP through increased flexibility and business focus:

• Increased focus on the processes that the ERP system is meant to support and the change process for users.

• New service delivery and support models: We believe that increasingly, vendors will have to deliver support for a business issue as opposed to support for a specific technology to accommodate an ever faster changing environment which, in turn, will change the service delivery models.

• Customer service: Ensuring users are getting the most out of the system. Customer service has traditionally been reactive. However, we believe that new, more engaging models will emerge to support the business process and engage users, thereby more effectively help them utilise the system to address the business issues they face.

According to James Greaves, IT Manager at mechanical and aeronautical engineering company Portsmouth Aviation, the ability to be flexible and address evolving business issues is one of the key attributes sought in an ERP vendor and their applications.

“Portsmouth Aviation would not have developed into the successful company it is today without a flexible ERP framework reinforced with first-rate levels of intuitive technical support,” explains Greaves. “The standard functionalities of IFS Applications have enabled us to optimise controls over features including reporting, securities and interfaces. This has earned a better user response from all levels of staff, from the administrative team to the board of directors.”

And in terms of ROI, Greaves concludes: “Return on investment is more important than ever, yet despite the financial climate we are continuing to invest in our ERP system. Instead we are seeking more functionality with fewer resources, and IFS has enabled us to perceptibly streamline business processes.”

IFS Director Sales and Marketing for South Asia Shiraz Lye added that even in this part of the world, prominence for simple and flexible applications is on the forefront of evaluation criteria. Shiraz added gone are days where companies take boardroom decisions without users getting involved. Now in most evaluations users are consulted to recommend ERP systems that would be easy to learn, easy to use and is flexible.” Talking about better customer service, Shiraz elaborated that it should go along without any compromise.