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Posts tagged ‘Enterprise Resource Planning’

Which ERP Systems Are Most Popular With Their Users In 2021?

Which ERP Systems Are Most Popular With Their Users In 2021?
  • Sage Intacct, Oracle ERP Cloud, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP are the three highest-rated ERP systems by their users.
  • 86% of Unit4 ERP users say their CRM system is the best of all vendors in the study. The survey-wide satisfaction rating for CRM is 73%, accentuating Unit4 ERP’s leadership in this area.
  • 85% of Ramco ERP Suite users say their ERP systems’ analytics and reporting is the best of all 22 vendors evaluated.

These and many other insights are from SoftwareReview’s latest customer rankings published recently in their Enterprise Data Quadrant Report, Enterprise Resource Planning, April 2021. The report is based entirely on attitudinal data captured from verified owners of each ERP system reviewed. 1,179 customer reviews were completed, evaluating 22 vendors. SoftwareReviews is a division of the world-class IT research and consulting firm Info-Tech Research Group. Their business model is based on providing research to enterprise buyers on subscription, alleviating the need to be dependent on vendor revenue, which helps them stay impartial in their many customer satisfaction studies. Key insights from the study include the following:

  • Sage Intacct, Oracle ERP Cloud, Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP, Acumatica Cloud ERP, Unit4 ERP and FinancialForce ERP are most popular with their users.  SoftwareReview found that these six ERP systems have the highest Net Emotional Footprint scores across all ERP vendors included in the study. The Net Emotional Footprint measures high-level user sentiment. It aggregates emotional response ratings across 25 questions, creating an indicator of overall user feeling toward the vendor and product. The following quadrant charts the results of the survey:
  • 80% of Acumatica Cloud ERP users say their system helps create more business value, leading all vendors on this attribute. How effective an ERP system is at adapting to support new business and revenue models while providing greater cost visibility is the essence of how they deliver business value. The category average for this attribute is 75%. Of the 22 vendors profiled, 12 have scores at the average level or above, indicating many ERP vendors are focusing on these areas to improve the business case of adopting their systems.
Which ERP Systems Are Most Popular With Their Users In 2021?
  • 86% of Sage Intacct ERP users say their system excels at ease of implementation, leading all vendors in the comparison by a wide margin. Implementing a new ERP system can be a costly and time-consuming process as it involves extensive training, change management, and integration. Ease of Implementation received a category score of 75% across the 22 vendors, indicating ERP vendors are doubling down investments to improve this area. Just 11 of the 22 ERP vendors scored above the category average.
Which ERP Systems Are Most Popular With Their Users In 2021?

FinancialForce’s Spring 2021 Release Shows Why Being Customer-Centric Pays

FinancialForce's Spring 2021 Release Shows Why Being Customer-Centric Pays

Bottom Line: Customer revenue lifecycles are the lifeblood of any services business, making FinancialForce’s Spring 2021 release timely given the services-first revenue renaissance happening today.

The essence of an excellent services business is that it can consistently create expectations clients trust and the business regularly exceeds. Orchestrating the best people for a given project at the right time, tracking costs, revenue, and margin across all services revenue, including those associated with a client’s assets, is very challenging. Customer revenue lifecycles are in the data, yet no one can get to them because they’re hidden across multiple systems that aren’t integrated. Knowing how efficient a services business is at turning customer engagement into cash is what everyone needs to know, but no one can find. The challenge is equally as daunting for long-established services providers and those rushing into new services businesses to redefine themselves in the hope of profits that are more consistent and fewer price wars.

How Much Is Customer Engagement Is Worth?

Services businesses face the paradox of exceeding client expectations with every engagement but not knowing if extra time, resources, and staff invested are paying off with more revenue and profit. FinancialForce’s Spring 2021 release looks to solve this problem. What galvanizes the ERP, PSA, and platform announcements is a fresh intensity on customer centricity, both for the services business adopting the Spring 2021 release and the customers it’s intended to serve.

Knowing if and by how much a given customer engagement and its revenue lifecycle generate cash, and its potential is one of the core focus areas of the Spring 2021 release. It’s badly needed as many services are flying blind today, overcommitting resources for little return and too often losing control of client engagement and paying the price in lost margin and profits. FinancialForce sees that pain and wants to alleviate it with better financial visibility on all aspects of customer services revenue. FinancialForce aims to provide customer-centric financial reporting down to the revenue stream and costing measure level.  

FinancialForce's Spring 2021 Release Shows Why Being Customer-Centric Pays
Knowing every customer’s impact on revenue and profitability from all revenue streams will make managing services engagements much more accurate, easier to manage, and more profitable. 

Key Takeaways From The Spring 2021 Release

Customer centricity seen through a financial lens is the cornerstone of FinancialForce’s latest release. One of the primary goals of this release is to update more applications to Salesforce Lightning to provide FinancialForce users with a more consistent user experience across all applications.  Salesforce has been doubling down for years on Lightning and its user experience technologies, with FinancialForce reaping the benefits for over a decade. FinancialForce is transitioning their core Professional Services Automation (PSA), Billing, Accounting & Finance and Procurement, Order and Inventory Management to Lightning in this release in response to their customers wanting a consistent user experience across the entire FinancialForce suite of applications.  The Spring 2021 release reflects how FinancialForce strives to provide a real-time understanding of customer lifetime value for their ERP and PSA customers.  

Additional key takeaways include the following:

  • FinancialForce sees reducing days to close as one of the highest priorities they need to address today. The majority of new feature announcements center on how the days to close cycles can be streamlined, especially across multi-company and multisite locations across geographic and currency-specific regions of the world. Multi-company currency revaluation will help FinancialForce customers who operate across multiple geographies that operate in different currencies and will be especially useful for those clients creating new global channels and considering foreign acquisitions. Further showing the high priority they are putting on reducing days to close, the Spring 2021 release also includes automated eliminations, multi-company period close for software closes, which are designed to temporarily close out a financial report and revenue schedules that can provide a future view in revenues – a key factor in knowing customer revenue lifecycles.
  • New features and a new Lightning interface for Accounting, Billing Central, and Inventory Management simplifies complex transactions for users. FinancialForce has one of the most customer-driven product management teams in enterprise software. The depth of features they have added to inventory management, transactional and reconciliation processes for accounting, drop-ship use cases, and enhancements for adding products to billing contracts show how much FinancialForce is listening to customers.
  • AI-enhanced financial reporting that works with any Einstein data set. FinancialForce leads the Salesforce partner ecosystem when it comes to integrating Tableau CRM (formerly known as Einstein Analytics) into its platform. Now thirteen releases in, FinancialForce’s Spring 2021 release reflects the intuitive, adaptive intelligence that the product management team aims to achieve by integrating Einstein into their financial reporting workflows. 
  • Professional Services Automation (PSA) Applications Including Resource Management, Project Management, and Time & Expense upgraded to Lightning.  Transitioning three of the core PSA applications to Lightning will help broaden adoption and make them easier to upsell and cross-sell across the FinancialForce customer base. It will also help existing customers using these applications get new employees up to speed faster on them, given how much more streamlined Lightning is as an interface compared to previous versions.
  • Intelligent Staffing solves the complex challenges resource managers face when assigning the best possible associates to a given project. Designed to filter and intelligently rank potential resources based on region, practice, group skill sets, and availability, Intelligent Staffing is designed to get resource managers as close to an ideal match as possible for a given project’s requirements. This is a much-welcomed new feature by FinancialForce customers who are large-scale services providers as they’re facing the challenges of assigning the right person to the right project at the right time to ensure project success.    
  • Integration of Salesforce AI’s Next Best Action (NBA) will raise the level of project expertise at scale across customers.  Part of the customer centricity focus in Spring 2021 is focused on providing customers with new technologies and applications to share expertise and knowledge at scale. Next Best Action provides prescriptive guidance for the project manager and will see heavy use in new associate onboarding across services businesses and achieve greater corporate-wide learning at scale. This is consistent with the focus in the Spring 2021 release on bringing greater space and speed to mid-size and larger services customers.

Conclusion

FinancialForce defines customer engagement and centricity from a financial standpoint in the Spring 2021 release. Too often, services businesses commit to large-scale projects without a clear idea of the customer revenue lifecycle. With FinancialForce, they can stop and ask if the level of customer engagement they’re committing to is worth it or not – and if it isn’t, what needs to be done. FinancialForce is doubling down on user experience and accelerating time-to-close, two areas their customers want innovation to and look to them to deliver. Look for FinancialForce to scale out with more MuleSoft and Tableau integration scenarios, all aimed at capitalizing on their expertise developing on the Salesforce platform. There’s a bigger challenge to customer engagement on the horizon, and that’s providing a real-time view of financials across all customers with all available data across a business, making MuleSoft integration key to FinancialForce’s future growth.

How FinancialForce Is Using AI To Fight Revenue Leakage

How FinancialForce Is Using AI To Fight Revenue Leakage

Bottom Line: Using AI to measure and predict revenue, costs, and margin across all Professional Services (PS) channels leads to greater accuracy in predicting payment risks, project overruns, and service forecasts, reducing revenue leakage in the process.

Professional Services’ Revenue Challenges Are Complex

Turning time into revenue and profits is one of the greatest challenges of running a Professional Services (PS) business. What makes it such a challenge is incomplete time tracking data and how quickly revenue leaks spring up, drain margins, and continue unnoticed for months. Examples of revenue leaks across a customers’ life cycles include the following:

  • Billing errors are caused by the booking and contract process not being in sync with each other leading to valuable time being wasted.
  • When products are bundled with services, there’s often confusion over recognizing each revenue source, when, and by which PS metric.
  • Inconsistent, inaccurate project cost estimates and actual activity lead to inaccurate forecasting, delaying the project close and the potential for bad debt write-offs and high Days Sales Outstanding (DSO).
  • Revenue leakage gains momentum and drains margins when the following happens:
    • Un-forecasted delays and timescale creep
    • Reduced utilization rates across each key resource required for the project to be completed
    • Invoice and billing errors that result in invoice disputes that turn into high DSOs & write-offs
    • Incorrect pricing versus the costs of sales & service often leads to customer churn.
    • Revenue leakage gains momentum as each of these factors further drains margin

Adding up all these examples and many more can easily add up to 20-30% of actual lost solution and services margin. In many ways, it’s like death by a thousand small cuts. The following graphic provides examples across the customer lifecycle:

How FinancialForce Is Using AI To Fight Revenue Leakage

Why Professional Services Are Especially Vulnerable To Revenue Leakage 

Selling projects and the promise of their outcomes in the future create a unique series of challenges for PS organizations when it comes to controlling revenue leakage. It often starts with inaccurately scoping a project too aggressively to win the deal, only to determine the complexity of tasks originally budgeted for will take 10 – 30% longer or more. Disconnects on project scope are unfortunately too common, turning small revenue leaks into major ones and the potential of long Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) on invoices. When revenue leaks get ingrained in a project’s structure, they continue to cascade into each subsequent phase, growing and costing more than expected.

The SPI 2021 Professional Services Maturity™ Benchmark Service published by Services Performance Insight, LLC in February of this year provides insights into the hidden costs and prevalence of revenue leakage. The following table illustrates how organizations with high levels of revenue leakage also perform badly against other key metrics, including client referencability. The more revenue leakage an organization experiences, the more billable utilization drops, on-time project deliveries become worse, and executive real-time visibility becomes poorer.

How FinancialForce Is Using AI To Fight Revenue Leakage

How FinancialForce Is Using AI To Fight Revenue Leakage

It’s noteworthy that FinancialForce is now on its 12th consecutive product release that includes Salesforce Einstein, and many customers, including Five9, are using AI to manage revenue leakage across their PS business. Throughout the pandemic, the FinancialForce DevOps, product management, and software quality teams have been a machine, creating rich new releases on schedule and with improved AI functionality based on Einstein. The 12th release includes prebuilt data models, lenses, dashboards, and reports.

Andy Campbell, Solution Evangelist at FinancialForce, says that “FinancialForce customers have access to best practices to minimize revenue leakage by scoping and selling the right product and services mix to allocating the optimal range and amount of services personnel and finally billing, collecting and recognizing the right amount of revenue for services provided.” Andy continued, saying that recent dashboards have been built for resource managers to automate demand and capacity planning and service revenue forecasting and assist financial analysts in managing deferred revenue and revenue leakage.

By successfully integrating Einstein into their ERP system for PS organizations, FinancialForce helps clients find new ways to reduce revenue leakage and preserve margin. Relying on AI-based insights for each phase of a PS engagement delivered a 20% increase in Customer Lifetime Value according to a FinancialForce customer. And by combining FinancialForce and Salesforce, customers see an increased bid:win ratio of 10% or more. The following graphic illustrates how combining the capabilities of Einstein’s AI platform with FinancialForce delivers results.

How FinancialForce Is Using AI To Fight Revenue Leakage

Conclusion

FinancialForce’s model building in Einstein is based on ten years of structured and unstructured data, aggregated and anonymized, then used for in-tuning AI models. FinancialForce says these models are used as starting points or templates for AI-based products and workflows, including predict to pay.  Salesforce has also done the same for its Sales Cloud Analytics and Service Cloud Analytics. In both cases, Salesforce and FinancialForce customers benefit from best practices and recommendations based on decades of data, which should be particularly interesting considering the “black swan” nature of 2020 data for most of their customers.

Securing Multi-Cloud Manufacturing Systems In A Zero Trust World

Securing Multi-Cloud Manufacturing Systems In A Zero Trust World

Bottom Line: Private equity firms are snapping up manufacturing companies at a quick pace, setting off a merger and acquisition gold rush, while leaving multi-cloud manufacturing systems unprotected in a Zero Trust world.

Securing the Manufacturing Gold Rush of 2019

The intensity private equity (PE) firms have for acquiring and aggregating manufacturing businesses is creating an abundance of opportunities for cybercriminals to breach the resulting businesses. For example, merging formerly independent infrastructures often leads to manufacturers maintaining — at least initially — multiple identity repositories such as Active Directory (AD), which contain privileged access credentials, usernames, roles, groups, entitlements, and more. Identity repository sprawl ultimately contributes to maintenance headaches but, more importantly, security blind spots that are being exploited by threat actors regularly. A contributing factor is a fact that private equity firms rarely have advanced cybersecurity expertise or skills and therefore don’t account for these details in their business integration plans. As a result, they often rely on an outdated “trust but verify” approach, with trusted versus untrusted domains and legacy approaches to identity access management.

The speed PE firms are driving the manufacturing gold rush is creating a sense of urgency to stand up new businesses fast – leaving cybersecurity as an afterthought, if even a consideration at all. Here are several insights from PwC’s Global Industrial Manufacturing Deals Insights, Q2 2019 and Private Equity Trend Report, 2019, Powering Through Uncertainty:

  • 39% of all PE investors rate the industrial manufacturing sector as the most attractive for acquiring and rolling up companies into new businesses.
  •  The manufacturing industry saw a 31% increase in deal value from Q1 2019 to Q2 2019 with industrial manufacturing megadeals driving deal value to $27.4B in Q2, 2019, on 562 deals.
  • Year-to-date North American manufacturing has generated 184 deals worth $15.2B in 2019.
  •  Worldwide and North American cross-sector manufacturing deal volumes increased by 32% and 30% in Q2, 2019 alone.

PE firms are also capitalizing on how many family-run manufacturers are in the midst of a generational change in ownership. Company founders are retiring, and their children, nearly all of whom were raised working on the shop floor, are ready to sell. PE firms need to provide more cybersecurity guidance during these transactions to secure companies in transition. Here’s why:

How To Secure Multi-Cloud Manufacturing Systems in a Zero Trust World

To stop the cybercriminals’ gold rush, merged manufacturing businesses need to take the first step of adopting an approach to secure each acquired company’s identity repositories, whether on-premises or in the cloud. For example, instead of having to reproduce or continue to manage the defined rights and roles for users in each AD, manufacturing conglomerates can better secure their combined businesses using a Multi-Directory Brokering approach.

Multi-Directory Brokering, such as the solution offered by Privileged Access Management provider Centrify, empowers an organization to use its existing or preferred identity directory as a single source of truth across the organization, brokering access based on a single identity rather than having to manage user identities across multiple directories. For example, if an organization using AD acquires an organization using a different identity repository or has multiple cloud platforms, it can broker access across the environment no matter where the “master” identity for an individual exists. This is particularly important when it comes to privileged access to critical systems and data, as “identity sprawl” can leave gaping holes to be exploited by bad actors.

Multi-Directory Brokering is public cloud-agnostic, making it possible to support Windows and Linux instances in one or multiple Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platforms to secure multi-cloud manufacturing systems. The following diagram illustrates how Multi-Directory Brokering scales to support multi-cloud manufacturing systems that often rely on hybrid multi-cloud configurations.

Manufacturers who are the most negatively impacted by the trade wars are redesigning and re-routing their supply chains to eliminate tariffs, so they don‘t have to raise their prices. Multi-cloud manufacturing systems are what they’re relying on to accomplish that. The future of their business will be heavily reliant upon how well they can secure the multi-cloud configurations of their systems. That’s why Multi-Directory Brokering makes so much sense for manufacturers today, especially those looking for an exit strategy with a PE firm.

The PE firms driving the merger and acquisition (M&A) frenzy in specific sectors of manufacturing need to take a closer look at how Identity and Access Management (IAM) is being implemented in the manufacturing conglomerates they are creating. With manufacturing emerging as a hot industry for PE, M&A, and data breaches, it’s time to move beyond replicating Active Directories and legacy approaches to IAM. One of the most important aspects of a successful acquisition is enabling administrators, developers, and operations teams to access systems securely, without massive incremental cost, effort, and complexity.

Conclusion

The manufacturing gold rush for PE firms doesn’t have to be one for cybercriminals as well. PE firms and the manufacturing companies they are snapping up need to pay more attention to cybersecurity during the initial integration phases of combining operations, including how they manage identities and access. Cybercriminals and bad actors both within and outside the merged companies are lying in wait, looking for easy-exploitable gaps to exfiltrate sensitive data for monetary gain, or in an attempt to thwart the new company’s success.

Sources:

Global industrial manufacturing deals insights: Q2 2019, PwC, 2019. A PDF of the study is accessible here (6 pp., no opt-in).

Private Equity Trend Report, 2019, Powering Through Uncertainty, PwC, February 2019, 80 pp., PDF, no opt-in.

How Blockchain Can Improve Manufacturing In 2019

  • The business value-add of blockchain will grow to slightly more than $176B by 2025, then exceed $3.1T by 2030 according to Gartner.
  • Typical product recalls cost $8M, and many could be averted with improved track-and-traceability enabled by blockchain.
  • Combining blockchain and IoT will revolutionize product safety, track-and-traceability, warranty management, Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO), and lead to new usage-based business models for smart, connected products.
  • By 2023, 30% of manufacturing companies with more than $5B in revenue will have implemented Industry 4.0 pilot projects using blockchain, up from less than 5% today according to Gartner.

Blockchain’s greatest potential to deliver business value is in manufacturing. Increasing visibility across every area of manufacturing starting with suppliers, strategic sourcing, procurement, and supplier quality to shop floor operations including machine-level monitoring and service, blockchain can enable entirely new manufacturing business models. Supply chains are the foundation of every manufacturing business, capable of making use of blockchain’s distributed ledger structure and block-based approach to aggregating value-exchange transactions to improve supply chain efficiency first. By improving supplier order accuracy, product quality, and track-and-traceability, manufacturers will be able to meet delivery dates, improve product quality and sell more.

Capgemini Research Institute’s recent study, Does blockchain hold the key to a new age of supply chain transparency and trust? provide valuable insights into how blockchain can improve supply chains and manufacturing. A copy of the study is available here (PDF, 32 pp., no opt-in). Capgemini surveyed 731 organizations globally regarding their existing and planned blockchain initiatives. Initial interviews yielded 447 organizations who are currently experimenting with or implementing blockchain. Please see pages 25 & 26 of the study for additional details regarding the methodology.

Key takeaways of the study include the following:

  • Typical product recalls cost $8M, and many could be averted with improved track-and-traceability enabled by blockchain. Capgemini found that there was 456 food recalls alone in the U.S. last year, costing nearly $3.5B. Blockchain’s general ledger structure provides a real-time audit trail for all transactions secured against modifications making it ideal for audit and compliance-intensive industries.

  • Gaining greater cost savings (89%), enhancing traceability (81%) and enhancing transparency (79%) are the top three drivers behind manufacturer’s blockchain investments today. Additional drivers include increasing revenues (57%), reducing risks (50%), creating new business opportunities (44%) and being more customer-centric (38%). The following graphic from the study illustrates the manufacturer’s priorities for blockchain. Capgemini finds that improving track-and-traceability is a primary driver across all manufacturers, consistent with the broader trend of manufacturers adopting software applications that improve this function today. That’s also understandable given how additional regulatory compliance requirements are coming in 2019 and those manufacturers competing in highly regulated industries including aerospace & defense, medical devices, and pharma are exploring how blockchain can give them a competitive edge now

  • Digital marketplaces, tracking critical supply chain parameters, tracking components quality, preventing counterfeit products, and tracking asset maintenance are the five areas Capgemini predicts blockchain will see the greatest adoption. Based on interviews with industry experts and startups, Capgemini found 24 blockchain use cases which are compared by level of adoption and complexity in the graphic below. The use cases reflect how managing supplier contracts is already emerging as one of the most popular blockchain use cases for manufacturing organizations today and will accelerate as compliance becomes even more important in 2019.

  • Manufacturers have the most at-scale deployments of blockchain today, leading all industries included in the study. Blockchain adoption is still nascent across all industries included in the study, with 6% of manufacturers having at-scale implementations today. Customer products manufacturers lead in pilots, with 15% actively [purusing blockchain in limited scope today. And retailers trail all industries with 91% having only proofs of concept.

  • Combining IoT and blockchain at the shipping container level in supply chains increases authenticity, transparency, compliance to product and contractual requirements while reducing counterfeiting. In highly regulated industries including Aerospace & Defense (A&D), Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), medical devices, and pharma, combining IoT and blockchain provides real-time data on the shipping container conditions, tamper-proof storage, each shipment’s locational history and if there have been changes in temperature and product condition. Capgemini sees use cases where a change in a shipment’s temperature as measured by a sensor change sends alerts regarding contractual compliance of perishable meats and produce, averting the potential of bad product quality and rejected shipments once they reach their destination.

  • Capgemini found that 13% of manufacturers are Pacesetters and are either implementing blockchain at scale or have pilots in at least one site. Over 60% of Pacesetters believe that blockchain is already transforming the way they collaborate with their partners. Encouraged by these results, Pacesetters are set to increase their blockchain investment by 30% in the next three years. They lead early stage experimenters and all implementers on three core dimensions of organizational readiness. These include end-to-end visibility across functions, detailed and defined supportive processes, and availability of the right talent to succeed.

  • Lack of a clear ROI, immature technology and regulatory challenges are the top three hurdles Pacesetter-class manufacturers face in getting blockchain initiatives accepted and into production. All implementations face these three challenges in addition to having to overcome the lack of complementary IT systems at the partner organizations. The following graphic compares the hurdles all manufacturers face in getting blockchain projects implemented by the level of manufacturers adoption success (Pacesetter, early-stage experimenters, all implementers).

Source: Capgemini Research Institute, Does blockchain hold the key to a new age of supply chain transparency and trust? October, 2018

10 Ways To Improve Cloud ERP With AI And Machine Learning

Capitalizing on new digital business models and the growth opportunities they provide are forcing companies to re-evaluate ERP’s role. Made inflexible by years of customization, legacy ERP systems aren’t delivering what digital business models need today to scale and grow.

Legacy ERP systems were purpose-built to excel at production consistency first at the expense of flexibility and responsiveness to customers’ changing requirements. By taking a business case-based approach to integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning into their platforms, Cloud ERP providers can fill the gap legacy ERP systems can’t.

Closing Legacy ERP Gaps With Greater Intelligence And Insight

Companies need to be able to respond quickly to unexpected, unfamiliar and unforeseen dilemmas with smart decisions fast for new digital business models to succeed. That’s not possible today with legacy ERP systems. Legacy IT technology stacks and the ERP systems they are built on aren’t designed to deliver the data needed most.

That’s all changing fast. A clear, compelling business model and successful execution of its related strategies are what all successful Cloud ERP implementations share. Cloud ERP platforms and apps provide organizations the flexibility they need to prioritize growth plans over IT constraints. And many have taken an Application Programming Interface (API) approach to integrate with legacy ERP systems to gain the incremental data these systems provide. In today’s era of Cloud ERP, rip-and-replace isn’t as commonplace as reorganizing entire IT architectures for greater speed, scale, and customer transparency using cloud-first platforms.

New business models thrive when an ERP system is constantly learning. That’s one of the greatest gaps between what Cloud ERP platforms’ potential and where their legacy counterparts are today. Cloud platforms provide greater integration options and more flexibility to customize applications and improve usability which is one of the biggest drawbacks of legacy ERP systems. Designed to deliver results by providing AI- and machine learning insights, Cloud ERP platforms, and apps can rejuvenate ERP systems and their contributions to business growth.

The following are the 10 ways to improve Cloud ERP with AI and machine learning, bridging the information gap with legacy ERP systems:

  1. Cloud ERP platforms need to create and strengthen a self-learning knowledge system that orchestrates AI and machine learning from the shop floor to the top floor and across supplier networks. Having a cloud-based infrastructure that integrates core ERP Web Services, apps, and real-time monitoring to deliver a steady stream of data to AI and machine learning algorithms accelerates how quickly the entire system learns. The Cloud ERP platform integration roadmap needs to include APIs and Web Services to connect with the many suppliers and buyer systems outside the walls of a manufacturer while integrating with legacy ERP systems to aggregate and analyze the decades of data they have generated.

  1. Virtual agents have the potential to redefine many areas of manufacturing operations, from pick-by-voice systems to advanced diagnostics. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Voice, and Microsoft Cortana have the potential to be modified to streamline operations tasks and processes, bringing contextual guidance and direction to complex tasks. An example of one task virtual agents are being used for today is guiding production workers to select from the correct product bin as required by the Bill of Materials. Machinery manufacturers are piloting voice agents that can provide detailed work instructions that streamline configure-to-order and engineer-to-order production. Amazon has successfully partnered with automotive manufacturers and has the most design wins as of today. They could easily replicate this success with machinery manufacturers.

  1. Design in the Internet of Things (IoT) support at the data structure level to realize quick wins as data collection pilots go live and scale. Cloud ERP platforms have the potential to capitalize on the massive data stream IoT devices are generating today by designing in support at the data structure level first. Providing IoT-based data to AI and machine learning apps continually will bridge the intelligence gap many companies face today as they pursue new business models. Capgemini has provided an analysis of IoT use cases shown below, highlighting how production asset maintenance and asset tracking are quick wins waiting to happen. Cloud ERP platforms can accelerate them by designing in IoT support.

  1. AI and machine learning can provide insights into how Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) can be improved that aren’t apparent today. Manufacturers will welcome the opportunity to have greater insights into how they can stabilize then normalize OEE performance across their shop floors. When a Cloud ERP platform serves as an always-learning knowledge system, real-time monitoring data from machinery and production assets provide much-needed insights into areas for improvement and what’s going well on the shop floor.

  1. Designing machine learning algorithms into track-and-traceability to predict which lots from which suppliers are most likely to be of the highest or lowest quality. Machine learning algorithms excel at finding patterns in diverse data sets by continually applying constraint-based algorithms. Suppliers vary widely in their quality and delivery schedule performance levels. Using machine learning, it’s possible to create a track-and-trace application that could indicate which lot from which supplier is the riskiest and those that are of exceptional quality as well.
  2. Cloud ERP providers need to pay attention to how they can help close the configuration gap that exists between PLM, CAD, ERP and CRM systems by using AI and machine learning. The most successful product configuration strategies rely on a single, lifecycle-based view of product configurations. They’re able to alleviate the conflicts between how engineering designs a product with CAD and PLM, how sales & marketing sell it with CRM, and how manufacturing builds it with an ERP system. AI and machine learning can enable configuration lifecycle management and avert lost time and sales, streamlining CPQ and product configuration strategies in the process.
  3. Improving demand forecasting accuracy and enabling better collaboration with suppliers based on insights from machine learning-based predictive models is attainable with higher quality data. By creating a self-learning knowledge system, Cloud ERP providers can vastly improve data latency rates that lead to higher forecast accuracy. Factoring in sales, marketing, and promotional programs further fine-tunes forecast accuracy.
  4. Reducing equipment breakdowns and increasing asset utilization by analyzing machine-level data to determine when a given part needs to be replaced. It’s possible to capture a steady stream of data on each machine’s health level using sensors equipped with an IP address. Cloud ERP providers have a great opportunity to capture machine-level data and use machine learning techniques to find patterns in production performance by using a production floor’s entire data set. This is especially important in process industries where machinery breakdowns lead to lost sales. Oil refineries are using machine learning models comprise more than 1,000 variables related to material input, output and process perimeters including weather conditions to estimate equipment failures.
  5. Implementing self-learning algorithms that use production incident reports to predict production problems on assembly lines needs to happen in Cloud ERP platforms. A local aircraft manufacturer is doing this today by using predictive modeling and machine learning to compare past incident reports. With legacy ERP systems these problems would have gone undetected and turned into production slowdowns or worse, the line having to stop.
  6. Improving product quality by having machine learning algorithms aggregate, analyze and continually learn from supplier inspection, quality control, Return Material Authorization (RMA) and product failure data. Cloud ERP platforms are in a unique position of being able to scale across the entire lifecycle of a product and capture quality data from the supplier to the customer. With legacy ERP systems manufacturers most often rely on an analysis of scrap materials by type or caused followed by RMAs. It’s time to get to the truth about why products fail, and machine learning can deliver the insights to get there.

6 Ways Cloud ERP Is Revolutionizing How Services Deliver Results

  • Cloud ERP is the fastest growing sector of the global ERP market with services-based businesses driving the majority of new revenue growth.
  • Legacy Services ERP providers excel at meeting professional & consulting services information needs yet often lack the flexibility and speed to support entirely new services business models.
  • Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) is quickly emerging as a must-have feature in Services-based Cloud ERP suites.

From globally-based telecommunications providers to small & medium businesses (SMBs) launching new subscription-based services, the intensity to innovate has never been stronger. Legacy Services ERP and Cloud ERP vendors are responding differently to the urgent needs their prospects and customers have with new apps and suites that can help launch new business models and ventures.

Services-based Cloud ERP providers are reacting by accelerating improvements to Professional Services Automation (PSA), Financials, and questioning if their existing Human Capital Management (HCM) suite can scale now and in the future. Vertical industry specialization is a must-have in many services businesses as well.  Factoring all these customer expectations and requirements along with real-time responsiveness into a roadmap deliverable in 12 months or less is daunting.  Making good on the promises of ambitious roadmaps that includes biannual release cycles is how born-in-the-Cloud ERP providers will gain new customers including winning many away from legacy ERP providers who can’t react as fast.

The following key takeaways are based on ongoing discussions with global telecommunications providers, hosters and business & professional services providers actively evaluating Cloud ERP suites:

  • Roadmaps that reflect a biyearly release cadence complete with user experience upgrades are the new normal for Cloud ERP providers. Capitalizing on the strengths of the Salesforce platform makes this much easier to accomplish than attempting to create entirely new releases every six months based on unique code lines. FinancialForceKenandy and Sage have built their Cloud ERP suites on the Salesforce platform specifically for this reason. Of the three, only FinancialForce has provided detailed product roadmaps that specifically call out support for evolving services business models, multiple user interface (UI) refreshes and new features based on customer needs. FinancialForce is also one of the only Cloud ERP providers to publish their Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) already to support their current and next generation user interfaces.
  • Cloud ERP leaders are collaborators in the creation of new APIs with their cloud platform provider with a focus on analytics, integration and real-time application response. Overcoming the challenges of continually improving platform-based applications and suites need to start with strong collaboration around API development. FinancialForce’s decision to hire Tod Nielsen, former Executive Vice President, Platform at Salesforce as their CEO in January of this year reflects how important platform integration and an API-first integration strategy is to compete in the Cloud ERP marketplace today. Look for FinancialForce to have a break-out year in the areas of platform and partner integration.
  • Analytics designed into the platform so customers can create real-time dashboards and support the services opportunity-to-revenue lifecycle. Real-time data is the fuel that gets new service business models off the ground. When a new release of a Cloud ERP app is designed, it has to include real-time Application Programming Interface (API) links to its cloud platform so customers can scale their analytics and reporting to succeed. What’s most important about this from a product standpoint is designing in the scale to flex and support an entire opportunity-to-revenue lifecycle.
  • Having customer & partner councils involved in key phases of development including roadmap reviews, User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and API beta testing are becoming common.  There’s a noticeable difference in Cloud ERP apps and suites that have gone through UAT and API beta testing outside of engineering.  Customers find areas where speed and responsiveness can be improved and steps saved in getting workflows done. Beta testing APIs with partners and customers forces them to mature faster and scale further than if they had been tested in isolation, away from the market. FinancialForce in services and IQMS in manufacturing are two ERP providers who are excelling in this area today and their apps and suites show it.
  • New features added to the roadmap are prioritized by revenue potential for customers first with billing, subscriptions, and pricing being the most urgent. Building Cloud ERP apps and suites on a platform free up development time to solve challenging, complex customer problems. Billing, subscriptions, and pricing are the frameworks many services businesses are relying on to start new business models and fine-tune existing ones. Cloud ERP vendors who prioritize these have a clear view of what matters most to prospects and customers.
  • Live and build apps by the mantra “own the process, own the market”. Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) and Quote-to-Cash (QTC) are two selling processes services and manufacturing companies rely on for revenue daily and struggle with. Born-in-the-cloud CPQ and QTC competitors on the Salesforce platform have the fastest moving roadmaps and release cadences of any across the platform’s broad ecosystem. The most innovative Services-focused Cloud ERP providers look to own opportunity-to-revenue with the same depth and expertise as the CPQ and QTC competitors do.

Five Ways CPQ Is Revolutionizing Selling Today

CPQ, Salesforce CPQ, enosiX SAP to Salesforce Integration Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) continues to be one of the hottest enterprise apps today, fueled by the relentless need all companies have to increase sales while delivering customized orders profitably and accurately. Here are a few of the many results CPQ strategies are delivering today:

  • Companies relying on CPQ are growing profit margins at a 57% greater rate year-over-year compared to non-adopters.
  • 89% improvement in turning Special Pricing Requests (SPRs) into sales by automating them using a cloud-based CPQ system.
  • 67% reduction in reworked orders at a leading specialty vehicle manufacturer due to quotes reflecting exactly what customers wanted to buy.
  • 23% improvement in upsell and cross-sell revenue by having the CPQ system intelligently recommend the optimal product or service that has the highest probability of purchase and best possible gross margin.
  • CPQ strategies excel when they are designed to reach challenging selling, pricing, revenue and operational performance goals versus automating existing selling workflows.

Another factor fueling CPQs’ rapid growth is how quickly results of a pilot can be measured and used for launching a successful company-wide launch.  Pilots often concentrate on quote creation time, quoting accuracy, sales cycle reduction, automating Special Pricing Requests (SPRs), up-sells and cross-sells, perfect order performance, margin improvements and best of all, winning new customers. These are the baseline metrics many companies use to measure their CPQ performance. Throughout 2017 these metrics across industries are accelerating. There is a revolution going on in selling today.

5 Ways CPQ Is Revolutionizing Selling Today

Cloud- and SaaS-based CPQ solutions are quicker to implement, easier to customize to customers’ requirements, and available 24/7 on any Internet-enabled device, anytime. Many are designed to integrate into Salesforce, further accelerating adoption seamlessly.  The following five factors are the primary catalysts revolutionizing selling today:

  1. Designing in excellent user experiences (UX) is the new normal for CPQ apps – CPQ vendors are competing with the quality of user experiences they deliver in 2017, moving beyond packing every feature possible into app releases. This is having a corresponding impact on adoption, increasing the number of sales representatives and entire teams who can get up and running fast with a new CPQ app. The net result is reduced sales cycles, growing pipelines, and more sales reps actively using CPQ apps to increase their selling effectiveness.
  2. Integrating with legacy CRM, ERP and pricing systems in real-time are using service-oriented frameworks gives sales teams what they need to close deals faster – Legacy CPQ systems in the past often had very precise field mappings to 3rd party legacy CRM, ERP and pricing systems. They were brittle and would break very easily, slowing down sales cycles and making sales reps resort to manually-based approaches from decades before. In 2017 there are service-oriented frameworks that make brittle, easily broken mappings thankfully an integration practice in the past. With a loosely coupled service framework, real-time integration between CRM and ERP systems can be quickly be implemented and sales teams can get out and close more deals. Leaders in the area include enosiX, who are enabling their customers’ sales forces to enter sales orders into SAP directly from Salesforce, saving valuable selling time and increasing order accuracy.
  3. Competing for deals using Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and Intelligent Agents are force multipliers driving greater salesSalesforce’s Einstein is an example of the latest generation of AI applications that are enabling sales reps and teams to gain insights that weren’t available before. Combining customer data with these advanced predictive data analytics technologies yields insights into how selling strategies for different accounts can customize to specific prospect needs. Selling strategies are more effective and focused when AI, machine learning, and Intelligent Agents are designed in to guide quoting, pricing and product configuration in real-time.
  4. CPQ apps optimized for mobile devices are enabling sales reps to drastically reduce quote creation times, sales cycles and increase sales win rates – For many companies whose sales teams are in the field calling on accounts the majority of the time, mobile-based CPQ apps are how they get the majority of their work done. Salesforce’s Force.com is one of the leading platforms CPQ software companies are relying on to create mobile apps, further capitalizing on the already-established levels of familiarity sales teams have with the Salesforce platform.
  5. The vision many companies have of synchronizing multichannel and omnichannel selling as part of their CPQ strategies is now attainable – One of the greatest challenges of expanding sales channels is ensuring a consistently high-quality customer experience across each. With on-premise CPQ, CRM and ERP selling systems, this is very challenging as there are often multiple database systems supporting each. This is a breakout year for omnichannel selling as cloud-based CPQ systems and the platforms they are built on can securely scale across all selling channels a company chooses to launch. Being able to track which CPQ deals emanated from which marketing program, and which channels are the most effective in closing sales is now possible.

Why IT Projects Fail

There are many reasons why IT integration projects fail.  From the lack of senior management support to imprecise, inaccurate goals, IT integration projects fail more often than they have to. Based on consulting I’ve done with system integrators, distribution providers, financial services firms, logistics providers and manufacturers, five core lessons emerge.  One of the most innovative companies taking on these challenges is enosiX, whose customer wins at Yeti Coolers, Vera Bradley, BUNN and others provide a glimpse into the future of real-time integration.

  • Middleware forces IT integration projects to focus only on moving data instead of improving business processes.
  • Not having a clear idea of the goals the integration needs to attain in the first place.
  • Sacrificing application response times, data accuracy and user experience in never-ending middleware projects.

Five Lessons Learned From IT Integration Failures

The following lessons learned are based on my experiences and work with IT departments, Vice Presidents of Infrastructure, Enterprise Systems, Cloud Platforms, CIOs, and CFOs. The lessons learned from them are helping current and future IT integration projects increase the odds of success.

  1. Selecting middleware or an integration platform not capable of offline, mobile use with the ability to synchronize in real-time once connected. The fastest growing areas of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) are being fueled by the real-time availability of data on mobile devices. In Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) and Quote-to-Cash (QTC) workflows, tethered and untethered use cases dominate. To be competitive, any company relying on these two strategies to sell must have an integration framework capable of delivering data in real-time that enables quick app response times, higher performance, and a better user experience. IT integration projects that don’t take this requirement into account nearly always fail.
  1. Selecting an integration solution that requires time-consuming, expensive training and has a steep learning curve. When a given middleware, integration technology or framework is too difficult for IT to learn and use, projects fail fast. The middleware landscape is littered with companies whose marketing is covering up products that have non-existent to mediocre documentation and learning materials. One of the primary factors behind Salesforce’s exceptional growth is their commitment to making the user experience on their platform immediately scalable to each application developed and launched on it. Within 30 minutes, sales teams are often up and running with new apps, successfully selling as a result. Integration frameworks that don’t force system users to change how they work are the new gold standard and are driving the market forward.
  1. Using middleware for business process logic integration when it is designed for data only. Attempting to use middleware for business process logic workflows can get complex and costly fast. It’s one of the main reasons IT integration projects don’t deliver results. In reality, the most valuable aspects of any integration project are the business processes and supporting logic that is automated, streamlined and tailored to a businesses’ unique needs, revolutionizing it in the process. This point of failure happens when IT architects push middleware beyond its limits and attempt to do what more streamlined integration frameworks are designed to accomplish. Business process logic is core to the future of any IT integration project. It is surprising that more organizations don’t look for integration frameworks that have this capability designed into the core architecture.
  1. Failing to consider how data transfers can be minimized or eliminated in the planning and deployment of an integration project. The more customer-centric a project, the more the variety and depth of data transfers required for the integration to be complete. Data transfers grow exponentially and can challenge the scale of a middleware platform quickly. The most successful IT integration projects aren’t data transfer-intensive, they are business strategy driven. One of the most effective best practices of integration is not having to move the data at all. Using an SOA-based framework as a means to enable data consumption without having to perform lengthy ETL processes is the future of integration. By definition, middleware relies on a series of tightly-coupled integration points designed to move data asynchronously. In contrast, SOA-based frameworks are designed to enable real-time synchronous communication through the use of loosely-coupled connections that can flex in response to business process requirements.
  1. Failure to plan and anticipate how a change in one cloud platform or enterprise application including those running on Salesforce’s Force.com, a SAP R/3 system and other platforms impact the entire company’s IT stability. The VP of Infrastructure for a globally-based gaming and hospitality chain told me he and his team often are given the challenging task of bringing up new casino and hotel operations offices globally in two weeks. He sends in an advance team to determine how best to integrate with any legacy on-premise systems. The team also works to integrate any unique Salesforce apps that need to be included into the main Salesforce instance at the tab level, and to determine how best to integrate into the SAP R/3 procurement system. System security is the highest priority during the integration pilot and go-live work.  The company has standardized on a series of network adapters and connectors that are designed to shield all traffic across the network. He told me that just one API change in the IT stack supporting their SAP R/3 integration would cause all adapters to quit working, report an error condition and force debugging to the line level.  They learned this during a go-live with a Reno property. Today all changes to middleware are run in a pilot mode in a sandbox first, and the company is looking to get away from middleware entirely as a result.

From the enosiX blog post, Why IT Integration Projects Fail.

5 Ways Integration Is Enabling The Factory Of The Future

  • factory-of-the-future-report93% of global product leaders say that predictive maintenance combined with real-time equipment monitoring enabled by integration is a must-have for factory planning today.
  • 75% of global product leaders plan to implement factory of the future initiatives and programs in the next five years or less, starting with Industry 4.0
  • 67% of automotive executives expect that new technologies enabled by real-time integration will enable their teams to reach and exceed lean management and continuous improvement goals starting this year and accelerating through 2030.

Boston Consulting Group’s recent article, The Factory of the Future provides insights into a recent global survey the consulting firm conducted of more than 750 manufacturing product leaders from leading companies in three industrial sectors: automotive (which includes suppliers and original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs), engineered products, and process industries. The survey’s objective is to define the vision for the factory of the future in 2030.  Determining long-term benefits and the roadmap to implementation are also goals of the study Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and its research partner, the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering at RWTH Aachen University, achieved. The Factory of the Future is a vision for how manufacturers should enhance production by making improvements in three dimensions: plant structure, plant digitization, and plant processes.

5 Ways Integration Fuels The Factory Of The Future’s Growth

Real-time integration based on intelligent objects that connect diverse enterprise systems including SAP, Salesforce and others is the foundation that manufacturing companies must adopt to excel in their Factory of the Future efforts. These real-time objects illustrate the future of Application Programmer Interfaces (API).  APIs that will fuel and drive the Factory of the Future will enrich each real-time integration points across manufacturing networks. Intelligent Objects pervasively used today are the precursors to the most valuable APIs that will enable Factories of the Future tomorrow. With APIs continually improving and gaining the capability to provide insight and intelligence, the essential role of real-time integration in all factories of the future becomes clear.

The following are the five ways integration is enabling the Factory of the Future today:

  1. Real-time integration enables the value chains supporting the Factories of the Future to continually accelerate, excel and improve with additional insight that drives future growth strategies. Bringing greater intelligence into each integration point across the value chains supporting the Factories of the Future leads to new technologies delivering greater lean management benefits. Real-time integration will deliver strong benefits in the areas of lean management, predictive maintenance, modular line setups, and the orchestration and collaboration of smart robots.

factory-of-the-future-1

  1. The Implementation Roadmap for the Factory of the Future shows how critical real-time integration is to the Factory of the Future’s vision being attained. Multidirectional layouts, modular line setups, sustainable production, the orchestration of smart and collaborative robotics and attainment of big data and analytics plans all are dependent on real-time integration. The following graphic from the study illustrates just how central integration is to the optimizing of plant structure and plant digitization.

factory-of-the-future-2

  1. By integrating large-scale enterprise systems including those from SAP, Salesforce and others with legacy, 3rd party and homegrown systems, every area of production quality will improve. The most urgent need global manufacturers have is finding new ways to improve product, process and service quality without raising costs. Improving the quality of these three dimensions makes any manufacturer more trusted and successful in selling next-generation products.  By aggregating data using real-time integration so that Big Data and advanced analytics can be used to find new patterns, some of the world’s most well-known manufacturers are excelling on product quality. To produce cylinder heads at its plant in Untertürkheim, Germany, Mercedes-Benz uses predictive analytics to examine more than 600 parameters that influence quality. Mercedes-Benz is an early adopter of using Big Data and advanced analytics to improve quality management and bring high precision to engineering. Bosch has implemented software that analyzes data about its production of fuel injectors in real time. The software monitors process adherence and recognizes trends. It automatically transmits information about deviations to operators, allowing them to improve the process accordingly.
  1. Real-time integration across and within manufacturing systems enables multi-directional layouts of production workflows. The Audi R8 manufacturing facility in Heilbronn, Germany, does not have a fixed conveyor so the teams there has greater multidirectional flexibility in building customized vehicles.  Real-time integration across the Audi factory floor is essential to provide R8 production teams with the specifics of how they can best collaborate and deliver the highest quality vehicles in the shortest amount of time. Real-time integration is enabling driverless transport systems, guided by a laser scanner and radio frequency identification technology in the floor, which moves the car bodies through the assembly process. These systems enable assembly layout changes quickly with no impact on existing production. Enabling real-time integration often involves extensive field mapping between different systems, which is a lengthy and error-prone process. Integration technology provider enosiX has developed a unique, real-time integration technology that obsoletes the need for field mapping and supports bi-directional data updates.
  1. Enabling the Factory of the Future’s production operations to flex in response to rapidly changing customer requirements is entirely dependent on real-time, reliable integration of production and customer-facing systems. The implications of the study on the future of manufacturing underscore just how critical it is for manufacturers to be agile enough to create entirely new business models while gaining insight and intelligence into how they can continually improve lean manufacturing. When real-time integration unifies a value chain for any manufacturer, their speed, scale and ability to simplify the complex processes required to serve customers turns into a formidable competitive advantage.

 

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