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Manufacturing ERP Software that Supports Changing Business Processes

December 8, 2008
Gear Lever

The Changing Business Processes Situation
Some manufacturers are now commercializing their own products and are starting to function as wholesale distributors as well. The economic compulsion behind this strategy shift is bearing fruit, however it is instigating changes to business process more quickly and more profoundly than has previously been the case.

Rather than pushing legacy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software systems well beyond the intent of their original design (in many cases based around best practices of the 90’s) manufacturers are discovering a new breed of ERP software systems that can support their changing business processes, and also enable this shift in strategy far more than was previously the case.

The Drivers Behind Changing Business Processes
One of the following four things will drive your ERP software and vendor selection project:

  • Regulations/Compliance
  • Operational Efficiencies
  • Growth Plans
  • Changing Strategy

Whatever the driver, the current economic climate dictates that your project will be implemented in an environment where regulation and compliance laws are getting tighter, as are the requirements (both legal and commercial) to be green, sustainable and carbon neutral in all operations. Can you have your cake and eat it too?

The Solution
By having a handle on their business processes, manufacturers can apply a new style of software that can be changed without programming. There are a number of emerging ERP software products that use business rules engines, rather than hard coded functionality, to mold business process frameworks to exacting needs. Such an ERP software system will be:

  • Delivered as a series of modules, each functioning independently or in seamless integration as required
  • Extendable, to suit changing business processes without programming
  • Distributed via the internet such that trading partners can be included in on-line transactions
  • Able to deliver all decision support information (key performance indicators via dashboards and reporting etc.) accurately and quickly (in real time) to role based users
  • Work flow and alert enabled so that exception conditions can be quickly corrected after notifications are delivered electronically
  • Available on desktops, mobile devices and anywhere your workforce may be

The new breed of ERP software is driven by changing business processes, business rules and business rules engines that are inherently flexible and can be easily changed as needed.

The To-Do List
This is a serious topic. And serious topics come attended by serious to-do lists. The dot points below are somewhat of a hybrid “Project Management Vs. ERP Software Implementation” best practices punch list, however, they’re all applicable as we consider changing business processes and how to deal with them:

  • Step 1: Lobby for, obtain and document senior level sponsorship for your innovation/project.
  • Step 2: Design the organization that will be required to support both the changing business processes and changed business processes (a classic change management exercise).
  • Step 3: Align business and IT challenges. It sounds trite, however changing business processes demand clarity of business objectives before any ERP software can be considered much less designed.
  • Step 4: Define and document your business processes. Clearly state your innovations and differentiators in the market place.
  • Step 5: Document the architecture, functionality, distribution and infrastructure required of your new system in a long term application strategy.

Here are a couple of tough ones, just for luck:

  • Step 6: Decide to include your trading partners into your day-to-day transacting. As a first step, this can cause some angst (security for one consideration), however, the operational efficiencies in doing so provide ample justification.
  • Step 7: Allow for innovation in your budgeting. Each step above requires the investment of time by all affected stakeholders. The attendant shift in approach to ERP software (especially in a system that supports your businesses’ changing business requirements) will require investment; however it is likely to pay off faster than you think if done properly.

Then, And Only Then:
…should you set about determining a development partner who can deliver a solution that aligns with your vision for changing business processes.

Making these changes will change your fortunes for the better.

Good luck