A lot of these "must have" traits for a futuristic ERP solution are happening right now. For example, at the Inforum customer conference earlier this year, Infor said that it had differentiated itself by targeting what it called "micro-verticals" -- industries within industries that have their own specific sets of needs. That ticks the "industry expertise" box, then.
Meanwhile, Lewis also says that integration with other applications is critical -- Oracle recently made headlines over high-profile tie-ins with other vendors, and SAP is already known for its impressive third-party app store. Another prerequisite for a futuristic ERP solution is mobility, according to Lewis. Infor showcased a number of iOS-friendly business apps at Inforum earlier this year, and SAP recently made headlines with its new mobile enterprise app store.
And what about ease of use? Surely that's one area in which all ERP solutions -- famous for being complicated, technical and often difficult to grasp -- could improve. According to Hyder, this is a must, as business users are continuously wowed by their easy-to-use consumer smartphone apps and are beginning to demand the same of their enterprise apps.
"As users feel the ease of use with mobile apps, they expect similar experiences from their ERP application. The ERP market in the Middle East region is adapting to the demands of most enterprises by adding more features, especially apps on mobiles, to allow employees to access the ERP on mobile devices. The most common features expected from the mobile version is the BI (business intelligence) dashboard, critical management alerts and booking of sales orders," he says.
It might be a tall order to bring all of that technology to the mobile and to make it look good, but according to Oracle's Natarajan, that's exactly what vendors like the one he represents are trying to do. Apparently, the ERP solutions of the future are already here, and they're here to stay.
"ERP vendors like Oracle offer solutions that rest on five important pillars: modern user interfaces, cloud, mobility, social and embedded intelligence. With modern technology like Web 2.0 [and] HTML5, the user experience is dramatically improved in ERP solutions like Oracle," he says.
"Executing a business process in ERP is as simple as booking an airline ticket or buying from an online store. The user experience is further improved because of real-time intelligence (embedded BI), device-independent access to ERP (mobility), any time, anywhere, access to solutions (cloud and mobility) and working in a collaborative environment (social)."
Indeed, those five pillars that Natarajan mentioned are likely to become the drivers behind the next generation of ERP solutions, says Infor's Lewis. New possibilities will emerge from cloud computing, while mobility and social media will drive businesses to look for exciting ways leveraging intelligence.
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