In early May, I attended QAD’s Explore customer conference in Washington, D.C. QAD is an ERP vendor that I’ve been following for quite sometime as I feel that their Effective Enterprise initiative brings together the main themes of my Business Planning and Execution research. This initiative brings together operational improvement and process change to deliver QAD’s customers with tangible business improvements. In fact, I blogged about this initiative after last year’ Explore conference. This year was my third Explore conference (in 2013, I focused on their embedded Business Process Management software). This year, I wanted to focus on a subject that aligns closely with QAD’s approach to providing solutions that can help an organization to improve its operations on a day-to-day basis.
I’ve written in the past that the number one reason that top performing organizations choose an ERP solution is due to the functionality that it contains. But a close second when it comes to top selection criteria for ERP is usability. Truly, if employees cannot actually use their ERP solution, they will not get the most value out of it and the organization will not improve. With that in mind, QAD has introduced their Channel Islands initiative. Channel Islands represents the four islands that are visible off of the coast of Santa Barbara which are visible from QAD’s office, but what the initiative is really all about is providing a user experience that is attractive, usable, and can help to provide improved insight while aiding in efficient, simplified operations. Rather than “putting lipstick on a pig” this initiative is architecturally based and focused on forward-looking trends in user experience.
In fact, the “Anacapa” phase of the Channel Islands initiative largely focuses on building an API service foundation in order to future proof the user experience. Often times with ERP, user experiences can quickly become outdated. Some users want to stay on top of these trends (of course, QAD gives its users the option to configure their UE if they don’t want to change). With this in mind, my research has uncovered some of the components that Leading manufacturers look for in a usable ERP (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Usable, Functional ERP
For example, Leaders are 38% more likely to enable users to access reports in a self-service capacity. Rather than relying on IT, they can easily access the information they need for decision-making. Many times, this is facilitated through dashboards or homepages that are specifically configured based on an employee’s role. Additionally, usable ERP does not just make it easy for users to find information, but also to share it. In fact, Leaders are 59% more likely to have real-time collaboration across departments and divisions.
There are an infinite number of examples of how more usable ERP can improve our organization’s ability to execute. Studying Aberdeen’s data will uncover more than a few of them, but note those that are included in the chart above. Leaders are more likely to be able to drill down on reports, access fully integrated views of customer information, and effectively plan and forecast for demand. These are broad capabilities, but imagine how your organization can benefit from easily used functions that are specific to your industry, such as material traceability.
Regardless of the functionality contained within your solution, it is essential to ensure that your employees can use it, and that the solution will continue to support your organization for a long time. These are the keys to achieving ROI. Leaders have solutions that provide context sensitive help as well as online learning, and also solutions that are easily tailored to support business change.
QAD has already built in role-based homepages and other parts of the experience that will make it easier for individual users to take advantage of their ERP. The solution is prepared to provide enhanced experiences as organizations become more mobile and require faster access to information. Today’s ERP users demand more from their solutions, QAD’s Channel Islands initiative puts them at the forefront of user experience trends.