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ERP Trends 2021: 10 Trends That SMEs Should Embrace

Which topics will be relevant in the ERP market in the future? Which trends should medium-sized companies embrace in order to be competitive in the future? This article highlights the current ERP trends that you should not ignore when creating a specification.

Digitization is changing companies and their value chains faster and more profoundly than all previous technical revolutions. Most of the current trends in the ERP market are directly or indirectly related to digitization. The signs of the times point to networking and smart technologies. Companies that want to use the potential of technological developments such as IoT, big data and artificial intelligence are more dependent than ever on a high-performance, networked IT environment. Modern ERP systems bring together all relevant commercial, logistical, and production-related data and act as an interface to third-party systems, platforms and services. They optimize business processes and condense data into key insights and thus act as a data and process center. If you are tasked with ERP selection, you should take these trends into account when creating your specifications and consider them in your requirements for the new ERP solution.

We Take a Closer Look at the Following ERP Trends in this Article:

1: Process Optimization and Automation
2: Digitization
3: Internet of Things (IoT)
4: Integrated Solutions and Connectivity
5: Big Data and Business Intelligence
6: Mobile Applications
7: Customer Service
8: Usability
9: International
10: Cloud


ERP Trends 2021 # 1: Process Optimization and Automation

For international companies to remain competitive in terms of speed, quality and price without compromising profitability, business processes must be automated and networked across companies - from procurement to production and logistics to after-sales. ERP software should think ahead and simplify processes so that tasks can be completed with just a few clicks and information can be made available quickly. Process excellence and process reliability are becoming increasingly important when it comes to competitiveness. It is important to combine opposites: Tried and tested standards and workflows that support process modeling and reveal optimization potential, as well as individual processes that reflect the uniqueness of your company and ensure competitive advantages.


ERP Trends 2021 # 2: Digitization

The digital transformation drives companies - many companies still do not know where and how to approach digitization. For medium-sized companies, too, the important question arises as to how they can master the challenges of change and what ERP systems can contribute to this. A modern ERP solution can be a very decisive factor for corporate digitization projects: It automates processes across system and company boundaries, integrates third-party systems or platforms and provides the basis for Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things.


ERP Trends 2021 #3: Internet of Things (IoT)

Falling prices for industry-related hardware and software, sensors, and cloud technology mean that the entry into IoT or Industrial IoT (IIoT) - i.e. the digitization of production - is drawing closer. For a sustainable, successful implementation of digitization projects, another important prerequisite should be met - Digitization requires a considerable degree of maturity in work and process organization. Stable production systems with clearly defined processes and maintained data are a prerequisite. ERP systems offer the necessary level of integration and process alignment in order to merge production data or feedback on production progress. This is done via system connections or mobile shop floor solutions for production data acquisition and to compile them into key figures.

If you want to fully exploit the possibilities of digitization including big data and predictive analytics, IoT platforms offer suitable support. They not only ensure the exchange of information between the systems, but also contain tools for the compression and analysis of data. Predictive analytics are created and sent in real time to machines and planning systems. They are the basis for increases in productivity, for example through self-learning machines or the traceability of product defects to manufacturing issues.


ERP Trends 2021 #4: Integrated Solutions and Connectivity

A high level of integration and connectivity is the basis for digital transformation. In the smart factory, data from a wide variety of sources must be processed and analyzed. A prerequisite for this is simple communication between a wide variety of applications. This cannot be managed without powerful connectors, integrated processes, and the simple exchange of data with third-party solutions. Data integration and systems networking are important trend topics for 2021.


ERP Trends 2021 #5: Big Data and Business Intelligence

Data is the new gold. A large treasure trove of data is one thing - generating useful and meaningful insights and data from it is another. Those who are able to evaluate and analyze their data will have a competitive advantage. Big Data management and Business Intelligence (BI) have become requirements for success. Managers in all business areas must recognize developments at an early stage and take the necessary measures to adapt to stay ahead of the competition. At the same time, they take corrective action in business processes on a daily basis if certain indicators signal a need for action. But even here there is great potential in 2021, because the corresponding tools have not yet arrived at all decision-making levels and in all specialist departments. Often, BI evaluations are reserved for company management or controlling.


ERP Trends 2021 #6: Mobile Applications

Mobile work and the corresponding mobile applications have long been on the agenda of many companies - this trend will continue in 2021. Distributed project teams, flexible work schedule models, or delivery of quick information for the field service team require the use of mobile applications, and without loss of performance or security risks. Browser-based web clients enable your employees to access the ERP system regardless of time and location. Mobile apps cover the requirements of various work areas, for example for use in production and the warehouse, or for sales and customer service employees.


ERP Trends 2021 #7: Customer Service

There is a renewed call for an uncompromising “customer first” philosophy - not only requiring state-of-the-art manufacturing processes from development during production to batch size, but also a new understanding of sales and service. Seamless integration and transparency across all departments is the prerequisite for digitization in customer service. Key questions include -  Are the processes that are required for repair and maintenance services already integrated into the ERP solution? Can service planning be carried out in the ERP system? Are service calls planned in an optimized way, taking into account the availability of technicians and resources? Can the dispatcher adjust the scheduling of appointments without losing a lot of time?


ERP Trends 2021 #8: Usability

A new generation of users has grown up with smartphones, tablets and game consoles. This generation also expects business software to be easy to learn and intuitive to use. Ease of use is a key requirement for ERP software today. Ease of use includes ergonomic user guidance, which enables the user to use the ERP system intuitively. For this purpose, users are increasingly involved in the development process at an early stage in order to take their requirements and ideas into account.


ERP Trends 2021 #9: International

Another important trend that one should not forget when looking for a suitable ERP system is increasing globalization. In order to be suitable for international use, multi-language capability, multi-currency capability, and the available localization of the software play a role. Is the ERP provider represented in countries that are important to you, does the ERP system support the local language of the location, and does the ERP solution offer financial accounting for the country? To be a suitable solution, the ERP provider should have on-site locations and the corresponding software localization. In addition, the provider should be able to offer an international implementation methodology.


ERP Trends 2021 #10: Cloud

As a result of digital transformation, the IT infrastructure is also changing. The aim is to implement new business models, particularly in the IoT environment, be agile, high-performance, and within budget. Here the cloud scores with high performance even with huge amounts of data. At the same time, there is no need to invest in hardware or IT personnel, and implementation is quick and inexpensive. If necessary, it can be scaled in a way that conserves resources. But medium-sized companies in particular are skeptical about relocating their own ERP systems to the cloud and still rely on on-premise solutions. Therefore, some ERP providers are increasingly offering hybrid models in which only individual applications are used in the cloud.


Conclusion: Digitization Will Shape ERP Trends in 2021

Not every ERP trend is necessarily relevant for every company. It is important to identify the useful tools and technologies. Embrace the trends that are promising in order to secure the competitiveness of your company in the future - especially in times of digital change and increasing globalization. The ERP system can be an important backbone for digitization. Is the solution you are currently using up to this or would a change be advisable? If so, you should already consider the ERP trends 2021 when selecting your ERP and drawing up your specifications in order to be well prepared for future challenges.

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