You are here

How ERP Can Make Or Break Your B2B Decision Making Process

Can information make or break a business? It certainly can.

With the kind of environment businesses have to deal with at present, information is something so crucial that mishandling it can lead to dire consequences. Business operations and transactions data are not only kept for the sake of records and compliance. They have to be sorted and analyzed as they fundamentally guide business decisions. 

This discussion on the importance of information in businesses can be better expounded by discussing the links or connections between and among the following commonly used terms: ERP, automation, and Big Data.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ERP_Modules.png

By Shing Hin Yeung (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

ERP and Automation 

Enterprise resource planning or ERP is a collection of integrated applications created for collecting, storing, managing, and interpreting or analyzing the data of business operations. It is designed to provide a comprehensive view of business operations or processes to facilitate better documentation, control, management, and decision making. 

One of the advantages of running an ERP platform is that it facilitates the automation of repetitive tasks especially when it comes to records management and presentation. Information can be quickly located, compiled, processed, and presented in useful form through good ERP tools. Enterprise resource planning software tools provide the convenience of being able to quickly go over

ERP and Big Data

Big Data, on the other hand, is a broad term that refers to data sets that are extremely huge and complex, making them “unprocessable” by standard data processing applications. In most business IT use, however, big data is not really that big. As one SAS white paper puts it, big data is relative. The extent of big data in typical business use is mostly limited to the amount of data obtained from the current and prospective customers together with the data related to overall business operations. For large international corporations, these would entail real big and complex data but for most businesses, their “big data” should be “processable” in most high-spec modern computers. 

Well, enough of the big data clarification. The question now is this: How is ERP related to Big Data? Generally, Big Data is bigger than ERP. The latter is limited to information about the enterprise while Big Data takes into account information from external sources. It can even be said that ERP is just another input for Big Data. This means Big Data analytics is bigger than ERP. 

But what does this mean? Does it mean that ERP no longer suffices? Should businesses start transitioning to big data analytics, wherein ERP is just a component? 

The answer to these questions would likely depend on what is really deemed necessary or vital. However, considering how the Internet and cloud computing have made data or information explosion a reality every business has to deal with, it is preferable adopting a forward-looking stance. Big Data analytics has to be considered. 

More information representing more variables and instances would be helpful in achieving more accurate analyses and projections. Hence, there’s a need to at least start testing the waters of Big Data. Consider the Panaya acquisition of Infosys as an example, which is geared toward using big data and automation technologies in making business processes more efficient for consulting clients. Panaya’s ERP tools for testing and automation apply big data analytics to provide more reliable analyses of business operations, projections, and pointers for troubleshooting. 

Big Data and Automation 

Handling an extensive variety of business-relevant information coming from a multitude of sources and representing wide-ranging interests and significance can be very daunting. That’s why it’s important to find ways to automate the collection, sorting, storing, analysis, and presentation processes. Fortunately, there are many big data analytics platforms now available to handle the new challenges posed by today’s enormous data explosion. The analysis of extensive raw data can already be automated with the help of software tools.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BigData_2267x1146_trasparent.png

By Camelia.boban (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Finding the Right ERP Tools and Resources 

Eric Kimberling of Techrepublic has a good seven-step process in choosing the right ERP software. Consider using these steps as your guide:

1. Perform a process review and analysis to identify the main areas of concern and have a vision of what you want your business processes to look like. You need to know and understand what you need to find the option that can address your needs.

2. Assess the technical suitability of your options. The ideal ERP tool to get should be compatible with your current infrastructure or software environment.

3. Be mindful of the cost. ERP tools entail expenses and these should not be downplayed.

4. Come up with a realistic plan of implementation. There should be a comprehensive project plan that takes need, cost, and resource commitments into account. You may want to put considerable weight on having an ERP tool that is mobile-friendly or convenient and easy to use on the mobile platform.

5. Pay attention to the claimed advantages or benefits. Of course, if you are just choosing the right ERP tool, you won’t have the chance of knowing or observing how things actually turn out. That’s why it helps reading reviews or getting feedbacks from other users. Also, put emphasis on scalability. The right tool to get should be comfortably and conveniently usable without business size becoming a concern.

6. Keep your choices open. Don’t be limited to what is the most popular or well-reviewed. It’s important to impartially weigh the pros and cons. Of note, it’s important not to be fixated on a particular interface or manner of doing things.

7. Seek independent and objective recommendations. Don’t hesitate to ask for the insights or inputs of someone you trust. You may also do a research online. Go over white papers and check out the reviews of the users of the ERP systems being suggested. Just be sure that you are reading recommendations that are credible and written by real users who have ERP -- and not so soon -- Big Data analytics can be considered as the most efficient ways of handling the huge volumes of data and processes of a business to come up with better business decisions. Many businesses and organizations attest to how they effectively enable better decision making and become instrumental in the establishment of more efficient business processes. 

Even in business-to-business marketing, data is a crucial factor that should always be taken into account. Identifying targets and matching the right products and business customers becomes easier when there is data about the prospects available. Marketing may only appear to be one of the components or functional areas of ERP but this obviously does not mean that B2B marketing companies cannot make use of ERP tools.