Deskill roles by deploying smart Supply Chain solutions

We all have seen, observed and heard a lot about benefits of Supply Chain Systems when deployed in organizations in terms of inventory going down, lead-times getting reduced, driving deflation with vendors etc. but surprisingly lot of supply chain evangelists usually do not touch the subject of increased ability to deskill a role in the organization and save hard cash due to this.
With precision getting increased in the available supply chain solutions, the ease with which supply chain professional plan their chores have become less skill oriented. Whether it is predictive analysis based on the past performance of the vendor and visibility of its stock levels, production plan etc. or it is the accuracy of forecast, every nice feature of SCM solutions have reduced the need of professionals to think like a maverick and they just need to follow the process (I know I am oversimplifying it but the essence remains the same). Earlier they were required to keep a tab on how much material each division is buying from a vendor so that they can take advantage of volume discount by manually following up with people and taking inputs from multiple systems but today the state of art SCM Solutions automatically pick right information from multiple systems, uses fuzzy logic in consolidating vendor billings (in case same vendor is defined in system with slightly different names – a most common mistake across the globe) and throws recommendations to the SCM user after either taking cues from internet on prevailing prices (in case of commodities) or sending RFQs to vendor competitors.
It is not that the life of a SCM professional has become smoother, new technology removes older challenges and brings newer challenges and it will keep on going on but this is not the topic of discussion here so we will refrain from going in that area. The point here is that skills that we all look in the SCM professionals at a senior position can actually be downgraded now as some of those skills are actually not required now as applications have taken charge. Yes, new skills are required but those will anyway not be available in professionals off the shelf and will need to be developed. So, the existing skills set for a SCM professional can be downgraded and manager can be hired where a senior manager used to work earlier whenever you get the chance to replace. Similarly, a senior manager role can be given to a manager and the senior manager can be given responsibilities which were (till now) handled by their seniors and so on. The entire exercise will free up some time for the senior executives for innovation.
One of the few benefits that were not talked upon much earlier after a leading analyst highlighted this in their study a lot of focus is bound to go in this area in-spite of strong counter views coming in from various walks of professionals. The comments section is waiting for your opinion in this regard.  

Will the ERP Products and Vendors survive Mobility Onslaught?

As one of the key technology trends these days, Mobility is arguably moving at the fastest pace even in the developing world and it is predicted by almost all leading analyst firms across the globe that it will be very difficult for any application to survive if they are not available in Mobile Devices by 2016-17. This puts our old war horse ERP into danger of extinction. Though, it seems very difficult to replace ERP with smaller mobile friendly applications but it will put immense pressure on this bulky application that needs large compute, memory and bandwidth.
Though the two bigger players in ERP space have started taking steps in moving at least the analytics product around their ERP, to mobile devices but they are still sluggish in developing a mobile device friendly ERP product. I have observed that users are now more mobile than ever and they do not want to keep sticking to their seats or cubicals to make transactions but want the applications to be available on the tablets or even better if on mobile phones. This enables them save their time and increases their productivity. With WiFi becoming a norm even on shop-floors, there is no reason that the users will not want this natural extension to ease pressure on them.
 
Yes, some of the transactions will need the user to be in the manufacturing facility or office building such as receiving material at gate where user has to be present at the gate for proper entry but with geo-fencing coming in, these situations can also be handled very well. Infact, there are a lot of other benefits if an ERP becomes available on Mobile Devices but I would not go into that discussion in this post.
Due to the slow response from the ERP product vendors on making the product available on Mobile Devices, a lot of mobile application organizations have mushroomed who are helping the organizations to bring critical functions as an app on mobile which will talk to the ERP and will act as an extension to your ERP. Believe me, the ERP product heavyweights are losing heavily on licenses because of this – which is another reason for them to do something about it fast. Manufacturing activities like production booking, confirming raw material consumption or procurement related activities like material receipt at gate, inspection etc. can be easily done in mobile apps which will feed the data back to the ERP backbone so that single source of truth remains in system. Similarly, organizations especially in services sector have started extending applications on mobile for their customers as well as suppliers and have created a nice bridge between these complimenting entities and the entire data flows back and forth from ERP making it a one simple application for all entities involved. The ERP vendors are on the losing side here too.   
One of the major IT advisory consultants have already predicted that ERPs will become legacy by 2016 and with the onslaught of mobility into the entire game, this seems to be getting more and more difficult for the ERP product vendors to remain ahead in their field. I would not be surprised if we see a completely android or iOS based mobile ERP that works using 3G or WiFi (when available), is hosted on cloud and needs very little compute, in near future. Let us brace ourselves for exciting things happening in Mobility.

Replacing an existing ERP Solution: To go for it or not?


In today’s world ERPs exist in almost all those organizations which have a vision to excel and we all know that not all ERP projects are successful. Whether it is the product features, its fitment to your business, managing the requirements and expectations of users or executive sponsorship – there are many reasons which can throw an ERP project haywire. Needless to say that ERPs can make or break an organization’s vision based on the success they achieve with it.
Looking at intense competition between top ERP product vendors and extreme pressure on their sales teams to achieve higher than ever targets, they tend to not only outsell others but also, at customer organization’s expense, try to convince them to move their existing ERP solution to their platform showing rosy pictures. Some of us fall in trap based on our satisfaction level with existing solution and some of us manage to escape. This article is for those of us who are considering replacing their ERP solution with a “perceived” better one. Let me look at some of the points that need to be taken care before we take up this journey, if at all:
ERP Implementation and Baby Birth: Like birth of a child, an ERP implementation is a process that is planned and takes lot of time. In the process of implementation, there are lot of pains and caring which is very similar to pains and caring we see during the pregnancy period of a “to be mother”. If you have parented a child, then there is no need for me to explain what it is like and how critical it is to the life of people around that child. Similar is the story of ERP. Also, as you are never sure that the 2nd child will be a better version of first one, you are never sure what will be the fate of the other ERP product that you are going to implement replacing the existing one. Extreme caution is the word to focus on.   
Best of the breed solutions:  A good alternative to replace your existing ERP solution can be adding a best of the breed business specific solution to the existing solution. This way, you can avoid the pain of replacing the entire solution which will also bring change management issues. Say, you are on XXXX ERP product which does not offer a pertinent transportation & logistics solution for your business and the sales team of rival product convinces you that their product is better than your existing product. Don’t jump on replacing right away. Explore more solutions in the market and there is a 75% probability that you will find a smaller, more agile and manageable best of breed solution which will be to talk to your existing ERP product and you will not only save on cost but also tha agony that went through when you implemented ERP first time.
Upgrade existing solution: It is highly likely that your ERP product vendor is also aware of the issues that you are facing and they have already come up with the newer version of the product which takes care of your additional requirements. Check out on this and if yes, consider upgrading. Normally, if you have bought the annual maintenance and software assurance from your existing vendor, the upgraded product is available to you free of cost.
Look at bigger picture: On the contrary, if you have acquired a new business that have a different ERP solution and it is important for you to bring them into same platform to achieve economies of scale and improved synergies, replacing their ERP solution with your won or vice versa, might makes sense. Evaluate and take decision.
So, if you review the above points before taking a decision on replacing your existing ERP with a new one, I am sure you life will be a lot less stressful.