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August 2014

Getting Through the ERP Technology Maze and Selecting the Right ERP for the Long-term: Part 5 – Internet Browser Friendly or ERP Citadel?

Written by Tim Blair White
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(continued from Part 4 – The World Has Gone Mobile)

Internet Browser Friendly or ERP Citadel?

Many legacy ERP systems force users to access the full application via a VPN or Terminal Services connection and a heavy application running on server. This paradigm is affectionately known as the “ERP Citadel” – to enter and access one must cross the drawbridge and moat or else!

ERP vendors who maintain an attitude that “most users are in the office and can access via VPN or Terminal Services” are just sticking their head in the ground!

Look at the IDC graph again (see previous post): where are your customers and employees going? They are going mobile in droves and working outside the office. How are you going to empower your staff to do their job remotely?

If the ERP is browser based (full application runs in an Internet browser and not via an installed application) and is tablet friendly then the entire problem resolves rather nicely!

If your ERP was browser based and supported responsive design concepts then that would open the door to exposing the full power of the ERP and empower external users outside the office:

  • Sales Staff
  • Service Technicians
  • Remote Consultants
  • Professional Service Staff
  • Vendor and Supplier Staff

Users on any mobile device or any computer anywhere in the world can access the full ERP application if it is truly browser based.

That is powerful!  Very powerful – you only have one application to use and customize!

ERP Citadel vendors try to creatively solve this problem by:

  • Providing custom mobile applications for specific functions (e.g. order entry or CRM);
  • Developing dumbed down Internet browser applications also for specific targeted functions.

This is a losing strategy because such applications are very restricted in their capabilities and generally are not very customizable (being proprietary). This puts the business in a real bind as it may be forced into web/mobile development in order to get the applications it needs.

For example, let’s say the business needs to provide a supplier portal to its main partner suppliers in order for them to update drop-ship and custom order POs as well as track their invoices into the business. If the ERP does not already provide this feature and the ERP is not browser based then this requirement now becomes a major web development project in order to get it right.

PICKING AN ERP WINNER FOR THE LONG-TERM

  1.  Have an IT Professional on your side who can evaluate solutions and options and knows your business thoroughly.
  2. Find a dynamic solution: one that is flexible, easily configurable and swiftly modified to meet rapidly changing business requirements
  3. Ensure the solution is fully web enabled: either has a fully integrated web platform or can and has been connected to best-in-class eCommerce platforms.
  4. Verify the solution is Cloud friendly with dozens or hundreds of connected Cloud apps and a vibrant development community building ever more Cloud based apps.
  5. The solution takes full advantage of the exploding mobile market and is fully mobile ready with a website or web application that has built-in “responsive design” such that it will operate on any mobile device with good usability.
  6. External users can easily access the full application from any device anywhere in the world – a browser based solution.

If the solution passes the above muster points then you have a real winner for the long-term!