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“This is What the Future is Supposed to Be,” by Tim Faith

by Debbie Wilson  |  June 15, 2018  |  Comments Off on “This is What the Future is Supposed to Be,” by Tim Faith

Tim !!It’s that time of year again.  Vendor conference and annual User Group meeting time!  I’d always looked forward to these days as time to connect with old acquaintances with other companies, hear the latest from the vendors and meet interesting side vendors that might help you with interesting situations.  Plus, there was usually another really interesting city to explore on the off chance that there wasn’t a “customer appreciation event” to attend.

There were a few years there where the shift got away from the customer and the product, and seemed to lean in toward the technology.  As a self-professed “ERP dork”, the technology shifts towards all-web-all-the-time and then to the cloud appealed to that side of me.  Then, after a great week of having my mind stuffed with stuff, I’d get back to my desk at work the next week and hear from the end-users that I was supporting “So, what did you learn?”  And I’d go off on technology stacks and code and a bunch of new acronyms that sounded like previous acronyms and my users would say “Huh, interesting.  So, can you help me with my Purchase Orders?”

Here’s what I’ve noticed over the past few years:  Vendors are having to engage the customers at a deeper level if the vendors hope to keep the customer.  There are so many great options out there that vendors must engage or stagnate.  The result is that customers are bubbling up significant opportunities (or problems, depending on your outlook) that vendors are trying to solve in concert with customers, meaning that users are engaged with helping to solve their own problems.  The tech is surely accelerating at a rapid pace, but is being pointed towards producing the outcomes the customers need.  So, as I’ve been wandering around and seeing demonstrations and listening in on conversations from the conferences, I’m seeing challenges being produced and being solved right there on the spot.  Users are catching that vision for what the systems can do for them, and what they can do in the systems.

The future ERP seems to have the following characteristics, in some fashion or another:

  • Machine Learning – systems are going to learn patterns and preferences and styles of work, and even help you learn shortcuts. They can even adapt integrations on the fly, to talk to other machine enabled systems in seconds.  Futurists and researchers are saying that rather than being replaced by machines, machine learning will result in more, but different, job opportunities.
  • Alternative Methods of Interface – often called Conversational Interfaces, but not necessarily voice-driven. Interfaces will include many more gestures that mean something in the system.  And, using tablets or touch in the system will mean more than just translation of writing to text.  These alternative methods will produce actions rather than just being alternative data-entry capabilities.
  • Predictive Analytics – your system will learn from your past and guide you towards data driven decisions in the future. These are popping up when you need them, rather than having to wait overnight or at the end of the month for a batch process to crunch the data.  These predictions can also incorporate your own “secret sauce” or
  • Follow you anywhere – systems and data will follow where you go, you can’t escape them! For those who loath being “chained to a desk”, this will allow a freedom and capability to work where work needs to be done, and respond when the need arises.
  • “Pretty-ness” – data visualizations with key data points that “jump out” and even animations of where the work is being done in the warehouse or in the office. They won’t just be numbers with different fonts (we’ve all seen “that” Excel spreadsheet with multiple font colors and highlights), but visually appealing graphics that mean something.

These are common themes that I’m seeing in ERP software.  It’s not just about the cool tech for tech’s sake, but actually benefiting users of the system.  It’s not about being slaves to vendor technology, but making the systems our companions in doing the work.   These great advances won’t just be system capabilities at the highest level, but are being pushed down to the user level, for everyone to engage.  It may still take some time to get there, but seeing these capabilities pulled together gives me excitement about what the future ERP systems will be.


Deborah R Wilson
Managing Vice President, ERP Strategy Team
12 years at Gartner
20 years IT industry

Deborah Wilson, a recovering Gartner research analyst, leads the Gartner ERP strategy research team. Read Full Bio

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