Upgrading to the latest release of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) is often seen as a complicated and intimidating task by many companies. Financial reports stating that such projects are expensive and time consuming make the matter scarier for chief technical officers (CTOs) to take the decision. However, the fact that most of the ERP upgrade is completed in a short time, fall within reasonable budgets and does not disrupt the business at large.

Also, there is a general perception that most ERP upgrades only benefit the IT departments, but if properly executed it is highly favorable for the entire business. An ERP upgrade can have a far-reaching impact on a business; improve productivity, streamline processes, and reach out and serve new markets.

ERP Upgrade: The positive side of it

Most of you would always be wondering when is the appropriate time to go for an ERP upgrade. While you are even considering such an upgrade, these questions might come up in your mind.

Will the new upgraded version be more complex than the existing one?
Do our users need the education to navigate, understand the features and adapt to the business processes that get introduced?
Are there any consultants who are knowledgeable on the new version, at the same time business savvy?
Do we need to make a huge investment on upgrade so that the benefits outweigh the costs?
Frankly, there are many more questions than convincing answers. Before we attempt to answer these questions, let us look at some of the challenges with your existing system.

IDC Manufacturing Insights conducted a worldwide study of over 375 enterprises, across multiple discrete manufacturing sectors covering 12 countries, on behalf of Infor. The survey showed that among other things, complexity is dramatically growing in IT departments and it will grow significantly over the next three years. To beat such complexity, manufacturers will have to improve and speed up their decision-making capability.

Ineffective or inadequate IT is emerging as the single most critical barrier to mastering complexity. Discrete manufacturers also recognize that their current ERP systems have a number of limitations or weaknesses that hamper their ability to improve decision making.

The following graphic illustrates the responses from the survey on the issue of the current ERP system limitations. Looking at the survey results, we can conclude the respondent’s perception of an ERP upgrade.

Too complex to integrate seamlessly with other existing applications
It is primarily a financial ERP
Too complicated and expensive to upgrade
Does not include industry-specific capabilities available out of the box

Reasons to upgrade: Overcoming challenges

For most enterprises, the main factor that shapes the business case for an ERP upgrade is the return on investment (ROI). Generally, organizations expect the upgraded system to provide higher ROI in a very short time. So, justifying your decision to upgrade the ERP system is crucial to your organization’s maximum productivity. Since you need to obtain the support of your management that will spend a considerable amount for an ERP upgrade, you must list the challenges an ERP upgrade can address in a certain period of time to form your business case.

Support fast decision-making capabilities – Access to information anywhere, anytime helps an organization in quicker decision making the process. What any organization needs to understand is that by adopting ERP they are simplifying the whole business process to fall in line with their business structure. For organizations making a switch from legacy to an upgraded version, the potential benefits would be for them to see and experience. In a legacy system, one has to navigate through several myriad paths and sessions to complete one process run, which impacts the whole purpose of meeting a deadline. The upgraded version, on the other hand, boasts of better features, thereby boosting the runtime of many complex and time-consuming processes like MRP and integrations to name a few.

Offer collaborative or social networking– style features to increase productivity – LN is now capable of generating alerts, tasks, and posts with Ming.le, Infor’s social media collaboration platform. Infor Ming.le™ is a centralized platform for social collaboration, business process improvement, and contextual analytics. When employees are able to follow critical data, events, and people, every touch point across your enterprise becomes organized and actionable. Integrated tracking allows users to filter key enterprise data and events between disconnected forms of in-office communication.

With Infor Ming.le, you can:

Easily drill back and navigate to specific Infor applications
Enable heightened collaboration between business processes
Get access to recurring and organized conversations around a business topic, with internal and external participants
See alerts, workflow, analytics and more at a glance, with SoHo UX interface
Experience common navigation and a common context engine across applications
Let us consider an example: The shopfloor division of a company foresees a drop in production while manufacturing a product needed for a critical customer shipment, because of scheduled maintenance activity. The situation is collaboratively discussed with the maintenance department who agrees to shift the maintenance process so that the shipment schedule is not disrupted. All this is achieved within minutes with an Infor LN upgrade.

Easy to customize – Customization is one salient feature which gives ERP an edge over others. It is often said that change is the only thing which is constant and the modern-day version of ERP has been developed keeping this adage in mind. Users of Baan IV know how difficult it is (if not impossible) to customize the toolbar, add/hide form columns to the form. With features like customizing the grid, it is now easy to personalize change appearance. Certain user-friendly features have been seamlessly woven into the current versions making it easier for organizations to go for an upgrade. Even the screens have been customized. Changes have been made keeping in mind the difficulties faced by the users while navigating. This will enable the work to be done a lot faster and the processes to sync with the tight schedules and deadlines. Another noteworthy feature is where the users get the settings in relation to reports set to their preferences, where they would get to see only the pertinent data/fields displayed. The consultants help the users in selecting what would work for them and suggest the best possible combination.

Easy to integrate seamlessly with other applications – The Intelligent Open Network (ION) makes life easier to integrate various Infor, non-Infor as well as legacy IT systems. This purpose-built middleware solution provides a simple but powerful and scalable framework, allowing you to eliminate operational silos, dramatically improve exception management, and achieve unparalleled end-to-end efficiency. ION is a powerful integration platform that enables disparate business systems to share information by translating it into the common language of standardized XML. Simplicity and efficiency are the driving forces behind Infor ION. With Infor ION, all applications publish in XML, the language of the internet, and every business event or transaction produces an XML document that is published and subscribed to by every application that uses that document. Based on OAGIS standards, Infor ION creates an inverted model for enterprise applications that moves them away from huge and complex middleware stacks. The result can be summed up in one word – harmony. With Infor ION you will be able to:

Easily integrate both Infor and third-party software applications.
Create workflows and alerts that dramatically improve exception management.
Design, standardize, monitor, or change any business process without IT involvement.
Connect applications to the actions that take place outside of them.
Easily monitor your entire business and make better decisions faster.
Cost-effective to upgrade – You only have to spend on consultants’ cost while the licensing costs (ION) are very minimal. If you engage a consulting partner who understands your business, have transparent cost models, robust project management tool kits and have excellent LN FP7 product knowledge, you are safeguarded against unnecessary costs (rework, cost of poor quality etc.). Optimization of cost and maximum utilization of resources is the ultimate objective of any business organization and this is where ERP LN proves its credibility. It offers a two-fold advantage wherein the organization gets to function on a transparent cost model with no hidden costs and is supported by experienced consultants who can also think out of the box. Paying a minimal cost on a robust ERP ensures that any company can reap long time and full-fledged benefits which in turn will strengthen the core business functions.

The advantages of going for an upgrade outweigh its unnoticeable limitations. Any business organization with zeal to expand and glorify its existence would make the first choice of elevating itself by opting for an upgrade because the features are manifold and the uses are unlimited.