Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software was among the first attempts to standardize and formalize business processes across organizations using a commercial off-the-shelf software product. Optimization is in the DNA of every ERP solution. From its very beginning, ERP software has simplified and unified complex manufacturing processes, and has since expanded in versatility, lending its value to sectors such as finance, healthcare, consumer goods and more.
With the increase in coverage of ERP across multiple aspects of an enterprise, these ERP solutions have become complex to manage and operate. In the last year and a half, these solutions have been further upended by COVID-19-induced fluctuations and significant industry shifts, such as the adjustment to remote work and ever-changing supply and demand levels. As a result, running ERP operations smoothly has become a significant challenge for enterprises dealing with disparate workforces and ever-changing business needs.
While there are many benefits to remote work, it does bring with it limitations and challenges that can prevent employees from focusing on issues that require their immediate attention and critical thinking. For example, teams may be pulled away from important tasks like order forecasting, planning for potential upsets and resolving complex ERP problems because they’re busy with time management, data entry or searching for lost documents.
Intelligent automation, fueled by artificial intelligence (AI), for ERP operations (ERPOps) enables enterprises to automate the management of organizational processes and systems so they can reduce dependency on third parties, minimize manual errors and gain speed and agility around ERP processes. Here are three main challenges experienced by modern organizations and how they can be overcome through the automation of ERPOps.
Challenge 1: Excessive time spent manually monitoring ERP activities
It’s no secret that the amount of data any given business deals with at one time is increasing significantly. In the ERP space, “master data” is used by companies in things like procurement, sales, financial and cost reports to aid decision making, improve accuracy in business processes, increase operational effectiveness, track revenues and profits and more. Needless to say, it is critical to have consistent and accurate master data. But, as the amount of master data increases in volume, it’s difficult—and in some cases, impossible—for users to monitor and maintain this critical data. This is especially true in the new remote work environment, where many companies are grappling with understaffed and disconnected teams. The time employees do have can’t be consumed with manual monitoring processes any more than absolutely necessary.
Additionally, the challenge of reporting, collating information and taking action doubles when multiple stakeholders are involved in monitoring activities. Lack of coordination as people work from home further delays response times and disturbs the smooth functioning of a business, which can impact customer retention and stakeholder feedback. By introducing AI-driven automation into the ERP, teams can respond to issues more quickly and in a more coordinated way. Companies can install AI-powered bots that will automate processes and provide information in a single report or dashboard, thus reducing lag substantially and managing master data more efficiently than any human could.
Challenge 2: Repetitive execution of mundane and monotonous tasks
Since the onset of the pandemic, experts have been warning businesses of the damaging effects of social isolation and fatigue on employees. Considering these alarming statistics, it’s critical for organizations to identify opportunities to remove monotonous tasks that can compound the drain of working from home in the age of social distancing. Across industries, AI is improving the way employees complete day-to-day tasks, and that is slowly being adopted in the ERP space. By automating routine tasks like processing sales orders and resolving transaction errors, ERPOps automation can help companies mitigate employee burnout and dissatisfaction.
On top of contributing to healthier work environments for employees, ERPOps automation significantly reduces the likelihood of error in processes like accounting/payroll, customer record-keeping and data entry. By introducing more and more AI-enabled features, companies can maximize the benefits of their ERP system to bring more value to their customers and their employees.
Challenge 3: Managing regularly scheduled tasks
Historically, scheduling tools have enabled teams to execute tasks based on pre-determined dates and times, or other nomenclatures that eliminated the need for manual triggers. Scheduling helped reduce the likelihood of human error or delays and ultimately helped keep everyone on track. Automated ERPOps takes job scheduling one step further by allowing the program to understand even more details about rules and reasoning for triggers, beyond just date and time. AI-enabled intelligence can predict job schedules, proactively warn about jobs that may breach the SLA or fail, provide recommendations on actions to help avoid or correct the situation and take things up a notch by also effecting the necessary corrections.
This element is important to the modern enterprise that has experienced understaffed and disconnected teams that are often working from different time zones on different devices. Handing over more of these types of tasks to machines allows the enterprise employee to step away from routine tasks and focus on jobs that require more critical thinking.
For decades, ERP has simplified and modernized business processes. This was the first wave of digitalization where human tasks were enabled using software. But, as businesses become complex, distributed and global, it is time to embrace the second wave of digitalization, where intelligence and automation come together to manage human tasks and software activities in a coordinated, cohesive manner.
Intelligent automation can help reduce human dependency, minimize manual errors, improve speed and agility of processes, and ultimately, keep the customer happy. Even in the face of an economic downturn, there is a prime opportunity for organizations dependent on ERP systems to consider the power of intelligent automation, especially if an enterprise is wrestling with the challenges mentioned above.