When trickle down becomes a flood – Customers expect service fast and expect it online

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When trickle down becomes a flood – Customers expect service fast and expect it online

The following article ‘When trickle down becomes a flood’ was published in The Sunday Business Post on April 30th 2017.

Enterprise resource planning is now available to companies of every size, and Microsoft partner eBECS Ireland says its transforming business in the here and now.

Founded in 1998, eBECS Ireland, is a global company that delivers enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions to business. “We’ve been doing ERP solutions from the start. What’s meant by ERP has expanded in that time,” said James Finnegan, country manager, eBECS Ireland. In the early days of ERP, it was expensive, complex and confined to expensive servers and often running proprietary UNIX derivatives. Even when it moved to more affordable systems, it was still out of reach for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – not least because of its complexity.

Finnegan said that everything has changed since then. “In the 90s it was the large enterprise that was benefiting from ERP,” he said. “Today it is digital transformation and the expectation of customer service that is driving it.”

According to Finnegan, it is not just case of a trickle-down effect. For a start, the trickle is now a deluge. Beyond that, though, there is the fact that at least some of today’s SMEs will be tomorrow’s 800lb gorillas.

We’re seeing this right across industry. The average age of a company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 [stock index] has gone down from 59 years to 15 – and they expect that to drop to [just] 12 by 2020,” he said.

If digital transformation means anything, it means that customers expect service fast and expect it online: all they ever want is everything. This, said Finnegan, is leading the drive toward all business data being integrated into ERP. Consider this: as late as the 1990s, it wasn’t uncommon to see mail-order advertisements that read ‘please allow 28 days for delivery’. Not so today: customers will no longer accept a journey that lasts an age.

“If you go online, you expect a product to arrive the next day,” said Finnegan. In simple terms, to deal with this speed, businesses require their data to be available for 360-degree viewing. Get it right and it’s in the can; get it wrong and it is game over. “There are still a lot of companies that are struggling to do that. What they’re not achieving is the customer service,” he said.

Different sectors, unsurprisingly, are faced with more or less immediate challenges, but they can all learn the value of effective use of ERP – or else face the reality of being undercut by those who do.

“If you look at the banks and financial industry, it is being nibbled at the edges by their smaller competitors,” he said. ERP, said Finnegan, has uses right across financial processes, procurement, manufacturing and warehousing, precisely because it is about providing a unified business process.

Even those already familiar with ERP should consider whether or not their current system truly allows them to put the audience in action.

“We’re seeing a trend in a demand from fast-growing, young, Irish companies; typically growing at over 50 per cent per annum. Their current packages are not allowing them to scale.” This, of course, means moving to where the customers are: online. “With the cloud, they don’t have to buy hardware and software. They can subscribe to the modules they need. We have customers who may have some modules on-premise and others, where it suits, to be in the cloud,” he said.

eBECS, a Microsoft partner, builds its solutions on Dynamics 365. This, said Finnegan, means advanced technologies are available including, for instance, predictive analytics.

“A food service company we work with predicts a customer order. They use predictive analytics to say ‘You haven’t ordered, this is what we estimate you need.’ They supply food to restaurants and know not only the lifespan of the product and past purchases, but when things are likely to come up for re-ordering.” Apart from increasing sales, Dynamics’ features are also advantageous to customers. “The previous order history is stored in the cloud. Their customers can come in via an app, via the telephone or via the web, and get live status on what is in stock in the local warehouse,” he said. Predictive analytics is not just about order histories, though; it can also analyse business relationship, for instance flagging if there has been minimal contact. Other businesses use its features for short-term planning. “Veolia, they operate the Luas, but also have a large commercial waste service, and measures the fill levels and heat levels in the bins and decide when they need to be emptied. It really gives you a 360 degree view of your business with the customer at the centre,” said Finnegan.

“We’re moving away from siloed business toward self-service business intelligence. This is now available to everyone”, he said.

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