ERP has come a long way from its origins a half-century ago as a production planning tool for manufacturers.
Today, ERP applications run nearly every part of all kinds of businesses large and small, from social media startups to banks and construction companies. They have jumped platforms along with other kinds of inherently multiuser, networked software, first from mainframes to minicomputers, then from client/server architectures to today's more distributed, Internet-based scheme with smartphones and tablets at its farthest edges.
But it's also fair to say ERP has probably made as many enemies as friends with its maddening inflexibility, often stodgy user interfaces and extortionary license fees. Still, few companies of any size -- or at least with dreams of becoming players -- would dare to run their business without an ERP system -- or something very much like one.
The friendlier feel and broader, more up-to-date functions of the current crop of ERP applications exist alongside longstanding questions about what a monolithic system can really be expected to do. Customization is often still a necessity, and integration is a usually tedious and expensive proposition that, ironically, becomes unavoidable when a supposedly do-it-all system can no longer do the most basic things without outside help.
A team of TechTarget editors asked ERP users about their experiences with this complex software to find out what the recurring problems are, how they might be solved, and where ERP has had the most positive impacts. Consultants, analysts and vendors joined them and the editors in assessing ERP trends for this special report.
1. Where ERP stands today: A summary of ERP trends
ERP in some form will probably never go away, but it's clear that massive changes are afoot. Here's what you need to know to stay upright in the shifting sands of ERP trends.
One size rarely fits all, especially those large companies with complex business requirements. So, to get the most out of their huge investments in ERP, most companies have had to resort to some degree of customization. It comes with many drawbacks, and experts are full of ideas on how to avoid it, as outlined here.
Having a complete, integrated suite of applications to run the business with was the original promise of ERP. But users have often found it not to be the case, especially when they have tried to add functions. Integrating the pieces is an age-old challenge that never goes away, but this section offers some best practices for addressing it.
ERP trends in technology
ERP is being knocked around by the same cloud, social, mobile and big-data trade winds that are sweeping through the rest of the IT world. In this section, read how companies are already taking advantage of cloud deployment and mobility, and where the four technology underpinnings of the emerging IT platform might take ERP in the next decade.