At its core, ERP provides transaction automation for business operations. Whether it was called ‘ERP Scft3qreQ’ or not, it has been around for as long as businesses have made the effort to automate for greater productivity. Consider history for context, then we project the ERP future.
Consider over a century back – cash registers were the earliest Order Entry / Payment Collection systems, and NCR Systems (National Cash Register) was born in the late 1800s. Consider 3 predecessors of IBM in the early 1900’s that were merged to create IBM – Computing Scale Co (early inventory tracking), Time Recording Co (early payroll tracking), and Tabulating Machine Co (earliest accounting automation). These electro-mechanical devices were the earliest forms of current ERP functionality.
Over ensuing decades, systems became more electronic and planning oriented – MRP (materials resource planning), MRP 2 (manufacturing resource planning), CPM/PERT (project planning), and SRP (service resource planning) – all functions that now fall under current ERP definitions. Today, vendors can also selectively position more functionality like Budgeting & Planning, Performance Mgmt, Contract Mgmt, HR, eCommerce, Tax mgmt, Compliance, etc as part of their ERP suites.
So ERP functions have been around for over a century, have kept evolving with technology shifts, and are akin to an ‘operating system’ for business. While it is been called “ERP” for the last 30 years or so, it could be called something else in the future. Analysts now describe a ‘postmodern ERP’, as a business operations platform with integration features to bring together a broad set of functionality.
If you take this point of view, ERP will be around forever. It will keep adapting and evolving to the business environments it needs to support.
What will it look like in the future?
- more ERP services delivered over the cloud
- newer core business functions become part of ERP
- newer accounting models (eg. blockchain-based), and newer underlying data models (eg. non-relational)
- more embedded business intelligence, analytics, and data management features built into ERP
- more ERP transactions triggered by sensors and other external systems/devices
- machine learning applied to automate more transactions (unsupervised) and/or recommend user interactions (supervised)
All said the future of ERP is bright and it remains one of the biggest areas of software spending for businesses, and new suppliers continue to emerge in the space despite its long maturity and relatively slow-cycle change dynamics.