This time last year, much of the business world was hopeful that 2021 would be a smoother, less fraught year for trading. But then Covid-19 reared its head again, supply chains continued to be hit by issues of post-Brexit red tape, and staffing shortages took hold. Business did not become easier or more streamlined, it became more of a headache.

As the pandemic chugged on, organisations were pushed to accelerate innovation in order to work in new ways. Many turned to new or upgraded enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to gain those insights critical to navigating the current landscape. Business leaders were often previously slow to change ERP, waiting instead until the legacy system was no longer viable; the continuing challenges in 2021 made it clear that connectivity, interoperability, and agility were essential to this new complex and ever-changing business environment.

Are we hopeful, then, for the coming year? Certainly, if we look to business predictions for 2022, advanced technologies and digital transformation loom large. While this means more potential change for already-overloaded businesses, it also presents an opportunity to invest in the future, to move from legacy software to intelligent ERP, and to make remote working and hybrid working smoother and more efficient for your employees.

To celebrate the turn of the calendar, here we present Inixion’s guide to business and technology for 2022 (with a very real hope that there’s an end in sight to the pandemic!).

But first, a quick recap: What is ERP software?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software can integrate all of the processes needed to run a company. Typically, modern ERP solutions are web-based applications that can be accessed remotely, allowing better resource design through integrating planning, purchasing inventory, sales, marketing, finance, human resources, and more. This type of enterprise software can be seen as the glue that binds together the different systems and business processes.

Inixion works exclusively with the Sage X3 ERP system, which is part of Sage’s business cloud offering. It enables organisations to take control of the whole business, from finances and supply chain management to sales and production, helping to achieve greater efficiency, flexibility, and insight.

Business process and ERP predictions for 2022

ERP solutions have been around for a while now; as technology capabilities evolved, ERP became an ecosystem encompassing customers, suppliers, partners, competitors and stakeholders. However, not all organisations are running the latest in ERP technology.

The most recent annual TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT Priorities survey, looking ahead to 2022, found that automation and being cloud-first have gained significant interest as areas of investment for the UK’s IT buyers; two-thirds of survey respondents have already automated some of their processes, with half of respondents describing their overall IT strategy as “cloud-first”. Some 46% of respondents expected their technology budgets to increase by at least 5% in 2022. Where will they be spending this increased investment?

1. Demands for more system flexibility

As ERP software continues to evolve and more businesses invest in solutions for streamlining operations, it becomes increasingly important that ERP moves away from a “one size fits all” approach. Certainly, as solutions become more modular and remote or cloud-based – putting them in reach of smaller organisations – it presents the opportunity for more personalised and vertical solutions, which in turn can help to reduce capital and maintenance costs.

Likewise, the pandemic accelerated the need for remote access and support for ERP software. The old style, where a system was installed on a hard drive or server on-premises, was no longer viable when people couldn’t get to the office – not forgetting the high cost of implementation and maintenance, nor potential looming end-of-life hardware dates, and functionality or technology gaps. Thankfully, the move to cloud already lessened this impact, but full mobility will come to ERP ecosystems in the near future. Mobile, remotely accessible, ERP helps to drive system visibility and accessibility company-wide, making it a necessary operational tool for the modern organisation.

And as personalisation and access grow in importance, so too will the need for easier interfaces and a better user experience. Expect ERP software to become more consumer-centric, flexible and accessible – something that doesn’t require an IT degree to operate, but that any employee can use with a little training.

2. Powerful and real-time data analysis

Improved access also shines light on the possibilities held in analysing real-time data. The ability to see exactly what’s going on, straight from the source, is one of mobile ERP’s biggest selling points. Add in the increasing influence of artificial intelligence and machine learning to process and draw value from the data, and the power of your ERP’s data bank becomes huge.

Users can see in real-time, for instance, what’s happening on the production floor, where in the supply chain an issue arises, how much stock is left on which shelves. This in turn helps companies to make smarter, better-informed business decisions – essential in an era of supply chain havoc and labour shortages.

3. The Great Resignation and the fight for talent

By now we’ve all heard reference to “The Great Resignation” – the trend of people reassessing their job priorities over pandemic lockdowns and deciding what they’re willing to put up with in a job role – but what does that have to do with ERP software? Well, with a Qualtrics XM Institute study estimating that 72.4 million US workers are likely to look for a new job over the next six months, the Great Resignation could spell a lot of extra expenditure for your company.

It takes a lot of time and money to invest in talent, especially those with specific skill sets such as financial administration or supply chain management. It also takes a lot of investment to get new staff up to speed on the specific nuances of your own processes and systems. This trend might not immediately impact your software innovation programme, but it’s something to bear in mind for resource planning. Of course, some ERP software, such as Sage X3, puts a large focus on ease of use and thereby also new staff onboarding, helping to mitigate some of these risks.

4. Increasingly “Intelligent” systems: the dawn of “iERP”

Many of these “predictions” lists have relied heavily on artificial intelligence and machine learning in recent years, and that’s for a very good reason: as AI grows in maturity, the possibilities for business operations have become ever more exciting. ERP is no exception, and we expect to see intelligent ERP – or iERP – become increasingly adopted across organisations, even if it’s just to mine the treasure trove of actionable insights gleaned from all of that business data being crunched and analysed.

Intelligent ERP solutions can help to streamline business processes, optimise workflows and achieve new levels of efficiency; it can help to reduce errors related to manual data import and processing, as well as freeing-up staff to focus on more important and valuable tasks. Automation tools can handle repetitive tasks such as data capture and analysis to enhance business efficiency and give strategic insights based on clean data that can shift the needle on business operations.

5. Global business ERP democratises and opens up

While iERP is perhaps the biggest innovation in the technology side of things, the business operations side is not without its developments. For as long as ERP has been around, the systems were “closed shops”, with businesses needing to spend money to integrate systems to get a holistic view of their data.

However, this doesn’t necessarily work so well in the modern large company, where mergers and acquisitions activity, off- and on-shoring and related processes, and shared services can throw a proverbial spanner in the ERP works.

In 2022, we see ERP becoming more “democratised” and less closed-minded. Extensibility potentially allows both read and write access to ERP systems and data through web APIs, which opens up the “closed shop” ERP to other processes. This helps to ensure the software fits the needs of the business unit or subsidiary while still flowing data between global and local operations. Of course, the move to cloud-first rather than on-premises makes this possible, and helps to future-proof companies from fallout during reorganisations or M&A.

6. Keeping a closer eye on the supply chain

Many of us learned a lot more about the supply chain this year, as blockages, driver shortages and issues with resources hit the headlines. Already exacerbated by the complexity of regulation of this, certainly in Europe, post-Brexit world, the Covid-19 pandemic made the situation much worse. Supply chain management became a top priority.

ERP solutions enter the fray in a big way here. Coupling ERP with supply chain management brings high octane visibility and more flexibility to sourcing approaches. By harnessing real-time data, you could see the red flags before they become major issues – mitigate and predict demand spikes and help to maintain consistent inventory levels year-round. We believe 2022 will see more investment in iERP and other advanced technologies to enhance supply chain planning and global trade management.

So, what’s on the 2022 ERP agenda?

Whether we’re “post-Covid” or even still mid-pandemic, 2022 will be one of increasing innovation in business process and operations management – and iERP will take centre stage, as companies find it increasingly difficult to ignore the operational efficiencies and streamlining that is now possible.

The world of business is now digital-first, which means organisations need enterprise applications that help them to be more agile and make decisions based on clean, real-time data to improve performance and inform strategy. ERP is joining a world of virtual assistants and chatbots, predictive analytics, natural language processing, machine learning, big data and artificial intelligence. The old ways and old systems are no longer fit for purpose; 2022 is the year to be bold and leverage the future of enterprise software.

If you’re looking for a safe pair of hands with your business processing software, discover the Inixion difference and get in touch.