When I first saw Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, ET – The Extra-Terrestrial, I was fascinated by its simple yet profound storyline. ET, an alien of sorts, ends up alone on Planet Earth when his fellow aliens accidentally leave him behind after a visit in their space ship. Unlike the children in the story, the adults are obsessed with the order, structures and habits they perceive as ‘normal’ and become his worst enemies, hell-bent on destroying him. Meanwhile, all ET wants to do is “phone home” for his friends to come and fetch him from the inhospitable planet.
The resistance to change and to anything new is part of every human being’s inherent make-up. It is equally present in the fiber of most organizations and management teams; sometimes to the point of self-destruction.
Banks often announce new fee structures and benefits that are “too good to be true”, but it takes much more than that to persuade people to change their bank. This loyalty is very seldom based on service excellence, products, service features or competitive fees alone. It is simply based on the inconvenience of the switch – the hassle factor. Banks can easily change this by opening up their communication channels and treating their clients as human beings rather than statistics and, in so doing, create true customer loyalty.
These principles, I believe, also apply to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) users and their chosen products. Considering the amount of time, money and effort that goes into selecting, contracting, implementing and running ERP, it does not make sense for a user to switch systems every time a competing product claims new extended modules or functionalities. We all know that most ERP solutions, like banks, are essentially the same, offering the same range of modules and services, albeit in different guises and with different bells and whistles.
A recent survey conducted by IDC Manufacturing Insights among 722 executives at small and medium sized manufacturing companies (companies with 100 to 5,000 employees) found that a top priority going forward is to “improve customer fulfillment and streamline bid and project profitability processes”, in other words, to retain existing customers and generate more revenue out of current markets.
Essentially, the first priority is to improve customer relationships. Relationships run on personal contact and require constant open and honest communication to ensure customer fulfillment. All possible channels need to be embraced to “phone home”, including social media platforms.
Traditionally ERP solutions tended to focus on the functionality of its offerings. Lately, however, a strong focus on providing the customer with extra value according to their specific needs has developed, delivering bespoke services in addition to the basic functionality. This is a necessary step to build a warmer and more personally committed image but more is required, namely: to build collaborative capacity in every aspect of the supply chain service of ERP solutions.
To do this means providing more channels through which the user can “phone home” to customers, suppliers, internal staff and all other stakeholders. It means creating collaborative platforms for thoughts to be exchanged on an ongoing basis and through which innovation can flow. Social media networks are ideally suited for many of these applications. Twitter may just offer the ideal red light alert for system failures in certain applications; YouTube could become the warehouse for collaborative training demonstrations; Facebook may one day offer a useful platform for interaction between sales and manufacturing role players.
The possibilities are endless. And the universe is waiting for your call…
How would you like to see new channels incorporated in SYSPRO’s ERP – let us know.