ERP systems are now ubiquitous in large businesses and the current move by vendors is to repackage them for small to medium enterprises (SMEs). This migration has many consequences that have to be addressed through understanding the history and evolution of ERP systems and their current architectures. The advantages and disadvantages of the ERP systems will impact their penetration in this new market. The market position and general strategy of the major systems providers in preparation for this push are described. The chapter concludes that the growth and success of ERP adoption and development in the new millennium will depend on the legacy ERP system’s capability of extending to Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Supply Chain Management (SCM) and other extended modules, and integration with the Internet-enabled applications.
The unprecedented growth of information and communication technologies (ICT) driven by microelectronics, computer hardware and software systems has influenced all facets of computing applications across organizations. Simultaneously the business environment is becoming increasingly complex with functional units requiring more and more inter-functional data flow for decision making, timely and efficient procurement of product parts, management of inventory, accounting, human resources and distribution of goods and services. In this context, management of organizations needs efficient information systems to improve competitiveness by cost reduction and better logistics. It is universally recognized by large and small-to medium-size enterprises (SME) that the capability of providing the right information at the right time brings tremendous rewards to organizations in global competitive world of complex business practices. Starting in the late 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s new software systems known in the industry as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have surfaced in the market targeting mainly large complex business organizations. These complex, expensive, powerful, proprietary systems are off the-shelf solutions requiring consultants to tailor and implement them based on the company’s requirements. In many cases they force companies to reengineer their business processes to accommodate the logic of the software modules for streamlining data flow throughout the organization. These software solutions, unlike the old, traditional in-house-designed company specific systems, are integrated multi-module commercial packages suitable for tailoring and adding “add-ons” as and when required. The phenomenal growth of computing power and the Internet is bringing ever more challenges for the ERP vendors and the customers to redesign ERP products, breaking the barrier of proprietorship and customization, and embracing the collaborative business over the intranet, extranet and the Internet in a seamless manner. The vendors already promise many “add-on” modules, some of which are already in the market as a sign of acceptance of these challenges by the ERP vendors. It is a never-ending process of reengineering and development bringing new products and solutions to the ERP market. ERP vendors and customers have recognized the need for packages that follow open architecture, provide interchangeable modules and allow easy customization and user interfacing.
ERP Systems Defined
Enterprise resource planning systems or enterprise systems are software systems for business management, encompassing modules supporting functional areas such as planning, manufacturing, sales, marketing, distribution, accounting, financial, human resource management, project management, inventory management, service and maintenance, transportation and e-business. The architecture of the software facilitates transparent integration of modules, providing flow of information between all functions within the enterprising a consistently visible manner. Corporate computing with ERPs allows companies to implement a single integrated system by replacing or re-engineering their mostly incompatible legacy information systems. American Production and Inventory Control Society (2001) has defined ERP systems as “a method for the effective planning and controlling of all the resources needed to take, make, ship and account for customer orders in a manufacturing, distribution or service company.” We quote several definitions from the published literature to further explain the concept: “ERP (enterprise resource planning systems) comprises of a commercial software package that promises the seamless integration of all the information flowing through the company–financial, accounting, human resources, supply chain and customer information” (Davenport, 1998). “ERP systems are configurable information systems packages that integrate information and information-based processes within and across functional areas in an organization”
Evolution Of ERP Systems
The evolution of ERP systems closely followed the spectacular developments in the field of computer hardware and software systems. During the1960s most organizations designed, developed and implemented centralized computing systems, mostly automating their inventory control systems using inventory control packages (IC). These were legacy systems based on programming languages such as COBOL, ALGOL and FORTRAN. Material requirements planning (MRP) systems were developed in the 1970s which involved mainly planning the product or parts requirements according to the master production schedule. Following this route new software systems called manufacturing resources planning (MRP II) were introduced in the1980s with an emphasis on optimizing manufacturing processes by synchronizing the materials with production requirements. MRP II included areas such as shop floor and distribution management, project management, finance, human resource and engineering. ERP systems first appeared in the late 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s with the power of enterprise-wide inter-functional coordination and integration. Based on the technological foundations of MRP and MRP II, ERP systems integrate business processes including manufacturing, distribution, accounting, financial, human resource management, project management, inventory management, service and maintenance, and transportation, providing accessibility, visibility and consistency across the enterprise. During the 1990s ERP vendors added more modules and functions as” add-ones” to the core modules giving birth to the “extended ERPs.” These ERP extensions include advanced planning and scheduling (APS), e-business solutions such as customer relationship management (CRM) and supply chain management (SCM). Figure 2 summarizes the historical events related with ERP.