Sam's World

Enterprise Portals & Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Posted on: July 10, 2012

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) technology (eg Openbravo) consolidates best practices for performing particular tasks involved in a business process and incorporates them into a system for replicating those best practices time and time again. ERP systems enable people to go beyond the immediate set of tasks they need to perform in order to do their jobs, and allow them to take advantage of information available across the enterprise.

But with ERP, technology drives the business, and individuals are pulled along in its wake. Many people find ERP systems hard to learn and to use. Learning is formal, time consuming, and expensive. Yet, if detailed learning does not take place, the company can not derive value from its ERP installation. Those people end up simply learning to use the system.

The Internet has redefined the way individuals work with computer systems, allowing people to quickly and cheaply move information, applications, and services between and among individuals. Enterprise portals (eg Entando) and e-business Workplace-based systems allow the person to rise above the machine in importance.  No longer is he or she merely a system user, forced to adapt behavior to the requirements of the machine. Rather, each individual is the master of his or her Workplace, able to manipulate it in order to receive the information, applications, and services necessary to perform the many daily tasks that make up the roles he or she fulfills in an organization.

Within the e-business Workplace, each individual begins with access to a generic set of information, applications, and services that is based on an equally generic “role” that pre-defines the person’s responsibilities within the company. The individual, working with company management, can then modify and refine the definition of that role, and by so doing enhance his or her access to the e-business Workplace, adding other sources of information, applications, and services.

With access to the company’s systems and to the Internet through the Workplace, each individual becomes the master of the machine, able to draw upon the full range of the system’s functionality to access whatever is needed to complete the necessary tasks and activities.

With the e-business Workplace, the emphasis shifts from understanding a static best practice to continuously learning, continuously modifying one’s role(s), and continuously adding information, applications, and services in order to fulfill those roles more easily.

In the context of the e-business Workplace, best practices are no longer the destination; rather, they are the starting point. But e-business and e-business Workplace portals don’t eliminate the strengths of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Rather, ERP and e-business Workplace portals supercharge each other.

While e-business applications provide a company with the tools to communicate with employees and business partners, ERP applications provide the company with the organization and consolidation of company data necessary to run the company at Internet speed. ERP tools provide consistent, reliable, timely, and accurate data about a company’s internal operations and processes. Without a handle on internal data, the flashiest Web site is merely a facade.

Utilizing an e-business Workplace portal allows a company to install, reinstall, or upgrade its ERP systems at its own pace, keeping those systems “behind” the portal. Installations of new ERP modules or ERP upgrades are transparent to individuals who utilize the Workplace portal. And they can be done sequentially, with the company first improving those pieces that are most critical to business performance.

An existing company seeking to become an e-business can do so in one of four ways:

  • Integrate e-business into the current operating model
  • Find a partner to leverage the company’s products and services into its e-business model
  • Spin off an e-business
  • Completely transform the company from a traditional business model to an e-business model

Workplace portal technology, combined with ERP systems, helps companies accomplish concrete technology objectives that allow the company to reach its e-business vision. When utilized together, workplace portals and ERP allow a company to integrate e-business into its current operating model, and if desired over time completely transforms the company to an e-business.

In the first phase of such an integration/transformation, workplace portals allow customers to configure product; provides the connection for single payment methods; and enhances lean manufacturing inside the company. Utilizing information generated by the ERP system, bar coding, labeling, quality tracking, and shipment can all be managed within the Workplace portal.

In the second phase, the workplace portal provides for multiple-ship-to-address and multiple-bill-to-address capabilities, enhanced quality tracking, and accounts receivable and payable reconciliations. Again, much of the data necessary to accomplish these tasks comes from the ERP system.

Finally, when the workplace portal is linked closely with the internal ERP systems of vendors, materials replenishment, accounts payable, vendor performance tracking, and vendor-managed inventory programs can all be managed through the Workplace portal.


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