Why ERP Is Cool Again

ERP itself is old news, but enhancing legacy applications with mobile, analytics, and social features can deliver substantial value.
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IT teams aren't so much begging for money as they're begging for relevance.

Asked to rank 10 developments that would most improve IT productivity, the 314 business technology pros who responded to our InformationWeek Analytics 2011 Enterprise Applications Survey picked as their top three:

>> More support from top executives to implement new policies or procedures

>> Better input from end users in gathering requirements

>> Better guidance from business leaders on the most important processes, measures, and metrics.

There's a common thread here: What IT organizations want most is more engagement and support from business leaders and colleagues. Bigger IT budgets and better training are farther down their priority lists.

As we look at the state of enterprise application strategy, findings like these provide the critical backdrop. IT can't just align projects with the business; those projects must be the business. Relevance means implementing a software project the CEO wants constant updates on, not one that requires you to ambush a product manager in the hallway just to get some feedback.

The good news from our survey is that IT's top investment priorities are in areas that will be highly visible to business leaders. Mobile applications are the most often cited software priority, for both on-premises software and software-as-a-service projects. Putting dashboards, reports, and alerts right in front of business executives on their smartphones and tablets gives them access to information in an entirely new way.

Financial management and performance management are the next-highest priority for on-premises software. You can't get much closer to the heart of the business than budgeting, planning, and profitability analysis. Customer relationship management is tied at No. 2 in the priority ratings for on-premises and SaaS projects. CRM, a perennial business priority tied to driving more revenue, is now also closely tied to attitudes and interactions expressed in social media, trends getting a lot of attention from sales and marketing. CRM's integration with other apps is often as important as the implementation itself.

Mobile apps and social-savvy CRM are rather trendy, of course, so execs with mobile and social on their wish lists may look like they're just keeping up with the Joneses. However, IT leaders can make sure these projects provide more than flash, by discerning between wants and needs and focusing on usability so employees get some real value out of mobile and social media projects. IT's in a position to push beyond the initial vision--"let's deliver this report to a smartphone"--by helping to build a software platform that spurs more innovation. These kinds of high-profile projects let IT set a new tone and get out, once and for all, from being just a service department.

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