How to use ERP software to build your social enterprise
By Sabby Gill September 29, 2016
- Social enterprise is built on collaboration between colleagues, business partners and suppliers, to help companies create more room for innovation.
- To empower its customers to build a social enterprise, Epicor has integrated a social media platform into its ERP solution.
With the development of social media and digital collaboration we are entering a new era of social enterprise. This hails an entrepreneurial approach to business, built on technological innovation that facilitates collaboration and knowledge sharing, both internally and externally.
Social enterprise necessitates a shakeup of traditional IT solutions or enterprise management software which, up until now, have served as simple execution tools.
IT is no longer just a means to process information and execute given tasks, it’s a tool that allows us to leverage an enterprise’s global vision, helping employees to work better, smarter and to share talents, skills and data on the way. This is a concept that Epicor has prioritised as one of the core five principles in its enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.
Social enterprise is built on collaboration between colleagues, business partners and suppliers, to help companies create more room for innovation.
“The concept should also involve technology platforms such as ERP to enable communication across departmental and corporate boundaries – sharing information and business data in the same way as social networks like Facebook and Twitter,” says Matthias Mueller-Wolf, regional vice president sales for Epicor Software in Europe.
“Being a social enterprise involves a new type of corporate culture. It is about making efficient use of knowledge within the company, regardless of whether it comes from business processes and data or from people. However, this must be consistently supported by central management systems such as ERP in order to create strategic competitive advantages. By involving all business units with the same approach an organisation can create a true social enterprise.”
Social media as part of ERP
To empower its customers to build a social enterprise, Epicor has integrated a social media platform into its ERP solution. Named ESE (Epicor Social Enterprise), this extends the ERP platform to all devices - from desktop PCs to tablets and smartphones.
Available via the ERP system itself, as well as via web browsers, ESE enables Twitter-like communication and collaboration between non-ERP users, customers and partners. It allows them the ‘follow’ particular projects, customers or projects and receive notifications, updates and alerts when orders are processed, conversations happen or the status of any information recorded in the ERP system is changed.
Integrating social media into the ERP system in this way automatically solves two common problems associated with conventional external solutions. Firstly, any knowledge and information that is exchanged via ESE is integrated into the central data management system and put into context with corporate data. This also makes the data accessible from the Enterprise Search function, rather than having it lie idle in the silos of a third-party system. Secondly, as part of the ERP system, the social communication platform is automatically subject to existing IT security protocols. From a user's perspective, the application of #hashtags and @usernames makes it easy to personalise and organise data, following topics that are relevant to an individual role.
Using social ERP, it becomes possible to integrate system generated messages with conversations across the whole enterprise. Employees can access updates, alerts and notifications that are relevant to them in real time. They can also follow objects – such as customers, or specific orders – to track progress, receive alerts and notifications, and manage the business more effectively.
Added value to business processes
Whether you are involved in new projects, a customer problem, a search for specific experts, or you are planning an event, using a platform for social interaction within the company makes it easier to build teams flexibly, seek advice, or tell groups about important issues quickly. Hence, the ERP platform can now play a new role as a centre for collaboration. The ability to generate benefits from this in your day-to-day business is ultimately determined by your own requirements and intelligent use of the features. The Epicor ERP social enterprise includes features such as:
Conversations, information posts, alerts and discussions on specific topics can be summarised and tracked via an activity stream to help you easily stay up-to-date at all times. This benefits team managers as well as colleagues from other departments who want to stay informed.
Processes such as order modifications or order tracking, that involves different departments, can now be specifically consolidated as streams. This allows Epicor Social Enterprise to summarise modifications in a comprehensive overview and display status updates via the browser or email.
Social project management:
Project teams consisting of internal and external employees and partners can work hand in hand and keep each other up-to-date easier using the social enterprise principles. Experts can be quickly consulted on specific issues via the platform and information from other projects or activity streams can be incorporated rapidly.
Social budget planning:
Budget planning discussions can be supported via the social communication platform with links to documents and data. If any participants join a project later, they can quickly gain an insight into the existing history of the exchange. Moreover, it is immediately apparent who is involved with which tasks during the planning process. Notification functions also indicate when, for example, individual tasks are completed, without having to open any reports.
Social customer interaction:
Epicor also provides fields in the CRM (customer relationship management) processes to record social media identities for contacts, such as instant messaging accounts, Facebook and Twitter names or LinkedIn IDs.
In addition, customers can be provided with specific information streams from the ERP system, such as order and delivery status or services. Users can even communicate with customers directly via the social ERP functions. The collective knowledge can also be made available to anyone in the form of Wikis, which contain experiences and possible solutions from individual employees across the company.
It’s easy to build a social enterprise if you anchor it on a social ERP platform. Social functions prioritise intuitive communication and, when connected with the ERP management and project features, it gives a business an accurate overview of their customers and a true competitive edge.
This level of collaboration can’t exist in enterprise today without an IT structure that is adapted and adopted by users.
In addition, if “socialisation” between employees, clients and suppliers is essential to the success of the modern enterprise, it also needs to be supported by adequate systems and applications. In our global survey about next-generation ERP systems, the majority of respondents considered collaboration via enterprise social networks as essential for the future of their business and especially beneficial (for almost 50% of users surveyed) for relationships with clients and partners.
Yet only 10 per cent of respondents said that their current ERP system was able to exploit social media and thus add value to the business. There is clearly still work to be done, and we are looking forward to helping businesses on their way.
Sabby Gill is Epicor Software Corporation's executive vice president, international