Does ERP software need a facelift?

Last weekend I celebrated a friend’s 30th birthday, and our conversation turned to the definition of middle age. As a freshly-minted thirty-something, had my friend crossed this threshold? A mortgage, sensible walking shoes, and a slight comb-over: these undeniable harbingers of a new phase of life could not be ignored. My friend agreed, but wasn’t dismayed. The maturity, competency, and experience gained over 30 years more than outweighed the loss of his fresh-faced youth.

Similarly, we at Synchronous ERP pride ourselves on the maturity, robustness, and complexity of the software we have built over the past 30 years. For this reason, we took a keen interest in a recent article published by Fast Company that quoted a software startup CEO describing veteran ERP packages as outdated and “…a disaster”. Specifically, the article discusses the importance of user experience (UX) in business software.

Farewell, the “disruptive” startup profiled in the article, partnered with a design firm to produce a sleek, minimalist user interface optimized for mobile users. The screenshots in the article show an aesthetically-pleasing piece of software, but the author raises important questions. Does ERP software really need to be sexed-up? More importantly, does functionality suffer when aesthetics are the fundamental consideration in the development of business software?

Sam Yen, chief of design at SAP, makes an important point in the article:

“In consumer software, there’s an intense focus on eliminating all of the extra stuff on the screen, and distilling it to its pure essence…In our world, that’s not always appropriate. If you overly simplify a workspace or dashboard, it can actually make it less efficient.”

A full-featured suite of ERP software is necessarily complex. Smaller pieces of software, focussed on a single business process, may be able to function effectively with a minimal interface. These single-purpose products show their limitations, however, when users are forced to use multiple pieces of software, each with a different user interface, to accomplish their daily tasks. Although more traditional ERP software may initially seem daunting to users, with training and experience the software’s complexity quickly goes from confusing to empowering.

The term “legacy software” has become a pejorative, and some competitors are expending substantial effort to give their software a fresher, more youthful appearance. At Synchronous ERP, we wear our grey hair proudly. Rather than investing in superficial cosmetic touch-ups, we are developing leading-edge, cloud-based technology that will allow the decades of operational experience embedded in our software to be deployed more effectively than ever before. We invite you to schedule a demonstration of our software so that we can prove to you that when it comes to ERP, form should always follow function.

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