2020 will not soon be forgotten. In the world of Enterprise Resource Planning, just as everywhere else, we encountered unprecedented challenges that forever changed the way we do business. But the most important aspect is: we survived it, and the lessons we learned made us stronger.

All of us are now better equipped to face the obstacles of uncertainty with the knowledge that even in the middle of a global pandemic, sound strategies will prevail. Here is what we learned from 2020 — and how we can forge forward with ERP to persevere, and even thrive, in overcoming adversity.

Scrambling to Work from Home

When Safer-at-Home orders came out in response to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, organizations scrambled to reconfigure in order for their personnel to work from home. Those who worked exclusively with on-premise software were caught in a difficult situation, and they had some difficult decisions to make: they either had to settle for decreased production, or put new applications into place so people could work remotely.

While organizations have been moving toward cloud-based technology for a multitude of reasons, 2020 accelerated the urgency. We have been recommending cloud-based solutions to our clients for almost a decade, and those that implemented cloud ERPs were able to continue operations with staff working from home. Their transition to WFH was almost seamless. While that certainly wasn’t the original intention of cloud software, it was a nice benefit for these organizations.

ERP on Pause

Heading into 2020, we were experiencing a boom. Our economy was on fire, and many organizations, small and large, were planning on implementing a new ERP system. Then COVID hit, the market halted, and new buyers grew reluctant to purchase new software.

While some ERP projects continued trickling into the marketplace, the more important issue for many companies was how they would continue day-to-day operations. Organizations looking at ERP implementations were suddenly dealing with such basic issues as making sure customer service could still answer the phones outside of the call center. Factories had to determine who their most essential workers were, while movie studios either shut down or worked out how to migrate their operations to their homes.

Despite the issues that everyone faced, individuals rallied around the priority of getting everyone safely working from home. Companies figured out schedules for getting their accountants into the office once a week to cut the checks. They got e-commerce solutions up and running, and they set up integrations with customer portals. Most organizations were able to literally overnight handle what could have been one of the biggest disasters imaginable.

One of the biggest surprises we saw in 2020 was the importance and prominence of sophisticated Financial Planning and Analysis tools. CFOs suddenly needed to run multiple scenarios that, in previous years, were far-fetched at best. Who could have predicted the need to forecast what would happen to a company if salespeople could not leave their homes?

Software vendors had to adjust with the changing times, leading to brand-new demands on ERP systems. And we observed that they answered the call.

The ERP Industry Responds

One amazingly positive aspect we cannot ignore from 2020 is how everyone involved in ERP responded to the pandemic. The situation could have been devastating to the entire ERP ecosystem — but it wasn’t. The ERP industry understood their customers’ lives had changed, and they made adjustments accordingly in order to best serve their clients.

Everyone learned to be tolerant of the new normal, which meant back-to-back calls, often interrupted by guest appearances from kids and pets (sometimes during the most stressful negotiations). We also saw that vendors were willing to offer better deals in a time where it was needed, which was great to see.

We commend everyone in the software market — software vendors and implementation partners alike — for how they adjusted to help their clients through such difficult times.

ERP Goes Remote

While most ERP implementations once occurred on site, travel restrictions made this nearly impossible. Yet remote implementations can be tough: half the battle of a successful implementation depends on getting to know the project stakeholders, which can be easier in person as opposed to over Zoom.

Even so, it didn’t take long for remote implementations to become almost second nature. At Etter Ramli, we were able to continue servicing clients throughout the crisis, and we had some of our most successful global remote deployments this year.

We found that most implementation teams were able to move to a remote deployment model that allowed them to increase their efficiency, which also helped reduce the cost of billings to clients. In turn, clients also saved on travel expenses.

While ERP implementations typically require travel, remote operations became the norm for 2020, and we expect this to continue into the future.

Summary

Overall, 2020 was a challenging year, and yet we were impressed with the response of the market, the software vendors, and the implementation partners. We are extremely proud of how rapidly these teams adapted in order to deliver successful projects for clients.