QAD, which provides enterprise software for global manufacturers, recently launched QAD 2009.1, a new version of its core applications. In developing this upgrade, QAD worked closely with its customers to ensure that the new release offered capabilities and options to help them move their businesses back toward growth, says Gordon Fleming, chief marketing officer for QAD. This process also uncovered a number of interesting industry trends.
"One of the real challenges we see our customers dealing with is training," he says. "This has always been important, but now, with the downsizing that has occurred at so many organizations, we see people that previously performed one role being asked to perform other jobs as well. They really don't know how to do these other jobs, so training has become a big concern."
Fleming thinks this will persist even after the recovery takes hold. "The demand on software vendors will be to deliver tools that are more intuitive, enabling people to perform a broader range of functions," he says. "A typical ERP installation can do 42,000 different things, but most users only do a handful of them."
For QAD that trend translates into making its capabilities "faster to implement, easier to learn and simpler to use," says Fleming. "Users today need to be able to navigate intuitively around far more of the enterprise software."
Another long-term trend that is changing QAD's approach to software development "is the phasing out of the czars that have long headed monolithic IT departments," says Fleming. "As these guys retire, a younger breed of CIO, who is far more pragmatic and interested in doing things more efficiently, is taking charge." This new generation of managers and of users has different demands and expectations, says Fleming. "They are accustomed to using the latest technology in their lives outside the office and they don't want to get to work and have to deal with old, clunky software," he says. "Typically, in manufacturing, if you had a material outage, you would get on the phone and talk to the person responsible in procurement or in the warehouse. Today, the expectation is that if you have a material outage, you should be able to look in the system and see where the material is. Similarly, if you have a design change, you should be able to go into the system and see what the change order says and what the impact is on the bill of materials."
This generation wants more solutions available "on demand," he says, a trend also driven by a shortage on internal IT personnel and resources.
One of the benefits of the economic crisis is that it has forced companies to collaborate to a greater degree than before, both upstream and downstream in the supply chain, says Fleming. "Companies have had to be more open and collaborative with their suppliers and with their customers and distributors," he says. "I think that opening up will be a lasting benefit of the recession.
"I also think the recession has forced many companies in the manufacturing sector to play a stronger game - to be more focused and tenacious. That, too, will have a positive and lasting effect."
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