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But in the absence of more elegant and controlled mechanisms in the majority of situations, many users would argue that they have no choice. The level of integration with desktop tools is typically partial at best, with many alluding to poor or non-existent capability (Figure 3).

Figure 3

The shame about the picture we are building up is that one of the areas in which application vendors have invested heavily in recent times is business intelligence (BI). It is becoming increasingly more common for mainstream ERP and CRM suppliers to offer BI and analytics options and extensions, typically with plug-ins for easy access from Microsoft Office and various techniques to achieve full integration with other desktop tools and portal environments.

Considering the question of access more broadly, one of the things we haven’t yet mentioned from the earlier chart we were looking at (Figure 2) is that over a third of those with CRM applications in place see a value in embracing groups of users that are not currently on the system. The proportion is smaller with ERP (14 per cent), probably due to the ‘back office’ nature of such solutions, but we suspect that both numbers would be significantly higher if more flexible access mechanisms were considered such as those we have been discussing in the context of BI, but for more general activity. Indeed, comments like the following that relate to more ‘occasional’ users reinforce this notion:

“Developing portal access to ERP functionality allows for faster and/or better information transfers (requests for absence, yearly evaluation, competences management...)”

But whether it’s new or existing users, the one thing for certain is that many organisations see the value of enabling a range of alternative ERP and/or CRM access options to support more flexible working patterns in general (Figure 4).

Figure 4

So, if you take a step back, the chances are that if you put the original system scope and objectives to one side, and review your current requirements in a more open-minded manner alongside the capability that is today on offer from the vendor community, you’ll probably be able to identify a number of areas in which more value can be unlocked from your existing application package investments. And in many cases, a significant amount of additional value can often be tapped into with a relatively modest level of incremental investment.

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