Recently we’ve started seeing a new term tossed around in conversations related to ERP. It’s always tempting, to assume that a new word associated with a particular lexicon is just another market-speak buzzword, something that signifies an insignificant addition, change or new feature.
In this case, the word is Roles or Role-based. So you are probably asking yourself, why should I care about Roles in relation to ERP systems? What do Roles mean to my ERP system or to me as a user of ERP?
The good news is that Roles and Role-based ERP are not just market-speak buzzwords. Role based ERP is a natural evolution or movement toward a leaner and more responsive type of ERP.
Historically, early ERP manifested itself to most users in the form of periodic reports that were delivered to specific individuals within the enterprise. These reports were typically fan-fold print outs, very thick and pretty much locked in terms of format, sort order and presentation of the data within. The recipients would flip around one or several reports, collect some data and make plans for the coming month, quarter or year based on what they felt that data signified.
Who you were within the organization determined what reports you were entitled to receive. If you were an accounting clerk, you might get a detail report of payables and receivables for a particular period. If you were a plant manager, you might expect to receive several cartloads of reports containing a vast amounts of data that would require a lot of time and research to absorb and react to as a decision maker.
As time went by, ERP became more sophisticated and the applications that made up ERP systems became more tightly defined. These applications used that same vast amount of data to drive themselves and to inform the application user in their decision-making processes. These apps tended to be very large and usually complicated.
If you worked in a Finance area, you probably needed to know or understand the entire finance system or application set in order to do your job, even if your job was simply to prepare invoices for customers. If you were a warehouse worker, you probably had to have a good understanding of the whole production system family of modules just to make sure the right supplies or parts made it to the production line for each shift. A plant manager might spend most of their day in front of a screen bouncing back and forth between this module and that to make sure things were moving smoothly.
Role based ERP architecture changes all of this. Role based ERP starts by asking the question; what do you need to do your job? From that point, your workstation, your view into the ERP system is defined by the answer to that question. The only functionality and data access delivered to you is that which is required to get your job done.
No longer do clerks need to understand and know the entire finance system to process payables. No longer do line workers need to know the ins and outs of the scheduling system just to send an electronic Kanban signal to the warehouse for more parts or supplies.
Everything is done on a need to know basis. Workers aren’t weighed down with the necessity of learning an entire system to perform the tasks associated with their job. Managers have the same advantage. Their view of the world is defined by that information required to make the decisions necessary to run their part of the organization.
In some cases, this flexibility is almost infinite. Some systems will pre-package specific functionality associated with a pre-conceived idea of how that role should be functionally defined. Other vendors will allow each role to be functionally adjusted, tweaked, modified and changed to suit the needs of that organization and the needs of the individual user.
So what’s the big deal?
The advantages of role-based architecture are numerous. Let’s look at a few.
Training – Learning to handle individual roles is vastly simplified if the role itself does not require learning beyond the requirements of the role itself. That receivables clerk just needs to learn about processing receivables rather than learning the ins and outs of the entire finance system. This means new hires are productive sooner, implementations are delivering advantages sooner and that more cross training time is available to assure an adequate level of redundancy within a department.
Security – Let’s face it, whenever an employee leaves an organization a lot of proprietary information goes with them. Most folks are honest and don’t go out of their way to divulge your trade secrets, but it does happen. Role based limitations limit access to the “big picture” to those who really need it to do their job. This limits the unnecessary exposure of proprietary information.
Better Execution – When you are able to define the parameters of a job effectively, the person in that job will more fully understand what is expected of them in terms of performance. This facilitates better measurement of employee output, quality of output and it isolates areas that need attention. You have tangible, measurable factors to evaluate rather than subjective feelings or gut impressions. Problems become evident sooner allowing fixes to be implemented, which minimizes the negative affects of the problem.
Better Management – Because actionable information is delivered to each manager based on their requirements and needs, they will spend less time sifting data and more time planning and executing. Managers will reap the same benefits that clerks do in the area of reducing the chaff around their jobs and increasing access to actionable information.
Economy – It only makes sense that roles utilizing less ERP resources would reflect lower fees and resource overhead expense. This is very good news in terms of the run rate associated with large ERP systems.
For more information on role-based ERP, and how it can be beneficial to your organization, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org . We’ll put an expert in touch with you.