“May you live in interesting times.” This ironic expression accurately conjures the current turbulent political atmosphere, both in Europe and the United States. For example, the process of Brexit has only just begun, and its consequences are just now becoming apparent. This turbulence is felt not only in our personal lives, but also in the corporate world where companies need fast, accurate business data to adapt as best as possible to the consequences of political outcomes.
Whether our “interesting times” represent doomsday or opportunity for your company depends on whether you can take advantage of gaps that appear in the market or whether you’re an incumbent in a market where the rules of the game have been completely changed. Your company’s agility for responding to an opportunity or sidestepping extra costs is key, and this agility comes in part from a deep understanding of the business data housed in your ERP system, such as where margins are made and costs incurred.
Real-time HR Information Combats Labor Challenges
Dramatic change to the labor force in the UK is one area where changes in legislation brought about by Brexit may impact day-to-day business operations. Sometimes, even basic human resources (HR) data can be difficult to come by in real-time, as the need for such up-to-the-minute information hasn’t previously been that important. In many successful companies, just knowing the total number of employees on a given day is a struggle in itself.
The challenges that lie ahead are much more complex. The make-up of the work force may influence everything, from the possible employee leaving rate to the cost of employment. Surveys suggest that more than a quarter of UK employers say staff members from the European Union (EU) have considered leaving their jobs or the country after last year’s Brexit vote. Allied to this, hiring could be impacted. For example, could employers be charged for hiring skilled EU workers after Brexit, as UK Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill has suggested? Accurate knowledge of the HR data in your ERP system can help you adjust to such changes and minimize costs.
Accurate Procurement Data Clears Tariff Minefield
On another front, tariffs are now front and center in Brexit negotiations and a minefield of complexity. Tariffs are the gritty reality of business, and imports and exports and can be thought of as simply a long-established “feature” of doing business. Tariffs, for example, can be based on value or weight or quality, a complexity that must be fully understood. The current EU tariff arrangement reflects consumer preferences and historical practices. So, when we say “cheese,” for example, we are referring to about 50 different tariffs reflecting the different quality and types of cheese.
When the same challenge is applied to all imported and exported products, getting the facts straight and understanding the business consequences depends on a sound appreciation of not only what your organization buys, but also what quality it buys. This information can only come from your ERP system’s procurement data, which needs to be readily accessible so you can make informed decisions and appropriately plan for changes in tariffs.
Creating an Agile Plan of Attack with ERP Data
The significant anticipated changes in labor force make-up and tariffs between the UK and other countries in Europe are examples of why your business needs to be agile. To create a plan of attack for all possible Brexit scenarios, you need a central data hub where a common position can be established. For most organizations, the logical source of that data is the ERP system, but “agile” and “ERP” aren’t often used in the same sentence.
An ERP system is only useful if you can get the data out of it so that your company can analyze all the possibilities. For most companies, business analysts simply download the source information into Excel, but a standalone Excel data-mart won’t cut it, as new scenarios require confidence in the data. Standalone spreadsheets just don’t have a great track record, as data can get corrupted and is out-of-date as soon as it’s copied down from the ERP system to a PC.
Such challenges can be overcome with agile desktop software that reads ERP data directly into Excel. With up-to-date data based on existing authorization norms available and refreshable with a simple mouse click, everybody has exactly what they need, in the format they need and in the tool they want to use: Excel. Also, these Excel add-ins are flexible enough to deploy in a fraction of the time needed for tools requiring a data-warehouse (and at a fraction of the cost).
Political uncertainty means companies need to plan for all possible outcomes, including doomsday scenarios. By managing each scenario with real-time, refreshable ERP data, your company can go forward with confidence, regardless of political decisions. When you understand costs, you can strategically plan and take advantage of new opportunities that changing markets offer.