In today’s world ERP systems used to support the management and work of enterprises have become very complex applications. Even a small company often needs full automatic processing of large amounts of data. The processes in such companies are also becoming increasingly complex.
To fulfill the functional requirements of a small business today, an advanced ERP system often uses more than 700 tables and about 1000 different window views. Therefore, the era of “closed” applications in the functional sense and compiled versions is nowadays forgotten.
Software companies are no longer able to bear the cost of maintaining specific versions of the functionality of many customers, created in the traditional technology of applications compiled using low-level programming languages for general use. That is why today’s important ERP systems are systems with their own specialized development platforms.
It can be clearly stated that a modern ERP system must be a platform system. There are a few general factors that make it necessary to have a specialized development environment inside the ERP system:
- The scale and complexity of the required business functionality logic. There are no two identical implementations, even if we analyze very similar companies. Changes of hundreds of functional details for compiled applications are practically impossible to implement. In this case, we are dealing with an increase in the number of application parameters and a breakneck parametrization of the code. The platform should therefore provide functionality in the form of objects stored in the database and compiled independently during their execution – use. Each event can then be programmed in a minimal and specific way for a given implementation. It is about the application adjustment factor, but also about easier control and maintenance of individual functional areas.
- Flexibility and speed of changes in selected areas, without compiling the whole application. In order to effectively respond to external factors, a company running its business needs tools that will allow it to effectively change business processes in a short time. The correct ERP system usually has its own programming language for absolute flexibility and therefore has its own compiler.
- The application language of a good ERP system is a high-level language with a simple syntax, so that the consultant-implementer with a thread of understanding with the end user can make the necessary adjustments to the system.
- The platform is necessary to integrate multiple applications, data sources, data files etc. It should contain general standards of available today’s data interfaces, communication or technology (XML, TCP/IP, COM+, database connections, etc.).
The development platform should also support the ERP implementation methodology. There are a number of factors that are necessary for the implementation process to be successful in terms of plan implementation and customer satisfaction. From requirement notation standard through pre-implementation analysis, object versioning, change management, documentation, request management and maintenance and development activities, all these aspects can be supported by the native ERP application development environment.
Factors that reduce the time needed to develop and implement ERP applications:
⦁ Specialization of the development tool (the system should have its own development environment – a platform focused on one type of application: an application processing the company logic)
⦁ Simplicity of the tool (the implementing persons can modify the system)
⦁ Versatility and integrity (full development environment – one tool for the implementer and developer)
⦁ Flexibility (platform with its own 4GL language and compiler)
⦁ Openness and integration (platform open to standards)
⦁ Practicality (platform containing implementation tools)
A specialized development tool saves time and costs. Using general-purpose languages such as ‘.net’ to develop ERP applications is an obvious mistake. In .net, for example, it is possible to write a game or a media processing application, which is unnecessary for an ERP system.
It is claimed that ERP applications are primarily used to process relational data using simple, user-friendly graphic interfaces. Considering it in terms of the variety of software engineering disciplines, these types of applications represent about 10% of the software categories in the software world. That’s why specialized development environments are built without unnecessary so-called “heavy tails” – a markup of general-purpose tools.
An important aspect is also the development of functionality along with the development of the company. This of course makes it impossible to have a “boxed” application. When buying a good ERP system we should be aware that our functional needs are dynamic and not everything can be parameterized. A modern ERP system is a dynamic product developing along with the company.
In other words, today’s ERP system must also be a specialized factory of business functionality. Unfortunately, most of the applications delivered by Polish software manufacturers do not have their own development platforms. According to the above principles, therefore, most of the domestic systems listed today, which appear to be ERP systems, when confronted with platform systems delivered from abroad, unfortunately, already look like relics of the past.
The GAM platform of the Gardens system is an example of the opposite in the domestic market, meeting the above mentioned design assumptions. It is currently the only ERP application development environment that can be successfully compared with such platforms as C/AL, Morphix AX of MS Dynamix and ABAP of SAP. Thanks to modern solutions Gardens is a system that has a chance to be an ERP standard for medium sized companies, i.e. requiring simultaneous access to 1000 users.
Taking into account a reasonable pricing policy and huge functional capabilities of the system, we can assume that the system will become a leader on the Polish ERP software market, even before Poland enters the EURO zone. After achieving this goal, Gardens plans to increase its share in the European ERP market.
The Gardens system additionally includes many elements related to the support of the implementation stage itself. The platform is also to serve as methodological support, which is a pioneering approach. In the opinion of GAM platform constructors, specialized development environments for business support applications are a new challenge for modern IT and there is still a lot of work to be done in this field.