7 ways integrating blockchain can boost your ERP capabilities

By
Yasmine Benjelloun
May 31, 2022

In today’s fast-paced and increasingly digital world, there is more incentive than ever for organisations to modernise and optimise their current systems.

And it’s easy to understand why: fluctuating economic conditions and changing consumer’s expectations caused by the pandemic, as well as new market realities resulting from continuous technological developments and regulatory standards, have accelerated the digital agenda for many organisations.

 

Simultaneously, blockchain technology and other DLT applications in the enterprise ecosystem have also been making waves, with new and creative use cases in multiple industries, highlighting their potential and benefits at an increasing rate.

 

As we move towards a new “post-pandemic normality” and with an increased focus on rebuilding, company leaders and organisations are increasingly looking for new platforms and technologies to boost efficiencies, achieve a greater degree of flexibility and gain a competitive advantage.

 

Integrating blockchain technology into enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) could be key to helping pave the way toward a more efficient, transparent and resilient future.

 

WHY DO ERPs need to be modernised?

 

An Enterprise Resource Planning, or ERP, is a software or solution that helps organisations manage their business activities by integrating all information and processes across departments into one single system or database. In the past few years, these systems have considerably improved the efficiency of business operations, enhancing visibility across an organisation’s different departments and optimising processes.

This leads us to the question: If it’s not broken, why change it?

 

-       The rate of change and technological advancement means it is essential for organisations to ensure the adaptability of their current systems. However, legacy ERP systems aren’t modular enough and come with predefined functionalities that lack the necessary flexibility to adapt to change, rendering them obsolete. Moreover, upgrading or changing those systems can be tremendously costly and time-consuming, causing unwanted disruptions.

 

-      Access to data (both internal and external) has become a source of valuable insight for organisations looking to increase efficiencies and stay ahead of the curve. But because ERPs are designed in a centralised way, their capabilities are limited, and they lack the necessary levels of security to allow for interoperability. For example, in a supply chain, different shareholders will have their own custom ERP systems, which are not able to connect or communicate with one another; creating siloed data that is difficult to share, as well as visibility problems that limit trust among members.

As a result, the processes of gathering and aligning information are made incredibly burdensome, resulting in increased costs or wasted time on controlling and reconciliation.

Many organisations are realising that they can no longer rely on ERP systems alone: as a result, they are increasingly looking for new solutions that, combined with ERP, could provide the necessary levels of security, agility and visibility.

 

Blockchain and ERP: An ideal integration

 

Blockchain could be the perfect complement to ERP systems, as it delivers unique advantages in today’s context, where increasingly globalised and connected ecosystems have created complex networks of trading partners that are difficult to manage.

 

By integrating blockchain technology and ERP systems, organisations can boost and optimise the benefits of those centralised systems to another level, making them accessible across multiple networks. The centralised nature of the technology can facilitate features such as automation, transparency, reliability and compliance, outside of the enterprise’s boundaries, which are not easily available with stand-alone, traditional solutions.

 

Blockchain technology has a lot to offer to the digital environment of an organisation, and could significantly enhance ERP’s capabilities in the following ways:

 

1. Potential to automate business processes:

By integrating blockchain’s smart contract capabilities into current ERP systems, companies can automate business transactions and other similar activities, saving time and lowering costs by removing the need for any third-party intermediary.

2.    Identity authentication and verification:

One of the most important implementations of blockchain in ERP is its ability to verify and authenticate identities, which are an integral part of many business transactions. With digital certificates made available by the blockchain platform, organisations can identify, verify and authenticate all member's identities. This is particularly beneficial for auditing purposes: as every identity and transaction is immutably recorded in the blockchain, it allows to keep track of who did what, when, and at all times.

3.    Increased data quality and reliability:

Due to the centralised nature of ERP systems, organisations are constantly facing risks of data tampering, data loss, time-stamping and authoring errors. However, by integrating ERP with blockchain, the decentralised and distributed nature of the technology would enable them to store information in such a way that it cannot be altered without recording the changes made.

4.    Enable secure data-sharing to foster trust and collaboration:

With the decentralised nature of blockchain, its integration with ERP systems could enable organisations to eliminate those “trust gaps” between siloed data, allowing them to securely interact and exchange data across company and industry boundaries. Facilitating interoperability will help promote trust and, more specifically, collaboration among members, which - as we have seen during this pandemic - can have huge benefits.

5.    Facilitate transparency and traceability:

As a distributed or shared ledger, blockchain technology allows organisations to digitise transactions and information, creating an immutable record that is shared with all permissioned members. This enables them to track assets throughout their entire lifecycle, providing complete visibility into business operations and improving process integrity and transparency.

 

6.   Ensure privacy and security:

With decentralisation, peer-to-peer consensus and cryptographic encryptions that protect every transaction, integrating ERP with blockchain technology can create a secure ecosystem where privacy issues can be addressed, and sensitive information can be protected.

7.    Creates a Robust System Model with flexibility:

Integrating Blockchain and ERP can create flexible, configurable and robust, as some blockchain technologies, such as Hyperledger, can be delivered as customisable platforms that are shaped based on enterprises' requirements, and that can adapt to ever-changing business scenarios.

 

 

Conclusion

With the increased adoption of Blockchain and other DLTs in the enterprise ecosystem, many industry professionals are realising the enormous potential of these technologies to deliver real value across an organisation’s supply and value chains. Identified as a “disruptive” technology, blockchain should not be considered a replacement for current ERPs and other existing systems, but instead a means of enhancing them. Combining blockchain technologies with existing ERPs could revolutionise the way businesses access, manage and share data, allowing them to gain valuable insights from both inside and outside of their organisation - and create a more stable, collaborative and trustworthy future.