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How ERP stakeholders can bridge the skills gap in the channel landscape
Tue, 17th Jan 2023

Technology presents several benefits for businesses in the manufacturing sector. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a platform that has been able to provide limitless value to the manufacturing sector, from enhancing traceability and administration to improving efficiencies across the factory floor. However, to truly take advantage of these tech advancements, the skills shortage within the ERP channel landscape must be addressed.

ERP has evolved beyond the need for traditional digital skills, and now there is a demand for more layers of knowledge, such as cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity, integration, business intelligence and analytics. Developing a specialist niche in one or more of these areas for ERP channel talent benefits customers. A solid grounding in ERP will always be vital, but to truly differentiate oneself as an ERP consultant in the channel talent landscape, having a deep understanding of emerging tech solutions is a must. 

The need for this will only increase as technology continues to transform industries. In fact, Gartner’s 2021 CEO Survey found that CEOs plan to increase their investment in digital The IT landscape has introduced and adopted new and disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to boost productivity. The caveat to this is the advancements have happened so quickly that professionals have not been able to keep up to date with the skills requirements.

To bridge this skills gap, we need a multi-stakeholder approach that includes both vendors and partners – it cannot be the sole responsibility of one party. We need to take on the challenge together and there are three tactics we can adopt in our efforts to develop channel talent.

1. Spotlight ERP as a career full of opportunity and growth

Just in Australia, spending on ERP is expected to surpass $1 billion by 2027, according to Statista. Businesses have invested a lot more in digital solutions to weather the impact of the pandemic in recent years. ERP is one such solution used by millions of companies around the world to manage their day-to-day operations, and it needs the right talent to perform this role properly.

Unfortunately, ERP does not receive the attention it deserves as a dynamic career path full of opportunities. Experience has shown that consultants often stumble upon ERP while working in an entirely different role. This presents an opportunity for ERP vendors and partners to work more closely with tertiary institutions to encourage more people to explore it early on in their careers.

By creating touchpoints with students through career expos, job shadowing and workshops, ERP vendors and partners can spotlight ERP as a career and create inroads into an industry that is only expected to grow.

Skills development is no longer a nice-to-have

While attracting the right channel talent is vital, it is only half the battle. Technology is never stagnant; it is constantly evolving. As a result, there is a growing need to be across the latest updates and advancements, and the workplace demand for these knowledgeable skills is fierce.

Skills development, therefore, is no longer an option but a necessity for organisations to stay competitive. SYSPRO’s recent research has found that companies have not adequately invested in training and development and have little appetite to do so in the future. 61% of manufacturers and distributors said they had no intention of building long-term training programs. Ensuring that existing employees are adequately equipped to tackle the challenges of a digital-first world is crucial. Without the right skills development in place, organisations can risk inhibiting future projects and experiencing resource constraints.

2. Assess market needs to drive specialisation

Traditional ERP skills will always be important; however, with the exponential growth of new technologies, specialist insight and knowledge are needed to stay ahead. Solutions like AI, cloud, IoT, machine learning, and data and analytics have proven their worth to companies looking to improve operations, cut costs and maximise efficiencies. Channel talent who can develop a deep understanding of one or more of these solutions will become invaluable assets to an organisation. Knowledgeable and informed channel talent professionals are better positioned to guide manufacturing and distribution customers to complement and augment their ERP
solutions for their unique needs.

However, it’s not always easy to have consultants become subject matter experts in these areas. The cost and time needed to invest in these skills can often be major hurdles to developing specialist ERP channel talent. Rather than try to be everything to everyone, vendors and partners should assess the needs of their market. By finding out what solutions have high demand but are underserviced, organisations can make an informed decision about where to upskill channel talent.

3. Vendor skills support

There is an opportunity for ERP companies to incentivise partners to stay abreast of any updates and
developments. Incentives can include basic training as a minimum requirement to become a partner, receive rewards, and use subsidies for future training.

Along with incentives, ERP vendors need to continuously work on updating materials and resources to empower channel partners. For example, a robust onboarding experience can help to reduce this skills gap and get partners up and running as quickly as possible. By having partner training programs, organisations are giving their partners the best possible chance of success while also ensuring that manufacturing and distribution customers have the very best ERP solutions.

On the surface, embarking on a new skills development journey can seem intimidating, especially regarding emerging technologies. However, in the long-term, this is an important investment to be made in people and, ultimately, the futureproofing of a business. Preparing aspiring channel talent should not be seen as a grudge purchase but rather as an important business goal that can pave the way for sustainable success in the future.