Leor Barth, VP R&D at Priority, talks about shops without cashiers and lines; warehouse workers that navigate their way to stored items assisted by augmented reality; enterprise information systems built with drag & drop ease; and work stations that rely almost completely on tablets

Advanced technologies, such as big data, cloud and mobile technology, have become increasingly popular and for good reasons. These technologies promote a company’s quality of information and its analysis, provide tools for employees, streamline operations and more.

But most important, within these technologies lie new and exciting opportunities for improving customer relationships. Successful companies are already aware of the importance of turning customers into loyal partners, which can be achieved in part by means of technology. For example, a company that has detailed information about their customer’s consumer habits can offer sales or services using big data tools that are tailored to customers’ present and future needs.

Technologies are changing and advancing even in the most basic work processes. For instance, one of the most interesting technologies today is Augmented Reality combined with wearable devices, which can be employed in many settings. Take a forklift driver in a warehouse: instead of receiving an order to bring a pallet from section 17 on the 4th floor, he’ll use glasses that guide him like a GPS system for cars. You point to the desired pallet and after the system shows you where the item is and it is retrieved, the glasses scan the barcode and send a command to the central computer to remove it from inventory.

Another interesting development on the new IT landscape is Near Field Communication (NFC). Until last year there was little interest in this technology, but since Apple used it in the iphone 6, within two or three years, we will all be walking around with NFC in our pockets, all the time. Since NFC is considered very secure, it is likely to become the dominant mobile payment option. For example, there won’t be a need for cashier stations anymore: service reps will walk around stores with mobile devices that will allow customers to pay next to the shelf where their products were displayed, with their mobile phones.

In terms of infrastructure, in-memory databases (IMDB) are out to replace hard disks – the preferred data storage method until recent times. Data retrieval from disks is a lot slower than from RAM memory. Today we’re seeing many systems use RAM memory that allows analysis of large quantities of data at a much faster rate. A report that used to take minutes or even hours to run now takes a fraction of a second. This allows companies to respond in real-time to any event. Going back to the store mentioned above, IMDB can be used to identify, track, predict and immediately respond to consumer behavior by offering sales, locating missing products, finding clothing sizes, etc.

We’re already used to doing everything on our mobile phones in our private lives; it makes no sense that an enterprise system should be any different. Today’s employees demand the ability to work with overseas colleagues, to access, analyze and update data from anywhere using their mobile devices. Obviously, a field rep should be able to place orders from a customer’s location; a service rep should be able to report a service call; and a manager should be able to run a report even when out of the office.

And though it’s true that a company’s IT system should be adapted to the world of mobile, many times the use of mobile is in a certain context – for example, the need to authorize a purchase order. However, there are still many processes that are more conveniently carried out in front of a large screen as opposed to a small screen or tablet, and applications should be adapted to the context in which they are used.

So what else is there to look forward to in future enterprise systems?  It has been clear for quite a while that what is most important is immediacy, simplicity, and accessibility. Less people will be talking about ERP programs and will just be using them; they will be taken for granted. Customizing a system shouldn’t be a project that people are afraid to take on. So, for example, we aim to make ERP implementation “self service” via module selection that’s as easy as drop & drag, including modules from different providers – like putting together a puzzle. We’ve seen this happen, for example, in website building applications. Ten years ago, building a company website was a big project – timewise as well as costwise. Today almost anyone can build a website based on available online services.

In the world of ERP, there will be an easily assembled base complemented by additional customized modules – such as service modules and personalized marketing modules or applications that offer automatic recommendations for on-the-spot actions regarding customers or inventory. The way of thinking will change and will center on what I can offer my customer beyond effective management of internal processes.

Because we take these changes seriously, in developing our product, we strongly focus on all aspects of flexibility: modules, customizations, add-ons, cloud computing, third party developers, creation of built-in mobile interfaces, scalability options, and languages. We recently launched our new release, that we hope will generate opportunities for innovation, and we’ve already started working on the next generation.

Translated and excerpted from Globes, February 19, 2015.