I’ve noticed that accessibility tends to come in low on ERP search priorities, especially when the customer is primarily considering ‘cloud-based’ options. Customers seem to assume that accessibility begins and ends with browser access—your ability to login anytime, anywhere, from any web-enabled device. Since most cloud vendors claim to do this, it appears to be a weak criterion.
But this approach is shortsighted. An ERP system can offer browser access and still not be accessible.
In order to understand this, let’s take a look at the factors that make for a truly accessible experience.
1. Browser Access
This is the factor perhaps most portrayed in vendor advertising. We’ve all seen it: the businessman surveying financials while waiting for a plane. Customers are right in this: most cloud ERP systems do provide some sort of web interface, and that often includes a login portal.
Yet there’s a crucial caveat: this is just a login. It tells us nothing about how the system performs in low-bandwidth areas, about what’s actually available to a logged-in user.
2. System Availability
Of course, most users don’t just want to login. They want the system’s functionalities to work. They want (at least) reasonable speed and performance, no matter where they are.
This is where vendors begin to fall away. Very few systems are lean and efficient enough to function with limited or irregular internet. The inconsistent broadband of developing nations narrows the field even more.
3. Search Efficiency
When most vendors detect sluggish searches, they respond with hardware expenditure; they buy more servers, open new data centers. Only rarely do they reconsider the way their systems handle searches. This is surprising, especially given the fact that doing so would almost certainly be cheaper than opening a new data center with every slow-down. It’s also difficult to build new data centers without a broadband infrastructure.
4. Database Design
Here we come to the true secret of accessibility.
Most ERP vendors treat data storage as a kind of digital warehousing. If you view the size of each box as fixed, then adding more boxes requires more storage space. The larger that a warehouse becomes, the longer it will take to retrieve any one item from the shelves.
But data isn’t physical. By altering data types and deleting duplicate data and tables, a dedicated vendor could theoretically reduce the storage space required for each ‘box.’ This could enable them to simultaneously shrink the warehouse and increase its storage capacity. As above, so below: a more efficient underlying database equals a leaner, faster-performing system.
To my knowledge, Xledger is the only truly accessible option among the cloud vendors.
Many of Xledger’s clients are multinational nonprofits whose focus lies in the developing world. From surgical nonprofits to social services networks, these organizations need a system efficient and powerful enough to function in some of the world’s lowest-broadband areas.
Xledger enables you to access and use robust functionality from any web-enabled device, anywhere in the world. The Xledger solution stores all transactional data on your local browser, giving you access to the entire ‘warehouse’ at once. You can see records from 2005 as instantly as records from last month.
What’s more, Xledger understands the importance of database efficiency. Xledger continually refines its data model, optimizing data types and eliminating duplicate tables. In the past year alone, Xledger has cut the size of its database by 35% while multiplying storage capacity and accelerating query speed.