You can expect a mass development of robust digital services, richer UX and lighter, leaner platforms in ERP in 2017. Competition has democratized AI and machine-learning functionality, ushering in an era of "smart" ERP solutions, while decreases in the cost of cloud storage and SaaS has all but done away with traditional tier systems, making ERP practicable for businesses of all sizes.  

Cloud-Based ERP  

Nimble and light with negligible upfront costs, it comes with the little revelation that cloud-based ERP, also referred to as software-as-a-service (SaaS) ERP, has proliferated throughout the business landscape. According to a report by Cisco, the cloud will account for 83 percent of all data center traffic within the next three years, with 56 percent of the workload taking place in the public cloud and 44 percent in the private cloud. 

Enterprises with legacy ERP systems have major incentives for migrating to the cloud, such as lower cost, improved usability, and better CRM integration. Legacy systems have high maintenance costs a global firm can expend millions in lifetime costs, not including the millions spent in licensing fees. Lifetime costs include required updates, maintenance fees and communications and hardware maintenance, all for a system that perpetuates upgrading to remain slightly relevant. 

A younger generation of employees is expecting more than what legacy systems offer. A 15 or 20-year-old legacy system's UX doesn't move toward the experience now common to cloud-based offerings. In 2017, expect to see a serious push toward better ease of access and mobile integration in ERP. 

Mobile Integration  

Mobile-integrated business applications are nothing new to firms that use ERP systems -- service departments, for example, rely a great deal on mobile apps for day-to-day operations. Mobile-integrated ERP, however, has taken the time to distribute. But with 60 to 75 percent of IT managers approving that mobile apps play an important role in business intelligence, you'll see several mobile-friendly ERP solutions emerge in 2017. 

The benefits of mobile ERP practically define themselves. For instance, in-field quotes and proposals, electronic signatures and product configurations all help increase sales, as do having immediate access to client history, service contracts, and product knowledge bases. In the decade of on-demand information, customers have come to expect instant gratification, and you owe it to them to provide it. 

Not all cloud-based ERP systems offer the same level of mobility, so before you look into a vendor, do a little detective work. "Born-in-the-cloud" ERP systems ERP designed for cloud-based computing typically offers the most streamlined, mobile-ready user experience. If you want to add mobile functionality to a premise-based ERP system, check with the software vendor to see what options you have as accessibility varies. 

Focus on AI 

Once prohibitively expensive due to limited tooling, storage space and employee resources, AI algorithms require highly skilled, specialized coders cloud-based ERP with AI capabilities has benefited from numerous vendors vying to have the lowest costs for the highest computing power. 

AI technology once reserved for global businesses has made its way into the realm of possibility for small- and medium-sized businesses. Now small firms have access to cloud-based ERP systems that automatically tailor themselves with every bit of data and every interaction they process. With the acceleration of machine learning, you can expect ERP systems that offer self-tuning, predictive lead scoring, smart data discovery, next-best-action recommendations and task automation, to name a few of many advanced AI brings with it. 

With the proliferation of cloud-based ERP systems, new levels of convenience and a stronger push for AI integration, look forward to 2017 filled with promise.