Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

 

Enterprise Resource Planning is more frequently known as ERP;
however, even when referred to in full, it is not entirely clear what ERP is,
or in fact what role it plays in an organisation. In order to determine and
clarify what ERP is, a wide range of essential business operations must be
considered, including financial processes, such as accounting, inventory and
order management, and HR activities, such as Customer Relationship Management
(CRM), to list a few. ERP software, in its most primitive form, provides a
completely integrated system that consolidates these business processes and
functions across the whole organisation.

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All ERP systems feature a pivotal shared database designed
to support the variety of functions and processes used by each business unit
throughout the organisation. For employees, what this means in practice is that
all business units and divisions can  access the same reliably accurate data for
their own individual needs.

In addition to streamlining information, to a certain
extent, ERP software delivers coordinated reporting, as well as some automation.
Previously, employees would have had to maintain separate, and often multiple,
databases which would then need to undergo a manual process to be combined in
order to generate reports; rather than assign this lengthy task to employees,
some ERP software offers solutions, enabling staff to easily run reports from a
single central system. An example can be simulated with the sales division of a
business; ERP software can enable sale orders to automatically stream into another
system, such as finance, without any manual re-entry required.   Consequently, the sales division can manage
orders with greater accuracy and efficiency, and the finance division is
therefore able to complete and close off transactions quicker. ERP software can
also benefit users by supplying a metrics dashboard to provide employees with a
visual business performance summary that can be easily interpreted by any
employee.

 

Definition of ERP

 

For
the purpose of this study, the accepted applicable definition of an ERP approach
is based on three key aspects connected with ERP::

 

1. Is
a customary package of application software elements to be used by
organisations as their primary method of real-time data processing, data integration
and information technology, across both internal and external value chains within
an embedded architecture,

2. Impounds
detailed intelligence of business practices amassed from a diverse portfolio of
client organisations, substantially impacting the design and development of
processes for new clients;

 

3. Provides
a customisable system with unique tailoring to each client by delivering a
preliminary non-specific `semi-finished’ platform whereby the client organisation
and their partner or partners in charge of implementation must integrate the
software with  their other computerised
information systems, and configure parameters to fulfil their unique corporate
requirements.

 

Introducing ERP in a Business Perspective

 

According
to Klaus et al. (2000) and Al-Mashari et al. (2003), the ERP approach
cannot be readily defined,  particularly
in asserting the seriousness of stakeholders’ perceptions . Their view  is further reinforced by Boersma & Kingma
(2005) who contend  that there has been
no single definition of ERP that is universally adopted. A diverse
understanding, opinion and experience of ERP can differ from one stakeholder to
another, in line with their role, function and division with the organisation
(Markus & Tanis, 2000).

 

Thus,
ERP definitions, whether defined by an individual or a group,  can be considerably different based on the setting
in which they have experienced, or developed knowledge of, ERP.

 

Nonetheless,
a fruitful starting point can be found in the 1998 ‘ERP Second Wave Report’ published
by Deloitte Consulting. In the publication, Deloitte (1998) defines ERP as a bundled
business software approach whereby a firm can conduct the following procedures:

 

–      
automating as well as integrating
the majority of its business processes,

–      
sharing common information
and practices throughout the whole organisation, and

–      
generating and accessing
data in a real-time setting

 

Further
definitions of an ERP system, such as Davenport’s (1998), expand further,
defining it as a bundled software product that corporations can purchase
`off-the-shelf’ and simply integrate with current systems and business
processes throughout its divisions.

 

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The
integration of ERP is a particular emphasis of Davenport’s definition,
especially when considering the connections between different  business divisions within the organisation,
such as but not limited to, inventory, sales, distribution and marketing, finance
and payroll, and HR and procurement,  ,
whereas on the other, hand it arguably devalues the importance of elements such
as embedded business processes  in the ERP
system. Shehab et al. (2004) upholds that ERP is more than a software
package pursuing integration with multiple organisational functions, supporting
Davenport’s viewpoint that focuses so closely, perhaps too closely, on ERP integrational
features. Even so, the view that ERP software can be largely defined on its
integration capacities with business functions and other IT systems is exceptionally
popular amongst  researchers and
academics.

 

On the
other hand, an alternative approach in defining ERP systems in this paper relates
to system embedded best practises. Whilst an arguably fundamental approach,
this perspective is either known by far fewer people, or is at least spoken and
discussed far less than the other, former, view discussed above. However, Umble
et al. (2003) clearly articulate this conceptualisation, asserting that:

 

‘. . . buying an ERP package means much more
than purchasing software, it means buying into the software vendor’s view of
best practices for many of company’s processes’.

 

In an
attempt to organise the functions and activities of different business units,
management and employees, amongst other elements of the business cycle, ERP
systems provide detailed direction and guidance. The way an ERP system provides
instruction for activity management can be compared to a road and traffic
system; roads and signage systems are designed to specifically guide and direct
drivers dependant on their desired journey. ERP tends to arrive as a generic
piece of software, enabling the software to work for organisations across a
broad range of industries following customisable configuration of the software
to ensure it meets the client organisation’s unique business needs, contrary to
custom-built software and systems which require precision programming for each
client organisation. Therefore, any ERP software client organisation must
largely accept the assumptions made by the software designers in mapping out
the system blueprint, and be prepared to implement changes to processes already
in place in order to integrate them into the system. The concept of best
practice has been widely endorsed by industry advisors, managers and ERP software
designers and producers.

 

Considering
ERP software and systems, the technology itself is regarded as the main propeller
of organisational change. Whilst many best practices can be ingrained in ERP
packages, these are often portrayed as operational standard summaries, there is
no consideration of how the local framework may affect the implementation of
the system, nor of the day to day operation, compatibility and alignment with
organisational values.

 

Within
IS literature ERP is increasingly referred to as Enterprise Systems (ES), and decreasingly
referred to as Enterprise-wide Systems. Expanding further on this development, Davenport
(2000), in demanding a more sweeping definition of ERP, pushes for such
terminology to be replaced, instead referring  to them as business systems. Davenport asserts
that the development of technologies has advanced so significantly, for example
the inclusion of  front office, as well
as back office utilities, that there is now a strong argument  that whilst appreciative of the software’s
historical use of Material Requirements Planning (MRP) it is no longer
appropriate to accredit an ‘ERP’ label to it. Whilst Davenport’s provision is
worthy of great consideration, for the purpose of this paper it was decided
that  ‘ERP’ as a term of reference is to
be employed throughout the study purely to note the technological heritage in a
manufacturing sense. By way of explanation, the use of ‘ERP’ within this paper
is deliberate, and is used with the intention of creating a model of technology
influenced by a conventional organisational view appreciative of hierarchical
structures and clearly defined business divisions (Kumar & Hillegersberg,
2000).

 

 

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)

 

New
regulations, rules and guidelines relevant and applicable to all members of the
European Union have been proposed in the form of the General Data Protection
Regulation (GDPR), with the  objective of
invoking a much a more systematic, regulated and rigorous approach to data protection
and confidentiality. The wider outlook and finer details of the proposed GDPR were
defined by EU institutions in late 2015, with the regulations intending to be
effective as of 25 May 2018. The newly formed GDPR has been designed to supersede
privacy laws and regulations currently in place in all EU institutions and will
replace the former Data Protection Directive published in 1995 which is
currently enforced in the UK with immediate effect through the Data Protection Act
(DPA).

The General
Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) seeks to synthesize  all regulations across the European Union that
relate to data protection and the privacy of data in a motion to significantly
improve the safeguarding of personal data for all EU citizens, defending their privacy
and restructuring the way in which a organisations approach and consider  data protection.

 

GDPR Obligations for Law Firms

 

The new
GDPR provides a number of responsibilities specifically relating to law firms.
Law Firms are required to:

§  Be held
culpable for any and all data the firm possesses, maintaining up to date records
that are accurate, and provide data history noting the method and means of data
collection of exactly how it is, or was, used.

§  In the
instance of a breach of the GDPR, as a matter of immediacy notify the relevant
supervisory regulator, specifically within a 72-hour period of identifying the
breach. If the data subjected to the breach is regarded as high risk, the organisation
are required to also communicate the breach to the client, notifying them
directly and appropriately.

§  Nominate
and assign a Data Protection Officer (DPO) if managing large volumes of data (specific
details of DPO assignment and prerequisites are explained in greater clarity in
Article 37) to ensure effective implementation and management of GDPR
compliance, including staff training on data protection, and liaise with the relevant
Data Protection Commissioner.

§  Create impact
assessments for all data protection when undertaking large-scale operations which
could affect a significant number of individuals and involve processing large
volumes of personal data, regardless of the level of locality they are, that
are considered potentially high in risk. An exception does fall, however, in
the form of the processing of any personal client data by each individual lawyer
in the firm, whereby this should not be considered ‘large-scale’ (Recital 91).

 

The
Impact of GDPR on Law Firm Technology

 

Technologies
used for the purpose of storing and managing client details and records are of
the greatest concern and the highest risk. These are often referred to as
either Case Management, or more commonly, Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
software.

GDPR assures
to deliver substantial changes and implications for data protection,
particularly in the case for law firms, due to the complexion of client data relevant
to law firms, and the sensitivity of cases that they handle and manage on a day-to-day
basis. Law firms will need to review their current processes and consider
changes to these, namely:

An individual’s
rights, including their right to have data destroyed..
Data
collection methodologies and details, including the intended use and
purpose of collecting and recording said data.
The
appointment of DPOs by some firms. 
The
creation, maintenance and reporting of data protection impact assessments.
Obtaining
and recording client consent relating to the use and storage of their individual
personal data.