The most common pain points among growing small and midsized companies are the inability to integrate processes across the business, obtain insight to guide improvement, and report results promptly. These are all caused by the lack of data and process unification that occurs when a company outgrows its basic accounting software and spreadsheet-based data management.
A modern ERP system can position your company for its next stage of growth, but there are several core features you should consider before deciding which system is right for you. These include solution breadth & capabilities, deployment model, vendor stability, and ongoing support.
The core of modern ERP is that it provides a single, centralized point for running your business. While you may rely on one-off data silos and ad hoc workflows to do things today, your processes will break down when it’s time to involve more people or data sources. By unifying data and processes (via automated workflows), a robust system sets the stage for your employees and partners to collaborate across departments and functions. This makes operations efficient, scalable, and fast while enabling management-level views into the entire business from a single application.
Your ERP system should offer functionality in the areas most critical to product companies; out-of-the-box capabilities should include:
If these functional areas aren’t available out of the box, walk away – you can’t afford to rely on a system that doesn’t cover the basics.
The system’s reporting tool should allow management to access critical business information from all functional areas and offer preformatted reports and easily customizable templates. This will enable you to drill down into any report, evaluate operations and results, and learn what drives success. As you review a potential system, ensure the reporting tool can:
Your ERP system should account for the evolution of your business and technology, which you can ensure by determining the ERP’s history of add-ons that customers can incorporate post-implementation. For example, SAP Business One has add-on modules that address business intelligence, EDI & supply chain, inventory optimization, mobility, and more. An ERP system should also integrate with the systems product companies are likely to continue to use even after deployment. For example, although SAP Business One provides MRP functionality, your business may want to keep the MRP system you already have. If the ERP system doesn’t offer simple integration options, it’s a red flag regarding the system’s ability to support your business; perform a quick internet search to see if there are case studies regarding companies in your industry that leverage this system.
Not only does solution capability matter, so too does your choice of deployment model. Do you want a pure cloud (SaaS) model, an on-premise hosted model, or a hybrid? The deployment model you choose will dictate your staff requirements, resources, and budget for running the system.
The cloud comes with potential data security issues, but you’ll benefit from faster and less expensive deployment, central management by the solution vendor, and anywhere/anytime system access using just a web browser.
If you prefer more control, an on-premise ERP may work best – but only if you have strong IT talent for software application and network support.
When you deploy an ERP system, plan to have it for seven to ten or more years – so make sure the product and vendor will be around to support you for that long. While a niche ERP system may have cool features and functions, they won’t mean much if that company goes out of business or gets acquired. The ERP landscape is littered with stalled deployments caused by the hundreds of ERP vendor acquisitions that happened over the last two decades.
Ensure your continued success by leveraging an ERP system with a substantial operating history and a high likelihood of vendor/product independence for five, ten, or more years.
You’re running a product or services business, not an ERP deployment and maintenance business. Assuming you lack the resources to continuously track what’s new in ERP and how it can benefit you, ask yourself the tough question, “How will we keep the ERP system current and adaptable to our changing business needs?” As an SMB, the answer will almost always involve a value-added support partner. In addition to evaluating the product, therefore, you must also analyze the vendor you plan to use for services: implementation, ongoing advice, support, and upgrades.
As you consider your ERP partner company, make sure they can prove:
As you consider a partner, assume you’ll spend several months the first year in ongoing interactions as the deployment involves.
Selecting the right ERP system and partner are essential to your growing business. By doing your due diligence before choosing a system vendor, you can save yourself extra work and potential business interruption. Join our next ERP Software Selection and Implementation Masterclass Webinar for more info, or contact us today.
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