With numerous vendors and product options out there, it is imperative to know how to choose an ERP system that is right for your business’s unique requirements. With cloud support services having made SaaS a possibility, customized software is more accessible than ever before – yet bears much intricacy as the enterprise market is inundated with an endless array of options.
It is one of the key reasons why software development companies in Sri Lanka typically focus on building customized functionalities for established applications, generally as part of a DevOps cycle. ERP for business or even non-profit use can pose big implications in terms of which functionalities are suitable for specific requirements, how data needs to flow in order to eliminate silos, as well as automate workflows to free staff from tasks that are otherwise repetitive.
As a matter of fact, your ERP software can be a treasure trove of insights, as it is a holistic application that manages all aspects of your business across every single department. By integrating the right reporting tools and configuring your KPIs over a real-time dashboard, it is possible to make wise business decisions – without having to waste any time. In a business landscape that experiences relentless competition, this can be a massive boon for any business, irrespective of size or industry.
With end consumers constantly being bombarded with options across a multitude of channels (with social networks being the most extensive), time does in fact mean money, as the old adage goes. Such swift, data-backed decisions can make all the difference to your company, as leads that may otherwise be lost somewhere across the funnel can be converted – while existing customers can be retained with strategies that offer excellent customer experience, yet are cost-effective at the same time.
Although ERP systems are available on a SaaS basis today, many still require some level of customization to ensure they are well aligned with a company’s business objectives. Add to this the data-driven value that ERP systems can bring, which thereby makes it a contributing factor to the popularity of software outsourcing. Apart from offering reduced costs and overhead responsibilities, software outsourcing services today are pursued due to the better quality and dependability that is offered via long-term partnerships – even if it’s halfway across the world.
With ERP systems proliferating across your entire organization and thereby having so much to offer, it makes sense to choose the right one, and at the first go, that too. With implementation and data migrations costing a significant amount of money and time on the part of your company and employees, you want to make sure these resources are all spent wisely – and you receive maximum ROI for all your initiatives.
Here, we discuss the steps involved in buying the best ERP system for your business, as well as some things to look out for, while you and your team are contemplating your purchase decision.
An ERP system is an all-round software that manages tasks and workflows across every department in your organization. Whether it’s accounting, inventory, sales, customer service, production, maintenance, supply chains, and even risk management/compliance, an ERP is present throughout – either as one proprietary system or through stringent integrations of one base system and relevant third-party applications.
The benefits of an ERP system make it a worthwhile investment for any business, as it offers streamlined task management, centralizes data, automates mundane workflows, and provides valuable analytical insights. By using AI and machine learning, ERPs can be further enhanced by training bots with big data to execute specific tasks and divulge insights. With regular inflows of data from daily business processes, these bots can self-learn to make recommendations and further automate tasks for greater efficiency, thereby producing an ERP system that is more intelligent and intuitive.
Although ERP systems are most commonly used in the manufacturing industry, they are versatile enough to suit any industry or specialty, which includes but isn’t limited to construction, engineering, pharmaceuticals, e-commerce, logistics, and energy/utilities. ERP systems were also initially known to be best suited for larger organizations only. However, with the increased proliferation of SaaS, boutique ERPs are a popular option for smaller companies that need fewer capabilities or the exact same capabilities, but on a limited scale. With steady business growth, smaller companies can upgrade their ERP software to scale up as and when needed, thanks to the convenience provided by SaaS applications.
Preparing a concise yet transparent business assessment is the first step toward buying the right ERP system. Consisting of all the problems, goals, and constraints pertaining to your organization and its existing system (or a lack thereof), this assessment will be the key document that prospective vendors can use to clearly understand what your business needs, and formulate a customized system. Forming the base for all future correspondence, here are some questions you can ask (after you gather team members from across your organization), to create a relevant business assessment:
Sharing your business assessment with prospective ERP vendors.
Once all the information you’ve gathered from various teams is collated into one brief, it is time to start corresponding with prospective vendors. As you consider different software vendors, the assessment will serve as a point of reference and can be shared with contact points for additional information.
In addition to being the foundation of your ERP software search, the business assessment and its contents will also help vendors draft a custom demo that fits your business’s unique ERP requirements. In turn, this will help you and your team separate the good demos from the rest, so those vendors can be shortlisted for further discussion.
Before you are able to shortlist vendors, how do you decide which vendors are worth your time? With hundreds (if not thousands) of brand names out there, it can be hard to know where to start. A great way to get some clarity is to search for and compare ERP vendors online. Visiting reputed reviews/ratings websites can also provide some guidance, as reading about first-hand accounts of fellow users (especially those who are in a similar industry/specialty) can offer clarity on whether a product will potentially serve your own purposes or not.
Although decisions on any brand-new software (let alone ERP) shouldn’t be made by online reviews and ratings alone, it will still provide an idea of the general consensus pertaining to a vendor and its products. Another way that the right vendors can be approached is through in-person recommendations from other business professionals, whom you know and trust. It is always advisable to start with multiple options so you have enough to consider and thereby shortlist, as opposed to following the feedback of one vendor alone simply because they have proven to be successful for someone else.
ERPs for small businesses, on the other hand, can be compared by looking at pricing packages of SaaS solutions that are directly displayed on the vendor’s website. While these packages may also be suitable for larger businesses, SMBs may be able to implement these much faster with some basic assistance from the vendor.
How much your new ERP system needs to be integrated with other applications depends on a few key factors:
If all your business systems are being completely replaced by one flagship ERP system, then the need to integrate third-party applications will be reduced. However, if you choose to continue using any existing tools (such as your current business intelligence software) then these shall have to be integrated correctly, for the ERP system to function optimally. Databases are a common item of integration for ERPs, and any lapse in integration can affect the performance of your ERP system – even if it has the exact capabilities that your business requires.
Correct implementation of your ERP system is paramount, as this will determine its overall success. If your ERP system is implemented incorrectly, it is likely to fail – even if it is an application that you have worked hard to ensure it fits your unique business needs. While the technicalities need to be right in order to render a successful implementation of your ERP software, you also need to consider the transition that your employees will need to make, in order to use and get accustomed to the new system.
Whether you aim to directly introduce the new system or do so in phases, this needs to be in line with the expectations of your team members who will eventually have to depend on the system for their day-to-day duties. Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) are also a popular option for modern software, as only the most essential capabilities are developed and released for use. New functionalities are added with time, so both development teams and users aren’t overwhelmed to build and use the full potential of the system in one fell swoop. MVPs can also direct future upgrades with greater precision, thanks to feedback generated from users as well as software bugs, from the current version.
Although ERP software implementation and data migration generally go hand in hand, the latter deserves dedicated focus owing to just how important it is – and the likelihood of a system failure lest it is executed poorly. Data from your existing system needs to be prepared appropriately, so it is compatible with your new ERP system, and can be integrated with other tools that are due to function in sync. Correctly migrated data will not only ensure smooth operation of your ERP system for day-to-day functions but will also play a vital role in the quality of results obtained for reports and similar visualizations.
ERP systems serve a holistic purpose to modern businesses, and they are now established across multiple industries and business sizes, unlike before. From large-scale construction to boutique retail stores, ERP systems are more versatile than ever and are proving to be the lifeline of entire workflows across the organization. Choosing the right ERP system is bound to be an important decision, without a doubt, especially as streamlined task management and time-sensitive decisions need to be at the fore for businesses to be able to stand out from their competitors.
By conducting a business assessment, you and your teams will be equipped with the information necessary to let prospective vendors know exactly what you need in an ERP system. By comparing and contrasting options, narrow your search to focus on the vendors which meet your unique business requirements, are prompt when it comes to service, and exhibit the proficiency to maintain long-term rapport for maintaining an ERP system that will serve you for years to come. Don’t forget other important factors such as integrations, implementations and data migration, to ensure your ERP system can deliver peak performance at scale.