Buyers Guide

ERP Software Buyers Guide

For sectors in which an integrated, holistic view of various business elements is necessary, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software has grown to become a massive advantage. ERP software is a form of business process management software which can enhance a number of procedures - from plotting development timelines to product planning and stock management - and also allows a huge amount of functions to be automated. ERP software aims to streamline information and make it easily accessible, making use of a shared database across a number of units within a business.

Key/common features

ERP software has a raft of typical features which it can be wise to look out for during the purchasing process. While the features below are not included in every software package, they are certainly worth looking out for when it comes to considering your options:

- HR management

It might be said that the most important assets of a business are its employees, and many ERP software solutions offer a wide variety of sub systems which can fit neatly under the general HR umbrella. Among the areas which you can cover are payroll, personnel management, personnel development, time management and general organisation management.

- PO management

Purchase order management, or PO management as it is also known, is often a part of ERP software, falling under modules concerned with inventory control and production planning. This allows companies to get to grips better with their supply chain management, as well as interaction with suppliers.

- Financial management

Financial management is a crucial aspect of any business, and ERP software modules relating to finance offer functions such as reporting and analysis, which can offer breakdowns pertaining to each individual departments, as well as overarching finance information and costing.

- Manufacturing

If there is one software for which ERP software could be said to be made for, perhaps it is manufacturing. Many typical functions of ERP lend themselves to the manufacturing sector, including the ability to track engineering changes, produce a bill of material, distribution planning, production schedules and much more.

- Customer relationship management

Customer relationship management, or CRM, allows businesses to track their interactions with customers, feeding into the planning of their sales and marketing campaigns, and many ERP software packages offer CRM modules. This offers the ability to keep a close eye on leads by tracking each and every interaction, as well as customer profiling and insight opportunities.

- Stock and inventory management

Identifying requirements for stock and inventory, and crucially being able to economise replenishment policies, is a capability often possessed by ERP software. Targets can be set, item usage monitored and reporting on inventory and stock can be simplified.

Benefits

ERP software is able to offer businesses a return on investment by providing a raft of business benefits. Among the accepted benefits available through ERP software are:

- Easing of management burdens

Simply put, ERP software has the ability to makes things easier. These systems, which are often run via the Cloud, are able to ease the strain on a company's infrastructure by providing a central location for a number of applications, reducing the amount of server space which is used. This can result in a slashing of costs by negating the need for a large IT team or massive data storage, and reducing the amount of bandwidth which is needed.

- Slashed operational costs

Following on from the benefit above, the integration offered by ERP software is capable of reducing production costs and operational overheads, by allowing a business to be more efficient. The insights which can be gained thanks to ERP software reporting, and the improvements which can be made on the back of them, all pave the way for a positive impact on the bottom line.

- Productivity increases

Once you have a firm grip on your production processes, ERP software allows you to go about tweaking procedures in order to bump up productivity. In sectors such as manufacturing, construction and retail, ERP software's ability to provide an overview of everything from supplier management to inventory control, customer demand and stock levels offers the opportunity to identify any weak links in an operational structure, and set about addressing them.

- Enhanced decision making

Good business comes down to making good decisions, and with all the data you need in one place - from all areas of your business - senior figures within an organisation can have all the information they need at their fingertips, allowing them to make the right decisions at the right time, based on the right evidence.

Current ERP software trends

In 2017, the Cloud is firmly the home of ERP systems, as many organisations move away from in house applications to 'software as a service' (SaaS). If ERP software isn't entirely in the Cloud, 'mixed' packages are allowing companies to add Cloud-based elements to their existing on premises systems, negating the need for a complete system overhaul. This allows organisations to pick and choose elements of their ERP infrastructure based on their requirements - for example, a large corporation might choose to keep client data within its own on-premises system for security reasons, while using Cloud-based modules for other elements such as operations.

Then there is IoT - or 'the Internet of Things' - which has really come to the fore in recent times. These networks of connected devices which are able to 'talk' to each other and relay information, can feed real time information into ERP software, allowing insights to be made. Increasingly, ERP tools can be leveraged to use and process information which has come from IoT networks.

Which ERP system would best fit your business?

Familiarising yourself with the various characteristics of ERP software, through resources such as this buyers' guide, can make all the difference when it comes to making an educated purchasing decision. Ultimately, once you are armed with all the 'need to knows', finding the right ERP software for you will come down to matching your specific requirements with the features of a package, factoring in budgetary constraints and IT capabilities.