Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software manages a company’s business functions in real time by benefiting from the collaborative efforts of its users. ERP systems allow you to integrate purchasing, inventory, supply chain management, finance and accounting. It also takes into account manufacturing, shipping, sales, marketing, planning, human resources, and even customer service.
A common misconception among businesses is that all ERP systems are the same. They aren’t. There are critical differences between software and the service levels of software providers. Understanding these differences starts with identifying the key features to look for in ERP software.
12 such features to look for when selecting an ERP solution
1. Scalable to Accommodate Business Growth
As a business grows, so too must its computing resources. ERP systems should complement that growth with scalability to handle increasing users, a higher workload, different types of transactions, and different work processes.
ERP systems must be capable of scaling and managing an increasing customer base, growth and projects in new markets, increased revenue, and other business units or entities.
2. Customized to Specific Business Goals
No two businesses are the same, and no two have the same goals and objectives. Customization is critical with ERP systems. A company’s ERP system must have the ability to be tailored to a company’s specific goals, objectives, requirements, and ways of doing business. This is especially important given how sales lead and transaction times vary between industries and markets.
3. Easily Integrated with External Systems
In today’s interconnected world, ERP software must be capable of connecting with mobile devices and external systems. Whether it’s a sales representative on the road, an executive at a conference, or a sales and marketing team at a convention show, today’s ERP systems should have the functionality and capability to receive, disseminate, organize, and act on external information and mobile data in real time.
4. Data Analytics
Capturing external data is one thing, but using that data effectively is something else entirely. The best ERP systems empower users to make better, more informed decisions with accurate and timely data. Data migration, visibility, tracking, and analytics are critical for competing in today’s business world. Your chosen ERP system should be considered a must-have tool for speeding up critical decision-making and should make that process easier.
5. Strong Cybersecurity Protocols
Information security and data privacy are two of the most important factors in cybersecurity today. Companies that provide drug testing in the medical and pharmaceutical industries must safeguard client test results within a secure network. The right ERP system provides the much-needed security and confidentiality required by drug testing laboratories and their customers. This is just a small example of the importance of strong network security.
Whether you’re a defense contractor, aerospace supplier, distributor, value-added reseller (VAR), integrator, fabricator, e-commerce enterprise, or manufacturer, all companies need an ERP system that safeguards business and customer information from data breaches and cybersecurity threats.
6. Friendly User-Interface (UI) Navigation
A company’s employees are only as efficient as the tools and systems they use. If those tools are cumbersome, difficult to interact with and use, or take too long to process critical information, then it’s all for naught. ERP systems should have easy-to-use dashboards and interfaces so employees can easily input data and act on information.
7. Configurable Workflows
All companies have workflows, a predetermined list of repetitive tasks, and work operations employees and managers must perform sequentially to provide products and services to customers. Ensuring these workflows operate as they should means having an ERP system allowing configurable workflows.
An ERP system should provide a level of usability and functionality that simplifies how employees work, interact, process, and give each other data and information and how your entire team performs their daily operations.
8. Data-Driven Insights for Planning and Forecasting
Operating in a constantly-changing market requires reading and reacting at a moment’s notice. This means matching inventory counts and customer service levels to existing and future customer demand while planning for seasonality and cyclical business volumes.
It’s not just a question of meeting order requirements, but also about ensuring your company doesn’t carry too much or too little inventory throughout the year. To make this a reality requires an ERP system that provides the type of data, insights and analytics that makes planning and forecasting an easier process.
9. Simplified Performance Tracking
Keeping track of employees’ performance requires an ERP system that provides supervisors, managers, and executives with up-to-the-minute performance data and insight. This means having dashboards that track task completion, attainment of company goals and objectives, and the ability to assess the daily output of each employee. Dashboards should be seen as an essential tool for performance appraisals and reviews.
10. Efficient Onboarding
Without efficient onboarding solutions, a new employee can take up to a year before becoming self-sufficient. This can be an expensive burden for companies as managers and supervisors must spend an inordinate amount of time bringing in new employees. The right ERP system can reduce this onboarding time so new hires or promoted employees can hit the ground running.
11. Efficient CRM Integration
Everything a company does is driven by customer demand. ERP systems should provide a customer relationship management (CRM) platform or easily integrate existing CRM solutions and other IT solutions. This integration should provide a seamless purchasing, manufacturing, and planning solution to match inventory requirements and shipping to customer purchase orders and forecasts.
12. Emphasis on Streamlining Processes
Ultimately, it’s all about the ERP system’s ability to streamline your processes. An ERP should provide safeguards that mitigate the impact of human error. It should streamline your accounting receivables, payables, and invoicing while eliminating billing errors and order inaccuracies. Some ERP systems take it further by providing interactive customer portals where customers can initiate chats, place orders, review delivery statuses and gain insight into order completion.
Choose an ERP System that Matches your Business Model
Your chosen ERP system should never force you to change how your business operates. It should allow you to meet your customers’ needs without causing substantial changes in how you service those customers. It’s about choosing an ERP system that meets the needs of your customers, market, and products.
Creating a checklist of must-haves for your ERP system is a good rule of thumb. You should also ensure that all department heads take part in choosing and reviewing potential ERP systems. Finally, whichever ERP solution you choose should be capable of providing services for the implementation and integration of the system in addition to service calls if needed.