Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a buzzword that has been around for a long time (over 20 years). Traditionally, ERP systems were relevant to only the largest of corporations as they were expensive to buy and implement. It just wasn't cost effective for many businesses to consider an ERP system.
It is understandable that an ERP system is going to need a quite powerful and dedicated hardware setup to run, as an ERP system is essentially a single application (or suite of applications) for all of your business needs, whatever business sector you are in. ERP's generally provide functionality around: Supply chain management, financial management, production management, customer relationship management, sales management, human capital (HR) management, service management etc. As today's ERP offerings are modularised - you only pay and implement the functionality that is relevant for you. This factor, coupled with the ever decreasing cost of high-spec hardware, makes an ERP system a serious consideration for any company that employs in excess of around 50 employees. Also, many ERP providers are offering cloud hosted ERP solutions on a subscription basis, removing the upfront infrastructure costs and day-to-day system administration associated with an on premise system - such cloud offerings make ERP systems an affordable choice for even the smallest of companies.
Choosing an ERP system is a big decision for a company. There is significant investment in time and money to implement an ERP, so you will no doubt stay with your chosen ERP system for many years to come. ERP systems are 'off the shelf' packages, so to a large degree you need to fit your business processes to the way the ERP functionality prescribes. As you will want as much flexibility in configuring and tailoring your ERP system to current and future needs, one of the most important factors in choosing an ERP is how easy [and cheap] will it be to adapt to the changing needs of the business? This is really key, as the last thing you want after investing in an ERP is additional large investment in customising the functionality in years to come.
There are many ERP choices out there. Some are rich in functionality, others are geared towards certain business sectors. Some are rather rigid to adaptation to changing business needs, whilst others have tools built in to allow the customer (or your partner) to be able change the way the ERP functions (usually areas like reports, screen fields, workflow sequences etc..).
Here are some questions you should get answered by ERP partners, when they are trying to lure you in:
- How do we change workflow processes in the system - is it something we can do ourselves?
- How does user licensing work - is it concurrent? [this is better, as not all users are logged in all day every day!]
- How do we use the system to 'manage by exception'? [i.e. does the system trigger the relevant person when something needs attention?]
- Can I access all functionality from any device? [e.g. an iPhone, a Samsung mobile, a Macbook Pro, a netbook)
- Can I create performance dashboards and make them available on my smartphone, i.e. without partner intervention? And can these dashboards be updatable, so I can update system data directly from them?
As the Epicor ERP partner for Malta, we would be very happy to answer these questions, and any others you may have!