As a business grows, managing information, processes and operations inevitably becomes more complex. Companies often address the issue by investing in different software systems to remedy specific pain-points. Although these can initially be helpful in terms of improving performance, a lack of integration between them means it can be difficult for different departments to share data.
To support longer-term management efficiencies and strategic plans for growth, ERP software is the preferred option for increasing numbers of small businesses. ERP solutions consolidate all business information in a single system, enabling staff to share information and collaborate effectively.
Andrew Morgan, Managing Director, Anagram Systems, offers five tips to help company directors detect the signs that indicate it's time to upgrade existing business management software.
1. Your existing systems don't talk to each other
Many businesses rely on multiple software systems to manage different areas of operations. Unless these are properly integrated, it can be difficult for departments to share information. 'Data silos' – separate repositories of information held by different departments – are commonplace in growing businesses that use multiple systems.
Investing in ERP software is key to improving data accuracy as it brings together the front and back offices, integrating financial reporting, inventory management, product planning and sales order processing with all other areas of business operations. With all business information housed in a single software system, your teams can access and share data easily.
2. Financial management is becoming more complicated
As a business grows, the number of individual transactions can grow substantially and with this the challenge of ensuring they are accurately recorded. Effective accounting and reporting is only possible if your financial management team have complete visibility of all incomings and outgoings and are not reliant on other teams to provide this information. ERP systems enable accounts teams to gather every strand of information they need to maintain accurate financial records for the whole company.
3. Sales and customer services are suffering
In a business' early years, when the volume of sales may be relatively modest, stock control is likely to be easily manageable. As sales grow, however, keeping track of products and parts becomes more of a challenge. Sales staff need to know exactly what is available in order to fulfil orders and manage customers' expectations. A delayed or unfulfilled order can all too easily damage customer relations and a business' hard-won reputation.
ERP software enables sales staff to view stock levels before making promises to customers. Warehouse and purchasing staff have complete visibility of what products and components are required and when. Effective resource planning helps everyone in a company work together to meet customer demand.
4. It's difficult to analyse information about your business
Effective business intelligence is all about analysing information to make informed decisions but if you can't gather data in the first place, you and your senior team members will remain in the dark. ERP systems consolidate and centralise all business information within a single repository, enabling staff to view information relating to every area of a business, quickly and simply.
5. Lack of mobile access to software
These days, it's key that your teams can access the software they need to manage and drive your business from wherever they are working. This is especially the case for sales staff who need to be able to access and update prospect and account information when they on the move. Look for software that is accessible via a range of devices – including smartphones and tablets – from wherever internet access is available.
It's also worth considering cloud based systems. Software as a Service (SaaS) suits many businesses, especially those with dispersed teams working at different sites, or personnel who work from home and need to access information remotely. This model can also help reduce hardware costs and free up your IT staff to work on other projects.
Morgan concludes: "ERP software enables different departments to work closely together and provides management teams with complete visibility of their business and its operations. As a result company are directors are equipped with the information they need to support their strategic decision making. ERP Software is key to driving productivity and profitability."