Many businesses have so far avoided the implementation of ERP software and are still running on a combination of basic accounting software and spreadsheets. Often there is no integration with other systems such as email, stock control, warehouse tracking or production, resulting in an distinct lack of traceability throughout the supply chain.
If your business is facing some or all of the following challenges then it is likely that you need to review your current systems:
1. Your customers are demanding more information about their orders and want it faster than ever before, but you cannot react any quicker.
2. Your customers are asking for information that cannot be accommodated by your existing set up, without costly resource and effort.
3. Your customers are driving down prices and reducing margins and your system isnt flexible or sophisticated enough to help you improve efficiency to combat this.
4. Your business is overly reliant on one or two key individuals within your IT Team who are the only people that really understand your system.
5. There is a high amount of wastage in the business from poor shipments but your system doesnt provide the ability to track and trace the source at the speed you need it to.
6. Your system doesnt support raw material stock rotation which is resulting in further wastage.
7. There is no central database that all employees can access and therefore your company information is spread across a number of disparate systems, leading to confusion, error and duplication of effort and data.
8. It is difficult to monitor your costs accurately and calculate meaningful profitability.
9. The IT Department is facing ever increasing demands for new software or
add-ons to help employees to do their job more effectively and to reduce the pressure they are under.
10. Your business makes limited use of the internet and demands on staff for information for suppliers and customers is therefore high.
11. The business is considering taking on more IT staff to support the business demands.
12. There is a feeling that your competitors are starting to get the upper hand.
13. You have gaps between front-end and back-end systems, possibly across multiple sites, that are covered with poor, internally developed solutions.
14. Your accounting system doesnt integrate with your existing Microsoft Office based systems and common email platforms such as MS Outlook, Outlook Express and Lotus Notes.
15. The business is facing ever increasing support costs for all the IT systems and a rising TCO (total cost of ownership).
If some or all of these points are causing you challenges in your business then it is likely that you could see massive improvement by implementing an up-to-date ERP solution that can integrate every part of your business under a common system. Many businesses have been put off ERP in the past due to rumours over high costs, lengthy and painful implementation and hefty support costs. There has also been a common perception that ERP is only for the big boys and that small and medium sized companies simply couldnt justify it.
This certainly was true in the past but the majority of the ERP vendors have now brought out solutions for the SME market. However some are better than others and buyers need to ensure that the system will be future-proofed as much as possible as the number of vendors is likely to continue to decrease.
The Internet has developed into a fantastic business tool, and the plethora of mobile devices and applications out there are enabling employees, customers and suppliers to access key business information whether in the warehouse, in a vehicle on a delivery route or via a web browser from another country. Some solutions are modular so that you only need to buy, and pay support for, the applications you need, others are not and you need to buy the entire system, and get support for all of it, despite only needing part of it. Integration with common Microsoft email and office systems is seamless if you buy a Microsoft ERP system, but many of the other major players in the market only achieve this to a lesser or greater extent.
One thing is for sure, whichever product you chose the benefits to your business will be enormous, the challenge is in finding the right product for your business, and a business partner that understands your market and can provide the support you need to hit the ground running.
Written by Bernard Godward, Managing Director, Index Computer Systems Ltd.