How To Identify the Ideal ERP Software for Your Small Business
By David Ephraim, ATAK Interactive President, Development + Operations
Entrepreneurs who focus on enhancing their B2B and/or B2C commerce operation and overall customer satisfaction will eventually realize success. For that reason, small and medium-sized business owners should consider, at no matter what stage of growth, investing in the resources that integrate all of their different business systems and facilitate the achievement of set operational objectives.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is one of those key business tools/resources to consider acquiring if you want to improve operational commerce efficiencies. ERP software improves the management of inventory and production schedules and streamlines data processing (i.e. processing orders, warehouse inventory).
Oracle’s NetSuite and Microsoft’s Dynamics lead the ERP software industry (SAP is in third place). Both can address most requirements, and both can adapt to their unique environment. Other less popular, specialty platforms exist, but those should be considered with even more care, as we usually see less support and customizability.
When choosing the ideal ERP solution for your operations, there are several factors to consider, and this article aims to set whoever is in charge of operations in the right direction to choose the right ERP for his or her business.
Most small business owners must focus on growth, which suggests that a scalable ERP solution is one business challenge to consider early on, as business ramps up month over month.
First and foremost, one must acknowledge some ERP software options are not customizable and compromising your business flows and processes after investing in such a tool is usually not an ideal option.
In this case, one should check the features and functions a particular ERP solution offers now and as the business grows, to verify whether the flexibility it provides is in line with the requirements of the given business, and business plan. Investing in scalable ERP software now will prepare the company for future expansion, and it will also eliminate the need to budget for the replacement of a rigid system when that time comes.
Ease of Update
Maximizing the potential of a specific ERP solution is impossible if one cannot access its latest version. Just like any other software, ERP software requires updating on various occasions for the platform to deliver accordingly. ERP updating procedures that demand the input of a professional are an added cost, which may also lead to the loss of time.
The right ERP solution for small to medium-size businesses should have provision for initiating necessary updates with a single click, which will save time and money. Failure to update an ERP solution when the time comes may cause an error in processes, and it can also create a system malfunction, implying meeting of set deadlines will become a challenge.
Compatibility and Integration
The ability to transmit data across multiple applications is a necessity for business operators focusing on reducing costs. The obstacle to avoid when choosing the right ERP is to rush to buy a particular ERP without considering its compatibility with existing software as this incompatibility increases dependence on clumsy rekeying procedures, which elevates the probability of making errors; errors which can potentially push your operating expenses through the roof.
The ERP solution one opts for should encourage seamlessness, which is only possible when one can integrate hos or her current software with their ERP system, or by replacing the platform one is using with a component, or compatible 3rd party component, in the ERP solution of his or her choice. Opting for ERP software that is compatible with existing network infrastructure creates a unified environment, meaning one can share data across all applications.
Smart Device Interface Capabilities
Any ERP system that is only accessible via desktop computers, and not mobile, will not give enough value for the money, and it will also force an organization to budget for a different option in the future. We are living in a dynamic world where the business environment is experiencing significant change with more real-time expectation than ever, and if an organization cannot adapt accordingly to the prevailing market conditions, the organization will be set up for failure.
The ability to monitor business operations using mobile devices is part of the requirements in every industry today because this promotes adaptability of establishments in diverse environments. The ideal ERP system should support accessibility on mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones, which will improve productivity in business operations.
Your In-House Team
Once an organization implements an ERP solution for use within the company, staff from various departments will interact with it on multiple occasions. Needless to say, the organization should train employees and identify the person/people who will handle any technical issues regarding the ERP software before the initial implementation. These people should be involved in decision making.
If anyone discovers some of the employees have an understanding of a specific ERP system, investing in such a resource may be a wise idea because it will reduce the learning curve (time) considerably, and the transition process will not be as much of a challenge for other staff members who now have in house assistance.
When workers learn from each other, they tend to achieve more because they have a better understanding of the operations of the organization, which is not the case with an external trainer. The implication, in this case, is your in-house team will/can now play a significant role in determining the ERP solution to acquire, facilitating a more successful transition within the business as well.
Proper financial management is a prerequisite for every successful business operator. If you are planning to acquire ERP software as a small entrepreneur, the cost should sit within the organizations budget, of course.
An ERP’s cost can be significant, as anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 could be the software acquisition cost alone, so without factoring additional time and expense for acquiring/planning/configuring an ideal ERP system, training your employees, implementing with precision, and maintenance time would be a mistake.
As one shops for the best ERP solution for his or her business, one should compare the cost by engaging different vendors while asking a lot of questions from initial setup costs, to costs per user, maintenance costs, and more. Remember, realizing a return on investment (ROI) after buying the ERP solution of choice is a factor one cannot afford to overlook; otherwise, the organization may end up adjusting for incorrect losses (or savings) for one reason or another.
A cheap or more expensive ERP software does not necessarily dictate the result one should expect after implementation. The right ERP solution will be within budget and will include all features that will take a business to the next level.
Making the right decision when acquiring ERP software can become the difference between your success or failure as an entrepreneur. Take the time to properly evaluate this decision from every angle before you jump in.
If you are looking to integrate the right ERP software into your eCommerce operation, ATAK can help. We can help any business operator pick and integrate the best platform for their needs, and we have a proven track record of integrating the necessary platforms from start to finish.
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