Properly chosen ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software can help you to organize, automate and improve your business. Custom ERP software can increase the efficiency and maintain continuous growth. Unfortunately, choosing such kind of software randomly, you risk wasting money without boosting your business. In this article, we’ll consider the main benefits of using customized ERP solutions and share with you some tips that’ll help you to choose right ERP solution.
How scalable customized ERP solutions allow boosting SME sector business
An ERP application is a data management tool that allows viewing and sharing data to optimize and automate basic business operations. There’s a common misconception that ERP software is suitable only for large organizations. The truth is that even small and medium businesses can benefit from using customized ERP solutions. Such systems have a modular architecture and can be modified as business changes, following the increasing complexity. Therefore, more and more often we can face the situation when companies from SME sector that follow the desire to reduce costs, decide to abandon the idea of developing an ERP application from scratch. Instead of that, they decide to modernize the existing software solution by adding custom-made modules that implement missing features.
Due to organizational structure, complex interconnections between the departments and other issues it may be hard to gather and analyze the data. ERP is the tool that allows to collect, organize and interpret data from various business transactions, including:
- Customer relations
- Supply chain
- Human Resources
Without being processed, such info doesn’t have a context and perspective. Besides that, you can’t see the connections between different portions of data. Customized ERP solutions allows to extract, automate and organize such data which helps to develop an insight required for smart business moves. ERP software allows organizations to become more flexible and efficient by making data-based decisions.
Companies demonstrate a solid interest in ERP solutions worldwide. According to the Statista website, the global ERP spend has increased by more than 40% in the period 2010-2017:
To make sure that ERP is still a perspective technology that deserves your attention, let’s take a look at the opinions of top influencers in the ERP market.
Customized ERP solutions prospects for 2018. Expert opinions
According to the opinion of Bernard Golden, a long-time tech innovator, “The ongoing shift to cloud computing will continue and accelerate. One of the drivers for adoption is scale: most enterprises are handling greater numbers and variety of goods, services, customer interactions, and marketing activities. This will cause more transactions to hit ERP systems and result in enterprises asking for a new cloud-oriented ERP — not an ERP system that resides in the cloud, but an ERP solution suited for a cloud-resident enterprise. Look for ERP customer/vendor discussions in 2018 that center around the development of ERP solutions which can help enterprises become cloud-native organizations.”
Predrag Jakovljevic, an enterprise applications industry analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers, says: “New ERP software will be increasingly built on an innovative cloud architecture designed from the ground up to handle the massive computational challenges of processing global enterprise data in real-time. These platforms will feature the following traits:
- microservices and open API’s for easy integrations and extensions;
- fast in-memory computing with the ability to process large volumes of data in an instant;
- a domain model with flexible and adaptable rules that manage workflows and modules’ interactions;
- an unified information architecture that eliminates the need for a separate data warehouse, and simplifies access to analytics for all users.
ERP users have traditionally spent too much time verifying the past and on time-consuming, resource-heavy operations such as batch transaction processing, the account closing process, and periodic audits, which help to identify issues only once it’s too late to act on them.”
Eric Kimberling, the managing partner and founder of Panorama Consulting Solutions: “With the global economy continuing to improve, more companies scaling for growth, and capital investments continuing to gain momentum, more companies will be more likely to invest in their digital transformation initiatives. All of these factors will lead more companies to revisit their enterprise system strategies going into the new year and beyond. Vendors will be less likely to introduce new functionality or provide long-term support for these dated products, leading many organizations to conclude that they have no choice but to migrate to more modern enterprise technologies. An increasing number of organizations are becoming seemingly allergic to the term “organizational change management” … meaning organizations must recognize the need for proven organizational change expertise and toolsets.”
The current state of affairs allows us to say that the world of ERP software is at a pivotal juncture. At the moment the situation is a little bit controversial. Major software vendors are promoting efficient, cutting-edge technologies that allow implementing the best customized ERP solutions. On the other hand, many CIOs, as well as other executives, are feeling nervous about the relative immaturity of such kind of products.
Despite such situation, there’s a thing that remains unchanged. The flexible development of ERP solutions for the needs of a particular customer is still a competitive industry. In many ways, 2018 will bring new trends to be aware of.
How customized ERP solutions help boosting your business
In addition to the ability to track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in real time, ERP systems can integrate business units, monitor the workflow, identify duplicates and analyze data integrity.
Here are the main features of ERP software that can help companies to save money:
- Automating certain parts of an employee’s work
- Troubleshooting single-purpose software
- Ensuring the security of all company data gathered in one place
- Creating a single solution for analysis and reporting
- Simplifying inventory tracking and sales
- Improving the cooperation between employees in different company departments
To better match the needs of a particular company, ERP solution can work on two levels:
- ERP as a system or single solution made from scratch. This option is preferable in case you don’t use any ERP applications and plan to apply for the services of a software development company. Business analysts will conduct a series of interviews to define the issues of your business and develop a proper software solution to solve them.
- ERP as integrated modules for the existing system. This option allows improving the used business processes without spending resources on development and deployment of a new software solution. Instead of that, you can add new modules to the application that is already in use and carry out concomitant customization if needed. Among the possible options there are reports module, customers and orders management tools, workload management tools, time tracking system, project dashboards, and so on. Such solution can help to increase the efficiency of analysis, improve reporting, and allow making better business decisions without interrupting any business processes.
Common errors when choosing ERP software
Lack of a Solid Strategy
When you’re in search of a new ERP system, one of the main priorities for you is to make your business requirements clarified. You should have a clear vision of your strategy and the main business goals. You should define what kind of ERP solution your company needs. The possible alternatives include the system developed from scratch and a separate module (financial, manufacturing, HR, sales, CRM, project management).
Remember that there’s no need in rushing to choose a particular ERP system. Before doing that, you have to spend enough time to understand what your business needs and how high the costs will be. It’s crucial to be clear about the benefits that an ERP system or module will bring. The reason is that the chosen solution will play the key role in prospects of your business.
Non-standard Requirements Specification
When choosing an ERP solution, many companies require very specific modules to be implemented. As an example, a module that downloads some legal information from the official websites to the system. Instead of trying to provide for all the features that may or may not be demanded in future, you should focus on features that will guarantee competitive advantage in the market. For example, automation of information collection, generation of reports in one click, and so on.
Using a Demo Version to Evaluate the System
Software vendors will be happy to demonstrate you the possibilities of their ERP software designed according to the interpretation of your requirements. Different companies have different development methodologies and set of used technologies. Therefore, it may be pretty hard to compare the results of their work.
A possible solution is to ask for a structured demonstration that will allow comparing “apples to apples.” The goal is to offer the same test plan to each potential software vendor. Such plan should describe all the scenarios that you want to be tested. You should focus on how well the developed solution meets your requirements. This testing must confirm that functionality implemented in an ERP solution can improve your business processes.
Focus on Costs Instead of Benefits
Every client wants to have his ERP solution to be delivered on time and in accordance with the available budget. Reaching these goals usually considered as a successful result. It’s a pretty natural thing to ensure that the costs of software development and deploying are maintained within the initial expectations. But unfortunately, such approach does not take into account the potential prospects.
Keep in mind that long-term benefits should prevail over initial development costs. Instead of focusing on how much a certain ERP application will cost your company, try to assess long-term prospects. One of the worst things to do is to prefer one ERP solution over the other solely for cost reasons. You should consider that spending 10% or 15% more on ERP software that is designed according to the peculiarities of your business eventually can increase your financial benefits manyfold.
Advantages and Examples of Custom ERP Software
Custom ERP software can provide a business advantage to any company since it is designed to follow the exact requirements formulated by a customer. Ready-to-use solutions have certain advantages, but such kind of software isn’t suitable for everyone since every business is unique. Some companies faced different troubles after they start using off-the-shelf solutions due to the need of adapting the workflow accordingly to the specifics of such software.
Let’s consider the main benefits of using custom-made ERP software.
Reduction of Additional Expenses
Off-the-shelf ERP solutions implement functionality that should match the requirements of an average organization. It may have different consequences for your company. Software development requires time and efforts which is reflected in the final cost. Even if there are some features that your business is not interested, you’ll have to pay the full price. On the other hand, the absence of features that are required by your particular business will lead to additional losses on their implementation.
The main advantage of custom-made ERP solutions is that software companies create such apps from the ground up in full accordance with your requirements. Software vendors make sufficient efforts to understand each unique aspect of your business, such as the industry in which you work, the nature of data that you use, and specificity of local lawmaking. Such approach can guarantee that the final software product will implement solutions to your business issues without violating local regulations, say, relating to the storage of personal data.
No Workflow Changes
Sometimes implementing a new ERP system means that employees will have to change the workflow accordingly to the software that is going to be used. Choosing a custom ERP solution you can avoid such consequences. Such software is made according to the specifics of your business, so it can automate manual operations without changing the habitual way of doing things.
In case you want to avoid any delays in your workflow, integrating an ERP module in your system will be a decent choice. Skyline is an example of how the integrated ERP reporting module can look:
This module was designed to reduce efforts on gathering and analyzing important info for the purpose of further reporting. To create reports that fit particular requirements, users can create custom templates, filter, and group the available data. Made reports can be saved or exported to Excel, PDF, or CSV formats.
Improving system performance and availability
Usually, customized ERP solutions provide better performance than other solutions. In such case, the software architecture is designed from the ground up to achieve high performance and better application availability. Custom-made ERP software is scalable, so you can reconfigure it and integrate more modules to adapt to the growth of your business.
The Workflow Application For Businesses was designed to help employees handle a huge amount of information related to business partners, suppliers, customers, and other participants:
This solution allows users instantly receive the most relevant info on current business events. Visual and numeric reporting module represents complex business data in an easily interpretable form which helps to make important business decisions faster. Also, users can get instant access to stock availability, client profiles, and order histories.
Improved user interface
When you work on a complex task that requires analyzing tons of data, the first thing that matters is a properly designed user interface. A user must have the possibility to easily understand what data is displayed on the screen and what’s the purpose of all the controls. Since customized ERP solutions are designed to meet the needs of a particular company, you can be assured that business analysts and developers of the software vendor will make the necessary efforts to reach the best user experience.
Automated and unified reporting system
customized ERP solutions provide complete information about the operational processes in different departments of your company, such as finance, HR management, manufacturing, marketing, supply chain, warehouse management, etc. ERP software can automate the workflow from one department or function to another. It helps to ensure that all of the department’s activities are monitored by a single reporting system which simplifies the analysis of statistics.
As an example of an ERP app that was designed to manage the workflow of a company at the different stages, you can check the Workforce and Facility Management Suite:
This solution allows simplifying the monitoring of company’s workflow starting with contract creation and finishing with reporting. The app allows getting instant access to contacts, orders, planning of work-shifts and major KPIs.
Conclusion: Customized ERP solutions
Choosing an ERP solution for small and medium business can be quite a challenging issue. Preferring an off-the-shelf solution over custom-made software, you risk spending money on the solution that doesn’t fully reflect the features of your business. Buying a ready-made ERP solution, you’ll probably face the lack of important features. To meet your expectations, custom software development companies spend the time to know your company better and provide software solutions for your business troubles. Objectively evaluate the potential of ERP developers, you’ll be confident that you can choose the best solution that will meet your foreseeable needs with the least risk.
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