If you are evaluating your business management software with a view to replacing or updating your system, then it’s important to understand the key elements required.
Each element will deliver different value to your business. But collectively they offer a single source for all information, enabling you to easily view the status of your company and make decisions in real-time.
Here, we’ll investigate the key elements of business management software, before offering some practical advice to help you choose an ERP system that best suits your business’ needs and operations.
The five key elements of business management software
Financials are at the heart of any modern ERP system, with the general ledger being the core. All financial data will be recorded with your monthly, quarterly and yearly management accounts, produced here, in addition to your accounts receivable and payable. And if you trade in different currencies, it is important the system also supports multiple currencies.
Your financials are key to monitoring your company’s overall financial health, reviewing organisational processes, satisfying legal requirements, and managing finance staff.
Commercials incorporate the recording of both purchase and sales orders and should allow end users to schedule demand, manage inventory and provide a flow of information across the entire organisation. The commercial aspect also deals with your price management and supplier performance.
Along with efficient and intelligent stock management, your commercials can deliver significant automation to your order processing procedures.
Customer Relationship Management
One of the most important modules in any business management software is its Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Depending on your type of business, this is what will indicate how well your business integrates with its customer base.
Through a fully integrated CRM system, all correspondence with customers should be accessible to everyone within your business. From here you can send anything from regular emails to quotes, orders, deliveries, invoices, statements, and order acknowledgements. Your sales pipeline should be built into this module to enable you to forecast sales for the months ahead.
CRM is vital to finding, attracting, and winning new clients whilst also nurturing and retaining existing ones.
Business intelligence is now considered a standard element of any business management software solution. Business intelligence can come in the form of a dashboard, automated scheduled reports, or a data analysis tool. What’s important here is that the data displayed makes sense to the viewer and gives them an insight into their part of the business to help make informed decisions.
It’s this gathering, storing, analysing, and accessing information that is critical to your organisation’s success.
Integration is another element that can’t be ignored. Not only are the above core modules critical, but they also need to integrate seamlessly to ensure a continuous flow of data across all departments. The same goes for any 3rd party platform you use in your business.
If you depend on the importing or exporting of data and find yourself manually integrating between various disparate systems, then you’ll struggle to run as efficiently and effectively as you could be.
Unlike some legacy systems that try to ‘merge’ standalone systems into a single application, modern ERP systems have been specifically designed to share a single definition of every object or data element in the system. Modern ERP systems with REST API capabilities are key to ensuring this optimal connectivity, access and streamlining.
How to choose the right ERP vendor for your business
As you move through your ERP selection journey, choosing the right vendor will no doubt be a key area of focus for you and your team. Who you choose to go with can have a major impact on the success or failure of your project, so it’s crucial that sufficient time is spent focusing on vendor selection.
Let’s take a look at the process in more detail.
Know what you need versus what you want
Base your requirement criteria around three broad areas:
- What functionality do you require to facilitate mission-critical, day-to-day processes? How can the software bring efficiencies to these processes? For example, are repetitive tasks still being handled manually? In which case, what role can automation play?
- What are the current pain points you are experiencing with your existing system that the new system must resolve?
- Think about your business at a strategic level and specify how your future system can help you to achieve your strategic goals now and into the future.
A caveat here is to remember to focus on tangible business results – improved service levels, future e-commerce functionality – to ensure the conversation remains grounded in your business’ own vision.
With your list of requirements in place, it’s important that you rank each based on their importance to your business goals and objectives, both now and in the future. This provides a much more objective review of your vendors’ capabilities, one where you’re ensuring the software is the right fit for your business, not the other way around.
Dissect each vendor
90% of ERP functionality is comparable across vendors, therefore it makes sense to ensure your research considers the following:
- What are the key USPs for each vendor? Are they relevant to how you want to run your business? When you speak to customers using their system, can they verify that their USPs add value to their business?
- Given that functionality can be so comparable across vendors, the service element can often be the differentiating factor. Ask other companies using their system how they would rank their support, on-going account management and development offering in terms of efficiency, cost, and end result.
- The implementation process is a critical, people-led component of your ERP project. What industry-specific experience does their consultant team have? Do they adopt a long-term partnership approach? What services do they offer to ensure you get the most from your new system today and long into the future. Again, ask current customers for their objective opinion.
- Don’t forget the basics. Where are the vendors located? Will you be dealing directly with the company? Where is their support team based and how are support queries managed? What size is their team and what is their staff turnover ratio? What is their turnover; are they growing, have they got a clear innovations roadmap for the future? You need to have confidence that a) your business will matter to this vendor and b) that they are in it for the long haul.
Ensure your investment is future-proofed
Whilst functionality may be quite similar across products, it’s vital that you ensure the technology that the system is built on is future-proofed. We’ve seen customers using legacy systems, where bolt-ons are used to facilitate scale. Or worse, where a new user interface or ‘skin’ was put over old technology.
This is not a sustainable strategy. Query what code/technology stack has been used to create your ERP system and even use web reviews to assess if this technology will enable the product to scale into the future. The last thing you want to do is put this system in and find that as technology evolves, your system becomes redundant after a couple of years.
Watch out for any potential risks
Is there a limit on the number of support calls? Is there a limit on the number of transactions? Do annual fees increase over time? What are the quoted additional development and consultancy rates post implementation? Is there a commitment to provide domestically based support services?
How regular are software updates and are they provided free of charge? How are updates managed? Can you put forward suggestions for future product developments? Do they offer a hardware service to provide a one-vendor facility for your ERP project? Does your vendor have REST API for the easy integration of any third-party applications you are using currently or plan to use in the future?
Evaluate the people behind the software
Your ERP system becomes the backbone of your business; facilitating day-to-day processes in the optimum fashion and providing a platform for you to grow your business well into the future. However, this can only truly happen if the team managing the implementation of this system becomes invested in your company.
Judging this can often come down to gut feel. Are the sales team just trying to sell you software or are they taking the time to understand your business goals, processes and nuances to ensure best fit? Is he/she being upfront in their delivery and providing strong testimonial contacts related to your industry? Aim to meet the consultant who would be implementing the system on site. What level of experience do they have? What rapport would they have with your staff?
It’s these personal elements that can make or break the successful outcome of an ERP project. Think of it like hiring a new member of staff. Will they culturally fit in with your organisation’s way of working, and will they become invested in helping you to achieve your business goals?
Take your time
Selecting your chosen ERP vendor is a complex task. The average time taken can range from 2-3 months to 2-3 years and even still, there are no hard and fast rules in this respect. Don’t feel rushed into making a decision that could well impact your company for at least the next 10 years to come.
- The right vendor is one that will grow alongside your business, adapting their software to accommodate your changing business processes, whilst also adapting to future market needs/trends. Ensure your vendor adopts such an ethos by not only looking at their technical capabilities, but also that their culture embraces a partnership-orientated approach.
- Take your time to explore, research and build partnerships with potential vendors so that when you reach the contract agreement date you feel excited, positive and confident that your ERP project will be a success.
Flexible and customisable, Intact iQ’s ERP capabilities suit your specific needs down to a tee. Ready to future-proof your business? Head over to our dedicated page or get in touch with us today for more information.