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Fiona McGuinness14-Feb-2018 16:33:237 min read

ERP – A Total Business Management System

1. What is ERP?

The term ‘ERP’ has broadened in recent years. Traditionally encompassing management of raw materials, cash flow and production capacity, it lived up to its name by only being available to enterprises, and was considered too costly for smaller to medium-sized organisations. Today, however, ERP is available to organisations of any size and covers far more than stock-taking and finance. The new ERP systems are more scalable, more customisable and more sophisticated, providing intelligence insights, inventory management, direct communication with customers, accurate forecasting and the power to make decisions in real-time.

“ERP is a technology strategy that automates and links administrative and operational business capabilities with appropriate levels of integration that balance the benefits of vendor-delivered integration against business flexibility and agility.” – Gartner


2. ERP for Business Management

The latest Enterprise Resource Planning Software is not just for enterprises, and not just for resource planners either. Business software planning and forecasting, grouped under the umbrella term ‘ERP’ have improved dramatically in recent years. Today ERP is faster, more intuitive, more user-friendly and — crucially — more accessible to businesses of any size.

Real-time reporting and forecasting is becoming more widely available. While not fully democratised and distributed yet, the future is at least becoming more affordable.


3. ERP Needs Analysis

It’s common for organisations to be uncertain, at first, of exactly what it is they want to change. They could be looking for a complete overhaul of how they do business or they might prefer to take a department-by-department approach.

It’s key to define your business processes in advance. Inconsistent data from different areas, or a failure to be able to find data at all, is also a key sign that your business is outgrowing its current business management software.

Ask these key questions of your management team:

  • What inefficiencies in our current business processes do we want to improve?
  • What risks do we want to mitigate against?
  • How do we plan to scale, diversify or improve operations in the future?
  • How can ERP software address these needs or wants?
  • What is our budget (time, money & internal resources) for an ERP implementation?

To carry out a thorough ERP Needs Analysis for your business click here.

It’s important to remember that a business tends to evolve to need ERP, rather than making a board-level decision to encompass more parts of the business in a computer system.

The big question, then, is whether you are prepared to undertake this dramatic change. To upgrade your ERP takes time, investment, effort, and the adoption of new technologies, which has been (understandably) slow. But switching over sooner rather than later will give you a head start.

Its worth noting that the time to upgrade to a new ERP system is when the cost of not doing so becomes more expensive. It’s not always just about paperwork or cutting down on duplication. It’s about knowing what the real-time status of your company is by viewing real-time data analytics and being able to access that information quickly, anytime, anywhere using mobile devices. As businesses grow, it makes sense for them to facilitate that growth through better ERP.

Recent research found that businesses are wasting 145 days a year on unnecessary administration tasks, ERP can convert this lost time into productive time and add to a company’s bottom line.


4. ERP Software Evaluation

The cost and time spent on ERP software evaluation might understandably look daunting, but by finding the right product for your business you’ll start seeing results almost instantly.

If you are actively in the market for software you will no doubt be privy to numerous ‘shiny’ demos by skilled sales consultants, but what you should actually be doing is putting aside the ‘shiny’ widgets & cool features and pushing the software house to demonstrate how their ERP solution will address your pain points and help you effectively support and deliver your strategic growth plans.

At Intact, we understand that every business is unique. You may not even understand that yourself as a business owner. You may feel that what you do is straightforward wholesale, straightforward retail or straightforward merchanting and that you require the same product as everyone else, but actually, many businesses are vastly different in how they operate. It would still need to be determined if a vendor is a suitable fit for your business requirements as ERP vendors are not a one size fits all solution and an experienced sales consultant would advise you on this.


5. ERP Implementation Plan

Aside from the task of selecting the right ERP system for your business, implementing new software is a challenge in itself and it requires thorough planning, which can take months to get right. A huge number of ERP implementations tend to fail, or only get it half-right. People are reluctant to make the change because it’s such a big one. Think of it as a heart transplant for your business. It takes a lot of planning; no one just wakes up and decides on a whim that they want a new heart. Similarly, once the switch-over is complete, you can’t afford rejection. Changing back to the old one isn’t an option either.

Getting the ‘transplant’ right, then, depends on a number of factors. An honest assessment of your business will certainly help, along with a written list of your requirement. It’s also important to find the right provider.

If you do the right groundwork, implementing an ERP system becomes more straightforward. Some businesses are able to manage with just a short period of downtime, sometimes over a single weekend, while others opt for incremental changes.

Worth A Read – ERP Pre-Implementation Guide

Some businesses choose to take a phased approach, only implementing changes bit by bit, and benefiting from their awareness of the software as it slowly grows. Later, when you are ERP mature you can clearly outline where you wish to go with the software in the coming years or decades.


6. Benefits & Advantages of ERP

It’s no secret that ERP vastly improves the internal processes within a business when implemented correctly. Our clients report that it:

  • Speeds up processes within their business
  • Allows them to quickly access real-time data that enables employees to proactively act on their findings
  • Offers an instant boost to productivity without increasing working hours or workforce

But other advantages of implementing or upgrading ERP software stem far beyond managing business processes as they currently stand.


7. ERP – The Power of Big Data

Businesses are now realising the power of the big data that they have access to. Many are putting up large screens in their organisations with key indicators from the ERP systems displayed on them. It’s all about accessing real-time information and acting on it. When you’re making any one decision, you can get data, indicators and business intelligence from your current actions to ensure its the correct decision or to help with the next one.

Getting the most out of your ERP system will rely on both software and human skill. It’s a combination of data mining and astute business acumen, where you can identify the right kind of information that is relevant to your business

Worth A Read – The Power of Big Data


8. ERP – Enterprise Mobility

Possibly the biggest change of all is ERP’s newfound mobility. Before now you might have been stuck in the office waiting for permissions, or have been blocked from accessing data insights when you were working from home, today’s ERP systems are built for the mobile office. ERP systems are now accessible anywhere, anytime and available across multiple types of devices whether it’s a PC or a mobile client or via the web. You can now access business-critical data when and where it’s needed.

Worth A Read – Enterprise Mobility Guide


9. ERP Flexibility

When we talk about flexible ERP, we’re actually talking about an entire operational piece across an organisation. Not just a finance tool. It’s a suite of modules contained within one platform, which allows customers to implement different features depending on their business needs. Modules include CRM, Accounting, HR, Business Intelligence plus many others which can be implemented at the same time or one by one, as and when required.

This fully integrated range of modules removes the need for disparate systems and elements of a business. All processes become linked together so the business as a whole can benefit from departmental data insights.

“In the postmodern ERP world, the legacy ERP suite is deconstructed into a more [loose] set of integrated business functions. The pieces make up the whole, rather than the whole (or suite) comprising the pieces.” – Gartner


In Summary

ERP used to be seen as a software solution reserved for large Enterprise Companies (hence the name). Its now become a more affordable option and is being adopted by many smaller businesses in all sectors across the globe. 

It’s particularly being embraced by Merchants, Wholesalers, Distributors and Retailers due to its vast functionality and tight inventory management features.

No longer do you have to choose a standalone accounts package supported by a whole host of other separate systems or manual processes to perform your business functions.

ERP systems are now being designed to be flexible enough to suit modern businesses of all sizes.


Fiona McGuinness

I've been part of the Intact family for 16 rewarding years. After completing my Business Studies degree, I knew Marketing was a field I wanted to pursue. Prior to joining Intact, I primarily worked in the financial sector, focusing on marketing for credit unions. When I started at Intact, I handled all the marketing tasks by myself. Over time, as our team expanded, so did my role. Now, I specialise in crafting compelling content across various platforms, from blogs to video scripts. No two days are the same, and I thrive on the dynamic nature of my role. Whether it's diving into customer case studies or lead campaigns, I'm driven by the positive impact our solutions bring to businesses. In an age where AI plays a significant role, I remain a firm believer in the power of authentic content. When I'm not working, you'll find me enjoying quality time with my family, sewing, or watercolor paintings.