Which ERP features should small businesses consider?

erp

Resource Credit | ERPFocus

ERP features for small businesses to consider

While there is a large degree of hyperbole when it comes to ERP these days, when it comes down to it ERPs are still ultimately resourcing management systems. It doesn’t necessarily mean ‘things’ and ‘people’, but how those resource elements interact and combine to enhance overall small business efficiency, or in short, more money on the bottom line.

To achieve this goal, one must leverage several core feature sets, since these are the bedrocks that business is based on. These include:

Streamlined process applications

  • Project management
  • Production control: essential for manufacturers
  • Inventory control
  • Logistical management
  • System security

You could also consider integrated HR and CRM functionality, if you have the budget, your company is big enough to warrant it, and you don’t already have a system in place.

Integrated financial applications

  • GAAP Accounting
  • Consolidated Financial Management

Direct reporting

Reporting, preferably with real-time data, is a major benefit of implementing an ERP. Alongside the broad-level feature-sets outlined above, here are a few reports to look for when shopping for systems:

  • Sales: for example, quotation list, list of sales orders
  • CRM: for example, contact list
  • HR: for example, personal FTE information, emergency contact
  • Project management: for example, functional timelines
  • Production control: for example, product line counts, finished goods tallies
  • Inventory control: for example, bin counts, distribution logs, shipping logs
  • GAAP accounting: for example, GL, AR, AP, payroll
  • Consolidated financial management: for example, divisional reporting
  • System security: for example, failure/recovery reports

Everything else; and we mean everything.

In this area, we identify various follow on tiers that can be applied to a small business ERP platform. Some of these elements include:

  • In/outbound business intelligence – the goal is to allow the enterprise to ‘see and respond’ to the totality of its market in real-time.
  • In/outbound mobility – the goal is to directly bind the customers to the enterprise, buy means of a host of communications mechanisms.
  • In/outbound social networking – the goal is to create a virtually-persistent channel between customers and business.
  • Automated operational scripting – the goal is to alleviate manual processing throughout the system, and the enterprise at-large.

Each of these requirements sections applies the same value sets ranging from the elimination of process waste to reduction cost, ultimately leading the enterprise to achieve enhanced revenues over time.

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Selecting a cloud-based ERP for your small business

cloud erp

How to select a cloud-based ERP for a small business

Enterprise resource planning software. It sounds our of reach for most small businesses. A system reserved for big multinationals with thousands of users and lots of cash lying around. Perhaps it’s because of the name? In fact, more and more small businesses are adopting ERP. Advances in technology (think cloud) bring new levels of productivity at lower costs to businesses of all sizes.

These efficiency-boosting tools aren’t out of reach anymore. But choosing the right ERP for your business is a challenge. This quick guide will steer you in the right direction.

ERP requirements for small businesses

The abundance of choice can make an ERP selection mind-boggling. For small businesses with limited resources, the majority of research and decision-making rests on a small number of shoulders. Defining what exactly you need your ERP to do is the first step. Every business is unique in its challenges so you’ll need to align your strategic goals with your ERP requirements:

  • Map the processes you need to streamline and prioritize features accordingly.
  • Look for system failures specific to your industry and look for vendors who fit.
  • Calculate your budget and forecast your ROI
  • Decide if you have enough in-house experience or need an independent consultant

Cloud vs on-premise ERP

One of the biggest challenges for small businesses looking to invest in new software has been infrastructure. Traditionally, if you didn’t have the right environment or enough hardware to support it, an upgrade would require serious investment. Even if you did have the capital to get enough hardware and on-premise storage to handle an ERP system, your time to ROI could make the whole project untenable.

Luckily, the cloud has come to the rescue. Small businesses can store more data and implement new business apps without killing the bottom line. Cloud services are typically sold as a subscription service, making it easier to get underway without huge upfront costs. Cash flow is king for small businesses so fixed costs are preferable to spikes in investment that can you leave you vulnerable.

Cloud subscriptions remove barriers for small businesses that want to invest in ERP. But that doesn’t mean you should jump in with both feet. Compare vendor prices and models carefully. Look at your growth projections and contract durations on offer. If you expect to grow your user base, make sure you choose a plan that gives you plenty of breathing room. Most plans are priced per user (or on a range of users). You might think that 10 or 20 users are enough today, but what happens in one, two, or five years’ time?

Shortlisting cloud-based ERPs

Now you know what problems you want your ERP to solve, that cloud is the most likely route and how to create a selection process, it’s time to put the wheels in motion. It probably won’t take long to whittle your options down to a shortlist. Once you have a list of requirements, it’s time to set about requesting proposals.

ERP options have now become more affordable for small businesses to consider. We have experience advising small businesses on which functionalities would best suit their needs in their new ERP solution. If you would like to learn more about how cloud-based business solutions can help grow your business, contact allonline365 on  info@allonline365.com or +27 (21) 205 3650.

www.allonline365.com

Resource Credit | ERPFocus

What small business requirements can an ERP system meet?

small business

Before we get into small business requirements-setting, perhaps it might be best to consider the goals of an ERP in a small enterprise environment.

There are typically three core values involved:

Operational Clarity

Small businesses have limited resources at their disposal, so it’s essential to eliminate sources of inefficiency like data silos.

Rather than having disjointed departments dealing with challenges associated with the development of stove-piped information, data can be centralized, and easily accessed, shared, and migrated. This reduces the potential for human error, associated costs, and increases efficiency.

Enhanced Decision-Making Ability

The ability to adapt quickly to market changes, and to make decisions without having to go through several layers of management, can provide small businesses with an advantage in an arena that all too often favor larger firms.

Leveraging common data, provided by a central ERP platform, can be used across sales, production, inventory management, and financial operations to inform a company’s next move. Altogether these values allow small firms to make vital decisions quickly and accurately while reducing operational waste.

Expanded Productivity

The use of common data-sets tends to streamline overall operational processes, while also allowing staff resources to refocus on direct management and the expansion of business volume. Essentially, it gives your staff more time to do their job – and in a fast-paced, pushed-for-time small business environment that can only be a good thing.

Also, because ERP is largely regimented within its operational framework, this characteristic tends to positively alter the nature of businesses in general, leading to better efficiency throughout.

Why you need to make a move

While there is no sure way to know when it’s time to consider an ERP selection, there are typically some general characteristics that apply. These include:

  • If the company’s business intelligence has become spotty, and what ‘information’ is of dubious value, it’s usually a good time to look at an ERP option.
  • If the company is challenged by growth management, particularly in the case of a sudden-expansion in sales volume, it’s usually a good time to look at an ERP option.
  • If the company is no longer able to manage its transactions accurately, or that accuracy is challenged by the time necessary to resolve your accounting reports, it’s usually a good time to look at an ERP option.
  • If the company finds itself dealing with glaring inaccuracies in terms of static and dynamic inventory levels, it’s usually a good time to look at an ERP option.
  • If the company’s sales forecasts are largely based on the WAG-method (wild a** guess), it’s usually a good time to look at an ERP option.

Key characteristics for a small business ERP

In this case, there are numerous ‘must’s’ when considering ERP in the small business environment.

Avoiding specific feature requirements (these vary wildly from business to business), major themes include:

Ease and speed of initiation: This normally points to a cloud ERP as implementation is faster and upfront costs are lower. A rapid launch phase allows small companies to leverage big company advantages.

Cost efficiency: to avoid blowing a hole in the size of Manhattan in small business budgets, costs (including ‘hidden’ costs like training and support) need to be affordable, and the system should offer a relatively quick return on investment.

Elimination of the need to utilize internal tech resources: This characteristic offers further cost reductions in terms of the use of internal resources.

Support on-demand: regardless of the sophisticated nature of a particular company, ERP applications typically take some time to get used to. Consequently, ready support is a must. Unexpected system downtime can be a spanner in the works for small businesses, so it’s important that you have the help on-hand when you need it.

Flexible access controls: in small businesses people end up wearing many hats. There may not be a division of labor across departments as there is in larger companies, so being able to modify access quickly is essential.

A good UI: If you work for a small business, you know it’s ‘all hands on deck’. You can’t afford for your workforce to be bogged down with multiple training sessions, so software which is intuitive to use is a must.

If you are considering implementing an ERP solution into your business, contact us to get more advice and find the best fit for your business. Contact allonline365 on  info@allonline365.com or  +27 (21) 205 3650.

www.allonline365.com

Resource Credit | ERP Focus

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