For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) enlargement and development are markers of success, along with increasing profits. But anticipating and managing all of these quantities can be a complex and time-consuming affair which takes in day-to-day business operations, administration, inventory and stocktaking, finance management, the juggling of project deadlines and completion dates, matters of regulatory compliance, and a host of other issues.
Managing these functions and aspects of a business falls within the category of Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP and like most things these days, there are dedicated software for it. And there are several reasons why ERP software is a worthwhile investment.
Even though an enterprise may be modest in size, its operations may nonetheless consist of several dissimilar departments within the one headquarters, or even separate physical locations, if there are branch offices and remote sites to consider. Throwing remote or mobile workers into the mix, together with any resources that an enterprise might have resident in the cloud, and there’s likely to be a lot of coordination involved in bringing all of these divisions under one umbrella.
ERP software provides a single platform from which all the different aspects of an enterprise may be run, monitored, and managed. Moreover, that one platform can bring together information streams from all locations to serve as a common database, and provide the tools to unite and coordinate input and interactions from all sides of the business.
Having a central hub to act as a “nerve center” for enterprise operations allows management and staff a more global view of the business as a whole, plus ready access to the information and tools they require to do their jobs. Scheduling, time stamps, contract and project tracking features, as well as customizable and industry-specific tools and reports, are available with single-click access, and lead to faster job completion and overall turnaround times.
Integration with back-end operations, transaction processing, inventories, purchase histories, service logs and other data enables customers and suppliers to be provided with their requirements in a timely and efficient manner leading to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty, an enhanced reputation for being able to “deliver the goods” (literally, in some cases), more repeat business, and a healthier bottom line.
One of the problems facing many SMEs is the proliferation of software that can accumulate as workers in different departments use various modular tools to deal with specific aspects of their work often duplicating functionality across several divisions or locations.
Not only is this an inefficient use of server and computing resources, it also creates an ongoing nightmare for the IT division (if the organization is fortunate enough to have one). Troubleshooting user issues, paying for individual software licenses, and the need to keep a multitude of packages regularly updated and patched for security are just some of the problems involved.
With an ERP platform, it’s possible to provide uniformity and integration in a set of software tools that’s available to workers throughout the enterprise all with instantaneous access to a central pool of data and administrative resources. This allows staff in different departments or geographical locations to work together on common projects, and to readily share ideas and information. It also allows greater integration between business functions (Human Resources, operations, sales, customer service, etc.) and their relevant applications and data streams.
Having a single platform rather than a hodgepodge of mismatched software elements makes sense from an economic perspective, as well. For an on-premises installation, there’ll typically be a one-off payment for the ERP software license, rather than a bill for several separate ones to cover all the applications being used in various locations.
Traditionally, ERP solutions have been the preserve of larger corporations, whose dedicated IT staff and financial resources are better equipped for dealing with the management and maintenance tasks associated with ERP client software and servers on site. But with the growing market in cloud-based ERP solutions, the cost and maintenance overhead have reduced to levels that make ERP platforms an attractive proposition for smaller-scale businesses.
At an operational level, the integration of business streams like production, marketing, inventory, accounting, customer service, and others makes it easier for managers to see where the money is coming from and going to essential, for tracking and planning the financial course of an organization.
These days, Business Intelligence or BI has become a currency in its own right, with crucial decisions being made on the basis of the insights gained from analyzing information from all aspects of an enterprise. An ERP software platform gives business strategists a single point from which data streams may be gathered from throughout the organisation.
Analysis and reporting tools able to process information in real or near real time and to present it in a readily digestible form give managers and financial planners the ability to forge strategies and make crucial decisions that will ensure an organization's continued growth and productivity. And the option of using cloud-based analysis and computing resources brings this functionality into a price range that even the most modest of enterprises can consider.