Over the past decade, enterprise resource planning has made inroads into smaller and smaller businesses. Part of the reason for this is that the packages are more competitively priced, capable of reaching a greater audience, and easier to use. Just the same, there are still some horror stories about implementing enterprise resource planning systems. In most cases the problems stem from an implementation that is too complex to succeed.
A Few Reasons Enterprise Resource Planning Is a Good Thing
So when you go to build your requirements and work with other business departments to learn what they need, it is important to pay attention to the details. Here are some tips that can help you make a difference when you start looking for an enterprise resource planning system:
Weight Mobility Correctly
Although there are technologies embedded within most of mainstream enterprise resource planning systems that allow for mobility, the popularity of community versions that do not require payment has caused a few companies to eschew flexibility in order to save implementation costs. Responsive design is one feature that you want to keep, regardless of the cost. Including it means that all of your enterprise resource planning screens and interface will work on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone without you needing to make coding changes when you edit and update pages.
If you want to be savvy about that particular feature, spend some time looking at themes that were developed and determine whether they are customizable so that you can extend your specific look, feel, and performance.
Another key mobile feature is the concept of having a separate application for Android or Apple operating systems. It is often easier and more secure to be able to run your company data on mobile devices through your own application. You do not have to worry about third parties with additional rights that way.
Test the Flow Carefully
There are quite a few things that some enterprise resource planning packages can do for you in theory. Putting a team together to test how the business processes will work as you access different modules of the system is a pretty good way of ensuring that you will not encounter many surprises. It can be easy to see that your enterprise resource planning system offers an electronic commerce functionality. It can be a little more difficult to discern that product data does not flow through from inventory or product pages to the item that you decide to use in the store or eCommerce site.
With some packages, you have to enter the item details into the product area and then enter the same types of details separately into the web store section. So instead of having a normal flow that passes data through to the places that you would like it to go instantly, you have to customize the application in order to make it work.
If you remember our point from the beginning, since the extra amount of time that you spend trying to customize your enterprise resource planning system to make it do what you want is a key factor in why implementations actually fail, it is a good idea to spend time ensuring you have a solid business process requirements plan before you pass or fail any of the packages that you are looking at.
Don’t Forget Integration
Although the City of Los Angeles was excited about porting its office productivity suite software to the online version that Google offered, some of the bloom came off the rose after the software, which promised to save the city millions, turned out to require more integration than anticipated, leading to some contentious meetings as the project progressed.
A similar thing could be said about any enterprise resource planning system project. If you use Google spreadsheets with your firm, are they integrated or do you have to build a connector that allows you to share data? Is your existing mail system for e-mail complementary with the enterprise resource planning? Or will you need to replace the entire thing with the system that you are purchasing?
Hardware is also an open question. Many companies that use a POS are happy to see a POS integrated into their enterprise resource planning system. One problem that purchasers can see is that the POS may not work as perfectly as it claims to with industry hardware that is available to support POS.
Workflow Integration from a Technical Standpoint Is Also Important
If you have a warehouse and are experimenting with warehouse automation equipment that allows you to automate your pick list fulfillment, it might take an extensive technical review for you to put your existing system together with most enterprise resource planning systems. Part of the challenge is that best of class in ERP is still not best of class in specialized areas of manufacturing and warehousing. If you implemented a warehouse automation package already, you are likely ahead in fulfillment from where you would be if you added an enterprise resource planning package.
One tip is to look at what those departments would like to see over the next 5 years. Do they want to start to use self-driving forklifts that are cued by a database? Would they prefer to keep human drivers and have them be directed by visual and audio software so they can optimize their movements? Answering that type of question will help you determine just how much work you need to put in to modifying or rebuilding your ancillary systems.
Overall, when you start looking at a new enterprise resource planning system, you will find that spending time to develop your requirements is one way that you can avoid extra, hidden costs later. The fewer the hidden costs that you have, the more likely your implementation will be a success. One way to benchmark what you are doing overall is to use ROI to measure what you currently do and then compare it with the expected business process that will exist when you implement your enterprise resource planning system.
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