How is your business performing? Are there some areas that need improvement or are causing issues across the organisation? In today’s fast-changing environment, you need to be able to answer these questions instantly. With so much competition — not to mention economically turbulent and uncertain times — you can’t afford to be uninformed, especially when it comes to your organisation’s performance.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software was created so you can have that information and more at your fingertips. You’ll have your most vital systems contained in one repository, along with real-time data about your organisation’s performance and other relevant information visible to you immediately. This type of system can go a long way in helping you achieve success as a business and keeping you well-informed along the way.
But what exactly is ERP software? And how will it help streamline your entire business? Here’s a look at 9 key ways it can help you improve performance and achieve your goals.
What Is ERP software?
ERP software allows you to integrate various applications and aspects of your business into a single system. Streamlining your central operations, it uses technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and others to manage and automate core procedures. It can improve and centralise processes and departments such as:
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Financial management
- Human resources (HR)
- Inventory management
- Manufacturing operations management
- Order processing and fulfilment
- Project management
- Risk management
- Sales and marketing
- Supply chain management
While the term “enterprise” usually refers to larger companies, ERP software can support small, mid-sized, and big companies alike. If you have numerous processes that keep your business moving — as most organisations do — chances are, it can benefit you by managing all these components in a single place. Different ERP software providers cater to different sizes and types of businesses depending on their individual needs.
Nine ways ERP software will streamline your business
No matter what the size of your business or your industry, ERP software can help support you as you carry out your most vital and core functions. Here are 9 ways it will streamline your business and make every one of your employees’ lives a little easier.
1. It Improves Efficiency and Reduces Time Spent on Tasks
ERP software’s chief purpose is to keep all your vital information, programs, and data in a single, centralised location. When everyone has access to this repository, it means they will be spending less time locating information, entering data, and ultimately carrying out their day-to-day tasks.
Efficiency, of course, is essential for keeping your operations and entire business running smoothly. When you implement ERP software, you’re making it easier for everyone to do their jobs without the hassle of dealing with different systems and applications.
This software also eliminates the need for different departments and individuals to wait for files and data or to be able to access information. Everything is immediately available for you and your employees to use in a single location.
2. It Facilitates Inter-Departmental Communication
When you use ERP software, no one department acts as the gatekeeper of certain information that multiple people and departments need. Instead, all departments can readily access data. They can also share information with one another thanks to the single system they have at their disposal.
Moreover, productivity will increase, because there won’t be any lags or delays after one employee or department requests information from another. They can simply access it via the centralised system rather than relying on their colleagues to deliver it, which, as noted above, makes all operations more efficient.
This also improves collaborative efforts and the spread of information across your organisation. Using a single shared database or system, you’ll be able to work together and ensure everyone has access to the same updates and feedback.
3. It Standardises Your Processes
By using a single system, you’ll be able to standardise processes and procedures across your organisation. No longer will departments or employees be using programs and databases that might be incompatible with one another. With ERP software in place, departments can easily make edits on documents and files that will be visible to everyone or upload tools that are compatible with other programs within the same system.
This will greatly simplify processes across your entire organisation and reduce confusion. Your employees will be on the same page. Ultimately, it could have an enormous effect on how you execute day-to-day operations.
4. It Automates Procedures
Automation has numerous benefits. For one, it will save you money — you won’t have to pay humans to perform rote, repetitive tasks such as data entry. Instead, a machine can do these activities for you. While you’ll likely have to pay to set up the system initially, this is a one-time fee, as opposed to repeatedly paying an individual to complete these tasks.
This will also save you and your business time. Again, humans take significantly longer to complete certain tasks that a machine can perform practically instantaneously, depending on the nature of the work.
ERP software automates some of your most painstaking and time-consuming procedures across departments, including human resources, finance, IT, sales, and marketing. In addition to the above benefits, you’ll also reduce the instances of human error. AI will spot inconsistencies and avoid making errors that human employees are wont to make, no matter how diligent or careful they are. You’ll also receive immediate information about your efforts.
Automation also means that you won’t have to enter key information multiple times across separate systems. Since information can be applied to all the applications within the single system, you only need to enter it once — no need to make duplicate entries, which, again, reduces the probability of errors occurring.
5. It Offers Remote Access to Important Business Tools
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for remote access to important business tools is more apparent than ever before. But even under so-called “normal” circumstances, there are occasions when you’ll need to use your company’s systems remotely, whether you’re on a business trip or taking the day to work from home.
ERP software can make your central business systems available via the cloud. And while you likely already have access to some of your systems remotely, through an ERP system, you’ll be able to use a single sign-in to use all your programs from the comfort of your own home or wherever you need to work from. You may not even need to download anything but simply access them via a web browser.
This also gives employees based in different locations access to the same tools. If you have multiple locations, an employee in California will be able to use the same tools and systems as an employee in New York, Chicago or halfway across the world. Again, this also facilitates stronger communication and standardises your systems, not to mention increases accessibility.
6. It Provides Real-Time Data and Improves Visibility
ERP software allows you to see real-time data, which brings a number of advantages to your organisation. For example, it enables you to address issues within your processes quickly and adjust your operations accordingly. It also gives you insights into how you’re performing, whether in terms of sales, meeting deadlines, flow within your supply chain, and other aspects of your business operations.
The software also helps you see how departments and operations are functioning and working with one another. For instance, you might note the amount of time it takes since your sales team closes a sale until accounts payable processes the order right until the moment your warehouse fulfills and ships it. This will help you improve your workflow and make adjustments as needed.
Because the systems are automated, ERP software shows you results in real-time, ensuring the data you’re viewing is current and actionable. Some systems even present data visualisations, such as graphs and charts, to help you better understand performance and other information as it affects your entire organisation. In many cases, you’ll be able to view these insights on an analytics dashboard as soon as you log in. This will enable you to react more quickly.
Many types of ERP software also generate reports filled with actionable data and information. If done manually, these would typically take days or even weeks to compile, while an automated system can do it in minutes.
7. It Eliminates Redundancies
Chances are you have some systems within your organisation that are performing the same or similar functions. You might also be entering the same data multiple times across various departments. But when you install ERP software, you only need to enter some data one time. You can also eliminate overlapping systems, thanks to the fact that you’ll have a single, centralised location for many of your programs and much of your information.
This can also help you address inconsistencies. When you’re entering the same information multiple times across different systems, errors are likely to occur. But when you’re storing it in one place, you’ll eliminate or at least reduce these discrepancies.
8. It Improves Planning
Achieving your business goals requires an enormous amount of planning before you can take action. In order to plan successfully, you’ll need to have data at your fingertips. For example, you’ll need to take stock of:
- The resources you need
What tools do you need to accomplish your goals? What goods are essential for your services?
- Changes you need to make
What’s working? What’s not? Is anything interrupting or causing lags in the pipeline?
- Improvements that will help your business
How can you make your operations even better? What are your priorities?
- Key personnel
Which employees should be involved at which stages? What are the responsibilities and duties of each person?
ERP software can assist you with all of these concerns. By providing you with real-time data, you’ll better understand what you need to do to streamline your business and keep your operations functioning. In fact, it will offer you insights into how you can improve your operations to perform even better.
9. It Will Keep Your Tools Up-to-Date
Have you outgrown your current technology? Even if some of your tools are of the latest model, the ones that are outdated could be causing inefficiencies across your entire business. You can’t keep relying on out-of-date programs to carry out your most important business functions. This will cause all kinds of issues — from system bugs to incompatibilities across your systems — that can impact all your departments and employees.
ERP software uses modern technology that will grow with your organisation. You’ll ensure that you’re using the latest tools to carry out your processes. Because you’re using a centralised system that contains multiple programs, everything will be updated at once when there are new releases.
If you don’t already have an ERP software system in place, it’s time to implement one across your business. Doing so will streamline your procedures and vastly improve your company’s operations as a whole. While initial setup can be costly, think about the money you’ll ultimately save by reducing inefficiencies and errors, eliminating redundancies, automating processes, providing actionable data, and more. The benefits certainly exceed the cost.
When weighing your options for ERP software, consider factors such as the size of your organisation, the services you need, the departments that will use it, and your goals. In order to successfully implement it, you may also need to change or revise current systems and methodologies, such as replacing some manual procedures with automated ones.
There is plenty of existing software for businesses of different sizes from vendors including Microsoft and Oracle. Some open-source software exists as well. If you’re looking for customised solutions to meet your unique business needs, considering outsourcing your project to an outside provider that can tailor ERP software to your particular organisation.
Malcom Ridgers, tech expert, Bairesdev