Don’t let enterprise resource planning (ERP) partners take advantage of you by making you buy products you don’t really need, make sure your business is using the technology it’s already purchased to its full potential first, and then think about what else you need to take your business to the next level.
Technology’s purpose in life is to make doing easier. We don’t run places, we drive; we don’t set sail, we board planes; we don’t wade through reams of paper, we hit control find. Technology makes things easy, efficient, it lets us get to where we need to be faster. When businesses go looking for an ERP partner, this is what they’re looking for; Doing Made Easy.
For new businesses, especially those in the small business sector, it’s usually a case of getting a proper ERP system in the first place. Most seek this type of help after making it work with a collection of not quite right DIY solutions. They’ve done the best they can with the products they have and now they’re ready to grow and move their business to the next level with something completely new. For more established small-to-medium sized businesses (SMEs), those that already have an ERP system in place, buying new software isn’t always the key to growing their business and taking it to the next level. Sometimes – in fact, a lot of the time – it’s a case of learning to use what you’ve already got and making sure your employees are using the software to the best of their abilities.
Practice makes perfect
If you’re an SME that’s using well-established ERP software like Microsoft Dynamics 365, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV or the newly created Dynamics 365 Business Central, chances are you’ve already got a tool in place that is more than capable of meeting the demands of your business. If you feel like something is missing or your business isn’t getting the most out of your ERP solution, it might be best to first look at how your business is using the technology, before you start thinking that you need to invest in a new IT solution. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I know the full capabilities of this software?
- Do my staff?
- Are we using this best-in-class ERP system in a best-practice way?
- Are new staff up-to-date and up-to-scratch with using this technology?
- Am I providing my staff with the IT training they need to use the software efficiently?
These sorts of questions are invaluable for two reasons. First, from an investment perspective, you’ll get a good sense if your staff are actually using and benefiting from the products you’re paying good money for them to use. Second, if you start an open and honest conversation with your staff about the software they use and how they use it, you’ll start seeing how many of them waste precious time doing simple tasks in complicated ways. It is absolutely shocking the number of times we’ve seen a new client come to us from a previous partner, frustrated and disappointed with the ERP product they bought, feeling like they were promised one thing and given another, only to realise (and be even more frustrated by the knowledge) that they’ve not even been using 20 per cent of the ERP solution’s capabilities.
It isn’t surprising for us to hear horror stories of employees feeling so overwhelmed and confused with the ERP system they’re being made to use that tasks like month-end or year-end become nervous-breakdown causing events. Employees feel this way, because either:
- Nobody taught them how to use the ERP software their company uses
- They use it in an inefficient way
- They use it, however they were taught with other people’s bad habits
- They are not using the most up-to-date version of the software
Instead of employees using the product the way it’s meant to be used, they often know that a piece of software should be used yet find manual, labour intensive processes to work around it. So, for example, instead of an employee knowing or learning how to create job queues and running automated reports overnight, they’ll opt to come in early and stay back late torturing themselves in Excel to get the same report they could have gotten with the click of a few buttons.
If you want to make sure your business is getting the most out of its existing ERP solutions, follow these four simple steps:
- Double-check the support package you have with your partner, does it include training, webinars and product consultation? If they don’t include training, find a partner that does or get onto a support package that has training included.
- Is your ERP partner providing you with a dedicated account manager? If not, ask them why not? You could be with a partner that’s either too big or too small. You need to find one that’s right for you.
- Is your ERP partner keeping you up-to-date with the latest versions of your ERP software, and are they letting you know of any third-party products that can plug-in and help your existing solution?
- Is your ERP provider a one-stop-shop technology solutions provider or are they just focused on selling you more of the only thing they do? It’s important to find a partner that is solution agnostic, they’ll be more interested in selling you what’s right, not just what they’ve got.
Technology is advancing at an almost exhausting rate, from AI to AR and everything in between, there’s never been so many resources available to companies of any size. Tech products are giving firms the ability to understand their customers, grow their businesses and provide services in ways they previously could only have dreamt about or read in Philip K Dick novels.
Can cutting-edge technology help your business? Of course it can, but before you start introducing more bells and whistles to your business and overloading your employees with even more gadgets, take some time to reflect on what you’ve already got and make sure you’re using it to its full potential. Don’t move from solution to solution throwing money down the drain. Perfect your skills with what you’ve already got, and then, when your business and employees are actually ready for it, move your business to the next essential piece of technology that you actually need, not just one that your partner told you to get because it’s the next shiny new technology toy.
Camilo Lascano Tribin, Marketing Communications & Content Manager, Advantage
Image source: Shutterstock/niroworld