An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system ties everything in your organization together and allows you to take advantage of big data to grow your business. However, not all ERP systems are created equal, and some lack essential features.
About 50 percent of companies surveyed state that they plan to either implement or upgrade an ERP system. If you already have an ERP system in place, you might wonder what you should work toward for improvement. Fortunately, there are some common areas where ERP systems fail that you can focus on to improve all your business processes and data processing.
1. Flexible Databases
As companies implement ERP systems, they often segment areas of the database, locking access for some departments and unlocking them for others. The problem is that the more segments are in the system, the less flexibility there is for data to flow through the company.
For example, your marketing department may want access to the sales department data to make an educated guess about top-selling products for the coming year and how best to market them to the target audience. Fortunately, it's easy enough to unlock databases so that different departments can see them. While you don't want to make all information accessible, you can set up tiers where department heads have more access to data than other employees, for example.
2. Manufacturing Execution System (MES)
For businesses with a manufacturing floor, integrating the ERP system with an MES add-on keeps the front office informed of what's going on out on the floor. Track any interruptions in production, and notify customers about potential delays or shift inventory to cover current orders.
Adding MES functionality to your software systems helps with everything from overtime scheduling to quarterly productivity goals. You'll also see issues with various equipment that needs replacing or repairing to run at optimal numbers.
3. Visualization Tools
One of the most significant problems with an ERP is that you collect tons of data but may not understand how to turn that information into something useful for your business. Understanding the data and gaining business intelligence puts you ahead of your competitors, but you must have the tools to understand the massive data presented.
One way of breaking down complex data is with data visualization tools. The software serves as an add-on to your system and takes complex data, analyzes it and creates visual representations, making it easier to understand. Create charts, graphs or dashboards for use by nearly every department and as an overall management tool.
A nightmare scenario for many companies involves a competitor or disgruntled former employee gaining access to confidential company data. If your system isn't wholly secured, hackers may find their way into your databases and gather all types of personal information from your employees and clients, using it for whatever purpose they desire.
Securing your system is vital and one of the reasons many companies turn to cloud-based solutions. About 94 percent of businesses feel that cloud computing makes their security better. Cloud-based ERP services may help small companies meet compliance requirements without spending a fortune.
5. Remote Accessibility
More and more companies are seeing the benefit of allowing workers to go remote at least part of the work week. For those who travel with their work, such as salesmen, the ability to access data from anywhere is a vital part of the job. They might need to quickly locate a customer's records before meeting with them, for example, so mobile devices need to work as well as PCs with your databases and reports.
However, your ERP may be so locked down for security reasons that it's nearly impossible to log into the system from a remote spot. Going through a VPN is too complicated to implement over and over again, keeping your IT department tied up with problem-solving. The simplest solution is going on the cloud with your ERP because most providers also offer remote access with the appropriate security clearances and passwords.
6. Vendor and Client Access
If your system doesn't already open up portions of your database to vendors and clients, you're missing out on some easy troubleshooting and automation features. For example, vendors should be able to log in and see how much of an item you order from them is left and even invoice you or look at paid invoices on your system. Offering vendor access saves your accounting department time and effort, as they don't have to look up invoices and track down payments.
Clients should be able to log in and look at their account, seeing orders they've placed in the past and clicking on any item for a quick re-order. Your ERP must integrate smoothly with an online shopping cart for your customers. The smoother the ordering process is, the more likely it is that your past customers will order from you again.
7. Automated Workflow
You can add different software modules to your ERP that automate workflow for sales and marketing. Imagine a system that sends out an email around the time a customer runs out of a product and asks if they'd like to place the same order again. Automated communication based on past behavior frees up your marketing and sales teams to focus on bringing in new leads while still keeping current customers engaged and loyal to your brand.
8. HR and Payroll Management
What if human resources spent most of their time finding and training the best of the best in your field instead of dealing with paid time off, fixing paychecks and onboarding new employees? Imagine the saved time if an employee could log in to the system and check their upcoming paycheck instead of having to ask HR to look it up for them.
Adding on some HR and payroll management software to your ERP not only frees up HR but also makes life easier on your accounting department. Even automatic deposits automate with some of the third-party software out there, which works with your overall ERP system.
Choosing the Best Add-Ons for Your Business
No matter how much time or money you spend on your ERP system, there will be some areas that don't fully meet your needs. Third-party add-ons can help fill the gap, but keep in mind that different software also changes the way your system works. Implement only those solutions that benefit your business, and work at making improvements in small stages over time.