Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is an essential investment for companies looking to streamline their processes, optimise their resources, and improve their overall efficiency. Making the right choice for your business is crucial, as it will have a significant impact on your operations and bottom line. However, with so many options available in the market, it can be challenging to determine which BMS is the best fit. So, in this article, we will provide a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to choose the best ERP software for your business.
Assessing your business needs
The first thing to do, before you even look at any ERP systems out there, is performing an in-depth assessment of your own business needs. Unless you understand what exactly you are looking to improve in your existing systems or what ongoing issues you need to solve, you won’t have an idea of what to search for in a business management system.
To get started, carry out a comprehensive analysis of your current systems - a good way to do this is by listing the various operations involved in your company and rating them based on their importance. This will help you better understand which areas and functionalities to prioritise within the systems. Have a think about any specific requirements you may have too, such as automating a particular process or redesigning some key elements.
Moreover, don’t forget to consider your long-term plans either. Evaluate the current rate at which your business is growing and look at your cash flow predictions. This is important in order to understand the scalability needs of the system as well as any additional tools you may want to acquire in the near future, which your chosen software should therefore be able to support.
Evaluating potential vendors
The next step would be to do a research of the existing software vendors and shortlist an initial selection of potential systems. This will be mainly based around the features and functionalities they offer - since you have finished an assessment of your business needs, it should now be much easier to know what tools are necessary.
Another important thing to consider before shortlisting a potential vendor is their reputation. Have a look online for any customer reviews about the software itself as well as the customer support available to the users. While you should always take the reviews with a pinch of salt, especially ones describing issues that may have been solved since, they are generally a good representation of what to expect when dealing with a particular vendor.
Once that is complete, you have got a good list of potential ERP systems, each of which should tick a lot of your boxes. However, we are not done yet, as you have a few more factors to consider.
There are some important technical considerations to look into when choosing a business management system. First of all, is the new software compatible with your current IT infrastructure? If you do not aim to fundamentally rebuild your current infrastructure, such as existing hardware, network, software and other assets, you must have the ability to integrate them into your chosen BMS. You want to find out about the customisation options it offers too, especially if you have non-standard operations that may require tailor-made ERP solutions.
Additionally, decide on what kind of software best aligns with your expectations in terms of the ERP deployment options (e.g. cloud, on-premise or hybrid software). There is no right or wrong choice here - the difference is essentially whether the system will be hosted by the vendor in the cloud or by yourself in your own in-house servers. Some companies believe that cloud hosting offers more security while others prefer to have control over their ERP security and compliance methods. Similarly, on-premise software are believed to have a more complex, time-consuming implementation process but allow for more customisation in return, as opposed to on-cloud systems. While this may be true in some cases, there are many cloud softwares that are highly customisable too, such as the open-source Odoo ERP, for example.
User experience and training
Ensuring that you are happy with the interface and user-friendliness is another key aspect that will help determine which of your shortlisted softwares is the best for your business. You can find this out by watching different videos and other user presentations which showcase the workflow for various modules and apps inside the software (e.g. the process of invoice reconciliation). The UI should be as user-friendly and intuitive as possible, while routine tasks should be quick and simple to complete (if not fully automated).
Furthermore, look into the availability and quality of user support as well as training. Typically, if you opt for a third-party partner to develop and implement an ERP system for you, the user training will be one of the services provided. This will help your employees adopt the new interface much easier and, therefore, reduce the time in which they are able to work with the new software productively and with minimal supervision.
Cost of ownership
The cost of ownership is, of course, one of the most important considerations when choosing the best ERP system for businesses. Therefore, make sure you fully understand the software licensing and pricing models for each of your shortlisted vendors. While we hope most BMS providers offer transparent and fair pricing, do keep an eye out for any small print disclosing additional fees.
Not only that, you must also evaluate the implementation and maintenance costs of the business management software at question. Depending on how complex the migration process will be for your company and whether you will require custom-made modules or apps, you should be able to request a rough estimate of the overall costs. ERP implementation is a substantial investment that may set you back £60k+, however, the initial investment can also be quickly returned with improved efficiency, increased productivity, minimised operational costs and other long-term benefits. Assessing the costs alongside the perceived ROI of the system is therefore key in making your final decision.
The final decision
As you may have gathered, the key focus throughout the above points has been about ensuring that the ERP software you choose for your company is well aligned with your business goals and objectives. It has to meet all of your expectations as well as offer great value for your money. This process is by no means quick and easy - on the contrary, it can become quite complex and require a lot of your time. Proper evaluation, assessment and planning is, therefore, absolutely crucial at this stage.
However, after considering all of the different factors and completing your research, you should be able to make a well-informed decision on which business management system best suits your individual business needs. Not only that, the work you put in now will prevent any unpleasant surprises at the 11th hour of committing to a new ERP system..
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