What’s the worry with first time ERP?

By Taryn Cromie, sales manager, HansaWorld South Africa

Ambitious business owners soon come to a crossroads where they must decide to implement better business systems to support on-going growth, or choose to remain at a smaller scale. When this crossroads is reached, the answer from a systems perspective is an Enterprise Resource Planning solution. Deciding to implement an ERP system means the business owner is faced with tough questions and concerns.

The key among these are ‘just how much will this cost’, ‘how risky is an ERP implementation to my business’, and, perhaps most importantly, ‘which solution should I choose’.

Until quite recently, ERP was largely the preserve of bigger companies, giving rise to the entirely valid first question of cost. The push into the lower end of the market by ‘enterprise’ ERP software providers has come with a ‘big company’ mentality, too; many of these types of solutions are indeed excessively complicated and come with hefty price tags.

As for risky, Google turns up ample examples of horror stories resulting from ERP implementations gone wrong, in many cases resulting in serious financial and performance losses (most business owners on the cusp of choosing an ERP solution are likely to search ‘famous ERP failures’ and shudder at the results).

Many of these failed projects are tied to ‘big name’ ERP vendors; however, the fright these debacles produce is contagious. There is a lesson for anyone seeking to implement ERP: it has to be done right the first time. It’s safe to say most growing businesses cannot afford an interruption to productivity.

The good news is that while knowledge of the risks and failures is intimidating, it doesn’t have to be like that. For the first time ERP buyer, there are options available which are proven in similar-sized businesses. These are not the ‘big name’ solutions used by multinationals like BMW or big companies like SAA, redesigned for growing companies.

Instead, the solutions which are best for your company are those that were designed (and proven) to take a growing business from Excel spreadsheets and into the connected, integrated world of ERP.
Most importantly, too, is that making this move no longer requires a massive capital outlay of several million Rands. They also don’t require months or years for their implementation; in many cases, the first time ERP can take just days to get up and running.

Indeed, the advent of Software as a Service and cloud business models means you can, in many instances, try out the fundamentals of what will become a full-blown ERP solution, for no charge at all.

So what should you be looking for? Seeking a proven track record for businesses similar to yours in both type and size is probably the most critical first step. Consider, too, that the project you’re contemplating has come about as a result of growth; chances are, you want the company to continue growing, so make sure to establish how well the system you are considering has grown with other companies.

Probably the next most important consideration is the ability to start small and to add further modules as and when required. The solution you choose should deliver the financial suite (General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, etc) as well as further modules such as Logistics, Warehousing, Customer Relationship Management, integrated Business Intelligence, and more. Essentially, you want to choose a system that not only meets immediate needs, but provides the scope to keep growing with your business.

Finally, most growing companies are likely to have a range of devices in use, from mobile handsets, to various tablet computers, and a number of PCs, Linux machines and perhaps Apple Macs. You want the chosen solution to work well across these devices, since forcing any staff member to move away from their device of choice, may adversely impact productivity. Be sure that the solution you choose offers multiplatform flexibility.

Moving to an ERP solution is certainly not a decision easily made, nor should it be easy to make. However, for the growing business, upgrading systems to improve control becomes an inevitability at a certain point; make the right choice, and your company can be set for the future.

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What’s the worry with first time ERP?