To render ERP a worthy investment, companies should search for solutions that possess a series of key features and capabilities. These include:
1. Mobile functionality: Studies suggest that enterprise mobile workers will make up 73 percent of the workforce by 2012. That's all the more reason to select an ERP solution that provides remote access to its database and processes. In fact, an ERP system with mobile functionality lets workers access a software program that allows a mobile device, from a Tablet PC to an iPhone, connect to the ERP system. By granting remote access, companies can ensure their employees have up-to-the-minute information on everything from product pricing to transportation services.
2. Manufacturing: It's not the trendiest application of ERP technology but it's one of the most important: manufacturing. By helping companies align their manufacturing and inventory processes, an ERP manufacturing module delivers number benefits, including:
Key functions of an ERP manufacturing software module include engineering, workflow management and quality control in order to ensure the delivery of real-time data regarding inventory information and the production process.
3. Financial management: With regulatory requirements at an all-time high, and financial filings under enormous scrutiny, companies can't afford to miss making payments or overlook accounting details. An ERP system with a strong financial component, however, can ensure companies meet financial reporting and tax requirements with a single accounting, banking and payment systems. But that's not all. Managers can enhance financial performance with real-time information on their department's expenses and revenue contributions. What's more, a financial management module can help improve cash flow, lower costs, and increase profitability while maintaining more accurate, timely, and transparent financial reporting.
4. HCM (Human Capital Management): ERP HR modules have moved beyond core processes including employee administration, payroll and legal reporting. The latest solutions feature a host of capabilities including resource, workforce and talent management. Scheduling, time and attendance, performance support, recruitment, employee performance, competency management - they're only a handful features companies should look for in an ERP system. What's more, reporting and analysis tools provide customized insight into common HR processes. And Web-based tools grant HR managers remote access to important employee information and HR procedures while traveling from branch to branch.
5. SCM (Supply Chain Management): In today's fast-paced, highly competitive marketplace, companies need to be able to monitor demand, supply, manufacturing status, logistics and distribution in record time. Failing to find information, such as the location of a product's key components, and promptly share this information with supply partners, can have a significant impact on a company's supply chain. An ERP supply chain management module aids in all supply chain processes, from design, planning and procurement to manufacturing and fulfillment.
6. Project management: An ERP project management module removes the guesswork from project-related activities so that companies can select the best projects, assign the proper resources, streamline delivery efforts and track profitability. No longer can companies afford to estimate project costs and overall project performance. By facilitating change management, time and expense reporting and billing and collecting payment activities, an ERP project management module creates a snapshot of the entire project lifecycle in order to accurately assess project performance and profitability
7. CRM (Customer Relationship Management): Whether your goal is to better manage invoicing activities or monitor the status of contracts, a customer relationship management module helps bring data together to enable salespeople and marketing planners alike to better address customer needs, preferences and buying patterns.
8. Delivery methods: Say good-bye to traditional licensing paradigms. These days, companies interested in ERP can choose from a variety of delivery methods. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, for example, offers companies access to business services such as HR, payroll, procurement using an on-demand platform. Forget about costly and time-consuming deployments. SaaS-based ERP systems are fast and easy to deploy. But buyer beware: many are immature and come with limited functionality.
And then there's open source software. Codeless and model-driven, today's open source ERP solutions promise to integrate accounting, sales, procurement and project management at a fraction of the cost of traditional ERP systems. Just be sure your company has the in-house expertise needed to manage and monitor an open source ERP system.
9. Third-party interoperability: Almost all businesses need to extend or bolt on additional systems to satisfy unique aspects of their business that are not addressed by their ERP system. For example, a financial institution may rely on a particular ERP solution for its accounting activities but turn to a third-party application to process human resources claims. For this reason, companies should inquire about a particular ERP system's degree of interoperability to avoid integration headaches.
10. Ease of integration: Whether you're migrating legacy data into a new ERP system or adding a third-party application to an existing one, there's no denying the integration issues that accompany many ERP deployments. It's a necessary evil as ERP modules, from HR to manufacturing, must be tightly integrated with all other business-critical applications, including office productivity suites, in order to deliver real business value. For some, that may entail concealing an ERP system behind front-office applications to drive adoption among employees. In the end though, an ERP system must be both pervasive and invisible to be effective.
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