How Relaibale are ERPs

By Brian Boguhn
Updated: August 17, 2011

Considering moving your company onto Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software? As you contemplate the move, you may be wondering just how reliable ERP software really is. That’s a fair question, as an investment in ERP software can be significant. This article will look at the reliability of ERP software and help you to decide if it is right for you.

First Things First – What is ERP Software?

Before we talk about the reliability of ERP software, let’s take a look at exactly what it is.

The function of ERP software is to integrate all of the departments and functions of your company into a single computer system and software solution that can serve the different needs of every person within your business. Instead of having departments doing double work by keeping track of identical items on their own, ERP seeks to bring all of the information together into a central spot for everyone to access at any single moment in time. Therefore, a manager in Sales can check on the status of a customer’s order in Shipping and Receiving and also get payment information from Accounts Receivable without having to talk to a different person in each department. The information is there for the manager to access quickly and easily.

But Does It Work?

Now that we’ve defined what ERP is, think about how daunting a task it can entail. Every company has multiple departments, most which are used to their own way of doing things and have their information stored in their own specific ways. Drawing it all together into one system, albeit not impossible, can be difficult. Since it can be difficult, can its results be reliable? The answer is two-pronged: yes and maybe.

Answer One: Yes

If you’re an enterprise sized business looking to implement ERP software, you really only have 3 choices in terms of vendors to work with: SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft. To give an example of the size and scope of the services offered by these vendors, Microsoft supplies and hosts its ERP software for New York City.

These three vendors are big name vendors with reputations they put on the line day in and day out. They’re looking to take on more enterprise level customers to enhance their portfolios. Their software needs to work, with no excuses. It has to be reliable. If it isn’t, there is a big impact to their customers. If you’re an enterprise and you enlist the services of one of the aforementioned vendors, then yes, the ERP solution you get will be reliable and you can count on it.

Answer Two: Maybe

OK, so where does the maybe fit in? Well, if you’re not an enterprise, but a small or medium sized business (SMB), you have a much broader slice of vendors to work with in regards to ERP solutions. Therein lays the problem. Some of these companies may be very good and provide a very good product that integrates into your environment nicely with no issues whatsoever. However, there are also vendors in this range whose products are so-so and might not work for you. Things become more of a crapshoot here.

The best thing to do if you’re an SMB is to research some of the ERP vendors out there and work with them to determine which the best fit is for you. Talk to people in your network and find out who they use. As you work with the vendors, ask for references. Don’t go with a vendor unless you’ve had the opportunity to talk to a handful of their customers. If a vendor is reputable and confident in their product, they won’t hesitate to give you references. If you’re having trouble getting references from a certain vendor, then you should be concerned and look elsewhere.

If you’ve talked to a vendor’s customers and have gotten good feedback from them, you can expect that the vendor will most likely work well for your business.

Closing Thoughts

Enterprise sized businesses have it pretty easy in regards to ERP solutions, at least in terms of reliability. There are only 3 vendors to choose from, and all three are used to dealing with large clients who expect nothing but the best. SMBs have a much larger field to choose from in terms of vendors to work with, but a smaller chance of getting a reliable product. SMBs need to do a little more footwork to make sure they end up with a solution that works best for them.

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