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What Is ERP Software (Enterprise Resource Planning Software)?

ERP Software is a digital solution that integrates a business’s critical data regarding processes such as financial, HR, supply chain, manufacturing, and more, in one single source of truth.

The objective of an Enterprise Resource Planning system is to allow data to flow easily between departments, promoting quick, accurate decision-making and streamlined operations through automated workflows.

A modern ERP system will offer modules for:

  • Enterprise planning
  • Budgeting and accounting
  • Enterprise procurement
  • Project management
  • Risk management
  • Compliance management
  • Supply chain management
  • Enterprise workforce management

How Does an ERP System Work?

An ERP system acts as a data and information pipeline across all (or chosen) functions of your business. 95% of businesses that adopt an ERP system see an immediate operational improvement.

It works by collecting datasets from business processes and displaying data in real time via dashboards and workflows. An ERP then recommends automation procedures through predictive analytics to improve business processes.

ERP Systems enable you to capture information about:

  1. Customers
  2. Invoicing
  3. Procurement
  4. Production planning
  5. Production
  6. Operations
  7. Supply chain
  8. Logistics
  9. Warehouse
  10. Delivery
  11. Returns
  12. Human resources
  13. Financial planning

As the ERP system captures data at different stages of the business, it acts as an information repository for your business. This core component of an ERP system allows you to fully understand bottlenecks, acceleration points, and key drivers of your business.

What Are the Benefits and Business Value of ERP Software?

There are three key areas where ERP Software provides business value:

  1. Productivity through automation
  2. Collaboration through the flow of data
  3. Efficiency through total visibility of business processes

With increased business value in these areas, businesses implementing ERP Software will benefit from:

Complete Transparency & Traceability of Information

ERP systems provide transparency through the visibility and accessibility of data collected across all business departments. This boosts cross-departmental collaboration and promotes up-to-date and accurate information through real-time data collection.

Quicker Informed Decision-Making

Through accessible, accurate, and conformed information managed in a centralised ERP system, decision-making is accurate and accelerated. Important decisions are made through the analysis of cross-department data. Reporting capabilities also provide a level of detail required to make better business decisions.

Reducing Human Error Through Automation

Automating business processes eliminates human error and increases the speed of execution; ERP automation is no different. Through data integration, ERP Software can prompt automated inventory management, order processing, payroll processing, predictive analytics reporting, and more.

Fewer Risks of Data Silos

ERP Software enables the flow of accurate information from various departments. This steady flow of data is collected and managed in one system. The capability to collect data from all business areas aims to eliminate data silos, where key information might have otherwise been untracked or missed entirely. By reducing siloed data, managers can make informed decisions quicker and with more accuracy.

Real-time Insights Through Predictive Analytics

ERP systems manage and report on business operations and integrated applications that generate large volumes of data in real time from IoT (Internet of Things) sensors, customer chat logs, order processing tools, and more. Whereas other standalone tools have limitations on storing and presenting large amounts of structured and unstructured enterprise data, robust modern ERP systems harness that data to generate reports and predictive analytics/forecasting.

Increased Data Security

Web applications are at risk from phishing attacks, insider threats, and ransomware. 47% of information security breaches have led to compromised personal business information. Having a single data repository improves the safeguarding of sensitive business information. Through the enhanced data security of an ERP system, CIOs can ensure:

  • Data integrity is upheld
  • Sensitive data is protected
  • Strict access control is in place
  • Data recovery systems are initiated
  • Compliance and privacy rules are followed

When Should Organisations Consider Implementing ERP Software?

When businesses consider implementing an ERP system, there is a mix of major drivers and minor drivers.

For instance, there are no set scenarios for implementing ERP Software; billion-dollar businesses have run their core processes on spreadsheets and micro businesses have implemented modern cloud-based ERP systems.

Yet, if there is one reason why most businesses implement ERP Software, it is for greater ‘Reporting, Analytics and Insight’.

People-Based Scenarios to Deploy An ERP System:

  • Provide a single platform to work across different teams and departments
  • Offer structured processes to complete tasks
  • Improve speed of work
  • Record intangible knowledge into systems
  • Take a data-oriented approach to improve people-oriented processes
  • Build a common data repository across different teams

Process and Workflow-Based Reasons to Deploy ERP Software:

  • When a process has more than 5 stages
  • Interdependent and interlinked process involving more than two departments/teams
  • Distant process (for example, the on-site process is dependent on the off-site process)
  • Looped processes where maintaining accuracy with a tolerance is important
  • Collecting data is vital for compliance and efficiency improvement

Objectives, Targets, and KPI-Driven Reasons to Deploy ERP Software:

  • Take data-based decisions to scale, be profitable, and be more efficient
  • Improve speed and accuracy of decision-making
  • Back decisions with data
  • Use data to validate gut-feel-based decisions
  • Improve reporting across the businesses
  • Clarify priorities to drive business momentum

Successful ERP Software Implementation Examples

Cadbury: The UK multinational confectioner implemented a SAP-based ERP system to address the issues of their existing ERP tool, which failed to meet production and distribution requirements. The new ERP system enabled 11,000 employees to send data to a shared ERP system, which improved the efficiency and structure of their warehouse management protocols.

Audi: The German automotive manufacturer successfully deployed a cloud and on-premise hybrid ERP system throughout the business from the manufacturing plant to the automated payroll process. Audi integrated multiple applications that included apps for HR and their Procurements and Maintenance landscape.

N&N Moving Supplies: A small family-run moving company that tripled its location operations, they implemented Oracle NetSuite ERP to address issues with timekeeping and payroll. The ERP Software reduced payroll processing time by 84% and gave access to personalised dashboards and analytics on iPads to its employees.

How ERP Software Impacts Different Industries

Businesses implementing ERP Software have multiple operations, each with a specialised area of focus that requires complex planning and reporting. With this in mind, ERP Software is best utilised in industries such as:

  • Manufacturing: Manufacturing ERP systems help manufacturers plan and schedule production, improve product quality, leverage product lifecycle management, optimise supply chain planning, and gain accurate inventory control.
  • Retail/E-Commerce & Distribution: Retailers utilise e-commerce integrations and ERP modules such as order management, warehouse management, customer tracking, and supply chain management to improve control of sales and the customer experience.
  • Healthcare: Hospitals, care homes, blood banks, and more, use ERP systems to manage medical inventories and supplies, digitalise patient records to build centralised patient portals, and create accurate financial forecasts.
  • Construction and Engineering: Construction and engineering operations use integrated ERP applications to track and assign sub-contractors, control the inventory of building materials, plan for resource allocation, and improve project management on a large scale.
  • Banking and Financial Services: ERP systems are used by financial services to control risk management, plan for “what-if” scenarios, secure data management, and track custom relationships.
  • Education: Institutes, schools, and colleges use ERP Software to make sharable information available to parents, students, staff, and teachers, as well as help to build digital student records and improve the availability of educational equipment through resource planning and asset management modules.
  • Food & Beverage: Tailored food and beverage ERP tools use information to analyse and improve food waste management, recipe management, ingredient tracking, and allergen and dietary safety compliance. As well as using warehouse and inventory management modules for storing products with temperature, weight, and date requirements.

Top Modules, Features, and Functionalities of an ERP System

Human Resources Management (HRM)

An HRM module stores all information regarding employees such as employment contracts, holiday allowances, and performance reviews.

Inventory Management and Tracking

Inventory management modules focus on location tracking and real-time stock levels. This ERP Software module helps to automate processes like inventory procurement when set stock levels are triggered and notification alerts when inventory is moved from one location to another without authorisation.

Warehouse Management

A warehouse management feature has similarities to a Warehouse Management System (WMS), collecting information regarding packing, picking, and shipping. This module helps to utilise warehouse space and optimise the packing and picking process.

Order Management

Integrating an order management module - similar to an Order Management System (OMS) - generates information about the order lifecycle from order placement to fulfilment, creating a seamless omnichannel order process.

Reporting and Analytics

Reporting and analytic functionalities are integral for gaining a holistic view of business processes. This feature opens the door to predictive analytics, data visualisation, and business forecasting.

Financial Management & Accounting

Financial management is a core module of any ERP Software. CFOs and accounting teams utilise financial information to gain a snapshot of the company’s financial position and to manage the general ledger. CFOs can generate financial reports, produce cash flow forecasts, and automate billing, vendor payment, and expense processes.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Although customer relationship functions are featured in broader ERP systems, CRM modules track a customer’s movement throughout the buying stage and collect information such as interactions and purchases.

Supply Chain Management (SCM)

ERP supply chain management modules centralise key information to help match supply and demand. Data includes goods procurement, inventory management, distribution and logistics, and warehouse management.

Asset Management

Asset management modules combine supply chain, financial, and sales data to track asset depreciation values and improve the management of each asset’s lifecycle, from planning to disposal.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing ERP Software modules share similarities with Material Requirements Planning (MRP) systems whereas they ensure manufacturers have all they need to plan production runs. That includes data surrounding the supply chain, work order management, warehouse management, quality control, bill of materials (BOM), and procurement.

Expert Guides For Implementing and Using ERP Software

What Is ERP Integration: Understanding the Methods, Benefits & Risks Involved

27th Oct 2023

ERP integration is the process of feeding your ERP Software with the data provided by current business day-to-day operational applications. But, for successful integration, there are several methods, process, and challenged to be wary of.

The Risks, Benefits, and 9 Key Stages of a Successful ERP Implementation Plan

9th Nov 2023

For a business to succeed with the implementation of a modern ERP system, and avoid an expensive crash-and-burn, there is a 9-step process.

Why Manufacturing ERPs Are Considered the Best Option & When to Switch

12th Feb 2024

Fighting the constant efficiency battle, manufacturing is the dominant end-user market for ERP, with some 89% of manufacturers from regular surveys using ERP Software. Manufacturers, whether discrete or batch and process, use ERP to remain competitive and drive their business forward.

What Is Cloud ERP & How Are Businesses Benefiting From Its Deployment

28th Feb 2024

The cloud is simply “other company’s compute power.” Together with ERP, the cloud has transformed how businesses operate. CIOs, IT leaders, and other key roles are under pressure to adopt what is a winning formula.

The Benefits and Risks of Mixing or Replacing Your CRM With ERP

1st Dec 2023

CRM and ERP are the heavyweight tools of the corporate software world. Both boost revenue and improve business performance, but they go about it in very different ways.

How ERP is Driving Small Businesses into a Digital Era

6th Dec 2023

Just by the name “enterprise resource planning”, small businesses might think that ERP Software is not for them. Yet, any size of business looking to develop and grow in a structured and integrated manner will find that adopting ERP Software creates value and helps it grow in the market.

ERP vs Accounting Software: Which Is Best For Today’s Financially-Sound Businesses?

22nd Dec 2023

Accounting is a mainstay core function of any business, for strong financial management, taxation, payroll and strategic planning. With an abundance of SaaS solutions available, businesses have a choice; to implement a dedicated accounting system to manage their financial processes, or to opt for a more rounded ERP solution.

ERP vs. MRP: The Benefits & Differences That Affect Manufacturers

8th Dec 2023

Businesses have moved on from a material world to one of data insights and analytics. That’s where ERP improves on the traditional use of manufacturing resource planning, otherwise known as MRP. However, MRP’s dominance in the world’s factories and production facilities challenges the need for ERPs and potentially greater IT complexity.

Mastering a Growing Supply Chain With an ERP Solution

18th Dec 2023

ERPs can improve all five stages of the supply chain, driving better business efficiency and management of assets to improve the resiliency of an organisation as it grows or meets changing market conditions.

ERP HR Modules: The Perks & Potential Risks of Integrating Human Resource Management

9th Feb 2024

As the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) market size reaches its expected $49.5 billion worth, organisations are understanding the advantages of integrating all business processes through ERP modules, one being an ERP HR Module.

The Role of AI In ERP & How It's Empowering Accurate Decision-Making

21st Feb 2024

The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Enterprise Resource Planning Software is widespread, with 65% of CIOs integrating AI into ERP systems in 2022. As of 2024, one in six UK businesses has adopted artificial intelligence technology, with most citing ‘data management and analysis’ as the primary reason. This makes the combination of AI and ERP fitting and somewhat limitless.

Best ERP E-Commerce Tools & Features That Address Brand Challenges

3rd Apr 2024

ERP E-commerce integration is utilised to help combat online business challenges and achieve customer service, brand, and sales goals.

FAQs For ERP Software Buyers

Q

How Much Does an ERP System Cost?

The cost of implementing an ERP system ranges from a couple of thousand pounds to hundreds of thousands, even millions. The average budget per user per ERP project totalled $9000 in 2022.

Implementation costs have several varying factors like the size of a business, the amount of users, the modules required, and more.

ERP Costs Ranging From £2000 - £10,000: Cloud-based systems for small businesses up to 50 users.

ERP Costs Ranging From £10,000 - £100,000: Systems for mid-sized businesses with over 100 users.

ERP Costs Ranging From £100,000 - £750,000 (Or More): Sophisticated ERP systems for large organisations with over 1000 employees.

Once a system has been implemented, other costs may also need to be factored into the ERP pricing model such as:

  • Installation costs

  • New user costs

  • Hardware purchases

  • Data migration fees

  • Employee training

Q

How Long Should It Take to Deploy an ERP System?

The duration of ERP implementation hinges on several factors, but on average can take anywhere between 3 months to 3 years. This timescale largely depends on the size of a company:

3–6 months: Small businesses who opt for an out-of-the-box cloud ERP solution

6–9 months: Medium businesses that require a slightly more customised system

9–18 months: Large organisations with over 1000 users and requiring multiple module integrations

18–36 months: Multinational enterprises that have multiple subsidiaries and therefore may require a two or three-tier ERP deployment

As well as considering the time of an ERP deployment’s lifecycle (planning, design, transition, testing, and post-analysis), other factors play a role in how long implementation can take, including:

  • Required customisations

  • Complexity of a system

  • Migration of existing data from legacy systems

  • Required user training

  • Deployment type (cloud, on-premise, or hybrid)

Q

Which Is Best: Cloud ERP Software or On-Premise ERP Software?

Choosing between the deployment of a cloud or on-premise ERP system will depend on several factors. These include budget, available space (physical and IT infrastructure), number of users, access to IT experts and support teams, security requirements, and more.

ERP Cloud Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

Speed of deploymentDepends on the connection with the supplier’s server
Accessible from anywhere at any timeSharing sensitive data with supplier
Low-cost SaaS solution (monthly subscription fee)Capabilities depend on how much money you’re paying
24/7 enterprise-level security from expertsThe long-term total cost of ownership will add up
Ease of key module integrationLimited control over upgrades

ERP On-Premise Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

Complete control over updates and upgradesHigh initial costs for space, servers, licences, and implementation
Improve ERP performance through hardware upgradesResponsible for maintenance and IT support
Keep sensitive data secureDependent on internal IT resources
Ease of customisation to meet ERP needsNo remote access as on-premise systems are restricted to the company’s network
Easy to integrate with existing legacy systemsOngoing security protocols are required
Predictable cost structure (upfront costs vs. long-term subscriptions)
Q

What Is the Best ERP Software Deployment For SMEs/SMBs?

The best ERP deployment type for Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs or SMBs) is cloud ERP. Typically, an SME will have fewer requirements and a smaller budget, meaning a SaaS pricing model is best.

SMBs require mobility from their ERP Software, which brings to the front mobile ERP. A mobile ERP solution enables businesses to operate on mobile devices away from the office and is a staple of all cloud ERP systems.

SMBs also do not require many customisation capabilities and they do not have the dedicated personnel in place to manage and secure IT infrastructure and servers.

SMEs with just one or a few locations will choose between a tier 2 and tier 3 ERP system, which are less complex and more affordable to implement than a tier 1 ERP. Vendors in these tiers include NetSuite, Sage, QuickBooks, and more.

Q

What Is the Best ERP Systems Deployment For Enterprises?

The best ERP systems deployment for large businesses is a mix of on-premise and hybrid. More than 70% of enterprises use ERP Software and require a system that is scalable, secure, and customisable.

An on-premise ERP system offers total control over data, infrastructure, and customisation, as well as allowing enterprises to enforce their safeguarding for data security. Whereas cloud ERP systems provide more scalability options and an easy way to integrate legacy applications.

Because of the capabilities required, large companies will typically look at ERP systems in tier 1. Tier 1 vendors can support large-scale growth as well as incorporate high-performing modules that offer functionalities such as AI and machine learning.

Tier 1 ERP systems include vendors like SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics, and more.

Q

AI-Infused ERP

AI functionality is a service being offered more regularly with ERP systems. It is used to automate routine processes and adapt and learn to offer an efficient user experience.

The use of AI and Machine Learning (ML) capabilities in ERP Software will largely affect data handling and process automation to improve and speed up overall decision-making.

Common usage of AI in ERP includes:

  • Predictive inventory management through analysing purchasing trends

  • Automated data retrieval and visualisation

  • Dynamic virtual assistants and chatbots that learn with customer relationship management

  • Predictive data analysis

Blockchain for Enhanced Data Security

Blockchain types are built on ledgers to ensure data security and accuracy. As ERP systems are built on and are reliant on core business data, integrating blockchain technology to secure records such as transitions and customer information seems only natural.

Benefits of blockchain and ERP integration include:

  • Greater traceability and transparency of lifecycle data

  • Advanced data encryption for increased security

  • The ability to instantly detect discrepancies or rouge edits to data

ERP vendors such as Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP Cloud are leading the way in developing blockchain platforms for ERP systems and blockchain as a service (BaaS).

Two-Tier ERP Deployment

A two-tier ERP approach is deployed when a core ERP system (Tier 1) is either overly complex or doesn't provide the specialised requirements of business subsidiaries. Therefore, instead of all regions and subsidiaries using one core system, organisations will deploy another ERP solution (Tier 2).

Existing trends include enhanced data visualisation, cloud ERP deployment, mobile ERP, utilising Industry 4.0, and embracing IoT.

Q

What Are Considered the Best ERP Software Products?

Several solutions are considered the best ERP systems among buyers, including:

  • SAP ERP

  • Oracle NetSuite ERP

  • Infor ERP

  • Sage

  • Microsoft Dynamics 365

  • Syspro

However, choosing an ERP system depends on multiple factors like module requirements, number of users, deployment, and customisation abilities. So, what may be the best ERP Software for one organisation, may not be the best for another.

Ultimately several ERP systems come under the category of being ‘the best’, but each one is targeted at different users and markets. For instance, some are for smaller operations while others target multi-national organisations and feature the latest technology with AI and ML-enabled modules.