Is your ERP system evolving alongside your business to provide it with the competitive edge it needs? Doug Hunter at Syspro provides a few pointers as to how companies can optimise their ERP journey.

Implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system without fully understanding how it can benefit your business is a bit like owning a gold mine without knowing where to dig. But, if you’re not experienced in the application of ERP it can be really difficult to pinpoint exactly what kind of ERP solution your business needs and how to get the most out the option you select.

Not only are there a growing number of ERP options available, but they are also increasingly sophisticated. This can make it daunting to navigate your way to a solution that addresses your current business needs and your future business needs.

Map your system to your processes and strategic objectives

There are few limits as to what your business can achieve when your ERP system is functioning to its full potential. But, to get the most out of your ERP system, you need to draft a predefined list of goals tailored to your business’ specific needs.

These objectives should take into account your organisation’s long and short-term goals, and should also be measurable (like real-time visibility of gross profit, manufacturing throughput, investment in inventory etc) so that progress can be monitored over time.

At this point you should consider aligning yourself with an ERP services organisation that understands the scope your business and its processes, ideally mapping your desired (not necessarily current) business processes with their assistance, placing them in a solid position to help you develop a tailored but still supportable ERP solution that is mapped to your specific business requirements.

Some of the important features that you should be discussing with your consultant include: business processes, relevant functionality, cost of ownership, plus qualified consulting resourcing.

Beyond basic functionality

Optimisation starts with examining your current processes and identifying operations that could be simplified by enabling and automating them through the ERP. By their very nature these systems are designed to streamline processes across your supply chain, providing you with greater control and visibility.

It’s important to bear in mind, however, that getting true value from your ERP is about much more than simply enabling more efficient processes and generating transactional data. At the end of the day the data that the system produces is the competitive advantage your business needs to grow. This means you should be assessing elements such as the type of reporting packs your business produces, questioning whether they will ultimately give you the information you need.

User Experience – the usability of your ERP system – also requires significant consideration. For example, mobile options like SYSPRO Espresso afford employees the ability to access real-time business information at anytime from anywhere. If your ERP system currently produces printed reports, consider whether it would make more sense to implement dashboards that would give employees greater scope to refine the information they view.

Naturally you’ll need to consult your ERP partner around cost of ownership. This involves consideration around whether you should keep your ERP system on premise or host it in the cloud. While cloud offerings are typically subscription priced on a monthly basis, pricing models can be complex and difficult to navigate, so it’s best to seek some guidance around which pricing option best suits your business needs.

Plan for growth

It’s important that your ERP system be able to grow alongside your company, and an effective ERP partner should be able to help you optimise and innovate across your business.

This means they should be encouraging you to consider new avenues of growth, such as the various ways in which you can harness the depth of your big data, for example. Advanced ERP systems can leverage technology like IoT to broaden data capture throughout your supply chain then AI coupled to ML (machine learning) analyses and learns from data providing predictive insights before and not after you need them.

These help your business achieve growth objectives. Using these technologies you can identify trends across your business, giving you greater insight as to where your company’s risks and competitive advantage lies.

Keep employees up to date

As you might expect, optimising the implementation of your ERP system includes making sure employees understand how it operates. A once-off implementation of the system won’t be enough to help them derive maximum value from it.

Because the system will be evolving constantly to meet changing business needs, employees’ knowledge of how to operate the system will also need to be updated continuously. Syspro Professional Services, for example, facilitates onsite customised education plus on-line eLearning (via the SLC – Syspro Learning Centre) allowing users to brush up on their current knowledge and investigate what other Syspro ERP functionality is available, which could help them move the business forward. Thus ensuring users are able to take advantage of the system with ease and confidence, so businesses can make sure they reap the full benefits of their ERP system.

Finally, it’s important to make sure your ERP system will continue operating smoothly into the future even when problems occur. As such, you should make sure your business has access to professional consulting and support services via a contact centre that can make sure operations continue while complex issues are resolved, and you extend the ERP system to new relevant functions or areas of the business as you grow.

At the end of the day, your ERP system can offer you massive returns on investment, but only if you have a clear roadmap as to how you should implement and leverage your system appropriately. That’s why it often pays off in the long run to work alongside professionals who can help your business get the most out of its investment.