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At some point, every business owner wants to know the answer to the question, “What’s the best ERP solution on the market?” There are so many different options available now that the easy answer is, “it depends.” There are a variety of factors that go into assessing the compatibility between an organization and a specific ERP platform, and it’s important to thoroughly research the possibilities before making a commitment.
By far, the factor that will help you narrow down your search for the best ERP solution the fastest will be the size of your organization. While many ERP providers create products that are meant to fit any type of business from a single employee operation to Fortune 500 enterprises, some of the highest quality solutions available are tailored to fit companies in specific categories of size.
Midsize business, for example, may get more value out of the features offered in products such as NetSuite (which was recently acquired by Oracle) or Sage 300 than they would from an enterprise-focused ERP platform like Oracle EBS or SAP ERP, despite the fact that these are the recognized leaders in the industry. Furthermore, many innovative providers have been to bring exciting new developments to the ERP market aimed at small businesses, including Workday and Syspro.
Some ERP platforms are developed to appeal to companies across a wide variety of industries. They cast a broad net by creating features and interfaces that are useful for as many different kinds of potential customers as possible, sacrificing some specificity in the process. In some cases, you may be able to customize specific features or add-ons to conform to a specific industry, but this often requires additional time and/or money. You will have to look at your organization and decide if it’s worth it to go with a more generic platform, expand the effort to customize an ERP solution or choose from one of the many industry-specific solutions that are now on the market.
Heading into the cloud
When searching for the best ERP solution, it’s important to consider your current hardware and software needs and limitations. ERP systems fall into one of three categories: on-premise, cloud-based, or hosted. With on-premise ERP you host the software on your own servers. This may be ideal if you already have the infrastructure available, but many systems that process multiple functions (accounting, human resources, etc.) require a dedicated server for each one.
Cloud-based solutions are more preferable if you don’t have the hardware capacity to host a solution on your own site. The ERP vendor gives you access to all of the system’s functions via a cloud-based portal, but generally, they retain ownership of the software itself.
Hosted ERP solutions, on the other hand, act as somewhat of a hybrid of the other two. Your company owns the software licenses but pays a host business to run it through their servers. Maintenance fees and other costs may be applicable with hosted ERP platforms.
Additionally, the type of solution you choose will have a significant impact on the pricing structure. Cloud-based solutions generally feature the most simple pricing models. Sometimes, their prices are assessed as a single fee per user, per month.
For on-premise ERP systems, there may be initial set-up fees that vary depending upon the extent of the installation. The vendor will also typically sell you software licenses for a fixed price per user, and these are usually good until the platform itself undergoes a large-scale upgrade.
If you are installing an ERP solution as a wholesale replacement for all of your other systems currently in use, then you won’t have to worry about integration unless you incorporate additional software services in the future. Some organizations, however, are hoping to use their ERP solution in conjunction with existing platforms that they are unwilling or unable to part with.
In such cases, it’s worth investigating whether or not your prospective ERP purchase enables integration with the system you already have in place. Some solutions, for instance, feature built-in integration with platforms such as Google Apps, or can be configured to work along with other ERP software.
Costs, features, and hardware specifications are all crucial considerations, but what will the experience ultimately be like for the end users? They are going to have more hands-on time with the ERP solution you choose than anyone, so it’s vital to think about the experience from their perspective.
What is the typical length of implementation timetables quoted by the vendors you are researching? Do some of them offer considerably more training and support resources that can enhance the experience for the end user and ultimately lead to greater value from the product? These are the types of questions that will help you determine what impacts the ERP implementation will have on your operations.
Finally, you will have to decide if your organization would benefit from having any special functions included in your ERP solution. Many of the most popular ERP vendors differ on whether or not they offer functions such as POS integration, business intelligence software, human resources management, e-commerce platforms, and CRM.
Ultimately, the best ERP solution for your company is going to be one that aligns most closely with your distinct needs, fits within your budget, and is simple for your employees to use effectively. This last point is crucial because an ERP system that isn’t being employed optimally is nothing more than an expensive waste of server space. However, by investigating several options that fit your specifications, you can ensure that you end up with an ERP solution that streamlines your processes, enhances data quality, and facilitates collaboration throughout your business.