In very broad terms, ERP software links your back office operations to your front office customer facing processes. The right ERP software package can be vital to the success of an organization. At last count there were 3358 accounting packages to choose from and more than 300 of them offer ERP functionality. Before choosing a package you should develop a solid business requirements document.
Once you have an outline of your requirements you can use this as the basis for narrowing your options to something manageable. Here are some initial filters to consider:
Budget: ERP software comes in many varieties with many different capabilities. A good starting point would be to determine a budget. For some organizations this is a straightforward task. However, many organizations neglect to consider the benefits of ERP software for their business when determining a budget. If viewed as an investment rather than an expense, your budget may look very different. This post is not about how to determine a budget though, so lets move on to the next criteria.
Number of employees / users: The number of employees in your organization in general correlates to the complexity of your operation. Current number as well as projected number of employees should be considered. Many ERP packages charge on a per “seat”, or user basis so number of employees can have a substantial impact on the cost of ERP software. Consider the type of users of the system as well. If an employee doesn’t need access to perform their job, it is probably not worthwhile to spend the money on a license for them
Industry: Unless your business model is very straightforward, industry support would be a good next filter. If your operation is very complex with specific industry related requirements you need to be very careful about the package you consider. If however you are in an industry with more generic needs such as project billing filtering on the generic requirement is a good idea. Once you have a short list you can get into the details.
Core Functionality: Why are you looking for ERP software in the first place? At this stage of the game a high level review of your requirements is in order. If you need to create purchase orders, manage fixed assets, manage project time and billing, CRM, and support other main business functions use these criteria to narrow the field further.
Analytics: If you are looking at an ERP package you want to make sure the package has robust analytics for business intelligence.
Architecture: This is somewhat controversial and unless you are very familiar with cloud computing I would suggest you leave this off the list initially. If you are definite about your preference then use it as a filter
Applying these criteria can still yield 20 plus results, which is probably still too many to work with. Reputation and stability of the software provider should be an important factory at this point, as you want your investment to be supported 10-20 years down the road. This is where the field typically gets narrowed to 3 – 8 solutions, which is much more manageable
Where do you go from here? Part two of this article will cover that. Stay tuned.
When you focus on growing your business, knowing that you have all the right data available to you is critical. You need to be able to see where you’ve been – where sales figures were six months or a year ago, and how they have changed since. You need to be able to identify your best customer and supplier relationships, and identify the impact of changes that you make to those relationships. You need to know whether your production is on time or whether you’re limiting your resources because you’re storing supplies or finished product.
Some software tools allow you to look at one part of your business or another. Integrated solutions like SAP Business ByDesign, however, allow you to take a more holistic approach. SAP Business ByDesign allows you to monitor all of the areas of your business – from financial statements to HR matters, from customer relationships to projects.
As you being to grow your business, evaluating all of these elements becomes even more critical. Reaching new markets may mean altering your company’s marketing strategy. Beginning production in a new location may mean identifying new suppliers in order to minimize costs. Employee benefits packages may need to be evaluated if you offer health insurance, particularly if you have begun to do business in another state where premiums are higher or greater minimum coverage limits must be met.
SAP Business ByDesign lets you do more than simply look at a snapshot of where your business is now. It allows you to look at your business in real-time, to connect managers, directors, and other stakeholders – and to share the information that each needs to continue contributing to the organization.
By putting all of your critical business data at your fingertips – by allowing you to get started quickly and to expand the reports and tools available to you as your company continues to grow – SAP Business ByDesign puts you in the driver’s seat. With an integrated solution, you won’t just be monitoring your business, you’ll be able to steer it towards ongoing success.
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Looking to generate more cash flow for your business? You'll want to be sure that you're looking beyond the obvious places.
While increasing your sales will increase profits, you need to be sure that you're reaching out to the right demographic groups, expanding into areas where there's still a strong economy, sending out the right marketing messages, and following up with your customers so that they want to continue doing business with you.
Similarly, while ensuring that you are gaining access to supplies when you need them rather than using warehouse space or making minimum purchases can increase the amount of cash you have on hands, it's critical to know that you're looking at other factors as well. Are your suppliers offering you the best price? Are there discounts that you're not taking advantage of? Could you renegotiate terms and save even more?
Customer relationship management and supplier relationship management platforms can help you gain insight into relationships, but not all of these tools interact well. If you want to be sure that you have access to all of your company's data so that you can monitor all of the varied elements of your business and gain real insights into what's working and where there is room for improvement, you need a tool like SAP Business ByDesign.
With SAP Business ByDesign, you can access all areas of your business. Create reports based on CRM and SRM, and explore how changing your options will impact your bottom line. Focus on your financials, gain insight into where there is room for improvement, then make decisions based on all available data. Track the progress that you're making towards goals, and identify any diversions from the path.
Our solution allows you to access all of your company's data - and to see how each set of numbers impacts the others. By monitoring your business in this way, you can easily achieve your goals - and correct any possible missteps before they have significant consequences. Better insight helps you make better decisions - decisions that let you see your profits soar and give you ready access to the cash you need to grow your company.
Each year millions of children throughout the world take it for granted their Christmas presents will be delivered accurately and on-time. Every Christmas morning everything goes off without a hitch. Kids are happy, families embrace each other, the world takes a day off. Nobody ever seems to care how Santa manages to pull off this logistical nightmare year after year.
Many years ago, at the dawn of the pc age, an astounding thing happened to me. I was dashing through the snow on what was then a state of the art sled. The sled hit a branch and off the course I veered. I must have been going 60 mph as it took almost a minute to come to a full stop. Fortunately there were no injuries but the sled was damaged beyond repair.
I started hiking back to the main road. After ten minutes or so I passed a modest cabin. Inside I saw a large red and white figure slumped over in his chair and what sound like “oh no no”. I let myself in to indeed find a large man dressed in red and white with a long white beard. Only this man was not jolly. He was stressed. I asked if I could help to which he responded “ho ho no. I wish you could.”
I took a seat near him and just came out with it - “Are you Santa?” I asked, to which he responded “what do you think Einstein?”. I couldn't believe it. It was really Santa Claus (I grew up with low self-esteem and always dreamt if I ever had an encounter with Santa he would take a jab at me and sure enough he did).
I replied “Santa, why are you so distressed?”. Santa went on to explain how Christmas used to be pretty straightforward when his operation was smaller but suburban sprawl and population growth was taking its toll on his operation and he was deeply concerned he could no longer deliver to his customers expectations.
I said to Santa “Today is your lucky day”. Santa perked up and said “ho ho what do you mean?”. I explained to Santa that I was a consultant for a top software vendor and I may have a solution that could help him tremendously. Santa was a jolly and wise old man but very computer illiterate. We talked some more about his operation and I walked him through my proposed solution.
Santa then became very excited. “Ho ho long will it take to get me on this software?” he asked. “Not so fast I said. I have a few more questions for you first”.
“Would you be the decision maker or would someone else, say Mrs. Claus?”. Santa explained he ran the show, but I shouldn't tell that to Mrs. Claus.
“Would you be able to budget for this project?” I asked. Santa assured me the funds would be there if I could address his pain points
Ok I had pain points, a project sponsor and budget. “Santa” I said, “Tomorrow I will hand you a statement of work and you will be jolly once again. Santa was elated and could not wait to get started.
With a signed statement of work in hand I assembled a team and set off for the north poll. We implemented a supply chain solution for Santa that greatly improved efficiency so that Santa could once again meet his customer obligations.
The project was not without its challenges though. Implementing the solution required some changes to the way the factory had been doing things for thousands of years. After some initial resistance the elves did come around once they realized they could make more toys through improved efficiencies. The other large challenge was incorporating the naughty and nice list into the system. This challenge was overcome as well and the north pole became a model of efficiency.
The solution worked great for many years until a series of events necessitated a re-evaluation of the system architecture. Santa and I sat down and reviewed the situation. His system was slowing down as more and more transactions were getting processed. To make matters worse, Lord of the Rings was filming and he was losing a lot of his workforce. I pointed out to Santa that y2k was coming around and what it potentially meant to him. I also explained that technology had advanced quite a bit and recommended he do an upgrade to a client-server based solution. I suggested he add a Human Resources module to his system so he could manage his workforce better.
Once again we implemented the new system and once again his problems were solved.
A number of years passed and Santa developed a new problem. With the continued population growth and ever increasing computing capacity needs, Santa was beginning to melt the north poll due to all the servers and power requirements. He was also finding it increasingly difficult to find the right houses and match the presents with the children. He needed access to the information at the north poll to make sure he got everything right
Once again I explained to Santa about the latest innovations and how they could help him. I told him how cloud computing could reduce his power consumption needs and he could free up elves from doing backups and monitoring his systems so they could make more toys. I also told him about browser based SaaS solutions, mobile computing, and completely integrated software that would give him 360 degree visibility of his operation from his suppliers to the the children. He'd be able to take orders and send them to the north pole while on his merry way. The solution was called SAP Business ByDesign.
"Ho ho could I afford such a solution?" Santa asked. I explained to him how affordable the software was.
"Ho ho could it be ready in time for Christmas?" Santa asked. I explained to him how he could be up and running in as little as six weeks.
Santa was impressed and we implemented the new system. Once again Christmas was saved. Don't tell your kids but Rudolph has been replaced by an ipad2 with real time access to the north polls system.
As you can see, even Santa has Christmas wishes, as do I. I've been asking Santa for years now to give me a video testimonial and he just won't do it. Something about industry secrets. He told me to stop bugging him or I would end up on the naughty list.
Happy holidays everyone.
In order to grow your business, a few things are imperative. You need to know:
Many businesses have tools available that let them look at one aspect of their business or another, but often seeing the big picture remains challenging. Some complete software solutions that are available are cost-prohibitive. Getting started with them would require all of the resources that you have to put into expansion.
That's why you should consider SAP Business ByDesign. The solution is cloud-based, and as a result you won’t have to buy additional equipment or worry about whether or not your systems will be able to share and access all of the same data. Instead, you’ll be able to easily connect all of the parties that need to be in the know. Data will be available to you and your team in real-time. You’ll be able to monitor financials, as well as customer and supplier relationships, and you’ll be able to gain insight into your company’s performance.
Whether you need to track sales, lower costs, or meet certain projections in order to sustain growth, SAP Business ByDesign makes the tools that you need available to you and lets you get up and running quickly. Additionally, getting started with this solution lets you act now, without limiting your future options. As you begin to grow your business, you’ll be able to increase the number of reports available to you, to add user roles, and make customized dashboards available to your staff.
A typical business has relationships with many stakeholders, including employees, customers, prospects, suppliers, shareholders, and perhaps regulators. Each of these relationships are vital to the success of any company. For some businesses their corporate values evolve around some or all of these relationships.
Fortunately the IT world has developed solutions for each of these relationships so businesses can manage them effectively.
By now most of the free world has heard of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) which, in a nutshell, is a way to maximize the value of your customer and prospective customer relationships. HR systems are available to manage employee relationships. Shareholders receive financial information. Regulators get what they want. Typically a company has systems in place to work with suppliers, such as purchasing or sourcing. What about managing the supplier relationship though?
A solid supplier - customer relationship is all too often overlooked as an actual means to improve company performance. For some businesses, the focus is mainly on the cheapest supplier, the most reliable supplier, the most responsive supplier, etc. There is nothing wrong with these approaches if they fit into an overall corporate strategy. Walmart is hugely successful with very specific objectives that drive their relationships with suppliers, employees, and customers.
A typical small to medium sized business may have hundreds of suppliers and, while their intentions may be grounded in developing strategic relationships with suppliers, the reality is that most companies simply don't have systems or processes in place to maximize the value of their supplier relationships. This is unfortunate because it is a natural area a company can look at to improve performance.
How do you improve supplier performance? There are Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) products available. Some, such as SAP Business ByDesign, are fully integrated into their supply chain, financials, HR, and CRM modules. Just having the software, though, does not assure supplier performance. You need to define processes and metrics and share information both internally and with suppliers. There is a great Software Advice article on best practices for improving supplier performance that hopefully one day every company can adopt.
Software can be expensive. That's part of the reason why many business, especially when the executives are looking to increase cash flow, don't always think about the possibilities of investing in new software.
However, having the right tools can have a decidedly positive impact on any company's cash on hand and overall bottom line. With our solution, you can take advantage of those tools that will help you grow your business - without an investment that you are unprepared to make. In other words, using we can help you evaluate your business and identify opportunities for increased cash flow won't have a negative impact on your company's available assets.
That's because our solution is offered in a Software as a Service model. That means that while all of the different components work well together, businesses are able to choose the tools that they need most, stick within a budget, and know that additional resources will be available when they need them.
With us, you choose the tools that will best help you enhance your bottom line. Need to manage customer relationships? Choose the CRM component. Want to see whether or not you're working with the best suppliers? Put the supplier relationship management (SRM) tools to work for your business and identify ways you can save. Need to keep better track of planning and timeline to avoid costly delays? The project management components can help. Need to manage your company's finances and accounting or supply chain? We have components that can help in these areas as well. Having trouble creating reports that encourage the rest of your team to take action? There's a component that can help with that as well.
In other words, with a software as a service solution like this, your company can focus on meeting key needs - whatever they may be - without having to worry that the tools you choose will need to be updated at a later time. With our solution, all of the tools work together - and you can access them as makes sense for you to evaluate your business, improve your decision-making process, and increase cash flow.
When evaluating software to run your business you will usually find there is no perfect fit for your needs. Businesses are faced with a choice of finding a solution and customizing it to their needs, developing their own solution, changing their processes to fit the software, or just doing without some features. Each of these options have their pro’s and cons:
Option 1: Customizing an Off-The-Shelf Package
This option will allow your business to run exactly the way you want it to, but at a cost. The most obvious cost is the effort involved in doing the customizations. This may require internal resources or hiring external consultants to develop the necessary code. With any piece of software one needs to consider issues such as documentation, upgrades, obsolescence, and support. You may find one of your employees is the only one who knows how it works.
Option 2: Developing an In-House Solution
This option has similar advantages and disadvantages as the first option, but this is all magnified. Typically an in-house solution is not as flexible as a purchased solution, as the in-house solution was developed to meet the business needs at that point in time and keeping up with new technologies, industry standards, and practices requires resources.
Option 3: Adapting Business Processes
Often businesses looking to replace their systems are doing so because they have broken processes. For example, they lack controls, they lack visibility, it takes too long to perform functions. Seeking new software to automate processes should be just part of the consideration. There may be other processes that are required because “it has always been done this way”. This is where a robust solution that offers best practices such as SAP Business ByDesign can make a large impact on an organization. It is often the most difficult part of introducing new software as there is a natural resistance to change within an organization and old habits sometimes inhibit ones ability to view something new as an improvement.
Option 4: Doing Without Some Features
At first glance this may sound like a step backwards. If a software solution lacks a certain piece of functionality there may be a sound reason for it, such as there is limited value in automating the process. Or, the features may be needed but there are other ways to do it and when viewing the bigger picture there is a net gain to the organization even by foregoing some features. Sometimes a feature is better left to a company that specializes in these processes so they can offer more functionality in addition to the core requirements. This is typical of payroll and email marketing. The 80/20 rule is often referenced in these situations. Will the 80% gains of a robust package benefit an organization more than the 20% that may not be addresses by a purchased solution? Will the new package provide value add in other areas that will reduce the 20% to a lower figure?
What’s the right approach? There is no best answer. Ultimately it is up to you to determine what is best for your organization. Option 1 tends to be the most complex and risky type of implementation but I will stop short of saying don’t do it. It may well be the only option that makes sense for a given situation. Unless you are a monopoly there is an excellent chance that another company is experiencing the same situation. The question you should ask is, are you doing things the best way possible to stay ahead of your competitors? The answer to this question may lead you down the correct path for you.
Every business needs to maintain a set of books, whether you operate a cleaning business or are Amazon.com. Some businesses can get by with a spreadsheet and a bank account. Most, however, need to invest in accounting software at some point. There are literally hundreds of packages to choose from for every need and budget. Choosing the right package for your needs can be a daunting task that can consume a significant amount of time, detracting from the business you are trying to run which created the need for accounting software in the first place.
Many businesses start off with a simple inexpensive package then find they have outgrown their solution and need to find something more robust.
Here are some questions to ask before choosing the right package for your needs:
These questions are a good starting point that will help immediately narrow the field. The next step would be to review each of your functional areas and determine what is really important to the business, and what may have evolved out of company growth that may have outgrown its usefulness. There are companies that can assist with this process if your company can't allocate the time or would prefer someone to take an external view.
Once you have a checklist in place you can invite potential partners to respond to your list of "requirements". No solution is perfect for every company so in all likelihood you are not going to find a perfect fit. You should find one or two very good fits though, where 80% or more of your wish list is addressed by the solution. You may also find that some solutions will help improve processes that previously were performed manually or inefficiently.
Once you have your short list you should evaluate the solutions in more detail by inviting the partner to give a demo and talk with them in more detail about your requirements.
Selecting a package can come down to a number of criteria:
You may find other criteria that is crucial to your business. Once the selection is made and your new software is up and running, you may find your business is running more efficiently, you can provide better service to your customers, you have better controls in place, or numerous other benefits that either save your company money or grow the top line.
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