A buyer's guide to the top ERP systems
A collection of articles that takes you from defining technology needs to purchasing options
ERP systems come in many different forms, so it is important to find the best ERP software to help you achieve your business goals and optimize your systems and processes. Since ERP is one of the most difficult systems to implement because of its end-to-end impact on corporate systems and operations, the success of your ERP implementation is as important as the ERP system itself.
Not every company is the same. Choosing the best ERP software isn't just a matter of looking at the features and offerings of different vendors. It's a matter of looking at those features and seeing how they best fit your company.
While every ERP software vendor has essentially the same functions, each one caters to certain industry and company types. Here are several common ERP use case scenarios in which you might find yourself, as well as the products that might help you resolve issues and achieve goals.
Limited internal resources
A company has limited internal resources and wants an ERP system that already has features and functions that are attuned to its industry. Infor, Epicor Software Corp., Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Oracle JD Edwards all offer industry specializations of their ERP software, so a good place to start is checking out the specialties of each vendor.
Infor has a strong reputation in ERP for process and discrete manufacturing, distribution, food and beverage, and consumer goods. Epicor supports all modes of manufacturing and distribution organizations, as well as companies in the retail and service industries. Microsoft Dynamics 365 supports manufacturing, distribution, services and public sector organizations, but has particular strength in the retail and e-commerce industry. Oracle JD Edwards has industry vertical offerings in consumer packaged goods, manufacturing, companies that are asset-intensive and must track their assets through asset lifecycles, and projects and services industries.
If your internal resources are constrained, it is equally important to check out the vendor's support network and resources in ERP planning, implementation, training and ongoing technical support. You might also consider a cloud-based ERP system, so you can avoid purchasing hardware and software.
Midsize international operations
A midsize business has international operations and needs an economical way of handling the financial, taxation and compliance requirements in the different countries in which it operates. In this case, the best ERP software would be a cloud-based ERP that relieves the company of investing in on-premises software and hardware.
NetSuite ERP, which is now an Oracle company, is a cloud-based offering with a sweet spot in financial and compliance software. NetSuite ERP supports financial, currency, taxation and compliance functionality and reporting in over 160 countries, and it has the ability to roll all of these different finance localizations into a single, consolidated financial statement for a global organization. NetSuite ERP has optional modules for customer relationship management and e-commerce, so if you start with financials, you can always extend into these other ERP systems later.
Using extensive research into ERP software, TechTarget editors focused on the market shareholders that make up the top 80%. Our research included data from Gartner, Forrester and TechTarget's internal research.
If you are anticipating rapid and continuous growth for your company, another option is Sage 100 or Sage 100c. Like NetSuite, Sage has an established reputation for strong financial software in multiple countries. Sage offers both on-premises and cloud-based systems in its Sage 100 offering. Its systems are scalable into a more robust accounting version of Sage, with Sage 300, or even to enterprise strength, with Sage 500, which offers a fuller integration of financials with manufacturing operations.
The new Sage 100c ERP system also scales to the Sage 300 and 500 systems, but it is a cloud-only offering. Sage 100c offers a more user-friendly interface and greater collaboration opportunities than the standard Sage 100 product.
Internal ERP business and IT experts
A large enterprise has a core of internal ERP business and IT experts, and it wants the ability to configure ERP to its business without having to take on the risk of developing its own customizations. The best ERP software in this case would be an ERP suite that offers a broad spectrum of pick-and-choose modules and functionality so the company can build its own ERP package.
SAP Business One is a strong choice in this case. It offers over 80 different modules that can be configured into a suite for a specific business. Clients can also choose how they want new ERP enhancements to be delivered -- continuously, quarterly or by major software release.
Integrating with other businesses and departments
A large enterprise has an ERP system and is actively engaged in acquiring other companies. The acquired companies must be integrated into the company's ERP, so one option is to bring them all into the existing on-premises system. Unfortunately, continuous integrations of this nature can prove costly, risky and labor-intensive.
An alternative is a two-tier ERP strategy where corporate continues to run its on-premises ERP, and the newly acquired companies use a cloud-based version of the system or a different system that can integrate with headquarters' ERP. This cloud-based version can either be cloud-hosted, where your own staff or the hosting provider manages the system in the cloud, or software as a service (SaaS), where the vendor runs a shared system for you.
Epicor, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle JD Edwards/PeopleSoft, Sage and Infor all offer ERP in both on-premises and cloud-based versions.
A company is multinational, and it needs an ERP system that can support business operations in multiple countries. Most ERP vendors can localize their ERP systems to support different languages and currencies, so a more important question to ask vendors might be what their resources are for supporting ERP in multiple geographies.
Both Oracle, with JD Edwards and PeopleSoft, and SAP, with Business One, have extensive global consulting and technical support networks. Another option is Epicor, which hosts tech and application support centers around the world, delivering support in 20 languages.
You could also consider a SaaS ERP if your organization is multinational, as SaaS can provide consulting support in addition to software.
Monitor service activities
A service organization wants ERP to monitor its service activities and tie them into its central administrative systems, like finance and human capital management (HCM). There are ERP systems that can monitor people and service performance internally in the field and on service contracts.
Oracle PeopleSoft's sweet spot is HCM, and it comes with functionality that supports activity and project tracking and resource monitoring. The system is particularly adept at assessing how well your company's human resources are being utilized. Epicor has ERP that supports in-field workforces, as well as functionality that supports the end-to-end professional services cycle -- from winning a contract, to staffing and managing projects, managing deliverables and tying the system back into financials. Another ERP option with field service functions is Infor CloudSuite Industrial.
A midsize company wants an ERP system that can support business processes in a one-off project environment. In this case, the best ERP software options are systems that are designed for project-centric companies.
SAP Business One has a commercial project management option, as does Epicor, which has functionality for planning and executing single and multiphase projects with project costing and billing guidelines. Microsoft Dynamics 365 can track projects and match them to contracts and purchase orders. Sage has particularly strong ERP offerings for large enterprises engaged in the construction industry.
The key to selecting the best ERP software for your company is to first understand your company's business model, goals and business processes. It is equally important to have a good sense of how flexible IT and business users will be in adapting to change, as the installation of any ERP system brings about change, and that can make people uncomfortable.
Your ERP partner should be able to meet your company's present and future business and IT needs, but it should also have strong ERP implementation, training and consulting resources. ERP is one system in which people factors are as important as process and IT factors. Your ERP software vendor should be able to deliver value in all of these areas.
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