Essential Guide

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The essential guide to ERP for small and medium-sized businesses


The processes needed to run a business are much like those needed to conduct an orchestra. A conductor needs the full score and the ability to direct each musician and each musician needs the sheet music for his part. In the same way, small and medium-sized businesses that want a competitive edge must have business processes that work seamlessly together, where each "player" is triggered to the right action at the right time with the right information. This is where ERP comes in. It is both conductor and sheet music, triggering and automating action, holding the master data and making available pertinent information as needed.

In more concrete terms, ERP is a technology system that integrates business processes -- such as customer relationship management, inventory order management, accounting and human resources -- so they all come in at the right time and use the right information.

ERP stands for enterprise resource planning and, given the historical complexity and expense of ERP implementations, the "E" was traditionally a key letter in the acronym. Today, things are changing. Particularly with the advent of cloud ERP technology, easier and less expensive implementation options are available, and small and medium-sized businesses, or SMBs, are now able to take advantage of the business process automation and integration that was once only available to large enterprises.

That all sounds straightforward, but if you've spent any time researching ERP for your business, you know that there is an overwhelming amount of information out there, with seemingly countless ERP functions and definitions (not to mention vendors). But part of that information overload has to do with ERP's flexibility. Although many companies do want what are thought of as core components -- finance and procurement fit into these categories -- different companies will need to add functions based on their particular needs. For example, product-oriented companies will have different requirements, such as supply chain and inventory needs, than those of service providers or companies with a project focus.

To this end, you can buy ERP as a comprehensive suite or as one with a narrower focus, such as material requirements planning, production planning or procurement, or software that focuses on a particular industry, such as retail or financial services. Another very important factor is how the ERP software will be implemented. You can choose on-premises ERP, where the system is installed on your company's hardware and managed by corporate IT. This is the traditional choice, and usually has an associated higher cost. Another option is to choose cloud ERP, which is run as a service in the vendor's cloud or which the vendor or a partner hosts and can be less expensive than on-premises. A third option is the "hybrid" approach, where some systems are in-house and others are in the cloud.

1Why SMB ERP?-

How ERP can help small and medium-sized businesses

ERP software was traditionally aimed at large enterprises, but today, many vendors are tailoring their software specifically to the needs of small to midsized businesses (also known as small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs), so that many more companies can take advantage of ERP's benefits. Streamlined operations and improved efficiency are just two of the benefits, which in turn can lead to time and cost savings. In addition, ERP's automation and integration may help growing companies deal with tricky issues such as compliance, regulatory requirements or meeting the standards of large retailers. But perhaps the best part? ERP can help the Davids of the business world compete with the Goliaths.


How SMBs are winning against big companies

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ERP cloud services grow up

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Why manufacturing SMBs turn to cloud ERP

When small and medium-sized business manufacturers need to select an ERP platform, not surprisingly, they must consider a number of variables. Here's a look at why cloud ERP is a likely choice. Continue Reading


Why a tech startup and a real estate developer turned to cloud financials

CFOs from two growing businesses explain why cloud financials, often a core ERP product, became the clear choice after they outgrew their old systems and got over their concerns about cloud security, data access and functional depth. Continue Reading


Cloud ERP a "no-brainer" for many small and midsized manufacturers

Small and medium-sized manufacturers pursue cloud ERP software for lower costs, easier maintenance and greater flexibility. Learn how some SMBs have benefited from moving to the cloud. Continue Reading


Cloud financials a preferred option in public sector, SMBs

Analysts say that with security concerns mostly allayed, government, academia and service companies are becoming heavy users of cloud financials, especially software as a service. Continue Reading

2The human side of ERP-

ERP systems need executive buy-in and effective change management

The extent to which an ERP system can affect your business is potentially a great thing, but because of that, there are many human factors that come into play. Implementing ERP software is not just a technological change for your company. Business leaders need to know that an ERP system is justified, and this requires creating a solid business case that will show the benefits. In addition, ERP software, even if it has a narrow focus, will require all but a few employees to change their behavior, which will be difficult unless it is managed well. Remember: User behavior will make or break the success of new ERP technology (or virtually any system, for that matter). That's why it's best to address the change management issues that you might encounter sooner rather than later. Don't leave these issues until post-implementation; start planning an effective change management strategy as early as possible.


How to make the ERP business case

CIOs and other business leaders can boost the likelihood of buy-in for a new ERP system if they focus on two factors involved in leadership's decision-making. Here's a look at what those are. Continue Reading


ERP experts advise fostering executive buy-in, change management

The success of ERP projects depends on organizational change management, the right ERP software selection and executive buy-in, says a panel of ERP experts. Continue Reading


Why change management is key to a successful ERP implementation

The most innovative and successful ERP implementations invest in the organizational change management required to make projects succeed. Continue Reading


Essentials of effective ERP change management

A consultant explains why ERP training, employee communications and organizational impact assessments are must-haves for a successful ERP implementation. Continue Reading


Five ERP change management best practices

Panorama Consulting's study of 2,000 ERP deployments found that thorough planning and communication are common themes in ERP change management best practices. Continue Reading


Avoid ERP failure with good communication

In this podcast, ERP implementation consultant Bill Baumann of Panorama Consulting reveals how companies can use a good communication plan to avoid failure in implementing ERP. Continue Reading

3The ERP landscape-

What SMBs should know about buying and implementing ERP

The ERP vendor landscape is vast and navigating it can be overwhelming. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You should start first with the particular needs of your company. What is your wish list of features? What business processes are most in need of automation? How much time can you spend training? Are you interested in a cloud or on-premises platform or a hybrid option? What is the budget? What customization needs might you have or expect to have)? These are just a few questions you'll need to address, since the list of considerations is long. It's important to do extensive research upfront. Below are a few articles that will provide some essential information to get you started.


How SMBs should choose a new ERP system

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Can SMBs benefit from mobile ERP?

Small and medium-sized businesses stand to gain just as much from mobile ERP as their large enterprise peers, but do they have the resources to pull it off? Continue Reading


Why SMB manufacturers might want to consider an ERP "giant"

The top two ERP players -- SAP and Oracle -- offer a variety of options tailored to meet the needs of small to midsized manufacturers and distributors. Here's a look at the options. Continue Reading


SAP Business One a "Goldilocks" ERP for some

Many small to medium-sized businesses have decided that SAP Business One is just the right-size ERP, providing the tools to manage a growing business, but also being easier to implement and manage than more complex offerings. Continue Reading


Going mobile with Sage X3 ERP version 7

Sage X3 ERP version 7, our product of the month, comes with advanced mobility and features to help SMBs meet their goals. Continue Reading


SAP Business One can be SMBs' platform for mobile SAP applications

Small companies in micro-vertical industries, such as food and beverage, find resellers -- and SAP itself -- eager to exploit Business One as a platform for SAP mobile apps. Continue Reading


Why SMBs love cloud ERP

In this Q&A, Kevin Beasley of ERP provider Vormittag Associates Inc. discusses why cloud ERP adoption is increasing for the midmarket and what companies should consider when going to the cloud. Continue Reading


SAP Anywhere helps SMBs run their companies in the cloud

SAP Anywhere is a cloud-based mobile application for SMBs that combines sales, inventory management, order processing, marketing, mobile point of sale and more. Continue Reading


Advice for manufacturing SMBs on moving to ERP

Manufacturing SMBs tread lightly when it comes to moving to an ERP platform. But experts say implementation can be smooth if clear goals are set. Continue Reading


Cardinal Health's quick install of SAP Business ByDesign SMB ERP

Faced with a tight deadline, Cardinal Health implemented the cloud-based SMB ERP SAP Business ByDesign in just five months using careful planning and partner teamwork. Continue Reading


SMEs discuss complexities, lessons learned from successful SAP implementations

The SAP SME Summit featured four fast-growing companies that chose SAP platforms. Learn from their experiences and how SAP's engagement with customers could improve. Continue Reading


Inside the new releases of SAP Business One and Single Sign-On

SAP released a new version of SAP Business One, its ERP for SMBs, with new functions for project management and intelligent analytics; they also released a new version of SAP Single Sign-On. Continue Reading


SAP says its SME push is paying off

At an SAP SME event, small, innovative companies were trotted out to extol the benefits of joining the SAP ecosystem -- including large enterprises that are potential customers. Continue Reading

4ERP conversations -

Thoughts on SMB ERP

This section tackles two important subjects: Why change management is key to ERP success and how ERP can help small and medium-sized businesses improve and gain insights that are not possible without it.


ERP change management depends on a savvy communication strategy

In this video, the business development director and managing partner of a technology change management consultancy discuss how corporate culture and power structures can get in the way of a successful ERP implementation.


David Leadbetter Golf finds a sweet swing with SAP SMB tools

In this video, Ben Riches, David Leadbetter Golf's managing director, explains how SAP Business One helped the company get a good grip on its business processes.

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