ERP systems come in many different forms, so it is important to find the best ERP software to help companies achieve their business goals and optimize their systems and processes. Because ERP is one of the most difficult systems to implement due to its end-to-end impact on corporate systems and operations, the success of 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 the company.
While every ERP software vendor offers essentially the same functions, each one caters to certain industry and company types. Here are several common ERP scenarios in which companies might find themselves, as well as the products that might help them 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 attuned to its industry. Infor CloudSuite, Epicor ERP, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Sage Business Cloud Enterprise Management 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 is particularly strong in the retail and e-commerce industry. Sage has industry vertical offerings in distribution, process manufacturing, discrete manufacturing, and food and beverage, as well as chemicals and services.
If an organization's 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. Companies might also consider a cloud-based ERP system, so they 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 cloud-based ERP that relieves the company of investing in on-premises software and hardware.
Oracle NetSuite is a cloud-based offering, with a sweet spot in financial and compliance software. Oracle NetSuite supports financial, currency, taxation and compliance functionality, as well as reporting in over 160 countries. It also has the ability to roll all of these different finance localizations into a single, consolidated financial statement for a global organization. It has optional modules for CRM and e-commerce, so if companies start with financials, they can always extend into these other ERP applications later.
If organizations are anticipating rapid and continuous growth, another option is Sage Intacct. Like Oracle NetSuite, Sage has an established reputation for strong financial software in multiple countries. Sage Intacct is a cloud-based system that provides extensive customization capabilities and can flex upward for larger organizations that do not have complex accounting systems.
Internal ERP business and IT experts
A large enterprise has a core of internal ERP business and IT experts and 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 S/4HANA is a strong choice in this case. It offers numerous modules that companies can organize into a suite for a specific business, and it can deploy on premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid model. Companies can also choose how they want vendors to deliver new ERP enhancements -- 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 integrate seamlessly 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 the company's 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 an organization.
Epicor, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, 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 for companies to ask vendors might be what their resources are for supporting ERP in multiple geographies.
Both Oracle and SAP 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.
Multinational organizations could also consider a SaaS ERP, 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. There are ERP systems that can monitor people and service performance internally in the field and on service contracts.
The key to selecting the best ERP software for this company is to first understand its business model, goals and business processes.
Deltek Maconomy is geared toward professional services firms and includes project management, human resources, operations and business development capabilities. Maconomy is suitable for accounting and finance, marketing, IT and management consulting, academic research, clinical organizations and other firms that deal primarily in services.
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, 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 specifically 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.
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.
An ERP partner should be able to meet a 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. ERP software vendors should be able to deliver value in all of these areas.
Christine Parizo contributed to this report.
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