Enterprise Resource Planning: Could Business Management Software Be Right for Your Small Business?

Greg Hull Sapphire
Does size really matter? It’s a question that gets repeatedly bandied about in the business world; isn’t my business too small for an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or financial management solution?

In my experience, I find this to be a common misconception. Of course size does matter to an extent; if you’re a developing small to medium sized business it would be impractical to implement a top of the line expensive system such as Oracle or JD Edwards.

However, it is never too early to implement an ERP system for your business -the key is to select the right software that will manage all critical business functions and effectively cope with rapid growth. If you implement such a system early on, you are also less likely to encounter the problems many businesses face at a later stage. Over time many small businesses find they have gradually cobbled together a range of disparate systems and unintentionally adopted time-consuming manual processes in order to gather the business information required on a day-to-day basis. This often results in business owners wishing they had implemented a more comprehensive system originally to avoid these common pitfalls.

Ultimately it is about working smarter and more successfully by adopting an end-to-end system that manages not only finances but sales, customer relationships, stock control and other operations. This kind of up-to-date, easily accessible information is essential for companies to reach their full potential.

So what are the signs that it may be time to implement an ERP system?

1) Disparate software and processes

Think about the processes utilised by your employees – are different parts of the company working with different solutions that prevent operations running smoothly?

2) Getting basic information is a bit of a struggle

Not having access to the latest information can have a ripple effect throughout the entire business. If someone asked you for some basic performance metrics, how long would it take to gather this information? If you’re manually updating spreadsheets, it could literally be days and that will slow down your business.

3) Sales and the customer experience have taken a nosedive
At the end of the day, you have no business without customers, and inevitably your complex processes will have a negative impact on your customer service. You may find stock levels are inaccurate, or disparate sales, inventory and CRM systems are making it difficult to track orders.

4) Accounting processes should not be this complex

If you’re relying on manual entry of paper invoices, you need to consider how much time is being wasted on this process.

5) You have had enough of IT

Constant upgrades and management of different IT software can become a nightmare, especially if customisation is involved, and many businesses are running out-of-date software as a result.

What should you consider before implementing an ERP system?

So if you’re finding yourself in this situation, or you would like to avoid these problems altogether, the next question is where do you begin?

There are a range of different solutions for small businesses and it’s essential to research your options carefully. Here are some points to consider before committing to a project:

  • Has the software and software author established a trustworthy, reliable reputation in the marketplace?
  • Are there options to tailor the product to your specific needs if required?
  • Is the system capable of evolving alongside your business – allowing you to buy what you need now and add more functionality later?
  • Is it affordable? (remember to consider long-term costs, benefits and ROI)
  • Does it integrate with other systems if required?
  • Are IT requirements minimal?
  • Will the system automate and accelerate your end-to-end business processes and improve decision making with real-time insights?
  • Is there an effective support network available should you encounter any problems?

Sophisticated business management software is becoming more affordable for smaller businesses and with it emerging as an essential tool to help organisations cut costs and improve business performance – it is never too early to invest in an innovative solution that will stimulate business growth.

Greg Hull is business development manager at customer care and software solutions provider Sapphire Systems

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