In modern businesses, individuals tasked with managing people across various enterprises, regardless of size, find themselves juggling an array of critical business functions. These encompass human resources, supply chain management, customer relationship management (CRM), and manufacturing resource planning, among other pivotal operations. The challenge of manually or independently overseeing these multifaceted business aspects can be overwhelming.
This predicament has led to the increasing popularity of systems like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). ERP systems are meticulously designed to integrate all business functions seamlessly, establishing streamlined workflows and decision-making processes. This integration facilitates more manageable operations, allowing organizations to focus more efficiently on their core business activities.
Research studies, such as the one conducted by Hamidreza Vakilifard, Shahla Abbaszadeh Meinagh, and Mohammad Reza Khataee, as published in the European Online Journal of Natural and Social Sciences, affirm that ERP platforms can yield several benefits for businesses. The findings of this study suggest that ERP systems have a discernible impact on organizational performance, providing access to real-time and accurate information.
This comprehensive article explains the definition of ERP systems and their operational mechanisms. Furthermore, we explore why managers seeking automation and improved functionality in the back-office, product customization, accounting, financial management, CRM, and procurement might consider incorporating enterprise resource planning software into their organizational framework.
In contemporary business management, characterized by the need to handle diverse and complex functions, ERP stands out as an acronym denoting Enterprise Resource Planning. At its core, ERP is a robust business management software solution.
ERP is a "system of integrated software applications that standardizes, streamlines, and integrates business processes across finance, human resources, procurement, distribution, and other departments." This holistic approach allows for a cohesive management strategy, ensuring that various business functions operate harmoniously.
Oracle, a prominent multinational computer technology corporation, provides another insightful definition. Oracle describes ERP as "software organizations use to manage day-to-day business activities, such as accounting, procurement, project management, risk management and compliance, and supply chain operations."
According to Oracle, for an ERP suite to be considered complete, it must encompass software tools that aid organizations in planning, enterprise performance management, budgeting, forecasting, and generating detailed reports on an organization's financial results.
Beyond these core functions, ERP systems can be extended through third-party applications, enhancing capabilities such as product life cycle management, e-procurement, product data management, data mining, and other specialized functions. Typically, ERP systems are extended through interfaces provided by vendors.
The inception of ERP systems dates back to around 1990, primarily targeting the needs of manufacturing companies. This concept evolved from preceding systems such as Material Requirements Planning II (MRP II), developed in 1983, MRP in 1964, and the Economic Order Quantity (EOQ), which existed in 1913.
According to QAD, a provider of enterprise resource planning software, the term ERP was coined by The Gartner Group in the 1990s. This nomenclature aimed to distinguish ERP systems from their predecessors, such as MRP systems. QAD notes that during this period, ERP systems underwent further development to incorporate business intelligence while handling additional functions such as sales force automation (SFA), marketing automation, and e-commerce.
As businesses grappled with challenges associated with on-premise ERP deployment, vendors responded by developing cloud-based ERP solutions. The introduction of Software as a Service (SaaS) ERP systems provided by vendors addressed shortcomings related to on-premise deployment, including high implementation costs, licensing complexities, and extended implementation durations.
SaaS ERP systems presented a more straightforward and cost-effective alternative, typically involving monthly subscription payments. Users could also customize the software to meet industry-specific needs, making these systems suitable even for small businesses.
An ERP system is distinguished by four primary characteristics: modular design, flexibility, an open and centralized database, and automatic information generation. Operating in real-time, these software systems draw data from a comprehensive database that supports all associated modules, resulting in a consistent look and feel across the entire ERP framework.
The overarching goal of an ERP software solution is to unify all facets of business operations, facilitating the swift achievement of operational objectives. This involves integrating enterprise processes across all business units creating a unified approach to streamline processes and information flow throughout the organization.
To illustrate how ERP leverages real-time data to integrate diverse business processes, consider a scenario where a business requires customers to place orders online. Upon completing a new order, the ERP system automatically verifies the price and initiates a credit check if necessary.
Simultaneously, it checks product availability and notifies the relevant unit responsible for scheduling delivery. An invoice is promptly sent upon successful delivery, and the bookkeeping unit can then update its accounts.
Here are the various features that define a modern ERP system:
Consistent Look and Feel
The consistent look and feel of an ERP system contribute significantly to reducing training costs within an enterprise. Early ERP vendors recognized that a uniform user experience across various business areas enhances the organization's professional image. Employees operating in different capacities within the business can rely on consistent information interfaces as they work to meet specific customer needs.
The integration provided by ERP ensures that an organization presents a cohesive image to the market, whether stakeholders are interacting with accounting software, warehouse management systems, or manual processes encapsulated in spreadsheets.
All Applications Supported by a Common Database: One of the primary challenges organizations face is the siloed operation of different departments. Operating in disjointed units can lead to scenarios where different departments provide customers with conflicting information, compromising customer service quality.
ERP systems address this challenge by ensuring a shared database supports all applications, promoting customer success. This means employees in different units can depend on the same database for their day-to-day activities and various business needs, fostering collaboration and synergy.
Operates In Real-Time
In an era dominated by the Internet of Things (IoT), where constant connectivity is facilitated through technologies like edge computing, the real-time feature of ERP systems ensures quick access to information for every business process. Edge computing, a system that brings data storage and computing closer to where it is utilized, aligns seamlessly with the real-time operations of ERP systems.
The real-time capability of ERP not only facilitates swift access to necessary information but also aids in the prompt identification of problems. This, in turn, allows business executives to rectify issues before they escalate.
ERP systems primarily come in three different forms: on-premise software, cloud-based software, and hybrid software. The specific type chosen by an organization depends on factors such as enterprise size, available computing infrastructure, and the system's ability to meet the organization's unique needs.
As the name suggests, on-premise ERP software is deployed onsite and is primarily controlled by the enterprise after installation or under the supervision of an ERP consultant. This ERP solution is ideal for those prioritizing total control over the system's security. However, implementing on-premise ERP requires dedicated on-site IT resources for application and server maintenance.
On-premise ERP software offers several advantages:
Cloud-based ERP systems, often called Software as a Service (SaaS), involve third-party management of the service. The flexible design allows staff to store and access data from any device with an internet connection. Typically, pricing for cloud-based ERP is based on a periodic subscription.
While this type of ERP implementation requires trust in a vendor to handle sensitive data, it offers several advantages:
The hybrid ERP system, sometimes called a two-tier ERP system, enables organizations to combine cloud-based and on-premise ERP systems. This hybrid approach allows organizations to leverage the expertise of ERP consultants without providing them access to all sensitive information.
The functionality of an ERP system is rooted in its ability to optimize business operations, ensuring profitability and continuous improvement while minimizing the resources required. Unlike a single application, an ERP system allows various enterprise modules to operate from a unified database.
The operational process involves collecting data from different business segments, which is then centralized into a location accessible to employees who need it. This approach eliminates the silos that often plague businesses and ensures that relevant information is readily available to those who require it.
When a company's ERP system is nearly fully automated, the system takes charge of data entry in the backend and exchanges information with other units requiring that data. For instance, when a shipment order is initiated for the last item in stock, the inventory management modules record this information.
Simultaneously, relevant departments are notified, allowing them to initiate inventory replenishment. The sales team is also informed, preventing them from making promises they cannot fulfill.
Let's understand the various reasons why businesses of different sizes stand to benefit from the implementation of an ERP system:
The ERP system serves as an automated conduit for sharing crucial information across the various departments of an enterprise. By doing so, it fosters collaboration through integrated information sharing. This interconnectedness ensures that every department works with the most up-to-date and relevant information, enhancing operational efficiency.
Improved Business Performance
The integrated nature of the ERP system ensures that departments can dedicate more time to managing their core business functions rather than expend effort on obtaining necessary information. For instance, an ERP system can significantly enhance a business's performance in sales forecasting through the seamless tracking of orders, revenue, and purchase order generation.
Ease of Management
As technology evolves rapidly, ERP systems are consistently becoming more user-friendly and easier to manage. This is particularly beneficial for enterprises lacking the skills or resources to integrate complex systems. In the case of large enterprises, ERP systems play a crucial role in reducing the resources needed to manage disjointed systems.
For an organization to effectively communicate its message to the market, everyone must read from the same playbook. ERP systems play a pivotal role in ensuring that the information delivered by an organization is coherent, consistent, and aligned with the overall strategic goals.
Business Automation Specialists, a provider of ERP, accounting, and automation solutions, highlights that manufacturing companies employing best-in-class practices with ERP systems achieved significant reductions in inventory levels and overall costs. According to their findings, such companies experienced a remarkable 22% reduction in inventory levels and nearly a 20% decrease in overall costs.
In conclusion, an ERP system is invaluable because it integrates business functions, provides real-time information, streamlines processes, and offers many benefits, such as improved collaboration, enhanced business performance, and substantial cost reduction. The versatility and adaptability of ERP systems make them an indispensable tool for businesses striving to thrive in a dynamic and competitive landscape.
Droot has been empowering businesses in their quest to streamline and automate processes through ERP solutions that deliver solid results. We’ve partnered with the likes of SAP, Oracle, and Odoo to ensure businesses get the desired results. Click here to get a deeper understanding of our offerings.