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Seven ERP essentials

Are all ERPs created equal? Not if you're in the manufacturing and distribution sector, according to Deirdre Fryer, Regional Product Manager for Africa at SYSPRO, who says there are seven must-have components of a solid ERP.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software perpetually collects, analyzes and disseminates information about the different parts of the business so that it can be immediately acted upon to the benefit of the whole.

Deirdre Fryer, Regional Product Manager for Africa at SYSPRO, says, "ERPs are having to keep introducing new capabilities to accommodate the drive towards digitization. This is seeing the introduction of features such as actionable business insights, social media as a collaboration tool, social media-type interfaces and platforms and the flexibility to deploy on-premise, in the cloud, or both."

1. Industry built

Look for an ERP that has industry-specific functionality; what works for a financial services organisation won't be equally effective for manufacturers and distributors. Fryer says, "It's important to have built-for-industry frameworks designed to help your business benefit from best practices, especially in highly-regulated industries."

"There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution, the ERP must be customisable to meet the unique requirements of your business operations. The software must be configured to meet your needs rather than one that governs how your business is run."

2. Choice and flexibility

Globalization is having a profound impact on business in all sectors. It's opening up new markets to businesses, creating a need for flexible operational structures that foster growth, improve efficiencies, enhance productivity and engender customer satisfaction.

ERP in the cloud enables users to be able to work when and where they want, with instant and secure access to key business information.

3. Actionable insights

Today, business success is increasingly dependent on the immediate retrieval, access and overall visibility of its information. However, most ERP reporting and analytics tools only offer retrospective insights and don't provide users with access to relevant and real-time data.

ERPs that incorporate social media-type interfaces allow users to access real-time information and share their opinions and decisions instantly, using the collective intelligence of the workforce to solve business problems.

Fryer says, "Users need access to business critical insights for quicker analysis, decision making and execution."

4. Enable digital business

The boundary between the digital and physical worlds is blurring, with new technologies emerging that have profound implications for the way companies will do business going forward.

"Your ERP needs to accommodate emerging technologies if it's going to take you on the journey towards digitization, whether it's integrating with intelligent devices, business partners across your supply chain or to other systems."

Technologies like IoT, machine learning and AI assist you in connecting the engagement and sharing of data.

5. Engaging user experience

The use of smart phones in the workplace and the consumerization of IT devices have forever changed the users' expectations in interacting with technology. Ease of use and user experience are critical.

An ERP that uses a collaborative, user-friendly social platform gives users a simple way to connect, communicate and conduct their daily business, helping increase responsiveness, lead times and overall productivity.

6. Safeguard your ERP investment

Organisations need to ensure they'll enjoy continued value from their ERP solution, and that it'll be able to evolve from both a functionality and a governance perspective going forward.

"You need to ensure that your ERP solution, and the company you're partnering with, has all the elements to ensure your success going forward, and that it can easily adapt and protect you as your business grows and processes change."

7. Scalable

An ERP must be able to continually adapt to your needs, quickly, cost-effectively and with minimum disruption to your workflow. It needs to scale to large deployments, handle high-volume single server instances and accommodate multinational organizations with hundreds of subsidiaries.
The benefits of scalability include easier implementation of new functionality as the company's needs change, such as the addition of new processes or departments. It also needs to be able to integrate other enterprise applications for better operational control and management reporting.

The more things change

The globalization of business and the emergence of the digital economy are shaping the future of businesses, regardless of sector. Old business models are being disrupted and new ones created by a user-driven ecosystem. "As these trends shape and re-define the competitive landscape, having the right ERP in place, integrated with the latest technologies, will pave the way to digitizing your business and succeeding in this new digital world," concludes Fryer.

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