Today’s business landscape is characterized by a faster pace, higher customer expectations, unpredictable economies, and global competition. The key to success – and survival – is to create simplicity in the face of complexity, to minimize the disruption caused by change and growth, and to become an all-round more agile entity.
Understandably, this is no mean feat – no matter what the size or budget of a company is. As businesses grow they become more complex and harder to manage. And even a small business will experience significant disruption when it experiences a small amount of growth.
The difficulty is: you need more resources to accommodate growth, and this tends to cause the different parts of the business to start functioning in isolation, or in ‘information siloes’. As employees start to feel detached from the ‘core’ of the business, they spend more time on time-consuming administrative activities, and have less and less of an understanding of how what they do effects the bottom-line.
Fortunately,, there is an answer to this dilemma in the form of modern Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, which can help small, midsized and enterprise businesses reduce costs and become smarter, leaner, and more agile organisations.
ERP systems are designed to tackle the problems mentioned above by integrating all of the regular functions of business (finance/accounting, human resources, customer relationship management, manufacturing, project management, sales, supply chain management etc.) and providing a means to better manage the company’s resources.
With the right ERP system for your business, you can expect to benefit from:
The more you understand exactly what is going on in your business, the more control you’ll have over it. ERP systems give you access to a 360 degree view of what’s going on through ‘dashboards’ (web pages that visually represent what is happening across the business in real-time).
This provides insight into what’s going on in different parts of the company, where you are spending cash, when you can expect to receive it, and how each division is performing in real-time. By having access to ‘one version of the truth’ instead of siloes of information, there will be fewer – if any- surprises. And this will affect how you drive the company forward, because the basis of good decision-making is having the right information at your fingertips. Having this single view allows businesses to better understand their customer’s demands, identify trends and anticipate future requirements.
ERP streamlines and centralises operations, creating a more efficient workflow between departments and functions. Increased transparency and the reduction in human errors, thanks to automation, also work to ensure that processes are simpler and faster. Modern systems should provide industry-specific best practices embedded in the system to support operational processes, which should provide a solid foundation for any needed customisation.
* Empowered employees
A surefire way to increase productivity is to provide employees with the right tools and the right information to do their jobs to the best of their ability. And by cutting down the amount of time they spend on administration they will have more time to focus on their core responsibilities. ERP systems are designed to empower people at every level of the organisation by making information available to them so that they can make better decisions, faster – something that has become critical in the fast-paced business landscape of today. Access to information outside of their own department also gives employees insight into how their division affects the overall success of the business.
ERP systems work to better integrate each division within the organisation, helping it to function as one unified entity. Processes and transactions between different divisions are made smoother and faster, and are less prone to human error. But this is not enough on its own – an organisation’s agility and productivity also largely depends on how well it integrates with its whole ecosystem – its partners, suppliers and customers. The more integrated the business is both internally and externally, the better its overall performance.
*Support for the business ‘tomorrow’
With success comes growth, and with growth, comes more challenges. ERP systems should support an organisation’s growth by minimising disruption. The best systems are those that are highly flexible and can quickly scale to meet new demands and unexpected growth curves. Aside from facilitating growth, ERP systems also help create it by supporting strategic planning (thanks to greater visibility and control) and by helping the business adapt quickly to market changes and seize new opportunities. Your ERP system should future proof your investment and give you peace of mind that it will be able to support your needs as the company grows and more customers, software users or locations are added.
Overall, these benefits translate to reduced costs and more time for employees at every level to focus on what they do best.
One final, but important note to consider when determining the right ERP solution for your business: good ERP systems provide a strong foundation for further industry-specific and vertical customization – for example for manufacturing, distribution, retail, and public sector, to name a few. Tailor-made solutions ensure optimization for your industry’s unique requirements, challenges, and quirks – so it’s important to look for an ERP vendor that has a purpose-built foundation as well as a network of partners that can extend the foundation with packaged solutions and specialized services tailored to specific industries.
Nneka Nwobi, Microsoft Dynamics Business Manager, writes from Lagos