An ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system is a software suite for mid- to large-size businesses that manages and integrates key business functions, including marketing, accounting, sales, costing, strategic planning, and the delivery of manufactured and service-based products. As businesses grow, leaders often evaluate their software systems and the merits of adopting ERP software.
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What is an ERP system?
Traditional ERP systems can be overwhelming
On the surface, leaping from a collection of different software systems and Excel files to an all-in-one ERP software system seems like an obvious choice, but it may not be. The cost of software implementation, licensing and staff retraining can be tough for mid-size businesses. The better option may be to integrate additional features into an industry standard solution such as QuickBooks delivering all the functionality you need.
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Make the right decision for your company
A quick guide to understanding the differences between a traditional ERP and QuickBooks Enterprise
Is QuickBooks Enterprise a traditional ERP system?
QuickBooks Enterprise is an advanced version of our popular and widely used accounting and business management software. QuickBooks Enterprise goes beyond standard accounting software to offer end-to-end solutions for companies entering the mid-sized market. Enterprise can help companies make more informed financial decisions by delivering insights, processes, and tailored reports that allow you to better manage your entire business.
It’s just as effective, and more
Depending on your size and needs, Enterprise offers a solution with lower cost and complexity. Our enterprise solution helps companies manage key workflows in an intuitive and integrated environment through advanced inventory tracking and management, assisted payroll, advanced pricing features, and advanced reporting. Additionally, QuickBooks Enterprise offers options, sold separately, for cloud access,* field service management,* mobile time tracking,* Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), and a two-way sync with the Salesforce CRM.*
Enterprise is a great alternative to a traditional ERP
The QuickBooks Enterprise suite of services is designed to be the appropriate next step for mid-sized companies, providing the features and functionality they need without over-serving them. If you need a software solution that is more robust than your current accounting package, that addresses the specific needs of a growing business, and provides an end-to-end management solution in a familiar setting—but you worry that you would under-utilize a traditional ERP system—then you are a good candidate for QuickBooks Enterprise.
Alternative ERP modules: functionality without the complexity
By Thomas Tracy
The need for change within a business usually stems from the weight of internal and external forces. Left unchecked, these forces can pose a threat to the health and ultimate existence of the organization.
For example, maybe revenue has stagnated because your sales team’s supply data doesn’t jive in real-time with available inventory in a distribution center. Perhaps new regulatory demands or compliance requirements mandate a move toward standardized business practices that will satisfy OSHA specs or Department of Labor laws.
Whatever the malady, you might have heard of, or considered, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) as an all-encompassing fix for what ails your business. Comprehensive ERP suites typically support the operations of multinational corporations employing thousands, enabling them to sell goods and services globally. For example, Hewlett-Packard once had a massive ERP rollout that went awry, which cost them $160 million in backorders and lost revenue—more than five times the estimated project cost.
If you aren’t involved in running a multinational corporation, standalone business management software can provide a similar solution, with a leaner budget and less organizational disruption. They present a more affordable and less taxing approach to your problems, without the software bloat that often comes with complex software solutions.
We’ll take a look at four common software modules that are included in an ERP implementation and explore your options for getting the same results.
Gauge your company’s health with an accounting module
The lifeblood of any business starts with topline revenue and cash flow. As such, a slick accounting system is essential for tracking sales, improving margins, and revealing operational costs in need of a trim.
ERP accounting modules represent a big step up from more primitive accounting processes that involved too many Excel spreadsheets. However, while ERP solutions operate across all departments adequately, they don’t boast all the features and functionalities housed in best-in-breed business management solutions.
With small- to medium-sized businesses, a common strategy is implementing a standalone accounting module and then adding specialized systems as the organization grows and needs change. Your search should narrow to packages that excel in their performance of core financial functions.
Accounting software should come with invoicing, time tracking, and expense management that exceed expectations if you want to maximize every dollar of return on your investment.
On top of the basics, having customizable reporting features is a significant value-add. Sales managers would benefit from multiple views of revenue streams—categorized by individual, team, geography or customer—and other leaders can also slice and dice data as they see fit.
Purchasing modules make procurement flow
Procurement software helps prevent revenue from gurgling back up and out your business funnel. Since you deal with multiple vendors, apps that track invoices and quantify savings will ensure both timely payments to suppliers and aid in securing the best possible price for materials, products, and services.
ERP purchasing modules add another stratum of learning for staff tasked with paying current wholesalers or materials purveyors. Asking finance personnel and buyers to embrace new methodologies can invite dissension among the ranks and hurt productivity.
The same goes for manufacturing ERPs with regard to asking production and finance employees to adopt new workflows. A business can ill-afford to implement complex software modules and simultaneously deal with resistance from employees who are left to do the heavy learning while feeling left out of the decision-making process.
Leveraging a separate purchasing module can amount to overkill in some instances. Procurement is a natural extension of accounting functions, and any solid piece of finance software will subsequently offer purchasing capability. Granted, certain businesses may want to fine-tune the base program with upgrades, or even pursue an alternative procurement solution that can easily fulfill this desire without inciting a mini-rebellion among end-users.
Software that complements the vibe of your sales staff
Sales and marketing employees are unique breeds. They can bring their own idiosyncratic methods to converting prospects and the most successful salespeople are (within reason) often left to their own devices. If the job gets done and the numbers tell a profitable tale, messing with the mojo of salespeople can be a big mistake.
Thus, asking sales and marketing staff to spend big chunks of time adapting to complex systems can add counterproductive red tape and distractions that hurt the bottom line. We saw this with Avon’s $125 million investment in an SAP led ERP project, which was grounded after they tested the system in Canada.
Their salespeople suddenly had extra work to do thanks to the new ERP, which sunk adoption rates and even led some of their best sales reps to leave the company. Because it performed so poorly in Canada, Avon decided not to roll out the ERP to any other territories it planned for, turning a four-year project into a big failure.
It’s entirely possible your sales and marketing divisions want cutting-edge tools to reach customers, track results, and report progress. But those advances don’t have to come in the form of complex systems and new workflows. There are plenty of powerful customer relationship management (CRM) solutions that won’t impart a steep learning curve on your freewheeling team, whose time is much better-served understanding market dynamics, building relationships, and honing pitches.
HR packages bolster compliance and security measures
HR employees juggle many data-sensitive responsibilities including sourcing, recruiting, hiring, and administration. As your business grows, so does the duty to protect sensitive personal data from unauthorized access from both inside and outside the organization.
Complying with government regulations can be overwhelming for owners and HR staffers, particularly when laws span so many different agencies. So it’s not an exaggeration to say your business requires some iteration of a secure human resources information system (HRIS).
Broad ERP solutions include HRIS modules but can carry vulnerabilities with them. Unsecured gateways to any of the various software applications could subject social security numbers, bank account and routing information, or corporate credit card digits to hacking. An open door in one module gives unscrupulous cyber-attackers the keys to the whole data warehouse—and the contents could include protected health information (PHI) of both employees and their dependents. Despite your best efforts, hackers can find these vulnerabilities, leaving you with the substantial costs and negative publicity associated with data breaches.
The programmers and developers of best-in-breed HRIS software know full well the risk and consequences of substandard security features in an application. With that in mind, you’re likely to find out-of-the-box solutions that place greater emphasis on encrypting data and defending assailable access points than an ERP might.
All successful businesses experience growing pains. As you research available solutions to meet the objectives and goals you’ve set, some solutions will outshine others. Traditional ERP solutions pack plenty of software applications, but the question remains how many of them will be useful to your employees.
You may want to explore solutions that fill gaps or smooth rockiness in processes and workflows across one or two departments. Purchasing a traditional ERP can be a costly and complex way to discover your business only needed a simple remedy.