Enterprise Resource Planning Software Buyers Guide

1. What is enterprise resource planning software?

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is an integrated suite of applications that helps businesses manage key operations such as accounting, sales and purchases, customer relationships, inventory, and human resources. Unlike other solutions that cater to specific workflows, enterprise resource planning solutions are comprehensive in nature and offer a range of functionalities to address the needs of your entire organization. ERP software establishes links between departments, streamlining data flow and speeding up the overall decision-making process. 

2. The benefits of enterprise resource planning software

  • Complete visibility of tasks with improved collaboration: ERP software offers complete visibility into important aspects of your business to provide senior management with a single window from which they can monitor both departmental and organization-wide data. A single enterprise resource planning system facilitates better communication and collaboration between stakeholders from multiple departments, which helps your business and teams complete tasks efficiently and smoothly.
  • More efficient workflows: An enterprise resource planning system reduces the need for repetitive data entry at multiple touchpoints across departments. Once entered, data remains within the system and is accessible by all users. As products or services move along the supply chain, the data is automatically updated for the next department, without any need for additional data entry efforts. This saves time overall, and improves workflow efficiency.

3. Typical features of enterprise resource planning software

  • Inventory management: Keep track of in-house stock quantities and manage reordering to prevent running out of inventory and ensure smooth supply chain operations. 
  • Financial management: Gather your organization's financial data and generate comprehensive reports such as general ledgers, balance sheets, and financial statements.
  • HR management: Maintain a complete employee database and manage core HR processes, such as recruiting, hiring, payroll, training, and development. 
  • Reporting/Analytics: Analyze various workflows, monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), and generate an array of reports to aid compliance and support management discussions.
  • Warehouse management: Manage core warehouse operations, such as the movement of inventory, the location of items inside a warehouse, and reordering items.
  • CRM: Record customer information, including names and contact numbers, in a centralized, organized database.

4. The cost of enterprise resource planning software

Most products in the market are priced on a "per user, per month" basis, and can be divided into three pricing tiers based on their starting price

Price ranges*:

  • $0 - $10
  • $10 - $55
  • $55+

*The pricing included in this list is for the entry-level/lowest priced offering found on vendor websites on January 10, 2019. These ranges correspond to the 25th, 75th, and 100th percentiles of pricing information gathered from vendor websites of sample products.

The above list summarizes pricing for the base plans of most products. An enterprise or premium product that is priced higher may include additional features such as mobile app functionality, point of sale functionality, built-in eCommerce, and multilingual support. 

5. Considerations when purchasing enterprise resource planning software

  • Establish a clear ERP strategy before investing in ERP software: ERP software is a broad solution that often includes various modules and integrated services for multiple departments fused together in one system. Most businesses lack a clear enterprise resource planning system implementation strategy, and either develop one as a result of tactical decisions or rely on their IT team to define ERP requirements without considering the needs of other stakeholders. This can lead to poor enterprise resource planning system implementation or investing in software that is too technical and complex for your employees to use. To avoid this, consult stakeholders from all relevant departments while designing your ERP strategy, and build a software shortlist that meets those needs. 
  • Industry-specific ERP solutions vs. generic solutions: These days, many vendors offer industry-specific enterprise resource planning solutions (e.g., construction ERP software, manufacturing ERP software, apparel ERP software, education ERP software). If possible, give priority to enterprise resource planning system solutions that cater to your particular industry over investing in a generic solution that can be customized for any industry. A specific solution can help you meet industry standards and execute workflows using industry-approved templates that help minimize failure rate. 

  • The internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) will transform ERP software: Traditional enterprise resource planning software requires users to manually enter data at various touchpoints in the supply chain. In the coming years, expect more and more modern ERP solutions to include AI and IoT capabilities that automatically collect data from IoT devices attached to tools, vehicles, and equipment. Data such as device location, usage, and performance can be accessed directly by an enterprise resource planning system without manual data entry. From there, AI-enabled enterprise resource planning solutions can provide advanced insights and transparency into new areas of growth, help improve existing workflows, and reduce errors.
  • Mobile ERP is a new buzzword: In almost every area of life and business, users depend on mobile devices. As a result, more and more enterprise resource planning system developers are offering mobile-based ERP solutions and/or mobile functionality through dedicated apps that work with their product. As the rise in mobile workforces continues across all industries, the demand for mobile-based ERP solutions will also increase. 
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