8 years ago we first published a series of posts entitled “Software That Matters.” It was an ERP implementer’s point of view, culled from long experience, on why and how to purchase a business management software system. Later, we turned Software That Matters into a popular white paper that has since been viewed hundreds of times.
Now eight years later, we thought it was time for an update, to reflect lessons learned since then. (We also did a 2015 update three years ago.) Much of what we wrote then remains every bit as true today. But we decided again to carefully retrace our steps, re-edit our paper, add some comments and present it as a series of blog posts that will carry us through November, 2018. We think that’s timely, as many companies at this time of year tend to reconsider the software they use to run their business — and how they might do better.
In our series we will again try to convey what’s important, what to measure, how to buy, what works, what it costs… and the many other business considerations required of this strategic investment, in what is probably the most important (and expensive) software a company will ever buy. In other words, the Software That Matters.
What Your Business Management System Should Provide
In our prior post we looked at the criteria for Key Performance Indicators – the benchmarks a company uses to monitor how well they are turning information into action. Continuing here, we can look again to comments of Alexandre Attal, of Sage Software, and blend these with the lessons we have learned over many years and clients. These KPIs for turning information into action are never the same across any two companies, though many companies do have similar needs.
It all boils down to what your technology should provide to your company.
At the least technology must provide three characteristics to improve your performance. Your technology (i.e., your ERP system) should…
- Reduce time and costs
- Interoperate across locations, functions or departments
- Improve the customer experience
A good, integrated ERP solution will therefore provide all of the following:
- Access to information, from executives all the way out to the field
- Flexible reporting
- User-level security of information
- Ease of use
An effective ERP solution is integrated so as to provide:
- A common data repository of key information from key functions
- Accuracy and timeliness of data
- A less cumbersome method by which to manage & support operations
- The ability to take action, through features like event triggers and alerts early in the monitoring of a process, benchmark or action item
- Customizable portals for every level of employee — whether this is a ‘dashboard’ or a ‘role-tailored client’ in which each key user has his or her own unique view of what matters to me when they log onto their system each morning.
And finally, the result of this integrated ERP approach reveals the specific items upon which the company can take action, such as this short list of examples:
- Identifying customers who have cut back on orders to offer incentives to buy
- Monitoring inventory levels for critical products to react promptly if levels fall too low
- Viewing the financial health of the business before the books are closed
- Planning the manufacturing cycle with access to orders, ship dates, lead times and finished goods – in other words, true MRP
- Proactively informing customers about order status, automatically (no more chasing down orders every time a customer calls!)
- Automated, timely alerts on customer credit-limit issues
- Knowing which jobs, projects and/or customers are profitable – and which are not.
So let’s wrap up this series on the fundamentals of ERP deployment. But just before we do, we’ll have a few more words about today’s latest buzz word, the Cloud, in our next post.