Your company's Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software system is among your key IT components to automate business processes, streamline transaction processing, shorten business cycles and provide decision makers with business intelligence. So when's the last time you showed your mission critical business system some love?
Now may be a good time to change that and see what might be missing in improved performance, increased capabilities and enhanced ease of use by updating, expanding or refining your ERP application. Once ERP software systems go live, many IT and business leaders falsely believe the effort is complete and fail to advance those business systems as the business advances. In reality, the ERP go-live event is the start of your journey in leveraging automation and information to grow with your business. Once the new ERP system has stabilized, consider the next round of improvements.
Here's a few suggestions to stimulate your thinking for enhancing your ERP system and increasing your IT ROI.
How about implementing some new ERP software modules that didn't make the implementation project scope? Is it time to take a look under the hood to see if there are some new features that would be beneficial to add to your ERP package? Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application is likely integrated to your ERP system, but what about tools that can work directly with back or front office business systems, such as new social media applications or social CRM (SCRM)? Could these further enhance your customer service and support?
Maybe you've been running stand-alone accounting software or human resources & payroll applications up until now. How would it benefit your company to replace them or integrate them into your back office business system? Could that shorten the period-end closing process, provide management with new information, simplify administration or otherwise improve business operations?
What about Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) ERP considerations? Are you tired of managing back office business software systems yourself? Is this a time-consuming and trivial task that keeps you from focusing on company core competencies? There are other options, including hosted ERP through a SaaS vendor. SaaS ERP providers are specialists in managing these business systems. Further, with SaaS ERP systems you can reduce your hardware requirements and forget about monthly point releases and annual fork lift upgrades. You may also achieve cost savings, however, a thorough analysis will be required to see if this is the case. SaaS CRM systems are now putting the death nail into traditional CRM applications, and SaaS ERP applications are likely to follow the pace and traction of CRM.
If you incur ERP software upgrades, will they require new hardware upgrades? This is one of those items to consider in advance of just blindly accepting the ERP vendors upgrade. Do you have the CPU capacity, memory, storage and power and cooling to handle new applications and their related hardware requirements? What other infrastructure or environmental changes are necessary? Are the money and staffing available to accomplish these changes? Most importantly, exactly what are these upgrades going to deliver to the business and how will return on investment be measured?
If new ERP software components are looking like a good idea, would running the new applications on virtualized servers be an option to explore? You probably installed your original ERP applications long before server and operating system virtualization became a hot IT topic, so perhaps it's time to consider whether it would be beneficial for you now.
As you evolve your ERP deployment, it's also a good idea to take a look at your system management applications to be sure that you are getting a comprehensive and accurate view of your IT infrastructure. Are upgrades needed here as well if you are implementing new ERP modules? Will you need additional monitoring tools or can the existing tools handle your increased requirements?
Are you ready to take your ERP on the road? Are there direct and measurable benefits from allowing staff to use mobile devices to access their enterprise resource planning systems? Mobility is a growing ERP trend and it may be something you want to explore as you re-evaluate your needs. These kinds of add-ons can deliver big gains for sales, service and operations.
There's a lot to look at in the world of modern Enterprise Resource Planning systems. Some of it, though, is buried beneath the surface because we so often take it for granted once the system reached a production environment. A little digging, however, can reveal some real diamonds in the rough that are waiting to be discovered.
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