Business is booming across London as the economy recovers from the recession. For many newer and small businesses this means that they’re expanding fast and may be outgrowing their existing business information systems. When looking to upgrade or install a new ERP system in the current climate, it would be foolish to ignore the benefits of a cloud based solution. But what are the key factors that businesses need to consider when looking at a move to cloud ERP?
Understand the business
Implementing any IT system, but particularly ERP, is not about the software but about your business. Before you begin the evaluation of packages, therefore, it’s important that you understand your current business processes. You need to look at the areas that work well and at those that don’t. Installing a new ERP system gives you the opportunity to review your entire operation and address any areas that aren’t working as well as they should. If you’re planning on expanding and perhaps opening up new offices then a cloud solution is attractive as it can be accessed from anywhere. This holds true for businesses that have sales or service staff working in the field too.
Exploring a New ERP System? Talk to your users
Going to a new ERP system will have an impact on almost everyone in your organisation. You need to take time to understand how people use existing systems to do their jobs, and discover what parts of those systems work well and which don’t. You can use this knowledge to decide the parts of an ERP system that are most important, and draw up a list of key requirements before you start to talk to vendors. You need to talk to people at all levels of the company as part of this process. It’s important that senior management are involved and engaged with the project, but equally vital that the people on the front line have their needs listened to. You have an opportunity to improve the flow of information at all levels, so don’t waste it.
Plan for the future
It’s all too easy to focus on your immediate requirements for a new system, but you need to think ahead too. What is your business going to look like in five years time? Will the system you choose today still meet your requirements then? Look at how an ERP system will be able to grow along with your operation. This is another key advantage of cloud systems which make it easier to scale without the need for the costs and delays of upgrading business management infrastructure. Make sure you take into account any legislative requirements on your business and ensure that your system specification includes them. You also need to be sure your supplier is able and willing to accommodate any future legal requirements.
Include Mobile Accessibility Factor into ERP System Consideration
In the last few years businesses have seen a shift towards the use of mobile devices, driven by demand from users and by requirements for greater flexibility. These bring the benefit of allowing people to work from anywhere, but they mean that a system which can only be accessed from a desktop begins to look distinctly old hat. With the rise of BYOD and increasing demands for remote working, any new ERP system needs to cater for the needs of users on smartphones and tablets who may need to access work information away from the office. However, any system also needs to ensure that sensitive data remains secure whatever device is used to access it.
Meet existing customers
Once you’ve specified your requirements and drawn up a shortlist of potential ERP suppliers it’s a good idea to go and visit some existing customers of those systems. If a supplier is confident in their product they shouldn’t object to you doing this. Draw up a list of questions to ask before you go and in particular ask about how flexible the system is and how it has adapted as the business has expanded. Try to visit someone who has been using the system for a while rather than a new customer. You’re looking to understand how flexible the software is and how well it adapts to the changing needs of the business. If you can, talk to users rather than just to managers.
Manage the ERP implementation
Once you’ve chosen a supplier you need to turn your attention to the implementation of the system in your company. You should appoint someone to manage the project who is sufficiently senior in the organisation to get things done and who can command the resources needed. They should also be able to work closely with the software supplier and the internal implementation team. It’s likely that you’ll need to select someone who can take time away from their normal role so they can concentrate on the project and see it through to completion. It’s key that you have a realistic budget for your ERP project. You’ll doubtless be quoted a price by your supplier, but you should allow a contingency fund to deal with any unforeseen problems that may arise. It’s always tempting to request custom changes to a system to make it meet your specific requirements. You should avoid this if at all possible as it can lead to higher maintenance costs and problems later. Sometimes it can be better to adapt your business processes to the system rather than the system to your business.
Don’t ignore training
Training is vital for any system, as if staff can’t use it properly they won’t get the best from it and it won’t deliver optimum results for your business. Make sure that initial training is factored into the cost of the system. Plan the implementation so that users are trained and ready to go when the new system goes live. You also need to have arrangements in place to train new employees as the business grows, whether you do this in-house or contract it out to your ERP vendor. The best training doesn’t always come from outside, someone who is familiar with the system and who has been using it to do their work may well be the best choice to show new staff the ropes.