(Last updated: 01/21/2020)
It may seem redundant to talk about the benefits of an integrated ERP solution. After all, aren’t ERP solutions already integrated and multi-featured? Yes and no. It can be confusing because Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is at once a distinct type of software and an entire category of software products. The abbreviation “ERP” has come to stand for a wide range of software functions, spanning finance to supply chain management, logistics, warehouse management and beyond. So, considering that most ERP solutions come with a menu of available modules for different functions, it makes sense to look at ways these ERP components can work together as an integrated whole.
What Is an Integrated ERP Solution?
ERP solutions are available in pieces. With Acumatica, for example, the Distribution Management Suite alone consists of four separate sub-modules: Distribution Management, Inventory Management, Purchase Order Management and Sales Order Management. Acumatica offers a lot more than this, though. They have suites for accounting, customer management (CRM), project accounting, service management and so forth. Pick what you want. It’s like ordering Chinese food.
Buying multiple ERP suites doesn’t automatically mean they will all work together. If you acquire multiple ERP components from a single software company, you can get them to connect. Customer information from CRM will flow into order management. Sales orders will populate warehouse management interfaces and so on. It does take some work, usually.
In some cases, you may want to integrate your ERP suite with other applications. This may require use of a specialized developer and integration tool like Acumatica xRP. Experienced developers can use xRP to build custom integration between ERP and email and systems at partner firms, for example.
Examples of Integrated ERP Solutions
There is no one way to build an integrated ERP solution. How you do it will depend entirely on your business, its organization, operations and strategy. It will also depend on the software you already own. For instance, if you’ve made a commitment to one brand of CRM, then you will probably want to integrate that solution into whatever ERP you get, rather than switching CRMs.
An integrated ERP solution for a manufacturing company, for example, might contain suites that handle financial management and manufacturing management. These are two of the company’s main business activities. It makes things and accounts for the operations in financial terms. The integration connects related aspects of the financial and manufacturing operations. For instance, as a delivery of raw materials arrives, the proof of delivery may get conveyed, via a digital connector, to the accounts payable system.
Benefits of an Integrated ERP Solution
Integrated ERP solutions deliver a number of business benefits. At the operational level, integration leads to streamlined, automated business processes. In the accounts payable example, the integration replaces a manual handoff between manufacturing and accounting. This manual step was time consuming and error-prone.
In IT terms, an integrated ERP system from a single software company presents an appealing support scenario. A “best of breed” solution, in contrast, which may tie together solutions from multiple vendors, can be a headache to support. On a related note, the IT department only has to hire people with a skillset aligned with the single vendor. This saves money, time and hassles.
Selecting an Integrated ERP Solution
Now that we’ve defined an integrated ERP solution, looked at a few examples, and discussed the benefits of an integrated ERP, you may already be thinking of ways one could benefit your business. If you’re considering upgrading to a new ERP, here are 9 tips for selecting and implementing an ERP system from CIO.com:
- Ensure upper management is on board with the project.
- Make a list of requirements your new ERP system must have to meet your business’s needs.
- Consider a mobile-friendly system for on-the-go access.
- Compare and evaluate systems and vendors to find the one that’s right for you.
- Ask vendors for references, and ask those customers about the positive and negative aspects of their experience. Be sure to ask your industry connections for recommendations on ERP systems and vendors as well.
- Customize only when necessary so as to keep both initial and maintenance costs down.
- Have an effective change management plan and team in place to help the transition go as smoothly as possible.
- Designate an internal ERP champion to head-up the project and build a great team around them.
- Provide adequate and ongoing employee training to maximize the benefits of your new ERP system.
In addition to these 9 tips, check out our blog about the 5 stages of ERP implementation to understand what to expect from the implementation process. When you decide a new ERP solution is right for you, we’re here to help.