People frequently ask us what features they should look for in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. It’s a good question, though it can be hard to answer. What might be an absolutely essential, deal-breaker-if-you-can’t-have-it ERP feature for your business might be a “nice to have” for someone else. Each business has its unique needs. At the same time, the major ERP packages offer broadly comparable feature sets, though their specific implementation of features varies. With these disclaimers out of the way, we felt it would be worthwhile to point out the key features you find in the best ERP suites.

First, Understanding the Role of ERP in the Business

The very term ERP has become obsolete. “Resource planning” refers to the management of suppliers, assets and production operations. Today, that is a small part of what ERP platforms actually do. The name has stuck, but in practical terms, a modern ERP suite offers a wide range of functions that encompass the complete activities of running a business and managing its finances.

Key Features in ERP

The following are some of the most important features you will want in your ERP solution. They’re relatively high level. The fine-grained detailed features you want will be based on our needs. For instance, multi-entity accounting might be something you need, or not. Instead, here are some basic features that power a great ERP implementation.

Process Automation

Top ERP solutions give you the ability to automate manual tasks and repetitive workflows. Examples include processes like payroll and invoicing. Removing people from these tedious routines makes them go faster. There are fewer errors. People can focus on work that humans do better than machines, and there’s no shortage of that.

Application Integration

The best ERP solutions are designed with the wisdom to know they can’t do it all. Even the most feature-rich ERP suite needs functionality from other systems. This might be processing or data available only in legacy systems. Or, it’s from cloud-based partners, like banks and suppliers. ERP should have APIs that enable streamlined, economical integration with these external applications.

Reporting and Data Analysis

The ability to analyze data from the ERP solution is a relatively new feature. Previously, this was the domain of specialized software and people with data analytics skills. Now, the top ERP solutions all come with built-in analytics and reporting modules. Analytics features vary widely, however.

In our experience, there are two main purposes for data analytics and ERP. The system should be able to perform extensive analysis on data from the ERP itself. Then, it should enable analysis of data from external sources in tandem with its own data. For example, there could be reporting of company financial management data combined with interest rate data from outside the company. Having real time visibility into transactions and operations is another useful data reporting feature to consider.

Accounting and Financial Management

Accounting and financial management used to be outside of ERP. Now, these features are expected to be available in all ERP instances. The best accounting and financial management features in ERP are ones that are adaptable to a company’s size and scope. Having an endless array of advanced accounting features does little for a medium-sized business, for example. What works is having the option to switch features on and off and custom-configure as needed.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Some might argue that CRM is not a feature of ERP at all. Rather, it should be seen as a separate application. This is less true today than in earlier times, however. The customer record is now part of the billing processes, the master data management process and so forth. CRM is part of the business management capability set of a top ERP solution.

We have experience helping businesses assess their ERP needs. It can be a somewhat challenging process, given the richness of features available in top ERP solutions. If you would like to explore how the modern ERP feature set can benefit your business, let’s talk.

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