Keeping up with the technology curve is a vital part of staying competitive for any business in any field. Digital transformation, for example, is no longer optional — and enterprise resource planning (ERP) is among the most crucial aspects of digital transformation.
In short, an ERP system consolidates an enterprise’s day-to-day processes, allowing for centralized management and visibility. Resolving administrative bottlenecks and increasing agility with ERP gives a competitive edge that no company can afford to ignore.
Despite this, many leaders still believe that ERP is only for big businesses whose data and backend processes would be unmanageable without a centralised system. According to OGL’s research, this misguided perception is steadily declining, shared by 42 percent of businesses today compared to 46 percent in 2019. By 2030, the global ERP market is projected to reach double the value it held in 2020, reaching a value of $117 billion. SMEs are one of the strongest driving forces behind this growth.
Unfortunately, many businesses do not take a holistic approach to ERP implementation, with ERP systems acting as data silos, isolated from eCommerce and payment systems, customer relationship management and other business systems.
How integrated ERP enables businesses to thrive
A non-integrated ERP system places unnecessary limits on the organisation’s responsiveness, efficiency and data management. It may be the path of least resistance to find a suitable ERP solution and ‘set it and forget it’, but 68 percent of respondents to our research on ERP and profitability said their business had benefited from integrating ERP with other systems. Without comprehensive integration, even the best ERP system can become an expensive waste of potential.
Well-integrated ERP has unique advantages for distribution-oriented businesses, such as wholesalers and merchants — it creates mutually reciprocal benefits for both the customer and the company. Whether the business implements a customer relationship management (CRM) system or works with its customers organically, integrated ERP allows the organization to quickly and reliably access any information the customer might request, along with a streamlined way to action any customer needs.
eCommerce is still growing in importance every year. 84 percent of businesses told OGL that online sales were highly important to their success, either directly or with the use of third-party online marketplaces like eBay or Amazon as an accessible means of order fulfillment. Sales on Amazon’s marketplace platform grew by 12 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Integrating the organization’s eCommerce and marketplace systems with its ERP solution can automate the data generated from online sales and improve stock and supply reporting. 82 percent of businesses already agree that ERP gives better control of stock, and an integrated solution offers leadership teams easier access to sales metrics and demographic information for more agile, confident strategizing.
Integrating ERP with shipping and courier services allows for even greater automation in order fulfillment and streamlines the selection of the most appropriate courier service. Automatic notifications help the appropriate staff to complete the dispatch process more quickly. Payment services integrated with ERP will give an easier, more customer-friendly payment experience while automating the invoicing process and relaying payment data to the business.
Overcoming the obstacles to integrated ERP
Initial ERP implementation may be regarded as disruptive. Compounding this with a comprehensive, business-wide integration of ERP can be intimidating or appear to hold too much risk for some enterprises. This would be a short-sighted conclusion; integrated ERP offers so many benefits, and with the increasing rate of uptake any business that overlooks these benefits will not be able to stay competitive in the long term. Unfortunately, there can be no one-size-fits-all solution for integrating ERP into other systems across the business. Every organization is unique, with a unique ethos and needs, so a well-planned, risk-free implementation will be a different process for every company.
For businesses like wholesalers, distributors and merchants that depend on agility to survive, poorly implemented or unsuitable ERP systems can be catastrophic. An inflexible ERP solution without scalability or which cannot integrate adaptively as the organization grows and evolves can be as bad as no ERP at all.
Some ERP products offer no native support for third-party eCommerce services or marketplace platforms. A business using an ERP system that cannot accommodate growth or doesn’t integrate well must choose between implementing a new ERP system from the ground up, redesigning or restructuring its current ERP system in a manner the original provider may not support, or simply going without integration and all its advantages.
A successful ERP integration that unlocks all the potential benefits for the organization depends on choosing an ERP solution that was designed from the ground up to account for growth and flexible integration.
Whatever an organization needs from an ERP system and whatever it hopes to achieve through integration, a service provider that will listen and work closely with its partners, provides a flexible system and helps create an implementation roadmap that minimizes disruption is the only reliable path to maximizing the return on investment of digital transformation.
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Gary Reynolds is Operational Director, OGL Group. He joined OGL in August 2020 as Software Director bringing with him over 24 years’ experience of working in the software sector. Having started as a Developer and worked his way through the ranks he brings a unique blend of technical expertise and understanding, coupled with natural leadership and people development skills. Most recently Gary has taken on additional responsibility for the operational management of our IT Solutions division as well as Software to ensure we maintain the same high standards of efficiency and performance across both divisions.