In the uncertainty of the current business climate, a stable, integrated and effective IT framework is more important than ever for Britain’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). As Brexit rumbles on, SMEs need a strong technology backbone that will allow them to act with pace and flex with whatever changes or challenges come their way.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software has answered this need and been part of the technology landscape for some time now. It has proven to be a valuable business management solution for SMEs looking to integrate functions across their organisation so they can work more efficiently and effectively. But does ERP still have a place in an increasingly disruptive digital environment? As company owners pass their business down to the next generation who are digitally savvy, will ERP meet their demanding expectations? Can it deliver on the next set of emerging technologies within Industry 4.0 such as Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The short answer is ‘yes’. Some ERP systems have been evolving to meet these changing requirements, they have moved beyond traditional ERP. A modern Cloud-based ERP system can act as a platform that enables future technology trends. Some of the most exciting of these are AI and ML, which will open up almost limitless opportunities for organisations to run more efficiently and analyse their performance in even more detail. Another example of these business-changing innovations is automation, which will result in radical improvements in cost-efficiency and accuracy.
Cloud ERP will be an important part of this transforming IT ecosystem, and we believe it should continue to be the IT backbone of a successful business for a number of reasons:
It integrates all aspects of the business
The overarching benefit of using an ERP system is that it brings all aspects of your business together in one place. This includes Finance and Accounting, Payroll, HR, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Operations. This centralised information from across the organisation speeds up the decision-making process, ensures decisions are more informed, enables business intelligence and encourages collaborative working.
One organisation that is clearly seeing the benefits of this is cheese manufacturer JS Bailey. Anne German, System Manager at JS Bailey, comments, “A number of our business processes were not fully integrated with each other, requiring the support of manual procedures, making it more difficult for us to monitor and report on Production, Sales and Finance in the timely manner that a growing business requires. We recognised a change was needed if we were to succeed in the ‘new’ digital era, but we knew little about which technologies could help us reimagine our business. The Cloud ERP solution was recommended to us, and, when seeing it in action, we were impressed by the features as well as the affordability and customer service that came with them. Moving to the Cloud needn’t have been so daunting after all, and we are confident it will give us a fully integrated system fit for the future.”
It provides complete control and visibility
Having a central system for your entire organisation means you have a clear understanding of all activity and one version of the truth. With all business information held in one area, your view of the data is accurate, complete and up-to-date. As ERP systems start to expand into the wider environment, it will also open up more opportunities to analyse and integrate data from sources further afield, such as third party software and hardware – but still centralised into a single point of focus.
It is available anytime and anywhere
With many business owners now needing to work on the move, Cloud-based ERP systems can deliver access to information anytime and anywhere. This provides real-time business insight wherever you are, enabling you to be more productive than ever when working away from the office.
Kit Burgoyne, Co-Owner and Founder of fast-growing online furniture business Aspire, comments, “The access I get has been so valuable. I can see a complete view of the business, accessing the solution wherever I am – working from home, out and about or even on holiday. The live process view is a brilliant tool, so wherever I am I can log on with my phone and see where an order is, whether it has gone through production and if it is ready to ship. If I am with a customer, I can tell them exactly what is happening in real-time. One of the keys to our success is that the Sales Team has such confidence in the system that they can focus on selling, confident that the back-office logistics will be running smoothly.”
It saves time and money
Often SMEs spend a great deal of time trying to gather information from disparate and unconnected business systems. A modern ERP software resolves these issues and enables employees to invest time in more strategic and rewarding activities. Cloud ERP has also allowed smaller organisations to take advantage of the kind of efficiency savings normally only associated with larger, more expensive, on-premise ERP systems.
Businesses adopt ERP at various stages of their life cycle – some use ERP to facilitate and manage growth, others to standardise processes during a merger / acquisition or for succession planning. Whatever stage you are at, a modern Cloud-based ERP system can help improve efficiency, giving you time to rethink your processes, introduce new technologies and drive productivity. ERP continues to be a successful IT framework for SMEs looking to weather the challenges of Brexit, to get the most from the Government’s Industrial Strategy or its Making Manufacturing Smarter initiatives. A modern ERP system can be the springboard for new IT innovations, and - as announced at the launch of the Making Manufacturing Smarter Commission in October - the faster the adoption of technology, the greater the investment will be in UK manufacturing. With the proven and evolving strengths of ERP behind them, SMEs can be proactive, work smart, act with pace and ensure they have the agility to thrive.