ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning is a type of computer system that companies use to organise various parts of their business. The part ‘resource planning’ describes it pretty well!
As a bit of background; Enterprise Systems is a general term for integrated modular software products that are used for a number of support or back-office functions, i.e. the bits that aren’t Customer-facing or involved with producing or delivering the core products or services.
(Ed. Enterprise doesn’t have to mean a big multinational corporation; the size is less important than the cost and value such systems bring to any organisation)
Back to ERP!
ERP can include important processes and functions like Human Resources, purchase ordering and logistics. For example, they can keep track of all employee’s annual leave and time off work, monitor stock levels (inventory) and resources used in manufacturing, and make sure that everyone gets paid, so a pretty important system all round!
ERP systems come with a central data store (database) to ensure that information is shared between components and for the benefit of all Users. This helps to provide a single version of the truth for analysis, reporting and financial controls.
Picking the right product
There are hundreds of types of ERP systems, from the tiny bespoke systems for a 5-man company to systems like Oracle and SAP, catering for 1000’s of users across ginormous companies. They can also be cloud-based, such as Netsuite. Specialist modules may be available for different types of companies and sectors, such as, finance, logistics, supply chain and government bodies.
In order to pick an ERP system an organisation will go through a tender process, speaking to the vendor company of each system and seeing which is best suited for them. It is possible to change system (migrate) if it doesn’t work for their requirements, or maybe as the business grows or evolves over time and needs change.
What do we do now?
There are normally initial set-up, configuration and integration tasks to carry out as well as reviewing manual business processes. Once you are up and running additional modules can be bought to extend the system, potentially mix-and-match from different suppliers, as long as they talk to each other. Domain specialists, or integraters, may be needed to make sure there are no compatibility problems, and everything seamlessly and smoothly inter-operates,
Depending on the type of ERP used, either every single employee will have access to work on the system or a very select few that become super users of the system. Nothing to do with super heroes just the more technically inclined who will have specific access rights or permissions and help to support the general population and make necessary tweaks and configuration changes.
ERP systems often work alongside or integrate with CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and Business Intelligence systems, but these are for a different conversation another time.
Author: Ellie Lawrence, Recruitment Manager for ERP at Washington Frank
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