The benefits of ERP systems can really change the game for ambitious SMEs. Where you once had to keep track of multiple processes essential to running your business (accounting, CRM, HR, you name it), now the implementation of a piece of software can greatly simplify things.
ERP (which stands for Enterprise Resource Planning) brings many of these important business functions together on one shared database. There are many benefits of ERP systems and they pretty much all revolve around making life easier.
And of course, when life is easier for your employees, it becomes sweeter for your customers too. Not yet convinced? Let’s take a look at some of them in a little more detail.
We’ve pulled together a guide to some of the main benefits of ERP systems. To better illustrate these, we’ll be using Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central as a kind of case study, highlighting its advantages with real-life examples.
1. Stay compliant
This is a benefit of ERP software that can often be overlooked. Meeting compliance requirements can be tough, especially when regulations seem to be changing all the time. An ERP system makes it easy to stay on top of them, and even does some of the hard work for you.
Tracking regulatory compliance becomes prioritised and more automated, so you can expect more accurate financial accounting, better product traceability and superior quality control.
What’s more, any external auditors will be able to see exactly who’s been working on what, with extensive audit logs all available in one place.
Business Central comes with compliance support as standard; it’s Making Tax Digital certified by HMRC, and also addresses many relevant GDPR requirements.
The knowledge that your ERP system supports your business’s GDPR obligation is one of the major benefits of ERP systems. You should, however, always seek additional legal advice to ensure you are fully compliant with GDPR.
A cloud solution with regular updates ensures you have access to any new features or functions which are made available in response to changing regulatory practices and guidelines. Cloud solutions and specifically Microsoft’s with the huge annual investment in R&D ensure you stay on the latest technology and can react to changing requirements. Business Central also offers your business complete data integrity, with full audit trails.
2. Increased flexibility
It’s not a case of one-size-fits-all when it comes to ERP systems. The majority of them are designed to integrate seamlessly with other programmes, including e-commerce platforms, CRM systems and Office applications. They’re modular too, so you can choose to customise or extend them to meet your own unique requirements, giving you the freedom to do things your way.
Business Central is an “out of the box” system integrated with Office, Outlook and Power BI. It can easily integrate with other systems to make your life simpler. Microsoft provides all the tools needed to create automated real-time integrations.
Business Central can be extended and customised to fit your specific requirements if needed. Despite the vast amount of functionality available out of the box, there are still occasions when you have a business or vertical requirement which may not be provided for. Microsoft AppSource has a plethora of apps for Business Central, from connectors to other systems i.e. payroll, expenses and websites to recipe management for the food industry.
All sorts of functionality has been created for use with Business Central and it is as simple as downloading an app on to your phone, all of which comes with a 30-day free trial.
There are also tools which allow partners to create add on apps, so if there is something specific you need it can be created as an app and bolted on for you.
3. Become more scalable
One of the main goals for many businesses is growth, but achieving this can be tough – especially when you consider all the additional things you’ll need from your systems. And you don’t want to pay for something now that will need to change in a few years time, so you need something that keeps up with the times.
This is where future-proofing becomes really important and one of the fundamental benefits of ERP systems.
Good ERP systems facilitate future growth and are agile enough to grow with you.
Business Central benefits from using the very best technology, with ongoing investments from Microsoft to ensure it’s ahead of the curve and has the capability to provide added value as and when you need it.
Unlimited companies can be set up with no additional licence charge. The pricing includes the whole suite of features and functionality, so you will never receive an additional invoice when you want to start using a new feature like Fixed Assets or Purchase Order Processing for example.
The simplicity of Business Central means that you can add users in minutes – simply pay for what you need and when you need it. Microsoft manage the underlying Azure infrastructure and assign more storage and processing power as needed, with no additional charges placed on the users.
4. Streamline your processes
This is one of the key benefits of an ERP system. The more you grow, the more complex your operations may become.
Thankfully, ERP systems make it easy to streamline and standardise processes, which in turn will help you become much more efficient across your business.
Data doesn’t need to be entered manually, so there’s no more reliance on manual spreadsheets. With Business Central, there’s a single “out of the box” system, so no time is wasted switching between different programmes.
With one centralised database, everyone has full visibility of everything, meaning you can start to see the bigger picture. Business Central also features OCR (Optical Character Recognition), so data entry can be hugely streamlined as the system will identify key information from documents and create transactions for you.
Workflows enable you to streamline your approval process and reduce your reliance on paper and email usage. Importing bank statements and the use of auto-matching saves manual data entry and reconciliation. By scheduling reports to run when you need them, you no longer have to generate them manually; saving both time and resource.
With the availability of Business Central through an app, you can gain access instantly from anywhere. This eradicates the painstaking process of opening your laptop, getting WiFi and connecting to Citrix/Terminal server; just to open the application and answer a quick query.
With ‘out of the box’ Outlook integration, you can view customer and supplier data all within Outlook. This reduces the strain on your Finance team and enables you to process customer orders more efficiently. Without leaving Outlook, you can also send copy invoices, statements, create orders and new accounts, saving you from navigating between products to carry out everyday tasks.
Credit control is also possible within Outlook without access to Business Central, as the user can still see all the information they need to chase overdue invoices, send copies and statements.
5. Better security
When it comes to any new piece of software or system, the question of security is an important one. You want to know how safe it is to use, and what measures are in place to keep your data secure. This is particularly true of ERP systems; the last thing any business wants is for financial data to fall into the wrong hands.
ERP solutions have firewalls and controls in place to restrict users’ permissions, as well as privacy policies that help to keep data accurate and safe at all times.
With Microsoft being such a large company, they benefit enormously from the economies of scale model. Because of this, their Azure Cloud computing service which supports Business Central provides a level of security and compliance that no SME would be able to afford or achieve with their internal on-premise structure.
6. Increase collaboration
Another of the main benefits of ERP systems is collaboration. With an ERP system, you can bring all areas of your business closer together and eliminate silos.
Its centralised data system allows for greater collaboration across the board, especially if it’s a Cloud-based solution. Whether people are in the office, working from home or even on a business trip abroad, as long as they have an internet connection then employees can work together.
Business Central is cloud-based and totally accessible – desktop, mobile, tablet, you can access what you need on any device, on any browser too.
This gives employees much more freedom to collaborate in real time, no matter where they are. Data can be shared across the organisation with the common data platform. This allows Business Central data to be available to users in various applications, not just from with Business Central itself.
Business Central also delivers for key decision makers, with Power BI data is readily available and in a format that is easy to understand and interpret. Sharing reports across the organisation is effortless and ensures everyone has up to date data at their fingertips. You can also limit access to just the figures relevant to their role.
With Business Central there are no data silos, the information flows from one area of the system to another with no duplicate data entry or integrations to run. This ensures everyone has one version of the truth and access to up to date figures to aid in decision-making processes.
7. Huge cost savings
Perhaps the biggest benefit of ERP systems is the result of all of those that came before.
With more efficient processes, better time-saving features and less chance of the costly consequences of non-compliance and data breaches, your business will likely see huge savings.
With Business Central, there are no expensive upgrades needed in order to become compliant, or in order for your business to grow. Swift implementation means minimal downtime. Without the need to complete manual or repetitive tasks, employees can focus on doing the things that matter most to your business.
If you are considering the cloud, there are no infrastructure hardware or software costs, no disaster recovery plans to create and test and no internal IT skills to manage the system.
Another great cost-saving feature is SaaS licencing. This means you won’t have to buy a licence up front, so can spread the costs over the year and have more control over your spending.
This, by all means, isn’t an exhaustive list. There are many more benefits of ERP systems, all of which are designed to make running a business more simple.
If you’re interested in finding out more, either about the benefits of Business Central or ERP systems in general, or you need some guidance in the decision-making process, we can help. Our ERP systems experts specialise in Not for Profit, Wholesale & Distribution and the Fashion Industry sectors. Just get in touch with a member of our team today who’ll be more than happy to discuss your requirements.