By Ian M. Marlow
January 13, 2015
In our last post we explained what an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is, and discussed the various types of components that may go into designing an ERP for your organization. In today’s post, we’ll go through that process of piecing together your ERP puzzle.
During the designing and planning stage, you and your IT services provider should do a thorough analysis of your business' particular needs; this will inform which elements you implement. This goes for any industry.
Piece #1: Create a business prerequisite. Have your IT solutions firm meet with the stakeholders of each of your departments and together, create a business prerequisite list of what's important to that department. Look at how the departments are operating today and how they could improve via different modules of your company’s ERP. Questions to ask include:
- What departments do you have?
- What services and activities do they perform?
- How are these departments and activities coordinated?
- What’s the best way to provide better service, get better (and actionable) insights from reporting?
- What would make the best cultural fit for the organization based on how employees are accustomed to working, what types of reporting they want, who does what, level of technical skill, etc.?
Piece #2: Select appropriate software. The next step is to select the appropriate software programs that work according to your needs, and with each other. It’s important to address whether the various software programs and applications that are available on the market will perform the functions that you need (as detailed by your particular prerequisites) when piecing together your ERP puzzle. Therefore, make sure your IT services provider understands which systems are already designed to be integrated without modification, and find out if they can design the appropriate application programming interface (API) to integrate the products if necessary.
Piece #3: Design purpose-built APIs. APIs enable programs to work together to achieve the functionality and provide the information that users need. The more off-the-shelf integration that’s possible, the more cost-efficient your configuration will be.
If your company has a “home grown” system—with, say, a custom-built database or website, or software that’s already been configured to your particular needs in one operational area—find out how those legacy systems will connect with your new applications or if APIs must be designed for your system. This will help you decide which elements you move forward with and how to configure your system to accommodate them.
Piece #4: Customize modules as needed. Some of the functions that can be automated via an ERP, but that usually require some sort of customization and manual intervention are:
- Batch integration, which allows you to export data on a predetermined schedule you choose
- Real-time live integration of your databases – connecting them in the back end so that fields in one database/form automatically populate the others
A well-designed and custom-built enterprise resource planning system can introduce great efficiencies and automation to any company, and becomes the balance between your original business prerequisites, which programs you ultimately choose to retain, and which will need an API in order to seamlessly integrate your system and reporting.
Are you thinking of updating the ERP modules your organization is using? Do you have any questions about programs, options or configurations? Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suggested reading: What is an ERP and Do You Need One For Your Organization