7/20/2018 ERP

Choosing an ERP is a significant and emotional investment for any company. In many cases, it is the largest software investment a company will make in their lifetime. In this blog post, we talk about the technology stack that small businesses typically select when starting out, the problems it leads to, and how ERP can help solve these problems.

One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is choosing the wrong technology stack to run their business.  Often small businesses choose technology out of necessity.

Does any of this sound like your company?

  • Financial software (e.g. QuickBooks) to create profit and loss statements, balance sheets, pay taxes, and maybe even run payroll. Often maintained by outsourced bookkeepers, accountants, or an office manager.  Data is entered as an afterthought, and not used as a tool to help with daily business activities and make business decisions.  Perhaps you are even having trouble with compliance regulations such as GAAP.
  • Suites for email, calendar, and document management (e.g. Google G-Suite, Office 365). Often used to manage activities and communication, but not tied in any way to financials.  Managers cannot see everything that is going on around an individual customer. To find information you need to dig through individual emails and search through calendar events.  Documents are sometimes unorganized and/or hard to find because of how they are named or where they are stored.
  • A CRM (e.g. HubSpot, Zoho, Salesforce) that is used primarily for tracking sales activity and possibly supporting existing customers. It has no visibility into financials (e.g. what have customers bought, are customers paying on time, etc.), which only gives you part of the picture.  Opportunities are closed, and then are entered into another system to be processed and invoiced.
  • Systems that only a few employees have access to and/or possibly sharing accounts, because adding users for all employees is too expensive (but if more employees could have access, it would make life easier).
  • Integrations between systems may exist, but they don't always work the way you want them to.
  • Reports generated from multiple systems should tell you the same thing, but they never do.
  • Systems are maintained internally or on hosted servers that occasionally go down and require someone to intervene, taking their time away from more important business activity.
  • Systems are not available at any time, from anywhere, on any device.
  • Spreadsheets galore (and maybe even a custom home-grown database) are used for everything else.

What does this lead to?

  • Inability to find information, or having to go to multiple places to find information, which is often inconsistent
  • Lots of manual processes and re-keying of data into multiple systems, resulting in data entry mistakes or time-consuming activities to keep systems in sync.
  • Lack of any sort of business intelligence, using data (rather than your gut) to make smarter business decisions
  • Lack of audit trails to know who has done what and when
  • No easy way to see a complete picture of a customer – what they are spending, who's communicating with them, opportunities for upsell
  • No easy way to see how much you are truly spending and determine profitability of different parts of the business
  • Extensive amount of time spent gathering and/or correcting data to generate accurate reports
  • Data you are unable to trust

As companies grow, they continue to add on more systems to help run their business without thinking about a cohesive strategy for their technology stack.  What do these growing companies all end up with?  A HAIRBALL of systems held together with tape and bubble gum that are poorly integrated.  And finally, after spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on systems and not being able to effectively run their business, they realize they need to find a better way, so they can grow and scale their business.  It's at this point they start considering ERP.

Making the decision to introduce ERP into your company is an investment that will help you grow and improve efficiency in your organization (if done correctly).  But beware, there are systems on the market that claim to be ERP and/or are very well-established ERPs that offer very cheap entry points.  While these might seem palatable for small businesses, they often lack the functionality that a growing business needs without costly upgrades to really get what you want.  ERPs are one of those systems that once implemented are hard to get off, not because you can't get the data (and some vendors make it harder to do that than others), but because of the amount of time, effort, and money invested in them.  Choosing the wrong ERP or implementing it incorrectly can be a very costly mistake to any business.  The average company spends 1-2 times the amount of the license fees for the first year (and that's assuming they found the right implementer to do the job right).

Another mistake that companies make is thinking that one ERP system can do it all.  While ERP can help solve many of the problems that growing companies face, and can consolidate many systems into one, there is still the need to integrate other best of breed systems.  For example, sometimes ERPs have built-in CRMs or ECommerce solutions that perfectly suit a company's needs – other times, companies require more features.  Then you are faced with a decision – do you try to customize the ERP to do what you need, or do you buy a best-of-breed product that does it already and integrate it?  Sometimes customization is better, especially if its small.  Other times, it's better to buy best of breed (assuming the integration with the ERP is there to support it).  The advantage of buying best-of-breed systems is that it allows you to spend more time doing the things that your company does best and let another vendor do what they do best, instead of spending large amounts of time trying to customize a solution that you must constantly maintain.  You'll never be able to keep up with a vendor that continues to expand and improve their best-of-breed solution (after all, that's why they went into business in the first place).

Knowing this, how can a small business afford an ERP and choose the right ERP to help their business grow?  If you are asking yourself this question, then you've come to the right place.

At EIS, we've established a program that makes it easy for small businesses to choose the right ERP, setting them up for future success and at the same time reduce the upfront cost significantly.  Instead of paying costly license and implementation fees to get started using ERP, EIS provides a way for you to get up and running with minimal investment.  Then, you can take the money you would normally spend on ERP license and implementation and re-invest that into your company to grow your business.  This provides you with an ERP system that is fully customized and optimized to help you run and grow your business without the upfront cost.  Now you can realize the return on investment of your ERP over time, instead of spending all that cash before you even start using the ERP system.  Imagine being able to have a one system that everyone in your company uses that tracks information in real-time, accessible from anytime, anywhere, and on any device, and provides full visibility to all employees when you need it.  And properly integrated to other systems when needed (because while ERP can solve many of the issues of a growing company, no one system can do it all).

To make this program even better, at EIS, we commit ourselves to be with you every step of the way.  Our journey with you begins with implementation and continues with you for as long as you are using your ERP.  Once you go live, we continue to provide you with value-added services that are included with a low fixed monthly fee.  We check in with you from time to time, helping your company grow, supporting you and fixing issues when needed, ensuring that you are getting the return on investment in your ERP.  As your business grows and changes, we are there to support you and help you make those changes, setting you up for success.  At EIS, we treat all our customers are our partners, not just our clients. 

Ready to make the move to ERP?  Have additional questions or concerns?  Contact EIS today.


About the Author

Art Ardolino
EIS, VP, Services
Art has actively worked for almost 10 years in the ERP space, providing consulting, implementation, and integration services. He has worked with over 150 companies and has successfully helped them with their ERP implementation, including architecting customized solutions and integrating ERPs with other systems such as CRM and Marketing Automation. Art has worked with Brian and Jeremy over the past 10 years, and decided to join EIS in January 2018. Before working in the ERP space, Art spent an additional 12 years working in the education space, helping public schools implement Student Information Systems. Art loves helping companies simplify complex problems and streamline business processes by delivering optimized solutions. He has a love for data, business process, and systems, and helps companies make the best of the interaction between these things. Art believes in helping companies and their employees do what they love most so they can focus on achieving their goals.

Today, Art oversees the Professional Services offered by EIS. Art holds a Master’s and B.S. degree in Information Decision Systems with a minor in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University. Art strives to be a thought leader in the ERP space and offer innovative programs and solutions to enable businesses to expand and grow.