Streamline Processes with ERP Software

Danielle Lobo

For most businesses, the first software purchase made is in order to manage the company’s accounting and financials, and in general, introductory software provides functionality to manage one specific aspect of a company’s operations. Introductory accounting software is frequently used in conjunction with manual processes or other simple business tools like Excel in order to manage inventory. This is best when order volume is low.

As your business grows, and order volume increases, it becomes more and more difficult to manage processes with introductory software. Although each business will differ, there are a couple of good indicators that it’s time to start looking for more robust software.

What does Streamlining Processes Mean?

Businesses need professional processes in place to run a business and these processes take place in all departments from tasks completed by accountants to those completed by warehouse staff. Streamlining processes involves identifying and eradicating unnecessary steps within a process with the intention of enhancing efficiency. Streamlining processes may include automating repetitive/error-prone tasks or simply eliminating them.

Signs It's Time to Upgrade Your Software

Sometimes, the processes are broken because the tools used are outdated or no longer support the growth of that process. Below are a few examples of incidents that represent a signal that new software is on the horizon.

  1. Reaching Transaction/Data limits. Your business has reached transaction and data volume limits within its existing system. Many introductory software solutions have limitations on the number of transactions it can process, the volume of data that it can store and even the number of user licenses available.  When a business operates above these limits it can result in system crashes, corrupt databases, slow run times and messy workarounds.
  2. Your business requires additional functionality. Introductory software provides functionality to manage specific processes within one department as opposed to across departments.  As your business grows, it will require additional functionality to handle previously manual tasks. Examples include functionality to manage inventory, customers and multiple sales channels such as eCommerce.
  3. Your employees are performing a lot of manual tasks. When a business only has a small number of orders it can be fine to manage processes manually.  However, as your business grows, automating these tasks can save hours of manual work, even if it’s just a few seconds at a time.
  4. Your business lacks tools for robust reporting. Although introductory software will provide access to some reports, it can be difficult to extract the information and see data in real-time.  In addition, it does not allow you to easily amalgamate information across functional areas to understand how the company is performing across departments.

If your business experiences any of the above pain points, it is time to start looking for more advanced software such as ERP.

How to Streamline Processes

Analyze Current Processes

Mapping out processes can be a time-consuming endeavor, but gaining a thorough understanding of each step involved can unfold opportunities for automation. By closely examining the processes within each department, we can identify ways to enhance efficiency. More often than not, employees follow certain procedures simply because that's how they've always been done. However, it's highly likely that ERP software offers numerous avenues to streamline these processes. To leverage the full potential of ERP functionality, it's crucial to comprehend all the processes involved and determine the most effective approach.

Implement Process-Driven ERP Software

Now that you have gained a comprehensive understanding of the current processes in your business, it is time to delve into the world of ERP software research. This crucial step will guide you through the intricate process of selecting the perfect vendor. As a small business, it is important to consider opting for small vendors who understanding of the mindset and challenges of other small businesses.

Download: Software Buying Guide

Once you have carefully evaluated and identified the best ERP solution that aligns seamlessly with your business needs, it is time to implement. This is where the real transformation begins, as you integrate the selected ERP software into your existing processes, streamlining operations and boosting overall efficiency.

A true ERP solution will provide functionality for managing inventory, accounting, contact management, warehouse management and order entry and processing as an all-in-one solution. ERP streamlines processes across departments from beginning to end and will include additional functionality to meet the specific needs of each individual business.  With ERP software, your company has the ability to:

  • Receive inventory into your warehouse with barcode scanners
  • Convert a quote into a sales order without having to go into multiple systems
  • Create a purchase order for inventory items not available from within the sales order screen
  • Automatically email customers invoices
  • Automatically generate reports based on specific pre-determined criteria – these reports then get emailed automatically to the appropriate team members
  • Create a sales order in which inventory is automatically allocated to that order
  • Use verification scanning at packing stations to scan items picked and check against the sales order
  • Track and monitor receivables with the ability to have automatic notices and updates sent out in order to shorten receivable cycle and increase cash flow
  • Generate reports based on information pulled from different departments – for example, users can set up a report detailing information on product sold by sales rep by territory
  • See notes kept on customers and suppliers from multiple screens and areas of the software
  • Review sales orders from various sales channels in one screen

The above functionality is just a sampling of how ERP can help streamline operations.  With an all-in-one solution, data is stored in a single database which makes it easy to quickly lookup and enter information in one system from a variety of departments.  Training employees is simplified as users only need to learn one system interface and support done through the same vendor. With the right ERP solution in place, your business will reap the benefits of enhanced productivity, improved communication, and streamlined operations.

During and After implementation

Ask the Experts

Now that you are comfortable with the new software, it is the perfect time to reassess your processes. Since you just recently did so, you can clearly see opportunities for eliminating error and automating tasks. By deciding to work with a small software vendor, you can create a closer partnership than you would with a larger vendor. Make the most of their expertise and consulting services by requesting a business process analysis. The in-house consultants, who work with other customers, will be able to recognize processes and offer valuable advice on automation and enhancing efficiency. Remember, as the saying goes, ‘it doesn’t hurt to ask!’

Employee Engagement

New software, different processes, same people.

Always prioritize your people during times of change. Employee engagement will decrease if employees do not feel like they are included in the change. Since they are the ones responsible for carrying out the tasks, it is essential to involve them directly when evaluating processes. When employees feel included in the change, their engagement levels soar. They become more invested in the success of the company and are more willing to embrace new initiatives.