Small businesses today need advanced ERP tools that allow them to meet the rapidly changing competitive pressures in a cost effective manner.
With tight budgets always top of mind, small businesses must prioritize their expansion wish lists—often juggling between investing in an IT infrastructure, or new equipment.
According to Mark Humphlett, Director ERP - Industry and Product Marketing at Infor, IT infrastructure is the foundation for growth and needs to be the primary focus for any sized company.
Especially those planning to expand into new markets, new products and develop new workflows to speed delivery and enhance productivity.
He argues technology solutions make these advances and improvements possible—on a scale that simple policy programs cannot.
Humphlett argues personnel need tools to do their job effectively. Mandating a bold directive.
“Work faster, work smarter” will be ineffectual if top managers don’t provide the solutions to support their vision and goals. ERP solutions allow company-wide changes, ensuring compliance to prescribed best practices and allowing managers to elevate the expectations for productivity and performance.
Adds Humphlett, equipped with the necessary analytics, managers can drill into details on performance, use of resources, margins and accounts which need to boost profitability.
In today’s highly competitive landscape, these analytical capabilities are more important than ever, particularly to the growing small business that is establishing its niche, cementing relationships with customers, creating differentiation and identifying targets for growth.
Many companies, not just small businesses, are doing the same analytical due-diligence in order to move into a post-recession recovery mode.
Humphlett argues that if a small business does not have the strategic tools, it will be easy to be left behind as competitors out-maneuver them and seize opportunities first. This is not the time to set business intelligence as a low priority if you want to remain competitive.
This increased competition among companies that are hungry for economic recovery means that the SMALL BUSINESS needs to be at the top of their game. They need to out-perform larger companies who may be hunting for sales down-market or trying to lure customers away.
The company will find it a smart defensive move to invest in ERP solutions to help them be more responsive and fast-acting in decision making and providing value-add service to customers. Protecting a territory is essential. Stepping up the level of efficiency and value-add programs becomes more important than ever as global competition hunts for easy prey—the company may not be alert to encroaching activities or have the resources to enter into a price war. ERP solutions allow the company to focus on efficiency, speed of delivery and anticipating customer needs—all important to the nimble, proactive positioning that is characteristic of agile small businesses.
As Humphlett points out, today’s next generation ERP solutions offer far more than just analytics and financial reporting. They allow companies to easily view the entire product lifecycle, from engineering and development through inventory and supply chain management— and even after-market service. Now, highly flexible architecture makes it easier for growing companies to launch an ERP strategy that can evolve as the company grows.
Flexible architecture allows applications to be added without heavy modifications to the code structure and costly upgrades. Plus, multiple deployment options, from cloud solutions to two-tier systems, give small businesses choices in their IT investment strategy.
Argues Humphlett, ERP solutions that are purpose-built and specialized for particular vertical industries also mean fewer modifications are needed. This “out-of- the-box” readiness is highly attractive to companies who tend to have smaller IT departments and value the lower total cost of ownership (TCO) this provides.
While many small businesses have limited IT budget and personnel who fill multiple rolls, ERP solutions can close the resource gap with features that save the company both time and money, while showcasing data in an easy-to-understand way.
The growing trend of bringing consumer-grade ease-of-use to ERP systems provides screens with the look, feel and functionality users are accustomed to from their smart phones and tablets. Now, personnel can easily customize screens, create their own reports and dive into the details that make strategic decision possible—all without having to rely on extensive IT support.
As Humphlett points out, besides ease of use, today’s small business buyer is seeking solutions that are fully integrated and eliminate the need to purchase separate add-on modules that need to be patched together or heavily modified for compatibility.
He adds small businesses need a one-stop-shop approach investing in technology solutions so they can rely on one support team to answers questions and help implement a company-wide strategy.
To survive the current challenges of volatile pricing, global competition and reductions in consumer spending, small businesses need to concentrate on the many minute details that add up to significant cost savings and increases in profits. Small businesses need robust systems that manage the entire enterprise—but that are also easy to use. Speed in implementation, acceptance by personnel, ease of use and simplified training are key issues to growing companies who need a quick return on investment (ROI).
Now is the time to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities. It’s a buyer’s market. Customers are making greater demands, expecting higher value, speedier service and more specialization in their products. If the company does not keep up with these market pressures, it is at risk of being left behind. Technology is the key to making the most of the emerging opportunities, identifying key niche markets and tuning in to the needs of prospective customers.
Without solutions to empower the workforce to be innovative, decisive and responsive, the company will be left in the “treading water” stage and vulnerable to the larger enterprises that are willing to move down market and absorb their customers. This is not the time to be idle, but rather the appropriate time to invest in IT solutions to make the most of every opportunity.