What are your business goals and objectives? An important question in the move from accounting to an ERP system
Knowing where you want to go is a key step in finding the right business management system to get you there.
Running a changing business can feel like a juggling act. During the early days, you can keep up with the basic paperwork and reports using an accounting system and still find time to manage staff and client relationships well. However, as the workload demands of your changing SME increase, there are more tasks, you might have to bring in more people and the business operations become more complex.
Ultimately, every SME has to put formal processes into place to ensure that business operations are as streamlined as possible and to enable owners to make decisions that are sustainable and profitable. If you are thinking about investing in an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to do this, how do you ensure you get the right ERP system for your business?
“It is very important to stop and think about your future goals and objectives”, says Mala Bhatt, Managing Director of Seidor East Africa. “It is a crucial step in your digital transformation journey to ensure that you implement a system that has the ability and support you need to take your business forward and this support has to be tailor made for the type of business that you run”.
Some important business objectives for SMEs to consider before implementing an ERP system
Bhatt lists three business objective examples that can be specific requirements to bear in mind when choosing an ERP system:
1) Meeting customer requirements or expectations.
2) Business expansion plans.
3) Integration of important trade tools.
Customer expectations or requirements
We live in a customer-centric world and how customers conduct their business is changing rapidly. If businesses want to maintain a competitive advantage, they have to make the most of every interaction and use different touchpoints to generate customer satisfaction that moves effectively into sustainable customer loyalty.
It is vital to understand what your customers want and need from you if you want to continue doing business with them and to grow your market share.
Today customers are expecting quicker responses and often, more detailed feedback at increasingly complex touchpoints, as well as professional services that meet legal and other industry requirements. That is why it is essential to be clear about the kind of information you have to share between departments to be able to respond to clients accurately and timeously.
Business expansion planning
“Over the 17 years we’ve been operating in East Africa we have seen a lot of small businesses grow quite quickly, becoming more complex and desperately needing accurate information and insights to keep up and continue their successful growth,” said Bhatt.
“Regardless of whether you have an agricultural, manufacturing, transport or logistics business, you have to ensure that you know how your business can expand within its specific industry and how you plan to manage this growing enterprise effectively.”
Business expansion can take many forms. Bhatt lists four examples of ways in which a business can change:
- Opening more branches or distribution points locally or across borders.
- Adding new products or services.
- Increasing your supplier network.
- Going online for orders or sales.
To expand a business successfully in any or all of the above ways, you have to make sure that each part of the business has a set of business rules that structure how information is captured, shared and reported on. As Bhatt explains: “Having too many disparate systems creates room for error and can cause delays and frustration among your team members and your clients as well as increasing your business risk.”
Plan for the integration of trade tools
New technology is developed quickly in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This can enhance or improve business operations across all types of industries. It’s important that smaller businesses do not fall behind and miss out on opportunities to integrate new tools into their operations. In choosing technology or tools, business owners should always consider tools or systems that can grow with them.
Bhatt gives the example of a Seidor client in the distribution sector who wanted to know if the integration of weighbridge data was possible with SAP Business One, even though it wasn’t a current requirement for that specific business yet. “We were able to assure them and provide the knowledge so that they could accurately plan how their business could grow and incorporate new tools over time,” she says.
“There are a host of other tools available for different industries. Scanners can, for eample, be used at warehouses or distribution centres to quickly and accurately track exactly how much stock has been packaged and moved”.
Bhatt highlights that tools are often only as good as the people using them. Her advice to SMEs is to think about their current and future workforce and ensure they put the right processes in place and set up a user-friendly business management system.
It is important to consider the background and skills of people who will have to perform certain tasks, particularly when it comes to digital data entry. It is also important to determine how many people will be needed to handle the volume of information which will have to be processed as a business expands as well as considering which tasks have to be automated.
With a clear picture of the tasks to be performed and the people who will be doing it, you can ensure that they get the training they need to be able to use your system effectively, saving time and getting the information they need when they need it.
“Before you embark on the implementation of a new business management system, think about what your requirements and business operations priorities are right now, and what your goals are for the future. Then discuss the technical and training requirements for your planned system changes with a service provider you can trust. You may find that a phased approach would be the best way of moving your business move to an integrated environment.” is Bhatt’s advice.
A reputable product, with a clear road map for future development, with the guarantee of seamless upgrades and integration over time – will provide you with additional features and functionality as the business changes.
To build customer trust and continue your business journey, you have to know that you can trust the data and insights you base your decisions on. You have to trust the partner you choose to guide you on your journey of digital transformation as you move from accounting to an ERP system.
To understand your budget better, please read our next article: Understand your budget when moving from accounting to ERP
Written by Mala Bhatt