Tag: B2B

3
Oct

ERP software comparison: how to plan the right choice

Have you ever been to the supermarket and found yourself paralysed by which one of four different types of tomatoes to throw in the basket? It can be astounding how many questions rush through your mind like, ‘Do I need diced, crushed or chopped?’, or, ‘Do I get the larger tin that’s better value or the smaller tin which looks like a higher quality brand?’.

It seems like there are so many options for as simple a task as just doing the shopping. So, what happens when you get to the important decisions like making an ERP software comparison between options that will run your entire business?

Choosing an ERP isn’t a task to be taken lightly.

It can mean the difference between dramatically improved business performance and profitability when getting it right, or getting stuck with more convoluted processes and decreased performance if it goes wrong. There are many different vendors, resellers and implementers out there, all pushing their own strengths. Which ones should you be paying attention to? Which are the top ERP systems to start researching? And how do you focus on your specific ERP solution needs to choose the ERP system that’s right for your business?

We’ve set out some straightforward considerations and steps to follow for choosing ERP software, and some questions you may not have thought about, that are sure to give you some food for thought.

Get your shortlist in order

Before starting your research for ERP solution advice and comparing vendors and providers, it’s a good idea to jot down the biggest problems or pain points you’re trying to solve. What kind of process inefficiencies is your business seeing right now? Are you using multiple systems which don’t talk to each other? Think about all the processes that are happening in your business each day – including inventory and order management, purchasing, CRM, sales and marketing, and accounting.

Consider running your shortlist past others in the business to help validate the importance of issues and uncover more opportunities for improvement. The most pertinent issues will soon reveal themselves and you can begin putting an order of importance to your list.

The first choice: traditional on-premise or modern cloud-based?

This is an important decision to make early on, as it will dramatically cut down the number of ERP options you need to compare and help crystallise what you’d like to gain from an ERP system. To touch on it briefly, choosing a cloud ERP simply means you’ll have an ongoing subscription to the vendor’s software. There’s no server equipment to set up as your system is accessed via a secure web interface.

There’s a lot of flexibility with cloud-based solutions as users can access the system securely from wherever they are. There’s no longer a need to be in the office to stay productive. You’ll also be able to add functionality as soon as you need it, and all software updates are managed for you automatically by the software vendor.

On-premise ERP solutions are the traditional set-ups which require servers and other equipment to be installed locally to run your ERP application. This is a non-issue if you already have a high level of existing IT infrastructure and skilled IT staff in-house to maintain and update equipment but can present a challenge for start-ups and small businesses due to larger up-front costs.

Security and data redundancy are aspects which also need to be carefully considered. Keeping equipment on your premises presents a certain level of risk which needs to be mitigated. Whether it’s the risk of physical intrusion or natural disaster, it’s important to plan for a variety of circumstances that will ensure business continuity and safety of your important business data.

Understanding all the costs involved

Whenever you speak with an ERP vendor or ERP implementation partner about costs, there are standard areas covered such as licenses, setup and implementation of the software, ongoing support and add-ons that can further enhance functionality where needed. But there’s still more that you’ll need to think about, such as:

Total implementation time

No matter how competitive a quote for an ERP implementation may seem, an implementation project that’s not executed efficiently can drag on interminably. There’s also a commitment from your business’ stakeholders during this phase, dedicating their own time and effort to the project. If they’re kept working through the setup for too long, it’s likely to cause implementation fatigue and slow down the process even more.

Find out if the implementation partner you’re looking to work with has a rapid implementation methodology. This is a positive sign that they’re experienced, organised and will keep the momentum going to see you going live and using the system sooner.

Training

Involving the key stakeholders from your business right from the start of implementation can be hugely beneficial. When they’re guided through the setup for their roles and responsibilities, they’ll become more confident in using the ERP once it’s in place. This reduces the need for additional training or extended time working system processes and usage after go-live.

They’ll naturally become the champions and help to drive enthusiasm throughout the business in using your new ERP system. They’ll also be able to help other users get familiar from the beginning, quickly raising the collective knowledge and expertise.

Physical equipment

This is largely restricted to on-premise ERP solutions, as cloud systems are designed to work on virtually any device with minimal specifications. The physical equipment requirements for on-premise systems often requires a much larger, up-front investment. It includes hardware such as servers, operating system software for those servers, backup devices, additional networking and other equipment needed to run your business software.

Many startups and small businesses don’t have this level of existing IT infrastructure, so be sure to find out about equipment requirements needed to run the ERP software you’re considering. It’s an additional cost that needs to be taken into account.

It’s all in the delivery

Once you’re ready to start engaging ERP providers, find out whether they can manage everything for you directly from supply of the software, right through to implementation and ongoing support. Some solution providers manage all implementation work in-house, which provides a greater level of direct quality control. Others may supply the licensing but use outsourced partners to manage the setup and implementation. You may even choose to use a specific implementation partner yourself if you’ve heard positive feedback about that partner.

The delivery of implementation plays a huge part to your ERP system’s success or failure. Regardless of whether it’s an ERP provider or a partner managing the implementation for you, find out how many resources they have, whether they’re locally based, and how many implementations they’ve completed to date. It’s important to have confidence in having experienced, knowledgeable resources setting up the software that will run your business.

It’s the same situation for ongoing support requirements. No matter how involved your stakeholders and staff are throughout the implementation, sooner or later they’ll need help with using parts of the system, new features and enhancements, or alternative processes that they haven’t seen before. Over time, businesses also see staff changes, which means having re-training needs. Does the ERP provider you’re considering have the resources to provide local support and training?

The proof is in the pudding

To wrap up the research process, and to give yourself reassurance that you’re choosing the right ERP solution, get across the success stories of other clients who have chosen the same solution. Have they made significant improvements to their business by using the software? Have they managed to reduce costs, grow their business and improve performance?

If you can’t easily find customer success stories on an ERP provider’s website, ask them to provide case studies, success stories or other material that provides proof of their solution for your type of business.

So, what next?

If you’ve got more to do than time to do it, then we need to talk. An ERP system is something that can not only help improve your business processes and make your business become much more efficient, it will also free up time so you and your staff can focus on other things in the business.

Get in contact with us today to see how we can help, by either dropping us a message here, or calling us on 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.

23
Aug

Why EPOS is so essential for businesses

Every good retailer should use an EPOS system, as it is an indispensable tool for businesses.

Simply put, an EPOS system processes sales transactions electronically and are the technology of choice for retailers, both large and small. They process sales transactions electronically by itemising and summarising sales and accurately receiving and recording payments. But an EPOS system doesn’t just ring up sales, they give real-time assessment of your inventory and customer information too.

Sales and inventory management are essential to the success of every retail business. The execution of both, good or bad, will make or break a business. Luckily today, EPOS technology has revolutionised the process.

Why EPOS is great for business

Cash registers are great for most small businesses, unless you have thousands of items for sale. And tracking inventory is one of the most time-consuming tasks for retailers.

That is where EPOS systems come in. By helping retailers of all sizes reduce the amount of time they need to spend calculating inventory and by helping to transition their brick and mortar shop to the online world.

The digital age poses a challenge for retailers who look to improve the customer experience while increasing profits due to increase pressure to offer a most holistic experience within a real-time retail model.

Technology has completely changed the way businesses operate. Due to the immediate nature of the internet, today’s customers expect more out of their shopping experience leaving retailers with the responsibility of figuring out how.

Don’t let the thought of employing new technology overwhelm you. EPOS systems were designed to be very user-friendly. Its sole purpose is to make doing business easier.

How does an EPOS system work?

An EPOS system is like a cash register that is linked to a computer. Within it, it can process sales, maintain inventory, and in some of the more sophisticated systems, can be linked to the backend databases of supplier distribution warehouses.

The function of EPOS systems

Basically, the EPOS system reads barcodes on products and charges the appropriate amount. Unlike traditional till registers, EPOS systems automatically calculate and track changes to product prices while updating inventory at the same time.

This is a huge boom for retailers. Because of the abilities of an EPOS, retailers will spend less time having to count inventory and make restocking requests. With its easy to read nature for retailers, it can reduce the length of time something is ever out of stock and make reordering products a breeze.

Choosing the right EPOS system

Your choice in an EPOS system should be specific to the needs of your business. Like most computer-based systems, there’s a variety of EPOS software options to choose from.

The investment you make in an EPOS system will depend on the size of your business and customer base. For example, smaller retailers may want to steer clear of investing in complex programs.

Be sure that whatever system you choose, it does the following:

  • Handles payments quickly
  • Updates inventory lists
  • Provides instant stock information
  • Instant real-time information on stock levels
  • Demand prediction
  • Does instant accounting
  • Supports knowledge management to stock product lines in the right place at the right time

These are just a few examples. Keep in mind that software specialists and consultants can customise EPOS solutions to meet your business needs, like integrating the EPOS system with existing software, hardware or website.

More than an electronic cash register

EPOS systems are not just electric cash registers. Yes, at its most basic level it is designed to replicate the functions of a manual cash register, but it does so much more.

The ability to link your EPOS system to your computer and other databases is why EPOS has the clear advantage over traditional manual cash registers. Even if your business is small, you need to implement an EPOS.

EPOS vs traditional cash registers

Let’s take a quick comparison of EPOS systems and traditional cash registers.

  • Cash registers are machines that record sales transactions, gives change and holds money. EPOS does this and so much more. They automatically update inventory as it goes out.
  • EPOS systems are much faster and accurate.
  • What you see is what you get with traditional cash registers (manual and electric) while EPOS systems can be customised to fit a company’s needs.
  • EPOS systems can collect data on everything from sales transactions to how effective (or in some cases, ineffective) they are, unlike traditional cash registers that lack capability.

Mistakes to avoid when choosing EPOS systems

It’s best to be an educated consumer when deciding what EPOS system best meets the needs of your business. The costs of EPOS systems vary on need and the size of your company. Avoiding the nine most common mistakes when choosing a system will ensure that you choose the system is best for you.

You don’t understand what you need

It’s hard to choose the right EPOS system if you don’t have a clear understanding of what you need. Every business process that you have can be automated through the system. But you need to take the time to really assess what it is that will work best for your business. Work through every process in your EPOS system (purchasing, transfer and receiving, for example). The provider should be the best resource on the automation of each process, have extensive knowledge of the industry, and be able to make the appropriate recommendations.

You don’t get references on products

A good rule of thumb is to get at least three product references before you buy. Contact those references and try to get local references. Local references will allow you to visit the store and see the EPOS in action. Additional tips on getting local product references include making sure the reference uses the same version of the software that you are looking for and ask a lot of questions. What do they like about the product? What don’t they like about it? What is the implementation process like? Does the provider offer ongoing support? Vet the product thoroughly before you buy.

You don’t do your due diligence

Not only do you need to vet the product, but also the company providing your new EPOS system. There is a difference between a company that sells the system and a company that sells and supports the system. Vast knowledge and expertise usually comes from companies that have dedicated decades to that market. Because of the ongoing support needed after purchase, you need to do your due diligence and find out all that you can about the company you intend to buy from.

Here are some recommended questions to ask:

  • How long has the company been in business?
  • How large is the company?
  • Is the company publicly trading?

You don’t invest in training

This is not an area where you want to skimp. If you buy an EPOS system, but don’t invest in training on that system, then you will severely decrease your return on investment. Don’t let your system become a glorified cash register. Get the most out of it. Here are some tips on how to implement system training:

  • Get at least one day of classroom training on the overview of your EPOS system pre-installation.
  • Get at least a day and a half of installation training. Learn what you need to run your business day to day.
  • Post-installation is a great way to address problems or ask questions after having used the system for a short while. This training can usually be done remotely, or at your business.
  • Take out some time to learn advanced features after you learn your way around the software. Doing this can give your business a strategic advantage.

You cheap out

It is easy to make decisions on what software to buy based solely on price. After all, you need to save money where you can. But don’t let price alone be the determining factor when selecting an EPOS system. An established company that knows what you don’t know about the ins and outs of operating an EPOS system might cost you a little more in the beginning, but you will save money and headaches in the future.

Believing that a one size fits all systems

There are a variety of EPOS systems from which to choose. They do not necessarily all do the same things so they will not be the right fit for your company. Don’t assume that they are interchangeable. There are different markets within the retail industry. What works for one retailer may not work for another. An EPOS system is not something you should ever consider buying ‘off the shelf’, it should be tailored to fit your needs.

You customise your system’s software

EPOS systems come with many features and about 95% of the features you need, your system will have. However, systems can become obsolete. You don’t want to freeze yourself into the version that you purchased.

You overlook the need for backups

In today’s world, there is no excuse for not backing up your system. Whether you use a portable hard drive or an internet-based service, backing up your system is much easier than it use to be. Backups are not only beneficial in the case of a computer crash; it can be crucial in the case of computer theft, floods or fires.

You choose the wrong partner

One risk of choosing an EPOS system company to buy from is choosing the wrong one. What if the company goes bust? What do you do then when you need support? You need to ensure that you buy from a reputable company. If you do, the risk of choosing wrong can be decreased greatly with just a few questions. For example:

  • Is the EPOS the company’s primary business?
  • Do they provide ongoing support? If so, what type of support?
  • Do they offer onsite technical assistance?
  • Do they offer training?

Retailers, and many other businesses can ensure success by avoiding these common mistakes. Make a checklist using these tips and be a more informed customer when choosing the right EPOS system for your business.

Want to discuss implementing a new EPOS system into your business? Get in contact with us by either calling 0191 500 8150 or contacting us here, and we’ll give you a call.