Future ERP Solution

Ensure your chosen ERP solution doesn’t limit your company’s future

Implementing a new ERP system is costly and disruptive for any organisation. For any established organisation with more than a few users we find it takes at least a year between the time the organisation decides to implement a new ERP system and the date when the system it satisfactorily implemented – and the more established the organisation the longer the timescale is likely to be. During this time, apart from the time required by the people (including senior management) directly involved in the process, the organisation as a whole tends to be affected by the uncertainty and disruption.


Therefore, if possible, such a process should be undertaken less than every ten years. But how do you select one that will last that long bearing in mind how difficult it is to predict the shape of your organisation over that time.


What sort of changes should you be thinking about?


Size of company?


Most companies have at least broad growth plans in terms of revenue and profits over a ten year timescale but what will that mean in terms of number of users of your ERP system? The growing trend to outsource so much could mean that you actually reduce your numbers of users whilst growing the company.


Check whether how the system you are considering copes with significant changes in numbers of users. Some systems can only support a certain number of users and require an upgrade to a different product to extend the number of users. Beware that this ‘upgrade’ may well mean a completely new system with different interfaces and processes, your supplier may only charge the difference between the old and new system but the process of ‘upgrade’ can be as challenging as implementing a new system.


What happens if you reduce your number of users? Will you still be paying for support of your original contracted number of users?


Where will your users be located?


When first choosing an ERP system it may be that the company and all your users are located in one office, factory or warehouse, but will that always be the case? What happens if you want to open an office in some other part of the UK? What happens if you want to recruit a number of staff working from home? What if you want your sales or service staff to have access to your system whilst on the move, in a customer’s premises or whilst having a break in a cafe etc?


Might you expand the business abroad?


How does your chosen ERP system support a global business? It probably can support a variety of     currencies, but does it support the local legal or accounting requirements, does it support local sales tax or VAT?


What about the local language? Is there is any support locally? Are there any constraints on how the system is made available locally?


Will your business change its focus?


Very few businesses retain their business focus over a period of ten years. Businesses that may start as manufacturers will often develop an associated service business. Over a period of time the service side of the business may overtake manufacturing in terms of revenue and profit. Will your chosen ERP solution provide the functionality necessary to support such a change?


What happens if you change your focus from consumer to business to business? What happens if your business model changes from being the supplier of standard product or service to being project based?


Do you really want to have change your ERP solution any time you adjust your focus or do you want to end up buying different systems for particular specialisations?


Does your chosen ERP package cope with such changes?


Of course it all depends on which package you are considering. Let me give you the answers that we could offer for NetSuite.


Size of company?


NetSuite is a true software as a service (SAAS) solution and there is no maximum number of users supported. Furthermore, there is no maximum to the number of transactions that can be generated at any time no that can be stored.


These lack of restrictions are because NetSuite was designed as a SAAS and also because it uses the Oracle database which is designed for high usage, good throughput and reliability.


Changing the number of users is merely a matter of discussing with NetSuite or your Solution Provider. It will result in a change in your payment but no change in your implementation so no need for any customisations to be re-worked or your users to re-learn. A reduction in your number of users (perhaps you decide to outsource warehousing or manufacturing) will result in a reduced annual invoice again with no change in the service you see.


Where will your users be located?


As a true SAAS solution with no requirement for any client software on the user access system (note the mobile apps are an optional alternative means of accessing NetSuite), any user with access to the web can access NetSuite (subject of course to logins and security). This means that your ERP solution would not restrict you in any way should you wish to open new offices anywhere in the world, allow users to work from home or have access while ‘on the move’.


Might you expand the business abroad?


NetSuite is currently deployed in over 160 countries supporting 19 languages (including Japanese and Mandarin) and over 190 currencies. Deployment means that country-specific customisations are available to ensure the system meets the tax and accounting requirements of these countries.


If a client wishes to open a company in a country not currently supported either NetSuite or the relevant Solution Provider would be able to make the customisations necessary to meet that country’s rules.


Will your business change its focus?


NetSuite has been implemented by a wide range of business. Whilst most of the early NetSuite users were manufacturers or in wholesale and distribution, there has over the last five years or so been a great deal of emphasis on the service sector (including service industries like software or financial services who typically have complex recurring revenue models), retail and the not-for-profit sector.


The modules within NetSuite have a common interface and users’ access rights can easily be changed to allow them access to any particular module. In some cases the module will need to be purchased from NetSuite separately but this can be achieved quickly with no change to your current system. The exception to this is OpenAir which was developed by a third party and linked to NetSuite.


In addition there are over 300 SuiteApps developed by third parties and checked by NetSuite – some of which can be bought directly from NetSuite. This list is not exhaustive as many Solution Providers have developed software to add value to NetSuite but not yet gone through the process of making them SuiteApps (for example our NetSuite connector for google apps). Furthermore there are a number of add-on software products that have been connected or integrated with NetSuite.


The way in which NetSuite has been designed allows customisation and add-ons without compromising the core system. In fact the core system is not available for third parties to change. This means that a NetSuite instance can be customised and still be fully supported by NetSuite on the latest release to take advantage of enhancements and corrections.