Over the years that we’ve been helping businesses carry out ERP implementations, we have always been keen to help take the whole organisation on the journey. From the managing director to the sales admin staff, it’s vital that each and every stakeholder has an understanding of the value the ERP software is bringing. That is why we started our series of blog posts, guiding key business leaders through ERP, and what it means for them. This week – we are looking at ERP through the lens of the IT Manager.
An IT Manager in a business may wear different hats – from the more commercially-minded Head of MIS to a strictly technical manager. One thing unites these different roles though – they are motivated by and targeted on keeping systems up and running, and keeping end-users productive, so they can ensure the business stays efficient and profitable. They also have to carefully balance this with driving proactive initiatives that encourage continuous improvement to the business’ infrastructure. There is definitely a knack to striking this balance – and it’s the mark of a good Head of IT that can achieve it.
So, where does ERP come into this? Is it not just another system for IT to maintain, receive help desk calls about, run reports from? Not necessarily!
Free up valuable time
A significant ask on the resource of an IT department in a business is usually that of reporting. Whether it’s month-end, year-end, or an ad hoc request from a department leader, the responsibility and the capability to query the database and pull off financial and forecasting data so often lies in the IT team. However, most modern ERP systems – including Epicor 10 – come with built-in or additional modules which are specifically designed to make it easier for end-users to build their own reports. Tools like SSRS reporting can be deployed to allow users to create reports via a web interface, BAQs and Dashboards can be harnessed to create powerful custom dashboards personalised to certain roles or whole departments, and the FastClose financial tool is designed specifically to provide end-users with accurate, real-time financial information.
Putting the power and the capability in the hands of the end-user to build, run and export their own reports takes a significant amount of pressure off the IT team. The valuable extra time can then be spent on planning and carrying out proactive projects with the primary purpose of improving the business’ efficiency and technical readiness, and ultimately provide more value to the customer.
A common objection to ERP implementation from IT Managers is the complexity of integrating with existing and legacy systems. It is all well and good spending a serious amount of budget on an ERP implementation – but how do we connect to x piece of software? Well, help is on hand. With Epicor specifically, you can use Service Connect to create a simple, XML-based integration point between Epicor and non-Epicor applications, whether internal or external. This makes the job of the MIS manager much easier, who as a result is able to automate more processes, reducing the need for manual data entry tasks and ultimately driving more efficiency in the business and the wider supply chain.
Customise to your heart’s content
Another common pushback on ERP is – how rigid is this software? Can an IT technician or manager go in a tinker? Or is it locked down to a central architecture? Again, most modern ERP systems have an answer to this question which will be music to an IT team’s ears. Most ERP software – Epicor included – is built using Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). This means that the technology framework is separate from the business application, making customisations easy to design and deploy without having to make major changes to the source code. With added functionality like BPMs, you have the ability to quickly and easily deploy predefined workflows to help you automate and streamline more processes. The ability to add these kinds of customisations without digging into the source code means that it not only gets you where you want to be quicker, it also allows you to avoid loading your programming or software specialist with massive customisation projects. Practically, any member of the team should be able to add a customisation or BPM.
And the best part is, if you are using Epicor, and should you wish or need to upgrade to a newer version, all of these customisations, along with your integrations and reports, can be seamlessly migrated using the Cirrus toolset.
Help is on hand
An ERP implementation can seem like a daunting project for any IT team – it is after all, a significant undertaking. We hope that this post has gone some way to helping you understand the value you can get from ERP as an IT department, and the features of modern ERP systems that help you customise and integrate the system to achieve your individual business needs. That being said, the road to a successful ERP implementation is a long and can be bumpy. We have decades of experience implementing ERP solutions for clients as well in-house, and can assist with everything from technical and functional work to business process and mapping. If you would like to talk to us about an upcoming ERP project, get in touch.