6 ERP Best Practices to Improve Utilization

Unlock the full potential with these 6 ERP best practice, expert insights, and strategies for seamless integration and optimal performance.

Table of Content

    ERP Best Practices for Getting the Most From Your New Platform

    ERP best practices are crucial, as ERPs have become an essential part of any modern business. They streamline operations, improve efficiency, and provide valuable insights for decision-making. 

    They also represent something bigger. ERPs are a bridge that connects your company to a brighter, tech-enabled future. One with limitless potential, promise, and profits.

    It’s a nice fantasy, with a few grains of truth. You do need to have a solid, cloud ERP to get the most from predictive analytics, automation, and all things AI. 

    But, you can’t exactly reap those benefits upon installation. If you really want to maximize the returns on your ERP investment, you need to put in the work. In this article, we share six best practices that will help you get the most from your ERP investment. 

    1. Do Everything in Your Power to Find the Right ERP

    Finding the perfect ERP takes time, resources, and meticulous planning. It’s tempting to settle for the first platform that looks like it might work. But, cutting corners can hurt you in the long run. 

    We’ve outlined a few steps for covering all your bases before beginning the research and selection process: 

    Determine What You Need

    It sounds obvious, but it’s important to determine exactly what you need before starting your search. You need a clear understanding of pain points, goals, current processes, workflows, and reporting requirements.

    Velosio helped Werner Gourmet Meats find and implement a new ERP system and modernize key processes. The Werner team identified D365 Business Central as a potential solution on their own. When they reached out to the company to learn more, Microsoft gave them a list of partners with the expertise needed to support their goals.

    Had they cut corners at this stage (or skipped it altogether), Werner’s implementation would not have been able to unlock the targeted “wins” they needed to transform their business. 

    Really Vet Prospective Vendors

    You’ll want to spend a good amount of time vetting prospective vendors. Look for vendors that specialize in your industry and have a track record of successful implementations. Read case studies that address similar problems and pain points. How does the vendor describe the problem – and their approach to solving it? What was the outcome? 

    Test Multiple ERP Options

    Vendor demos and trials  will give you a better understanding of the software’s capabilities and user-friendliness. Involve end-users in the evaluation process to ensure that the selected ERP system will support their daily tasks and contribute to their efficiency.

    Identify Gaps & Make Sure You Can Fill Them

    Even the “perfect” ERP is likely missing a few features on your wishlist. Flag any gaps, then start looking into options. Some questions you might ask yourself: 

    • Is there another module available from the ERP vendor that might fill the void? 
    • Are there third-party add-ons or integrations? 
    • What about specialized ISV apps or industry accelerators? 
    • If you can’t find anything, is it better to find a different ERP or go with a custom build?

    There’s no wrong choice. You just need to make sure you’re aware of potential gaps and what it’ll take to fill them before committing to anything legally binding.

    2. Align Infrastructure, Goals, & ERP Outcomes for Maximum Success

    According to a recent Forrester report, most enterprise architecture wasn’t built with any specific outcome in mind. Traditional infrastructure models are too rigid to have a positive impact on growth or any other strategic goal.

    Analysts say that if you want your infrastructure to generate real value, you need to build adaptive platforms that directly address specific goals. 

    Bain & Co’s 2023 Technology report came to that same conclusion. Researchers found that companies with modern architectures outperform competitors across multiple dimensions including: efficiency, customer experience, and customer advocacy. (BTW: Bain defines modern architecture as: intelligent, agile, and “real-time” (as in, “real-time insights”)

    Unfortunately, most companies aren’t quite there yet. In the Bain report, experts noted that IT leaders must gain a deeper understanding of the connection between architecture and business value. Otherwise, they’ll have a hard time maximizing their returns on tech investments.

    The Forrester report includes a framework that breaks down what outcome-driven architecture actually looks like in practice. In it, they explain how, in today’s agile, product-driven landscape, architecture must encourage and reinforce alignment.

    Source

    Here’s a super quick overview of some key steps for getting architecture in alignment with business and ERP objectives:

    Define Clear Goals

    Clearly define your objectives, such as improving operational efficiency, streamlining processes, or enhancing customer satisfaction. Goals should be realistic, measurable, and aligned with your org’s broader strategic objectives.

    Evaluate and Upgrade Your Infrastructure

    Reliable hardware, high-speed internet connectivity, and robust servers are essential components of a solid foundation for your ERP. Before moving forward with the implementation, you’ll need to evaluate your existing infrastructure. 

    Check current hardware and network capabilities to see if they’re capable of supporting the new ERP. Keep in mind, newer features that use generative AI, predictive algorithms, and massive quantities of data demand a lot from your infrastructure.

    Map ERP Functionality to Key Processes 

    Next, you’ll want to map ERP features and functions to the business processes responsible for driving specific outcomes. Conduct a thorough mapping exercise to identify gaps, overlaps, or areas where customization may be necessary. This process helps align the ERP to specific requirements and goals — ensuring seamless integration and optimal outcomes.

    Connect Value Streams to the Customer Journey

    Like the digital products and services it supports, architecture must be collaborative, adaptable, and iterative. Processes are designed around the end-user or customer journey and use value streams to drive positive change. 

    Look at your process map to identify the strategic and generic capabilities that contribute to those value streams. Then, focus on improvements that target high-impact areas. Forrester recommends optimizing development processes first. But, as always, you might have different, more urgent priorities.

    Redesigning your ERP’s underlying infrastructure gets into some pretty advanced territory. You’ll definitely need to make sure you bring the right partner on board before messing with anything beneath the surface.

    3. Focus on the Non-Technology Factors that Drive Success

    According to Deloitte, ERP projects often fall short because the right fundamentals aren’t in place. 

    Business leaders wrongfully assume that technology itself will solve will solve their problems. Sadly, a lot of vendors still play into this false notion because it sells software. 

    The truth is, many of the most fundamental elements of a successful ERP strategy don’t have anything to do with technology at all. ERP success is really about people — and the mechanisms they put in place to support the technology.

    In a 2022 ERP e-book, Oracle breaks these non-technical success factors into four main categories:

    • People. ERP success starts with developing thoughtful strategies for supporting the people who will be using the new platform. For example, how might you design role-specific workplaces that get results for different departments? 
    • Processes.  Updated processes help people deliver desired outcomes. Consider how you might redesign processes that reduce the burden on employees. Can you eliminate manual tasks that don’t generate business value? Automate workflows to help people get their work done faster? Serve more customers by providing more self-service options or deploying more virtual assistants?
    • Governance. Governance policies help reinforce best practices, security protections, and compliance requirements. This reduces risk, spending, and instances of bad data. It also allows people to spend less time worrying about “following the rules” and more time focusing on things like supporting customers, solving problems, and unlocking value in unexpected data sources.
    • Strategy. The strategy piece includes things like training, change management, adoption, and org-wide communication. It’s about getting people to execute the processes and policies that get results. And — how you’ll maintain momentum after the implementation stage is complete. 

    The idea is, technology is always changing, so you’re better off focusing on building stability elsewhere. These four elements form a foundation that allows you to layer in whatever technology will produce a certain outcome – in that specific moment. 

    In other words, tech isn’t the strategy. It’s the enabler. 

    4. Put ERP Data to Work ASAP

    On their own, ERPs offer some compelling benefits. They help you manage your finances, track progress toward goals, and keep track of all the moving pieces involved in running your business. 

    But, ERPs work best when they join up with the rest of the apps, services, and software in your network. 

    ERP ecosystems integrate your ERP data with everything else you use to run your business. It’s that deep “interconnectedness” that enables data to flow seamlessly across your network and provides the  granular visibility you need to make data-informed decisions.

    With that, here are some of the ways you can put that ecosystem to work:

    Take Advantage of Real-Time Reporting & Analytics

    One of the key advantages of ERP systems is their ability to provide real-time data. With accurate, real-time insights at your fingertips, you can identify trends, monitor performance, and make informed strategic decisions.

    Optimize Processes

    With a connected ERP ecosystem, you can start using data to improve processes  almost immediately. 

    Upon install, your ERP starts capturing data from all processes, actions, and interactions that take place within that system. You won’t have the predictive power that comes from years of analyzing mountains of historical data, but you can ID problems and optimize processes before unleashing them on the world post-go-live. 

    Training, testing, data governance, security, change management – all these strategies capture data that can be used to make improvements throughout your ecosystem.

    For example, you  might measure how your communication plan, change strategies, or training materials influence broader ERP outcomes. Then, use those findings to address issues, refine processes, and course-correct processes that aren’t quite working – long before you go live.

    Later, you can use your ERP data to refine specific elements. 

    If. say, you’re working within the Microsoft ecosystem, you might use the Power BI Performance Analyzer to see how reports are performing. This tool examines the visual elements that impact report performance — and the reason behind that impact.

    Pursue Progressively More Transformative Capabilities

    Over time, your ERP will capture more data from more places – building on its understanding of your org, its goals, and its place in the world. It can then use that information to optimize processes or achieve a better outcome.  

    Enable Data-Driven Discovery

    Data-driven discovery is the process of identifying the value-rich areas within existing data sources that contain the insights needed to power your org’s most important decisions. 

    You can do this by leveraging AI and machine learning, using your ERP’s built-in visualization tools, and working with an ERP partner who understands your ERP and data goals. Velosio, for example, has 30+ years of expertise with Microsoft and NetSuite solutions, and can help clients using those solutions to get the most from their data

    5. Customize with Care

    With ERP customizations, it can be difficult to strike the right balance. 

    Customization can make an ERP system better suited to your organization’s needs. But, going overboard can lead to increased costs, complexity, and difficulties with system upgrades. 

    At the same time, you  don’t want to play it too safe. An under-customized system may not meet all your requirements or even provide any unique advantage to your business. If you’re working only with out-of-the-box features, anybody can buy the same solutions and reverse engineer your core offerings. 

    As such, it’s important to approach this part of the process with extra caution and care. 

    Clarify Needs

    First, you’ll need to clearly define your business requirements before making any changes to your ERP system. Assess your current processes and identify areas where customization is truly necessary. 

    Cover as Many Requirements Out-of-the-Box as Possible

    Per  Microsoft,“standards” exist to help establish consistency, enforce data governance and regulations, and simplify routine tasks. Unless there’s a justifiable business case for doing things differently, use the standard features.

    If you can check most of the right “boxes” on your list without any extra intervention, you’ll be able to get up and running faster and face fewer complications later on. You’ll spend less time configuring basic features, and instead, can focus your efforts on high-impact areas.

    Identify and prioritize changes based on business impact

    Ask yourself: are the proposed customizations essential to core business processes? Do they provide any measurable advantage? Or – are you trying to be “unique” by using one-of-a-kind processes to perform basic tasks? Copying competitors?

    Find Out if There Are Any Viable Alternatives

    Even for high-impact areas, you’ll still want to check whether customization is really the best option. Are there cheaper, easier ways to get what you’re looking for? Often you can address these requirements by using low-code to tweak existing ERP features. You might also able to find an ISV app or industry accelerator that provides whatever niche feature you’re looking for. 

    Consider Long-Term Implications

    It’s important to consider the long-term implications of customization. While it may be tempting to rush into making changes to address immediate needs, you’ll need to take a step back and evaluate the maintenance, support, and upgrade implications of the proposed customizations.

    TLDR: customizing your ERP system can provide valuable benefits, but it should be done with care. By following these guidelines, you can maximize the value of your ERP system and drive efficiency and growth within your organization.

    6. Use Built-In Tools to Simplify Whenever Possible 

    Today’s top ERPs are designed to make it easier to run a business. They’re loaded with tools, templates, and built-in best practices. 

    Standardization

    ERPs standardize the processes and workflows that work best for your org. This can help you boost productivity, lower costs, and minimize risk. 

    Even if you’re only part-way through an ERP implementation or migration journey, you’ll still benefit from standardization. Then, as you transition to the cloud, you can take advantage of the platform’s integrated standards and best practices.

    Design & Implement Universal Policies

    You can put mechanisms in place to enforce compliance, security, and best practices that enable end-users to work faster, without putting the business at risk. Data governance policies, for example, preserve data quality and integrity and over time. 

    Reusable Templates & Components

    Build and store reusable components that make it easier to build, test, & deploy apps or generate reports. 

    For example, an ERP for a manufacturing organization might put together a library of pre-made industry-specific modules for tasks like quality testing, production planning, inventory management, and so on. 

    Components are already tailored to fit industry requirements, and can easily be repurposed to improve operational processes or expand offerings to customers. All without taking on any extra risk.

    Low-Code

    Low-code tools allow you to make structural changes to your platform as new needs emerge – without the time and expense of re-platforming. 

    In a September blog post, Forrester analysts explained that while low-code is transforming the way organizations develop technology, it also enables everyone in the org to make subtle improvements that lift overall performance. 

    So, low-code might make it easier for marketers to manage and distribute information, coordinate teams, fill gaps in the stack, and automate manual processes. They’re not pursuing anything super groundbreaking. But, they are saving a ton of time and bringing more consistency and accuracy to their organization.

    Final Thoughts

    By following these best practices, you can maximize the return on your ERP investment, ensure smoother operations, and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your business processes. 

    Velosio offers industry-tailored ERP solutions, services, and targeted expertise that help clients implement, optimize, and transform IT strategies to deliver better outcomes. Contact us today to find out whether we’re the right ERP partner for your journey.