Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is business process management software that allows an organization to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business and automate many back office functions related to technology, services and human resources.
ERP software typically integrates all facets of an operation — including product planning, development, manufacturing, sales and marketing — in a single database, application and user interface.
ERP is an Enterprise Application
ERP software is considered to be a type of enterprise application, that is software designed to be used by larger businesses and often requires dedicated teams to customize and analyze the data and to handle upgrades and deployment. In contrast, Small business ERP applications are lightweight business management software solutions, often customized for a specific business industry or vertical.
Today most organizations implement ERP systems to replace legacy software or to incorporate ERP applications because no system currently exists. In fact, a 2016 study by Panorama Consulting Solutions, LLC., indicates that organizations implement ERP for the following reasons:
- To replace out-of-date ERP software (49%)
- To replace homegrown systems (16%)
- To replace accounting software (15%)
- To replace other non-ERP systems / had no system (20%)
ERP Software Modules Explained
ERP software typically consists of multiple enterprise software modules that are individually purchased, based on what best meets the specific needs and technical capabilities of the organization. Each ERP module is focused on one area of business processes, such as product development or marketing.
Some of the most common ERP modules include those for product planning, material purchasing, inventory control, distribution, accounting, marketing, finance and HR. A business will typically use a combination of different modules to manage back-office activities and tasks including the following:
- Distribution process management
- Supply chain management
- Services knowledge base
- Configure prices
- Improve accuracy of financial data
- Facilitate better project planning
- Automate the employee life-cycle
- Standardize critical business procedures
- Reduce redundant tasks
- Assess business needs
- Accounting and financial applications
- Lower purchasing costs
- Manage human resources and payroll
As the ERP methodology has become more popular, have emerged to help business managers implement ERP in to other business activities and may incorporate modules for and business intelligence, presenting it as a single unified package.
The basic goal of using an enterprise resource planning system is to provide one central repository for all information that is shared by all the various ERP facets to improve the flow of data across the organization.
Enterprise ERP Trends
The ERP field can be slow to change, but the last couple of years have unleashed new technology trends which are fundamentally shifting the entire area. The following new and continuing computing trends have an impact on the growth of enterprise ERP software:
Depending on your organization's size and needs there are a number of enterprise resource planning software vendors to choose from in the large enterprise, mid-market and the small business ERP market. Gartner's annual market share reports put SAP, Oracle, Sage, Microsoft and NetSuite among the top vendors, but Capterra's data suggests that SAP and Oracle are easily the biggest two, with Epicor, Infor and Microsoft on their heels in a shifting line-up. The top small business ERP vendors includes names like NetSuite, Exact Max, Epicor and Syspro.