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Improving ERP and business information systems

Other Systems

icon Considering Other Systems

ERP systems contain most, if not all, of the functionality required by a majority of businesses, but they do not provide for every process. Assembling a system, comprising of the core ERP system, plus additional best-of-breed solutions, is more common than you think. These systems might provide functionality that most ERPs do not cover, such as Payroll, or might enhance standard functionality in order to satisfy a business critical requirement, such as PLM. Knowing which systems can be interfaced with which third-party packages is critical to the success of any such project, as too, is determining parent and child data hierarchies.

It is key to investigate why standard functionality falls short of requirements and to then discuss your concerns with the vendor. They should be able to signpost you to the best solution, ideally one on a path they have walked before – no one wants to trail-blaze! Getting any integration right is critical both for the solution and its potential impact on system performance and operability, so this approach is not to be taken lightly; but, done right, it could deliver significant business benefit. Gradient Consulting can manage this process from the initial gap analysis, through researching the options and designing the solution, before leading the implementation and integration project.


Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) supports a business in their interactions with both prospects and existing customers. All activities from initial campaigning and marketing of available products and services, through prospecting and selling and on to after sales service and relationship management can be stored and shared in one central system.

CRM users should be able to interact with the system and connect with their customers from any chosen device and location whilst having real-time communications between marketing, sales and service teams. Close integration with social media tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter as well as other line of business applications means a single view of all customer related data can be easily maintained, be always available and provide rich information whilst  avoiding duplication of effort and poor sales and marketing focus.

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Warehouse Management Software (WMS)

Warehouse Management Software (WMS)Warehouse Management Software (WMS)

Warehouse Management Software (WMS) can be extremely simple and exceedingly complex.  Inventory Management looks to how many I have got of what – Warehouse Management looks to where it is, in what SKUs (Stock Keeping Units), the status of those SKUs as well as how the movement of goods in and out of the warehouse is managed, and much more.

If you manufacture and/or distribute – unless you have the simplest situation picking and moving whole pallets of stuff, it is probably necessary to look at how the warehousing needs to operate. This could be a key driver in your choice of ERP (or not).

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Business Intelligence (BI)

Business Intelligence (BI)Business Intelligence (BI)

Business Intelligence (BI) comprises the strategies and technologies used by enterprises for the data analysis of business information. BI typically enables historical, current and predictive views of business operations (of course it needs access to great data). Common functions include reporting, online analytical processing, analytics, data or text mining, process mining, complex event processing, business performance management, bench-marking, predictive and other analytics.

BI technologies by definition exist to handle large amounts of structured (and sometimes unstructured) data to help extract information from the raw stuff. In management speak: to identify, develop and otherwise create new strategic business opportunities.

The aim is to allow for the easy interpretation of the raw data. Identifying new opportunities and implementing an effective strategy based on insights can provide businesses with a competitive market advantage and long-term stability.

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Document Management Systems (DMS)

Document Management Systems (DMS)Document Management Systems (DMS)

A document management system (DMS) is used to track, manage and store documents and reduce paper. Most are capable of keeping a record of the various versions created and modified by different users. This is often required and may also need an element of history tracking. The term has some overlap with the concepts of content management systems and often is interchanged. In its simplest forms, it increasingly forms part of an ERP, however, where the document management requirement is complex this may be an external third-party software that comfortably (at least in the minds of marketing and sales) interfaces or integrates with the core ERP.

It is often viewed as a component of enterprise content management (ECM) systems and related to digital asset management, document imaging, workflow systems and records management systems.

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Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is the term given to software involved in the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from conception, definition, engineering design (often through versions) and manufacture. Then service and ultimate end of life of manufactured products. PLM usually integrates people, data, processes and business systems providing a product information backbone for companies and their extended stakeholders.

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Advanced Planning Systems (APS)

Advanced Planning Systems (APS)Advanced Planning Systems (APS)

Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) refers to a manufacturing management process by which raw materials and production capacity are optimally allocated to meet the known or planned demand. APS is especially well-suited to environments where simple planning methods cannot adequately address the complex trade-offs that exist between the competing priorities.

In most complex manufacturing environments, production scheduling is intrinsically very difficult due to the inter-dependence of labour, plant, space, material availability/lead times – not to mention the number of items/products to be manufactured.

Traditional production planning and scheduling systems (such as manufacturing resource planning) use a step by step procedure to allocate material and production capacity. This approach is simple but can be somewhat plodding, and often will not readily adapt to changes in demand, resource capacity or material availability. Materials and capacity are planned separately (or capacity assumed infinite), and thus many systems do not consider capacity constraints and perhaps not even material. Unless a simple situation, this leads to infeasible plans.

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When people think about a new business system it can be the case that the financial requirements are treated as secondary to operational ones.  However, ensuring that the organisation is able to effectively meet its financial obligations is critical.  With many ERP systems, Financials is just a module within the overall solution, but there can be times when a separate purely financial system is required.  In either case, you are looking at functionality to invoice customers, pay suppliers, manage the cash, produce reports, value inventory, potentially run payroll etc.  Without this functionality, every business or organisation, large or small, would soon cease to exist.

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Get in touch with Gradient Consulting to ensure your ERP system is fighting fit.

Call +44 (0) 1282 463710