Purchasing an enterprise resource planning solution for your business is like buying a car — you’ll be making a sizable investment, you’ll end up spending a significant amount of money and you’ll expect the purchase to last you a few years (at least!).
Much like shopping for a car, selecting an ERP system will depend on your needs and the factors of greatest importance to you (or in this case, to your business). Is price a top concern? What about durability? Are you looking for highly customizable options, or are state-of-the-art features a priority? Yet another component to consider is whether a specialized version will suit your business better than a standard model.
In short, you have a surplus of models to choose from. With so many options, determining your requirements and properly evaluating all factors are essential to ensure you find the best ERP system for your business needs.
If you’re at all familiar with the industry, you’re probably aware that there is no one ‘best’ ERP system. (My apologies to those looking for a simple answer to their ERP problem.) Most ERP solutions are designed with a particular industry, business size or audience in mind, attempting to excel as a vendor for that user base.
That being said, there’s likely a standout solution for your specific requirements, if not a handful of top contenders. Below you’ll find a short-list of the best ERP systems, selected with a myriad of defining factors in mind that would impact your decision.
For those who seek a quality all-around ERP system to help streamline many of their time-consuming processes, SAP continues to offer one of the top-tier solutions available to businesses. Ideal for midsize and larger enterprises, SAP ERP includes a comprehensive set of modules to help consolidate corporate data into valuable analytics, improve oversight of day-to-day inventory processes and gain more control of back-end tasks such as HR and financial management.
The system supports procure-to-pay, plan-to-product, order-to-cash and request-to-service processes, bringing accessibility to a variety of ERP and manufacturing businesses. Although not the fastest system to implement, the scalability and flexibility of SAP ERP make the system a solid option for many different types of companies.
Worth Noting: Despite being known as an expensive investment, the extensibility of core features found in SAP ERP can provide great value to enterprises in need of better managing their fundamental business operations.
Ideal for small or midsize businesses, an open source ERP like ADempiere can prove beneficial for those looking to automate and simplify many of their back-end management processes without a high cost. One of the most fully featured solutions available, ADempiere is built on SourceForge and encompasses tools for sales, inventory management, manufacturing, accounting, HR, CRM and more.
With a simple download, ADempiere can help streamline PO processes, improve oversight of material management and provide increased control over planning, forecasting and budgeting for manufacturers. However, one capability ADempiere does not include is tools for supply chain management, so businesses requiring SCM should consider other options.
Worth Noting: While not necessarily the best option for large businesses with incredibly complex software needs, ADempiere can help smaller companies quickly improve oversight of standard manufacturing, inventory and financial procedures.
Though the market for cloud-based ERP solutions continues to grow, NetSuite remains a standout in the space in part due to its advanced customization capabilities. NetSuite ERP allows users to develop customized workflows to automate their business activities, whether industry-specific or general back-end tasks.
Best for growing companies, NetSuite ERP combines improved oversight of supply chains and warehousing with efficient customer management tools and advanced financial functionality. While costs for the various modules can extend beyond the software’s starting price per user, the availability of easy-to-use dashboards and always-on analytics ensure enhanced visibility of and control over many core business functions.
Worth Noting: As a cloud ERP platform, NetSuite provides a continuous, real-time view of core business processes with up-to-date reporting tools and accurate data — capabilities that are of the utmost importance for companies operating a supply chain with always-changing inventory levels.
Formerly known as OpenERP, Odoo is great for smaller companies who seek a build-your-own ERP at a budget-friendly price. With bundled subscription options, Odoo lets you select only the modules and functions your business needs — alleviating the cost of having a comprehensive yet overly expensive solution.
From ecommerce and CRM to manufacturing and warehouse management, Odoo incorporates many of the fundamental tools required to properly manage your business activities and resources. Odoo’s MRP manufacturing app features work-order scheduling, bill-of-materials management and advanced analytics, while the warehousing app includes inventory management, reporting and transaction automation. Also available are apps for POS, project management, marketing, HR, BI, billing and accounting.
Worth Noting: Odoo is ideal for businesses in need of limited functionality, as the fees can add up with each app bundle costing cost $20 monthly plus an additional $20 monthly per user. There is one exception, though: Odoo is free for up to 2 users for all apps.
Epicor ERP is a robust system that offers users virtually all of the tools they could need to run their manufacturing business. From production and supply chain management to accounting and sales management, Epicor ERP has all of the core business functions covered, giving you and your employees more time to focus on boosting productivity and serving customers.
Comprehensive inventory control, warehouse management, supplier relationship management and material management make up just a handful of the powerful features found in Epicor ERP. Available through cloud or on-premise deployment, the solution promotes accessibility for all types of business environments and can be scaled up or down to suit a company’s specific needs.
Worth Noting: One advantage to selecting Epicor is that the company provides both a full-scale and express edition of its flagship ERP solution — both of which include end-to-end operational management — as well as solutions tailored by industry.
For businesses in need of a software solution tailored to the requirements of a specific industry vertical, check out Sage’s ERP X3 system. Sage is a great option for addressing the more sophisticated manufacturing processes of certain industries like high tech, automotive, food and beverage, distribution, chemicals and more.
Ideal for midsize businesses, Sage ERP X3 covers financial tasks such as accounting and payment management, sales items like order entry and invoicing, and manufacturing activities like inventory control and material management. The X3 system also offers advanced flexibility to its users, available without the hefty price tag that you’ll find on many other ERP systems.
Worth Noting: The latest edition of Sage ERP X3 includes many beneficial additions, from mobile accessibility to improved customization tools and graphical components like activity mapping.
For an even more comprehensive breakdown of leading ERP systems, head over to our directory of Top ERP Software Vendor comparison reports.
[Photo courtesy of flickr user David Stan.]