06/01/2011

By Wayne Dewsnap, Director, Exact

In the current economic climate, the benefits of being one step ahead of the game when it comes to ERP should not be underestimated. In simple terms, it is recommended that a company’s financial director addresses four areas of influence when drawing his or her ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) strategy for the forthcoming year. Although these examples are for an international company, many of the lessons are relevant to national firms as well.

First of all, compliancy is a major consideration. The impact of external factors, in particular venture capitalists and shareholders, demands that a business has a future-looking stance, especially if there is the possibility of being taken over or listed on the stock exchange. Having the house in order, so that any external client will have faith in the numbers and trust that the business has a handle on local tax regimes, government fiscal requirements and local GAP rules, is an attractive proposition. A structured ERP can also be a valuable asset for any company looking to float or sell.

Following on from external factors, the next consideration is the internal set-up. How transparent is your company? After a series of acquisitions, it is almost inevitable that your internal structure will become a jumble of legacy systems set up by local vendors. If they are not joined up, then this will become a pressing issue for the FD as it will be increasingly difficult to ascertain how the business is operating. Procedures descend into a treacherous balancing act, where any figures are untrustworthy and labour intensive to find. “I know we are making money, but I don’t know where!” says the FD with an unwieldy system.

Visibility and consolidation combine to form the third signpost. Maintaining a consistent system, that is easily accessed and quick to interpret will greatly increase a company’s reporting capabilities. By ripping up all the numbers and pulling them together at a group level, the FD will have a more flexible and agile system.

Finally, the fourth area for FDs to consider is control. The Holy Grail for companies is to achieve master data management, whereby all the data needed to create a new customer account — marketing, sales, customer interaction and invoicing — is easily implemented and accessed. This ‘cradle to grave’ work flow can be a huge challenge, as the chain can be broken by any glitches in the system. An effective, smooth-running ERP will give the FD the control needed to keep tabs on all aspects of the customer journey through stock items, contract documents, storage, suppliers and general ledger coding. With this control, the potential for errors is greatly reduced. As a result, the end of month procedure becomes that much more manageable while information can be driven round the company with ease.

If the next year is going to be anywhere near as turbulent as the last few, then an FD with an ERP system that delivers compliancy, transparency, visibility, consolidation and control will be in a much better position than those without.

Exact are one of the leading providers of scalable solutions which cover all key business processes, allowing your people to share information and collaborate in real-time on a single platform. As well as helping organisations grow, Exact's solutions consolidate the processes of companies conducting business internationally.

Business on an international scale heightens the need for precise reporting and visibility; Exact offer a solution that is dedicated to giving a company's HQ total clarity on the entire business, from foreign subsidiaries to localised trading silos. With many businesses still performing a lot of tasks manually, or utilising IT systems that don't work together this provides complete process visibility and helps ensure employees work together to add value to the business.

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