By Jamie Stewart, Managing Director, Exact UK

The way in which people in companies work together and the way companies think and do business are undergoing radical and unavoidable changes. What was once a business approach based on guarded and proprietary information available only to a select few people within an organisation has become a business approach based on the need to collaborate–both inside and outside the four walls of an enterprise.

The ability and frequency of collaboration leads to improved organisational performance and, thus, profits. Indeed, to survive, an enterprise must be flexible enough to collaborate externally with its suppliers and partners while fostering that same environment among its employees. We must collaborate or we will surely stagnate.

To embrace the collaborative enterprise, businesses will undergo a mind shift. Traditional organisational structures will have to make way for an open attitude towards every individual and every organisation with which they work.

To improve collaboration, enterprises should be willing to extend their enterprise applications to more than 20% of the organisation. The 80/20 Rule that 80% of a company's processing is completed by 20% of its resources (employees) no longer applies. Enterprise applications contain enormous processing power, but that power can be limited to a few. By centralising business information you can create a 100% up-to-date and accurate overview of your business.

There are seven functional elements that comprise extended ERP. Each offers its own broad range of functions and redefines collaboration.

HRM - every employee has access to the products, customers, documents and workflows with internal or external requests, to which they are linked.

Logistics - not only keeps information up-to-date concerning products and services you have sold to your customers and related information such as brochures, manuals and guarantees, but also facilitates the management of products that are used internally such as equipment, furniture and office supplies. On an individual basis, items that employees may or may not acquire can be established.

CRM - an essential tool for effective, goal-oriented account management and sales automation, including the planning of activities per account, recording hours spent on an account, managing marketing campaigns, managing your sales pipeline, and effectively the meeting point for all information concerning customers and prospects.

Workflow - helping businesses process, streamline and monitor requests. Electronic processes defined in workflow ensure that requests are routed to the person's workflow who is responsible for completing that type of request. Through the use of this functional component, the rules and procedures formulated for every type of request are managed.

Document management - responsible for information and knowledge management. Organisations require a user-friendly, flexible and definable document creation and management system that allows them to streamline their internal and external communication.

Project management - takes advantage of permanent, anytime, anywhere access to information stored in an extended ERP solution. With a project management component, the employees involved have access to all relevant project information at any point in the project cycle, such as the availability of people and assets, contract information, requests and their status, time input and budgets.

Financial management - acts as your company's financial control room. This functional component is as powerful as it is multi-faceted, providing you with the instruments necessary for the consolidation and analysis of financial information, and comparisons of budgets and analysis against actuals. Every financial transaction within the organisation is recorded in an extended ERP solution's central database and is directly available for online reporting and analyses.

Extended ERP systems provide the ability to digitise all information and store it once. Solutions can structure and enrich recorded information but only by digitizing everything will organisations guarantee that, besides information created within the system, all external information will be available for review and analysis by employees and others involved in the organisation.

By integrating these functional components into one application, organisations of all sizes in all industries can increase collaboration, create organisational transparency and efficiency, and extend the power of business systems like never before.

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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