Are templates a truly effective way to make it easier to implement an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution in your business? Let’s take a closer look.

When setting up your new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution, the promise of a pre-configured “ERP template” is that it will slash the time and cost involved in implementation.

The idea is to draw on industry standards and typical business management approaches to preset a configuration that a vendor or implementation partner can simply drop-in during your ERP installation.

A templated approach can work in the right circumstances, but there are also a number of reasons it may not work perfectly for your business.

 

ERP software is made more useful through configuration

Templating doesn’t work in all circumstances because many businesses do not have a standard set of requirements.

Consider for a moment the reasons for using ERP software in the first place: it unifies and streamlines whole-of-business processes and data management to help you work smarter, boost profits and improve customer satisfaction.

To do that your ERP solution needs to align to the workflows, procedures and reporting needs that exist within your business. It needs to cut through the information silos, duplicated effort, and manual workarounds that hamper productivity.

For some, a template might do the trick. For others, a truly customised implementation is required to mirror the specific structures and idiosyncratic approaches that make your team effective.

 

A template might be a good option for your business if:

  • You have very standard requirements for your business type or industry.
  • Your business structure/market is straightforward and unlikely to change dramatically.
  • You have the adaptability to map processes to standard functionality.
  • You don’t need integrations or add-ons to achieve the workflows you need.

 

The benefits of an ERP solution configured specifically to your needs include:

  • You get the right mix of functionality suited to every part of your operation.  
  • Reporting is tailored to provide flexibility, accuracy and speed.
  • Complicated and unusual workflows can be reflected precisely.
  • Data-sharing is seamless for reliable analysis and predictive capabilities.
  • There’s less of a learning curve for your team to adopt the system.

 

No two businesses are exactly alike, why should their software be?

I’ve worked with around 20 wholesale distribution businesses, and although there is overlap in the business challenges and functionality they require—there’s no one instance of a solution that would have met all of their needs.

Your uniqueness is one aspect of your competitive advantage and you probably don’t want to lose that. Some businesses operate in non-standard ways because they supply personalised or novel products, or provide next-day delivery, or some other offering that gives them an edge.

Often, a customer will say they only need a standard P&L financial report, but once they actually see what’s included they want to tweak it. Or they want to report by projects, run budgets, or consolidate across multiple ABNs and by sales region. They want reporting suited to their needs, so it saves them time and improves accuracy.

In some cases, the uniqueness and complexity of your business is the driver behind your investment in robust, configurable software. Therefore it pays to think carefully about whether your business needs are actually standard enough to fit within a template.  

 

To template or not: four questions to ask yourself

Here’s some pressing questions you need to answer in order to effectively weigh your options:

  1. Do you have sufficient internal resources? Using a template to set-up your solution may necessitate more work within your business to navigate and manipulate data within your ERP software going forward. Some customers have a strong contingent of internal tech expertise and some don’t—which can make day-to-day usage of your ERP more difficult.
  2. What will align best with your business requirements? If you’re presented with a template that ticks all your boxes, then it makes sense. But even smaller businesses can have complex structures and business management processes—in which case it could be hard to find a template to match. For instance, you may operate across multiple locations, warehouses or countries; have multiple ABNs; or span several links in a vertical supply chain such as manufacturing and distribution.  
  3. How will it affect your competitive edge? Perhaps your business systems don’t significantly underpin the value you provide in the market: so a template won’t limit you. If however, your point of difference lies in operational differences in how you bring products to market: a custom ERP implementation might better reflect those unique attributes, workflows or the capacity to create configurable products.  
  4. Do you have a period of high-growth ahead? Digital transformation is about preparing your business to capitalise on opportunities in the digital era, where technology is changing at lightning speed. Who knows what tomorrow will bring: new divisions or acquisitions, new products and services, more employees? If you launch your ERP based on standard requirements now, will it be flexible enough to support your plans for the future?

 

Don’t forget: you’ll live with your ERP for a long time  

Modern ERP solutions are powerful and have wide-ranging and long-lasting implications for every aspect of your business. An ERP is not an app designed to do one thing, where you can sign-up and start using it.

In the situation that an ERP template that suits your needs is available, it’s important not to overlook the fact that successful implementation is still required. You should have total confidence in your implementation partner. It pays to ask them:

  • How often have they done this before, and was it in your industry?
  • How much do you save by using a template?
  • How much will it cost if you need changes?
  • What if your business grows in the future, how flexible it is?

[FEATURE ARTICLE – 8 Reasons implementation projects don’t deliver]

Leverage Technologies has helped hundreds of businesses to select and implement the ideal ERP solution. Where possible we re-use insights, IP, and industry know-how to help reduce the time-to-value for a business.

But our approach is to use knowledge gained from past implementations as a starting point only: a basis for informed discussions that enable us to determine exactly what your business needs and customise the solution for your unique requirements.

Want an expert, consultative team in your corner as you embark on your unique digital transformation? Call 1300 045 046 or email info@leveragetech.com.au.