When making use of cloud-based ERP platforms, there a few things your system simply has to have. Think of these features as the building blocks of any strong setup; They’re the functions that give you a critical advantage over other systems that might not have them. While the following list certainly isn’t exhaustive, we believe they’re some of the most important features to have when using ERP in the cloud.
1. Ability to Automate Processes
You don't want a system that forces you to change your processes — you want a system that fits into your existing processes. An ERP platform with strong automation capabilities will allow you to easily handle the workflows in your specific business. The most powerful platforms will let you heavily customize these automations, such as importing ecommerce orders, then setting up rules to meet margin reviews, for example. It’s often a full-time job importing these orders, but with an ERP that does it for you, you’ll see an immediate return on investment that quickly offsets any potential costs.
Not only does automation free up your employees to handle other responsibilities, it also takes human error out of the equation. Automating click-heavy tasks will save significant time while keeping mistakes to a minimum. This type of automation will also free up some time for employees to focus on other areas that need attention, providing your business with further opportunities for optimization.
2. Grows with your Business
If you use a system with poor scalability, you’ll quickly find yourself in trouble when striving for growth. Scalability lets your system grow with you. For this reason, it’s often a good idea to get a system that might at first seem bigger or more powerful than you need.
Systems that offer “bonus” functionality without additional costs are extra appealing. They might offer features that you’re not quite ready to use just yet, but as your company grows, some of the more advanced options will open up to you. This approach keeps your business in a forward-thinking state. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is an example of this we see all to often. Even if you don't need to use it now, you can put it into practice when you’re ready.
3. Rock-solid Reliability
You can have the most powerful cloud-based ERP system available, but if it’s not reliable, all those great features won’t be worth much. Most cloud providers will make a Service Level Agreement (SLA) available, outlining information such as expected uptime vs actual reliability. Microsoft’s Azure, for example, makes their SLA easy to find, and it clearly outlines the expected reliability of each facet of the entire platform.
In addition to providing peace of mind, a cloud system with good reliability will help minimize or even prevent “company down” situations, and if you’ve ever been involved in one of those, you know just how stressful they can be. Investigating the reliability of your cloud ERP is a must in order to avoid unwanted hassles and headaches.
4. Bolstered Security Measures
Robust security features are another must-have for any powerful cloud ERP. While cloud architecture in practice is incredibly safe and secure, data entry and user access are only as secure as each individual platform allows. Choosing a platform with first-rate security measures will allow you to grant each user access to only the information they need to see, and bar them from what they shouldn’t see.
Proper security will also let you audit any changes, granting visibility into user activity. If any information or processes appear to be changed, or a layout has been updated, you’ll be able to see who made the changes, and when. When used in this way, strong security centers provide additional insight into your business that the less powerful systems simply can’t offer.
5. Available across multiple platforms
One reason cloud computing has become so prolific is for its flexibility and ease of access, and using the cloud for your company ERP is no exception. The best cloud-based ERP systems will let you easily access your company data from multiple platforms, such as your desktop PCs, tablets, and even smartphones.
An added benefit of this multi-platform capability is that with cloud systems, there’s no need to update multiple workstations or mobile apps. Any time the ERP system is updated in the cloud, these updates are available to all users across all platforms instantly. This can be a huge time saver over traditional setups with on-premises hardware and software.
When in doubt, investigate!
If your current ERP makes use of all the features listed, you’re well on your way to getting the most out of your investment.
However, if you aren’t sure if your current system has the features mentioned above, it’s worth getting in contact with your provider to see what existing functionality can be leveraged. If several of the core pieces are either weak or missing entirely, you may want to consider upgrading for better performance or start looking for an ERP that can offer more functionality.