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Enterprise resource planning (ERP) refers to a type of software that organizations use to manage day-to-day business activities such as accounting, procurement, project management, risk management and compliance, and supply chain operations. A complete ERP suite also includes enterprise performance management, software that helps plan, budget, predict, and report on an organization’s financial results.
ERP systems tie together a multitude of business processes and enable the flow of data between them. By collecting an organization’s shared transactional data from multiple sources, ERP systems eliminate data duplication and provide data integrity with a single source of truth.
Today, ERP systems are critical for managing thousands of businesses of all sizes and in all industries. To these companies, ERP is as indispensable as the electricity that keeps the lights on.
Cloud ERP for Dummies
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How can these solutions manage organizations day-to-day business activities, such as accounting, finance, procurement, project management, supply chain, and manufacturing.
Enterprise resource planning systems are complete, integrated platforms, either on-premises or in the cloud, managing all aspects of a production-based or distribution business. Furthermore, ERP systems support all aspects of financial management, human resources, supply chain management, and manufacturing with your core accounting function.
ERP systems will also provide transparency into your complete business process by tracking all aspects of production, logistics, and financials. These integrated systems act as a business's central hub for end-to-end workflow and data, allowing a variety of departments to access.
ERP Systems and software support multiple functions across the enterprise, mid-sized, or small businesses, including customizations for your industry.
Although the term “financials” is often used when describing ERP software, financials and ERP are not the same thing. Financials refers to a subset of modules within ERP.
Financials are the business functions relating to the finance department of an organization and includes modules for financial accounting, subledger accounting, accounting hub, payables and receivables, revenue management, billing, grants, expense management, project management, asset management, joint venture accounting, and collections.
Financials software uses reporting and analytical capabilities to comply with the reporting requirements of governing bodies, such as the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRS), Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the United States (GAAP), as well as for other countries (HGB in Germany and PCG in France, for example).
For public organizations, financials software has to be able to produce periodic financial statements for governing regulators, such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) (with reports such as quarterly 10-Q and annual 10-K), European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), and others. For these types of financial reports, a narrative reporting tool is used. The person who is ultimately responsible for financials is the CFO.
While financials handles one area of the business, ERP encompasses a wide range of business processes—including financials. ERP software can include capabilities for procurement, supply chain management, inventory, manufacturing, maintenance, order management, project management, logistics, product lifecycle management, risk management, enterprise performance management (EPM), human resources/human capital management.
ERP also integrates with front-office applications to build holistic views of customers, including customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. Additionally, cloud-based ERP applications are often embedded with next-generation technologies, such as the internet of things (IoT), blockchain, AI, machine learning, and digital assistants. These advanced technologies deliver data and capabilities that not only enhance many traditional ERP functions; they create new opportunities for increased efficiencies, new services, and deeper insight across an enterprise. Since ERP systems are comprehensive across an enterprise, their management often involves a partnership with the CFO as well as the CIO, COO, and other key executive leaders.
ERP systems are designed around a single, defined data structure (schema) that typically has a common database. This helps ensure that the information used across the enterprise is normalized and based on common definitions and user experiences. These core constructs are then interconnected with business processes driven by workflows across business departments (e.g. finance, human resources, engineering, marketing, and operations), connecting systems and the people who use them. Simply put, ERP is the vehicle for integrating people, processes, and technologies across a modern enterprise.
See how industry analysts compare Oracle Cloud ERP against other financial management software providers.
For example: consider a company that builds cars by procuring parts and components from multiple suppliers. It could use an ERP system to track the requisition and purchase of these goods and ensure that each component across the entire procure-to-pay process uses uniform and clean data connected to enterprise workflows, business processes, reporting, and analytics.
When ERP is properly deployed at this automotive manufacturing company, a component, for example, “front brake pads,” is uniformly identified by part name, size, material, source, lot number, supplier part number, serial number, cost, and specification, along with a plethora of other descriptive and data-driven items.
Since data is the lifeblood of every modern company, ERP makes it easier to collect, organize, analyze, and distribute this information to every individual and system that needs it to best fulfill their role and responsibility.
ERP also ensures that these data fields and attributes roll up to the correct account in the company’s general ledger so that all costs are properly tracked and represented. If the front brake pads were called “front brakes” in one software system (or maybe a set of spreadsheets), “brake pads” in another, and “front pads” in a third, it would be tough for the automotive manufacturing company to figure out how much is spent annually on front brake pads, and whether it should switch suppliers or negotiate for better pricing.
A key ERP principle is the central collection of data for wide distribution. Instead of several standalone databases with an endless inventory of disconnected spreadsheets, ERP systems bring order to chaos so that all users—from the CEO to accounts payable clerks—can create, store, and use the same data derived through common processes. With a secure and centralized data repository, everyone in the organization can be confident that data is correct, up-to-date, and complete. Data integrity is assured for every task performed throughout the organization, from a quarterly financial statement to a single outstanding receivables report, without relying on error-prone spreadsheets.
The ERP landscape has shifted with the rapid evolution of software as a service (SaaS) cloud applications. Because of the mobile platforms and decentralized workforce–work anywhere and anytime–ERP systems can no longer be tied to yesterday’s on-premises back-office applications. The next-generation, cloud-based, and modern ERP solutions support the new industry dynamics while providing the ability to reduce support time to enable organizations to respond quickly to volatile markets and industry trends.
It’s impossible to ignore the impact of ERP in today’s business world. As enterprise data and processes are corralled into ERP systems, businesses can align separate departments and improve workflows, resulting in significant bottom-line savings. Examples of specific business benefits include:
From paper cards to mobile devices
The history of ERP goes back more than 100 years. In 1913, engineer Ford Whitman Harris developed what became known as the economic order quantity (EOQ) model, a paper-based manufacturing system for production scheduling. For decades, EOQ was the standard for manufacturing. Toolmaker Black and Decker changed the game in 1964 when it became the first company to adopt a material requirements planning (MRP) solution that combined EOQ concepts with a mainframe computer.
MRP remained the manufacturing standard until manufacturing resource planning (called MRP II) was developed in 1983. MRP II featured “modules” as a key software architectural component, and integrated core manufacturing components including purchasing, bills of materials, scheduling, and contract management. For the first time, different manufacturing tasks were integrated into a common system. MRP II also provided a compelling vision of how organizations could leverage software to share and integrate enterprise data and boost operational efficiency with better production planning, reduced inventory, and less waste (scrap). As computer technology evolved through the 1970s and 1980s, concepts similar to MRP II were developed to handle business activities beyond manufacturing, incorporating finance, customer relationship management, and human resources data. By 1990, technology analysts had a name for this new category of business management software—enterprise resource planning.
ERP's past: 1990s to the new millennium
From the 1990s until the beginning of the twenty-first century, ERP adoption grew rapidly. At the same time, the costs of implementing an ERP system began to climb. The hardware required to run the software was typically on company premises, with big machines in a server room. Both the hardware and the software licenses required capital investments and depreciated over 5 to 10 years. In addition, organizations nearly always wanted to customize their ERP systems to fit their specific needs, entailing an additional expense of software consultants and training.
Meanwhile, ERP technology was evolving to embrace the internet, with new features and functionality such as embedded analytics. As time went on, many organizations discovered that their on-premises ERP systems couldn’t keep up with modern security demands or emerging technologies such as smartphones.
Enter the cloud—specifically, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery model for ERP. When ERP software is delivered as a service in the cloud, it runs on a network of remote servers instead of inside a company’s server room. The cloud provider patches, manages, and updates the software several times a year—rather than an expensive upgrade every 5 to 10 years with an on-premises system. The cloud can reduce both operational expenses (OpEx) and capital expenses (CapEx) because it eliminates the need for companies to purchase software and hardware, or hire additional IT staff. These resources can instead be invested in new business opportunities, and the organization is always up-to-date on the most recent ERP software. Employees can shift their focus from managing IT to more value-added tasks such as innovation and growth.
For businesses of all sizes, including enterprise and small to midsize, retiring on-premises systems and moving entirely to the cloud all at once isn’t possible. Or, at the very least, it’s not something they’re comfortable doing within a short development window. Meanwhile, staying the course with an on-premises ERP, ignoring all the advantages of enterprise resource planning as a cloud solution, is no longer an ideal path, either. Why should you consider using cloud applications to replace or augment your on-premises system?
Next-generation technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), help cloud-based systems rapidly improve their capabilities with no need for periodic updates, unlike your legacy system. Now, with no additional or new input from the end-user, ERP systems continually become significantly easier to manage and use.
Augmenting and integrating legacy software with cloud applications can complement, enhance, and supplement important tasks. This approach can breathe new life into legacy ERP systems, giving businesses a great opportunity to start adopting cloud capabilities.
Finding cloud applications that complement your legacy ERP software modules lets you immediately take advantage of rapidly advancing new technologies and improving user paradigms. These provide complimentary systems that deliver immediate business capabilities and value without a fundamental change in your operations.
Reporting and analytics for legacy systems typically require involvement from a third-party vendor to generate operational business intelligence. Using cloud applications from your legacy ERP vendor often produces the same or better intelligence without needing an additional vendor relationship.
Legacy systems were never meant to be modern reporting engines. Cloud-based technology was born in the last decade and developed, as a core principle, with an entirely different mindset and understanding of not only what was possible but what was needed to be successful for ERP platforms.
Cloud solution service providers have large, full-time teams that are exclusively dedicated to proactively monitoring and staying current with cloud security issues and threats, 24 hours a day.
The next generation of young workers have grown up with seamless technology that is mobile, easy to use, and always-on. No company that continues to rely purely with on-premises technology will be able to recruit top talent, regardless of age.
Organizations have always struggled to balance traditional ERP’s high costs and complexity against the need for customized features and flexibility, all while meeting the demands of the business. Watch and learn how Oracle ERP Cloud delivers connected teams, unified data, and real-time insights to help you and your finance team ensure that the best business decisions are made. With ERP delivered as a service in the cloud, your organization can be future-ready and outpace change.
One of the benefits of the SaaS model is that the software is kept up-to-date with the latest features, functions, and best practices. Cloud ERP providers roll out updates regularly (as often as monthly, in Oracle’s case). This means that the latest new and revolutionary emerging technologies—such as AI, digital assistants, machine learning, blockchain, augmented reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT)—become available to subscribers on a regular cadence.
With access to these new technologies, organizations can quickly improve their business best practices as the ERP software evolves. They can automate processes that used to require heavy manual intervention, such as reconciling financial accounts. In addition, users gain a comprehensive, real-time understanding of enterprise business activities not only in the front office, but also in warehouses, on factory floors, and everywhere else across the enterprise. This knowledge is then readily available to every appropriate employee on their mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets.
Built for the digital age, today’s ERP cloud embraces mobile, social, analytics, and the latest emerging technologies. Anything less won’t move an organization forward.
What is ERP in simple terms?
ERP stands for enterprise resource planning. It’s a software system that includes all the tools and processes required to run a successful company, including HR, manufacturing, supply chain, finance, accounting, and more.
What are the 3 common types of ERP?
The three most common types of ERP are on-premises, cloud-based, and hybrid ERP. An on-premises ERP system is run on-location on a company’s servers, while cloud-based ERP operates on a third-party, remote server. Hybrid ERP is a mix of both, often with an on-premises ERP at headquarters and cloud-based ERP systems at subsidiaries.
What is an example of ERP?
One example of ERP is industry-specific ERP systems that meet the specific requirements for those business types and offer industry-specific capabilities like materials planning and specialized manufacturing records management. Because these systems offer such tailored features, businesses don’t have to do too much customization or integrate with many other external tools.