ERP Software | The Ultimate Guide | Bluestonex

The ultimate guide to ERP Software

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What is SAP ERP Software?

Enterprise Resource Planning (or ERP for short) is a software program designed to help businesses and organisations automate and manage essential business processes, which are traditionally manual or fragmented to optimise business performance and productivity. ERPs are commonly used right across a business and underpin many day-to-day operations, such as finance, accounting, procurement, project management, HR, compliance, supply chain and vendor onboarding. Modern ERP suites can analyse, forecast and report on various areas of an organisation.

ERPs are commonly recognised as an effective way for businesses to accurately report on business operations, linking together typically unconnected areas for one cohesive insight. From here, organisations have the upper hand when it comes to making the best strategic decisions for driving the organisation forwards.

What does ERP stand for?

ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. It refers to the management of all business resources and the core business processes which involve them. It helps organisational decision-makers make the right strategic decision with moving an organisation forward by showing them available resources, how they are performing and how they can be improved. ERP is normally a form of software, which enables the automation of business processes as well as the subsequent analytics. It underpins all areas of a business including manufacturing, supply chain, vendor onboarding, customer services, HR, Finance, procurement and many more. These can all be optimised and synchronised using Enterprise Resource Management software.

How does ERP work?

An Enterprise Resource Planning system, or ERP, takes fragmented databases from various organisational departments, such as HR or manufacturing and centralises them into one cohesive database. From here, data is fit for various processes, such as reporting and analytics for decision-making. This helps organisations by reducing the manual effort required to establish insights and simplifies existing workflows within the organisation.

On a day-to-day level, an ERP often consists of a central dashboard, which can be personalised based on the user's individual data needs. This enables quick access to essential data in real time. In turn, this creates a robust business workflow optimised for productivity.

A Brief History of ERP software

The origins of ERP can be traced back well over 100 years. It predates the software itself! It all started with the economic order quantity (EOQ) model, developed by engineer Ford Whitman Harris back in 1913. This was a paper-based system which became a standard in manufacturing, primarily for production scheduling.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that digital business applications were born using mainframe computers. This was quickly adopted for accounting and financial uses. Even then, automated applications of this type were faster than manual processes. Being cutting-edge technology, the price was well out of the range of even large businesses. Combined with limited functionality and relatively slow processing, innovation took its course to produce MRP- Material Resource Planning.

MRP was great for manufacturers during the 1980s but was expanded into ERP in the late 1990s. This was to increase the functionality across many more industries, such as HR, project accounting and end-user reports.

In its modern capacity ERP has become software-based and made the leap from on-premises to a cloud capacity- reducing the cost and hardware needs of an organisation. We are currently in an age of digital transformation and modern ERP is seeing the benefits of this. Advancements in AI, machine learning, IRPA, IoT and in-memory databases all represent efficiency gains and automation for the modern enterprise. Leveraging these makes modern ERPs great ways to expand a competitive advantage and keep a business agile in turbulent markets.

What industries can ERP software be used for?

Data is an underpinning lifeblood of any business- regardless of industry. From aerospace to wholesale distribution, accurate, timely data is essential for effective business processes, ultimately with a common goal to compete and thrive. These underpinning needs for data processing are only set to grow. However, whereas there are similarities in how different industries utilise ERP software, there are also major differences, which highlights the veritably of the software. Here are 5 examples:


Manufacturers were some of the original adopters of ERP. As early as the 1910s, ERP concepts have helped manufacturers to optimise materials and production schedules. In a modern age, ERPs enable manufacturers to monitor output, assess weaknesses and correct them. Monitor changes in consumer demand and adapt to them. ERPs also invite the introduction of new technologies, such as machine learning and AI, which can be utilised to handle customer queries and optimise the running of machinery.

In modern manufacturing, cutting costs where possible is crucial. Cloud ERPs reduce on-site IT costs and also provide the analytics and reporting to find and cut costs throughout the manufacturing operations- From analysing vendor costs to sweating assets for maximum productivity.


Utility companies need to keep track of consumption accurately and in real-time. Not only to ensure they can meet demand as it happens but crucially to forecast for future consumption based on consumer needs. Without this capability, consumers could literally be left in the dark or utility companies could burn through resources and funds quicker than necessary. ERPs provide the streamlining monitoring and analytics of usage and cost, automating a balance between meeting consumer demands with minimal waste.

Furthermore, emerging technologies with ERP integration, such as IoT enable utility companies to monitor their physical assets- like pipes or machinery. Being able to monitor temperature or pressure in real time enables utility companies to sweat their assets or even predict breakdowns for maintenance and pre-ordering of spare parts.

Service companies

There’s a variety of service companies, including accounting, tax, engineering, IT and Legal that require formidable, live ERP technologies- sometimes with mobility. ERP technology can be utilised to balance service delivery with the financial health of the organisation. ERPs offer the ability to maintain an optimised schedule and efficiently project manage for profitability. This includes resource utilisation, revenue recognition recurring revenue objectives and even growth opportunities.

Cloud ERP add-ons, such as HR apps can also take the load on HR and administrative duties, keeping recruitment focused on skilled workers relating to the service the company provides, rather than worrying about departmental staffing shortages.


With a decline in the high street and a rise in e-commerce, sales channels have been switching in retail. This has led to a rise in warehouse operations and logistical challenges- perfect environments for ERPs. Defined business processes, with total compliance, are regular features of ERPs. This helps simplify the supply chain process from end to end. Modern ERPs also enable retailers to improve customer issues, like reducing cart abandonments and boosting average order value. Emerging technologies like conversational IRPA (chatbots ) can also be utilised to handle customer issues on an e-commerce site. This means customers can be satisfied or reassured 24hrs a day, without the reliance on outsourcing support teams. Everything is in-house and in control of the brand.

Automotive and Aerospace

Automotive and Aerospace companies all rely on innovation and R&D to keep moving forward. ERPs aid this by providing a constant flow of data, with quality compliance built in. This means Innovations are not hindered by storage or loss of focus from an overflow of data. Data is neatly and effectively processed into meaningful analytics, which can be interpreted to a high-skill level or configured for operational staff. This ensures maximum effectiveness with data collected from R&D.

Furthermore, with the introduction of IoT technology, sensors, machinery and equipment can be used with greater efficiency and accuracy, increasing the potential of R&D possible. ERPs unlock the ability to experiment further and get to successful innovations faster.

Key Features and Capabilties of ERP software

When researching ERPs it's important to understand the key features that make them so important to innovation. There are certain aspects that contribute to ERPs effectiveness, which prospective ERP users should be aware of before selecting the right one. Below are some of these common features.


Modern ERPs are designed to integrate with the majority of business systems. This creates comprehensive, synchronised business processes across organisations. This brings together financial, operational, sales and other business data into one unified database. With the better connection comes greater visibility around organisation strengths and weaknesses, which creates the foundations for strategic decision-making. This is arguably the biggest business benefit of ERPs.


Modern businesses are only increasing the amount of data they are processing. This is creating greater complexities, which makes manual processing impractical and inefficient. ERPs aid the automation of business processes. Repetitive business operations like payroll, orders, invoicing and analytical reporting can all be automated, leaving more time for strategic activities. This lets employees have a bigger impact in an organisation, which in itself is hugely motivating. Furthermore, human error associated with monotonous, repetitive activities decreases with business process automation.


One of the original uses of the ERP system was accounting. From input to tracking & storage to analytical reporting. Financial data can be processed faster, handled with greater compliance and governance, and converted into measurable analytics to create fast action for when businesses need it. ERPs are capable of advanced features, like managing tax, asset management and multi-currency reconciliation- which is useful for companies operating in more than one global market. It’s a great way to reduce processing time and inaccuracy and take control of business finances.

Order processing

Order processing can be drastically streamlined by ERP systems. From reducing manual data entry to routing through to relevant departments like finance, or customer service. It creates a complete workflow through a value chain. This means orders can be completed faster, customers are happier, and the organisation is efficient.

Data as a Service

ERP systems convert business data and turn it into a strategic asset. From collection through to reporting, the date data gives a complete overview of business operations. The results are converted into configurable metrics, often in real-time. This gives managers an edge in forming strategies and decisions. Trends and patterns can be identified as they occur creating an extra layer of business agility.

Supply Chain Management

With recent supply chain difficulties being a key theme across many industries, but conversely, cashflow being conserved, supply chain management has proven to be one of the most valuable features of an ERP. Automation in supply chain management can handle purchase orders and many other types of orders in real time. This helps management to optimise inventory, logistics, distribution and manufacturing.


Each of the aforementioned features has its own gains for manufacturers. Material planning, acquiring supplies, monitoring productivity and customer forecasting are all examples of how an ERP can help. Emerging technologies like IoT can also help manufacturers monitor machinery health, resulting in more operational time, smarter sweating of assets and forecasting maintenance and repair costs.

How to prioritise ERP functionalities

ERPs are always a large investment for organisations. With individual data, needs comes multiple complexities. Balancing the needs and investment with ROI is no easy job. With that said, a simple way to get a sense of which functionalities are top of the list, here are 6 ways to prioritise ERP functionalities:


Just as the cost of owning a car implies more costs than just buying the car, cost of purchasing an ERP system includes more than just the system itself. License fees, hosting, hardware, implementation, maintenance, training, support, upgrades and further consultancies may also impact the final figure. It’s important to budget for this to keep ROI high.

Size of Organisation

ERPs such as S/4 HANA work a lot better for large organisations. The size of the organisation does influence the type of system it needs. Most SAP ERPs are designed to handle high levels of complexities, which can make it inefficient for smaller organisations with simple processing needs. Generally, the bigger the organisation, the more complex the ERP is needed.

Needs of departments

Each department will have its own data processing needs and complexities. It’s important to voice all of these prior to deployment to decipher what would benefit each area the most.

Opportunity to automate

Many businesses have repeating tasks and operations which could all be automated with the use of ERP. The more processes that are automated, the more beneficial the ERP system is to ROI and employees.

Company goals

As with any strategy, it’s important to define the goal it would like to accomplish. The functionalities of the ERP should be mapped around these goals as a means to an end- rather than being viewed as the goal itself.

The end users

As with any employee-facing software, employees must be capable of using it as well as satisfied by its capabilities. This means organisations must define how comfortable their users will be with an ERP and cross-reference functionalities needed with user-friendliness.

Why adopt ERP software?

If you are a large company struggling with increasing data processing complexities an ERP system may be the right solution. The purpose of an ERP system is to help manage and optimise enterprise resources via planning and reporting, increasing options for strategic decision-making, and helping an organisation to scale. However, there are a plethora of deeper reasons to adopt ERP software that goes beyond efficiencies. Some other reasons to adopt ERP software include:

Attract the best talent

Recruiting top talent is not easy. However, guaranteeing a streamlined, satisfying UX which can help skilled employees get on with the job that matters makes it a much more attractive prospect.

Access emerging technologies

ERPs are being designed to integrate with some of the latest emerging technologies. AI, machine learning, IoT and IPRA all have their own benefits for business operations. ERPs provide the access, database and reporting capabilities to get the most from these investments.

Increase ROI on your existing ERP investments

If an organisation already uses an older ERP system, but is looking to catch up with modern advancements, this is possible. Migrating to newer ERP technologies like s/4hana provides access to newer technologies, faster ways to process data, efficiencies around storage and a chance to give the company data a spring clean before migrating.

Increase independence from third parties

ERPs create freedom from third parties and external vendors. The vast built-in functionalities reduce the reliance on 3rd party software and centralises the interplay between them. This creates a better-connected flow of data around the company which can stay up to date and accessed in real-time. This also has positive impacts on company expenditure and invoice processing time.

What are the benefits of ERPs?

In a digital age, businesses and other organisations alike are seeing increases in the amount of data they consume. Modern ERPs have enabled organisations to effectively cope and scale with this increase in data. Here are some examples of specific business benefits from ERPs:

  • Deeper business insights: From real-time reporting across a centralised database.
  • Bottom line savings: through best practices and streamlined workflows.
  • Improved collaborations: for users sharing documents like purchase orders..
  • Gains in efficiency and productivity: Through de-skilling user experience and defined business processes..
  • Standardised infrastructure: Consistent experience across the front and back end.
  • Higher UX satisfaction through simpler IT: From optimised user experience and design thinking.
  • Mitigated risks: Through better data integrity and authorisation gates.
  • Less management and operational costs: Through automated, integrated systems.
  • Improved agility: from faster reporting and higher quality of data.

How can ERPs be deployed?

Each organisation will have different data complexity needs and different architecture as a result. ERP systems are designed to work with these differences rather than forcing the business to adapt. Here are how ERPs can be deployed:

Traditional On-premises,

ERPs can be deployed on-premises. This is the original way to deploy ERP. The ERP lives on site and is ideal for larger companies with direct internal hardware control. It provides better control for companies that already have the existing infrastructure.

Cloud deployment

Cloud deployment is the most streamlined way to deploy ERP. Best for midmarket-size companies, Cloud comes with added automation intelligence- as well as a continuous stream of updates. For companies with no or limited on-site hardware, the cloud has vast cost-saving potential.

Hybrid deployment

Hybrid ERP deployment bridges cloud and on-prem. It’s ideal for organisations that have a lot offices around the world but need to maintain security or control internally. This means data processing can be controlled in one location, making more space for manufacturing or production in others.

What is the future of ERP software?

The short answer to this is that ERPs have a bright future ahead. Statista predicts the ERP market to grow 13.6% by 2025, fuelled by the increasing consumption businesses have for data. Automation capabilities are set to rise beyond machinery and data processing and help customer service facing sides of a business through the means of AI and Machine learning. This will provide greater business efficiency and the insights to keep a business agile and effective. The future will be automated and personalised for both businesses and customers.

Our ERP services

Our core SAP ERP services encompasses both SAP ERP & SAP S/4 HANA enterprise management solutions. Our team consists of experienced process and technology practitioners covering all core SAP business functions (FICO, SD, MM, PP, PS, PM, HR & AM). Delivered through both agile & ASAP methodologies, our core service competencies cover SAP consulting, system integration and full lifecycle implementation for organisations of all sizes, across a broad range of industry sectors. Through our client-driven engagement model, we collaboratively help customers design, develop, implement and maintain SAP systems that continually support their overall business processes and objectives, whilst providing a foundational SAP platform for future business-driven innovations.

Get started with ERPs today

Every organisation has its own data complexities, processing needs and cost constraints. With this comes a multitude of potential configurations in an ERP. So how do organisations select or build the right one? Should it be on-prem or cloud-based? How can data be migrated into it? These are also big questions and potential headaches for organisations seeking digital transformation. At Bluestonex, these are all aspects we recognise and help to address daily- just take a look at our case studies! We know how to build ERPs fit for digital transformation. ERPs that integrate with mobiles, socials, CRMs, produce analytics and emerging technologies like AI and Machine Learning. It’s utilising and synchronising innovations like this that keep a business competitive and moving forward.

If you would like to get started with ERP or require help with your existing software, book a live demo with our ERP experts today.