ERP Software buyers guide by Inspector Jones

We’ve compared over 70 options for ERP software, that cover finance and accounting, purchasing, HR management, sales/customer orders, and operations management…

ERP Software Finalist 1


Our independent review for ERP selected Oracle as one of the top 3 vendors because of its amazingly broad and rich offering, high customer satisfaction and strong industry presence. Oracle produce a range of ERP software including Oracle Fusion Applications, Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft Enterprise, Siebel, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, JD Edwards World, Hyperion Financial Performance Management, and Primavera Enterprise Project Portfolio Management.

ERP Software Finalist 2


We’ve selected SAP as one of the top 3 ERP software vendors because of their comprehensive suite of software, highly customised industry-specific ERP offering, and excellent availability of implementation partners. SAP have a track record of successful ERP implementations. Their product offerings include SAP ECC, SAP Business One, SAP Business ByDesign, and SAP Business All-in-One.

ERP Software Finalist 3


We’ve selected Microsoft as the third of our top 3 ERP software vendors. Microsoft provide a comprehensive and cost-effective ERP software solution, a large number of partners to choose from, and a wide variety of different industries they support. Microsoft’s options include Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microsoft Dynamics POS, Microsoft Dynamics RMS, and Microsoft Dynamics SL.

The ERP Software Shortlist

We’ve reviewed dozens of different ERP software packages on the market, for medium and large enterprises. This shortlist is the best-of-the-best - enterprise-grade solutions that are proven, well-maintained, and being actively developed. Also, see the full list of ERP software…

ERP Software Features to Look For

ERP software is very closely tied to the unique way your business operates. What works for another organisation may not work for you, so it is important to ensure you document and understand your business requirements clearly. It’s also very likely that you will need to customise ERP software somewhat to meet your business needs. I recommend you aim for an ERP solution that meets 90-95% of your needs, and expect that some specialised configuration/customisation will be needed.

I recommend using the following features as a starting point to document your unique ERP software requirements.

Standard ERP Software Features

I recommend you look for ERP software that, at a minimum, contains all of the following:
  • Financials - including accounts payable, accounts receivable, accounting, and possibly risk and compliance
  • Human capital management (HCM) - including human resources, talent management and payroll
  • Sales and service - including Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Sales force automation (SFA), Marketing automation, and Sales order management
  • Supply chain management (SCM) - and Inventory management, Purchasing, Importing, Supplier relationship management and Transportation
  • Contract management, Document Management and Enterprise asset management (EAM)
  • Planning, as appropriate for your needs which may include Material requirements planning (MRP), Capacity requirements planning (CRP) and Distribution requirements planning (DRP)
  • Reporting, Business intelligence (BI), and Enterprise performance management (EPM)
  • Business activity monitoring (BAM) - real time monitoring of business processes
  • Middleware, Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) and Workflow

Industry-Specific ERP Features

ERP Software for Manufacturing
ERP software is often tailored for discrete manufacturing management, Process manufacturing management, or some combination. Look for:
  • Manufacturing execution systems (MES) and plant automation
  • Warehousing, logistics and distribution
  • Ordering, quotes, product and price configuration
  • Advanced planning and scheduling (APS)
  • Product lifecycle management (PLM)
  • Quality management
  • Material requirements
  • Shop floor scheduling
  • Process and cost accounting
  • Health and safety
ERP for Distribution
  • CRM
  • Order entry and change
  • eCommerce
  • Sales commissions
  • Forecasting
  • Distribution requirements planning (DRP)
  • Centralized purchasing and Importing
  • Inventory management
  • Warehouse management
  • Barcoding, RFID
ERP for Services Industries
May include professional services (also known as Professional Services Automation or PSA) and field services.
  • Project management
  • Resource management
  • Calendars
  • Timesheets
  • Expense reports
  • Contract management
  • Invoicing and billing

How to select ERP software

Step 1. Understand what you need

Before speaking to ERP software vendors, I highly recommend that you are very clear on your organisation’s unique requirements.

Document your own business requirements, paying careful attention to your local and regulatory/legal needs. Many ERP vendors are global, and don’t necessarily cover the rules and regulations in your country.

I highly recommend you do this step independently - either do it yourself, or get the help of an independent 3rd party. Don’t rely on ERP software vendors or partners, as they may have a biased point-of-view which could take you in the wrong direction.

Step 2. Choosing the right ERP software

There are two main options when selecting ERP software:

  • Start with a flexible ERP package, and customise it to your needs. This gives you more choice, but is often a time consuming and expensive process. For medium-sized organisations, this may take a year or more.
  • Select an ERP software package that supports your industry (vertical). You can probably find software that meets up to 90-95% of your requirements, needing 5-10% additional customisation. This can get you up and running faster, however be aware your final solution may be less flexible as your business grows.

Bigger vendors - such as SAP and Oracle - offer a flexible ERP solution with hundreds of different base configurations. You can select the right base configuration as a starting point, which will be geared towards your particular industry. They claim that these provide “best-practice” (although it doesn’t mean it’s the right way for your business to operate). While these do help you get your project completed faster, they can make the solution less flexible.

When selecting an ERP vendor, make sure you consider which partner you will be working with.

Step 3. Choosing the right partner

Most ERP vendors sell their products through local partners. The local partner will help with implementation, configuration and support.

Choosing the right ERP software partner is just as important as choosing the right ERP software vendor. Look for the following:

  • Availability of resources - not only during the project, but for ongoing support. This is a large problem for many ERP software vendors
  • A good track record of success - ask to speak to reference sites
  • Well documented and high-quality customisation. Often, the localisation or customisation work is a poorer quality than the base ERP system.
  • Incentive for good support after go-live. Expect that there will be ongoing optimisation work, and make sure that you both agree how this will operate upfront

All ERP Software