We often speak to businesses who are starting to consider a digital transformation, and in a lot of cases this involves an upgrade for both the ERP system and the website. Businesses commonly opt to complete these upgrades separately, believing that they don’t have the time or the resources at their disposal to tackle both projects simultaneously. But this isn’t always the best approach.
When a business’s digital strategy is relatively straightforward, beginning with the ERP might not cause a significant problem. However, when a business has more complex, bespoke requirements then things can begin to get a little more complicated. In cases like these, it’s a good idea to think about the ERP and the website together. From day one; remembering that your web platform is your customer facing ERP front end.
Let’s look at an example. For the B2B workwear industry, suppliers need more advanced features, such as approvals and permissions, to be available online. Until now, there hasn’t been a solution available which ticks all the boxes for businesses like these, which can often result in inefficient systems being built that don’t work as hard as they could for the business, or its customers. All too often we see legacy systems where businesses have been forced to squeeze in bespoke features which they’re simply not designed to manage. In some cases the logic required to deliver the capability means that there are significant manual processes which defy the idea of ‘digital transformation’!
A significant issue is the segmented approach to digital transformation. If a business chooses to upgrade their systems all as separate projects, the risk is that the focus will immediately turn to the ERP’s existing features, to the detriment of new functionality or processes that could help to improve both the experience for customers and the effectiveness of operations.
It may be that some features are going to be better managed by the website, and some better managed via the ERP system. Looking at either the ERP or the website exclusively could result in more time and cost later down the line as you try to align systems which weren’t designed to work together from day 1. Although we would certainly not advise that an ERP system and web platform should be so tightly coupled, it is paramount that the two work seamlessly together.
If you’re undergoing digital transformation, make sure you avoid this common pitfall. Look at your ERP system and website together (as complimentary pieces), and plan upgrades to achieve the best possible functionality of both. Looking at either system separately risks losing out on fantastic benefits, and in a worst case scenario it can lead to significant costs further down the line, when strategies evolve and systems need to be changed. Examples of this include ‘user management’ or security options which may have no place in the ERP but are absolutely key to the working of the site – placing the control of this into the website would be the right thing to do as there are no shared benefits. On the opposite side – managing price and product options through the website only would not be recommended as the data is shared.
We recommend starting with a strategy exercise, to ensure that your upgraded website and ERP systems do exactly what you need them to do now, and also have the capability to manage your organisation’s requirements in years to come. This involves understanding your known requirements (what is needed ‘today’) as well as what may be needed, what competitors are planning and what is happening in the wider technical world.
Use the planning process to think about what your business really needs and consider how your systems might cater for the new technology and more efficient processes that are being introduced all the time. Thinking about the ERP system and website in unison enables businesses to ensure that any digital transformation is as cost efficient and simple as possible.
For more expert advice and information on digital upgrade options, get in touch with the Evolve team. We’re on hand to help with any questions you may have and having been through the process a number of times, can offer advice on the whole lifecycle.