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ERP Solutions for Middle Sized Companies

Due to constantly increasing competition, transparency and efficiency becore more and more important also in middle-sized companies. Many of these companies tackle this challenge by implementing new ERP solutions - and they demand  comprehensive IT support for their processes. The ERP solutions should be flexible and feasible and, at the time time, should support the most important company departments, e.g. financing and controlling, sales, order processing, warehouse resp. materials management and production. Asked for their experience with ERP solutions, companies often criticise the ERP solutions' "complexity", "low flexibility", "costly data maintenance", "unsatisfactory user guidance" and "expensive operation".

Suitable ERP Solutions

Against this background one is faced with the question which ERP solutions are suitable for middle-sized companies resp. whether there are any at all.

To come to the point: There are a number of ERP solutions suitable for employment in middle-sized companies.  However, there is not the one ERP solution for middle-sized companies just as there is not the one middle-sized company. On the one hand, the ERP requirements of service, trading and manufacturing companies differ greatly. On the other hand the term middle-sized company is elastic: The current EU definition counts companies with up to 250 employees as middle-sized, while many companies in Germany with more than 500 employees see themselves as belonging to this group without doubt.

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Apart from all differences, there are some things, companies with up to 250 employees have in common when it comes to employing ERP solutions:

  • Flexibility and unconditional customer orientation are their main competitive advantage over larger companies: There is only little process and product document standardisation.
  • IT infrastructure is considered a necessary evil: the limited existing investment budgets are mainly used for products and markets.
  • Limited IT personnel capacities: IT infrastructure (e.g. user support, data maintenance and smaller adaptions) is handled "on the fly" and/or delegated to freelancers.
  • Lack of experience with ERP solutions: the topic ERP selection and ERP solution implementation is often completely new for smaller companies. Know-how is often limited to "Office" products.

The smaller the company the more pronounced these characteristics normally are and they are often in direct conflict with the basic requirements which can be deduced from ERP solution employment:

  • The employment of ERP solutions presupposes clearly defined processes in the company. If those are lacking, the software's functionality can hardly be adapted to the company's needs.
  • Also, product portfolio and structures (BOM), cost centers and accounting areas, material, supplier and customer information must be structured in a meaningful way in order to be mappable by the ERP solution.
  • The increased use of software products entails that everyday business is much more dependent on a frictionless working of the ERP solutions. This means that the maintenance and care of the system must be increased as well - which means higher personnel and financial expenses.
  • Finally, the employees' qualification and discipline in handling the ERP solution is a decisive factor when a successful application is concerned. Here, it's even more important than with classic filing: "A tidy house, a tidy mind."

Experience shows that the greater the degree of software employment the higher the demands of a structured organisation, well-qualified personnel and IT budget.

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