Best ERP systems and tools

We round up the best ERP systems and tools to get your business working optimally

Enterprise Resource Planning, or ERP to give it its acronym, is usually a suite of software that offers companies the tools they need to drive their business forward. An ERP platform could offer elements such as supply chain management, human resources (HR), customer relations management (CRM), order management and accounting, to name a few elements.

These elements are often "modules" for an overall ERP system, with businesses able to mix and match the parts they need to make their business more effective.

For example, one organisation may decide it just needs an ERP program to manage its product-based processes, including supply chain and customer orders, while another may want to use an ERP to manage the people-based tasks, such as CRM and HR.

At the centre of all ERP systems is a single database that supports the different functions a business wishes to use it for. If a company wants everything in one place so management can get a better overview, but limit departments to have access only to the features they're using, this is possible on a user-basis.

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If you're confused by all of the ERP functions and feature available, we've rounded up the top ERP applications around, so you can decide which may be best for your particular business.

Epicor

Focusing on medium-sized firms, Epicor concentrates on companies in verticals like manufacturing, professional services and distribution. Its tool is available both in the cloud and in a customer's own data centre, or a mix of both.

Epicor's user experience makes it easy to use whether via a web browser or on your desktop, and users can pick between a classic or modern user interface. Epicor's tile-based design resembles the modular nature of ERP, though it's also reminiscent of Windows 10 - which may be a plus or a minus, depending on your view.

The tool covers the following management modules: product lifecycle, CRM, quality performance, supply chain, and business performance.

Brightpearl

Brightpearl is an ERP designed for use in the retail sector to help businesses align their business processes, including orders, inventory, customer data, accounting and reporting in one platform.

It's specifically been thought up with multi-channel retailers in mind, helping to align online and offline sales as well as other processes associated with running a business across platforms.

Automated accounting features such as recording orders, invoices and payments mean Brightpearl can double up as a bookkeeper, further reducing the pressure on your business.

Real-time reports are supported, including inventory, cash flow, profitability by SKU and channel, customer purchase behaviour and much more, making it one of the top fliers for retail only businesses. There are also multiple payment models, meaning whether you're a large or small business, you should be able to find a package that will work both functionality-wise and finance wise for you.

But, even the highest package is still a lot cheaper than many other retail-specific ERPs out there, making it an even better choice for your business if you need to watch the cashflow.

Of course, if your industry isn't retail, this particular ERP probably isn't one fr you, but if you are in the retail sector, it should be on top of your list if you're looking to migrate or introduce an ERP into your business.

IFS

IFS's ERP product is part of its Applications suite, which covers Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) and Enterprise Service Management (ESM).

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Its ERP soltution targets larger businesses, particularly those in manufacturing and order-driven verticals like aerospace engineering and the food and drinks sector. Designed to be as open as possible, the tool focuses on speed of implementation - a clear win for big firms facing arduous IT rollouts - and its ability to scale quickly is another selling point.

While its UI revolves around tasks and roles for people, users can toggle and change the experience to suit their own company structure and job positions.

Infor

Like IFS, Infor offers a full suite of options for business management, including ERP, Exam and product lifecycle management.

Its ERP tool is targeted at the manufacturing industry, but it has also launched different products to suit different industries within manufacturing.

For example, Infor10 ERP Process Business is designed for process manufacturers such as chemical, food and beverage and pharmaceutical firms. Meanwhile, Infor10 ERP Express is aimed at discrete manufacturers such as aerospace and defence, automotive and machinery manufacturers. Each version includes modules specifically tailored to that specific niche, so it's important the right one is chosen to ensure it fits with your business needs.

One thing that sets Infor apart from its competitors is that following a whole load of acquisitions, Infor has released middleware allowing for high integration with other services. Systems used to keep on top of processes, manage events and track work flows can all be integrated into the ERP software.

Infor ERP can run on AWS's EC2 cloud or on-premise. Alternatively, you can choose for the company to host it via its own Velocity-hosted facilities.

Microsoft Dynamics

Microsoft too has a whole range of ERP products, all designed for different sized businesses.

Microsoft Dynamics GP, NAV and SL are targeted at small and medium sized businesses, while its AX product is best suited for larger organisations with multiple global sites.

The products have also been developed with different verticals in mind. AX is best for manufacturing and distribution networks, although NAV is more customisable for a larger range of verticals within manufacturing.

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Microsoft Dynamics GP is widely used in the public sector because of its targeted modules for departments such as financial management and HR, but it's also equally suited to the finance and professional service industries.

SL is best suited to project-based sectors, such as the creative industries or construction, where BAU is less of a focus.

SAP

Although SAP traditionally targets the larger end of the market, it has attracted smaller businesses with its all-in-one solutions, which play a very important role in transforming small and medium-sized enterprises.

Because it covers all areas of business, it has one of the widest selections of modules for organisations to choose in their implementation, including marketing and sales, field service, product design and development, production and inventory control, human resources, and finance and accounting. This makes it a great all-rounder for businesses that want to test the water with an ERP tool, with the option to scale it later.

SAP's products include All-in-One, designed for medium-sized businesses that require a fast implementation with lower costs. Business ByDesign, meanwhile, is built specifically to make use of SaaS environments, while Business One is an integrated ERP for smaller companies across the manufacturing, retail, service and distribution industries.

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