ERP business applications – are they different from standalone programs like Microsoft Excel? Now, that's a very pertinent question. Today’s organizations have plenty of options when it comes to choosing business management software. Regardless of what some people may say, the “old” tried-and-true Excel is one of the most popular and preferred programs organizations of all sizes use to gather, organize and analyze business data.
Since the big decision is whether to use Excel or other ERP business applications to manage data, let’s take a look at each of these types of solutions.
Excel VS. ERP Business Applications
Excel – Over the years, Excel has evolved dramatically to give users more flexibility and control over business information. The latest version of Excel goes beyond basic data management and reporting, enabling data/file sharing through SharePoint Services, collaboration on workbooks stored on document management servers, workbook editing by multiple users simultaneously and data/workbook distribution through email or by fax, but only works when users are manipulating the data.
ERP systems – While Excel can be used to perform only the aforementioned operations, ERP business applications use relational databases that have a much wider applicability, ranging from:
- creating and storing part numbers system wide
- entering data into systems and sharing business information
- creating bills of materials
- generating sales orders
- managing projects
- calculating lead-times
- analyzing KPIs
- forecasting performance
- business intelligence like automatic parts ordering: what quantities, and when they should be ordered to meet the production requirements
- warehouse management
- mobility and mobile apps
- And even shipping containerization
Besides allowing you to coordinate different processes and resources from a central location, ERP systems allow your employees to work at peak performance. ERP ran on a server actively works 24 X 7 without user input. And users have pre-defined data entry, and query forms, and have role based permissions to change and view data.
Signs of Excel Outgrowth
To make the right decision, it’s critical that you analyze whether or not your organization has outgrown the capabilities of Excel. Several signs indicating that Excel no longer meets your business needs include, without being limited to:
- data collected from different sources, including employees, customers and suppliers, and saved on computers/devices unrelated to each other and stored in scattered locations;
- employees spending more time collecting and organizing data than working with it;
- requirements exceeding simple demand-supply models and leading to the inability to respond efficiently to demand variability, shifting market conditions, business disruptions, etc.;
- the need for a system that can provide integrated, live, real-time information, accessible from anywhere and any device, at anytime;
- limited access to information from mobile devices (e.g. you can view information but you cannot edit it);
- failure to centralize and provide up-to-date information, limiting the activities of your staff, including IT department;
- Excel preventing you from taking your business from where it is to where you want it to be, based on pre-established KPIs.
Excel remains an industry standard for managing basic business processes, playing an invaluable role specifically in ad-hoc financial analysis, reports and dashboards. However, the fact that it has failed to meet the much-needed enterprise-wide flexibility, strength and survivability in today's economic context, a high number of non-manufacturing companies have transitioned from Excel to more advanced ERP business applications that can be tailored to their unique business models.
Augmenting with Excel
Before migrating from Excel to a business management solution, it’s essential to determine how far Excel can take your company. For instance, you may want to consider linking Excel with advanced ERP business solutions, which eliminate the islands and silos persisting in disparate information that often lead to inaccuracy, human error, rework, redundancy and inefficiency. Besides providing access to real-time business information, cutting-edge ERP solutions enable role-tailored user experiences, complex analyses and forecasts, “what-if” business simulations and creative exploitation of data so that you can use these new reports to your advantage. An astounding fact is that only 26% of manufacturers rely on ERP for their business needs. That leaves 74% of manufacturer’s wrapped in data silos.
Compared to Microsoft Excel, ERP business applications like Dynamics AX and Dynamics NAV have matured and evolved at a much faster pace. As a result, these solutions are ready to help organizations consolidate their disparate systems and processes to successfully address a wide variety of aspects relating to business enterprise operations.
At Clients First Business Solutions, our experienced professionals can help you select the right ERP system, which will allow you to develop and maintain a clear vision of your company’s future. Coupled with the right tools like Microsoft Excel, a well-established implementation methodology, in-depth training and round-the-clock technical support, an advanced ERP solution will help you achieve your business goals. For more information about our product and service offerings, please feel free to contact us at 800.331.8382 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.