midmarket ERP packages is not exactly an apples-to-apples type of
exercise. Each vendor wraps its midmarket offering with different
functionality, tailored to the needs of the kinds of companies the
solution is intended for and based on the vendor's particular areas
However, almost every midmarket ERP suite shares several common
modules: BI, CRM, financial management, HCM, manufacturing
operations and SCM. The differences among solutions tend to be quite
granular within these modules. Also, even if different packages
offer the same feature - say, sales-order management - it might not
be bundled in the same module; some vendors include sales-order
management in their CRM suites while others package it in their SCM
Key to an ERP package is tight integration between modules, so
that all of the core business modules are related. For instance,
manufacturing operations are integrated with customer service,
logistics and delivery.
One of the newer
components of most modern midmarket ERP packages, BI shines a bright
light into the heart of a company's performance. In general, an ERP
suite's analytics or BI tools allow users to share and analyze the
data that the ERP applications collect from across the enterprise
from a unified repository. The end result is more informed decision
making by everyone from executives to line managers to
human-resources professionals to accountants. A variety of automated
reporting and analysis tools can help streamline operations, as well
as improve an organization's business performance. With greater
control and visibility of data across the enterprise, business
leaders can better align the company's operations with its
overarching strategic goals.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
has long been a core component of any ERP offering, giving
manufacturers a way to improve customer service by pulling together
tools to fulfill customers' orders, respond to customers' service
needs, and often, create marketing campaigns to reach customers.
Most vendors include sales tools to provide customers with sales
quotes, process their orders and offer flexible pricing on their
products. Another important CRM component is service management,
which may arm customer-service agents with scripts for talking to
customers, as well as allow them to authorize product returns and
search a knowledge base of support information. The third main
component is usually marketing, which may include tools to manage
campaigns, create sales literature and develop a library of
Additionally, CRM often has tools for account management, SFA,
and opportunity or lead management, as well as self-service tools
for customers and an e-commerce storefront builder.
Of all the ERP modules,
the financials applications tend to be the most frequently utilized.
Across the board, these include general ledger, accounts receivable
and accounts payable, billing, and fixed asset management. Because
many midmarket companies deploy ERP to support efforts at breaking
into global markets, it is imperative that their ERP packages
support multiple currencies and languages.
The financial-management applications may also include tools for
creating and adhering to budgets, cash-flow management, expense
management, risk management and tax management.
HCM (Human Capital Management)
For the most
part, the HCM module includes tools for human-resources management,
performance management, payroll, and time and labor tracking. Some
vendors also provide functionality for administering benefits,
managing compensation, dealing with salary taxes, recruiting new
employees and planning workforce needs. Some also include
self-service tools for managers and employees.
Even though HCM is generally considered core ERP functionality,
some vendors offer it as an add-on module.
module is where much product differentiation happens, including
industry-specific functionality. In general, these applications are
intended to make manufacturing operations more efficient and simple.
Most vendors support different modes of manufacturing, include
configurable product capabilities, perform different types of job
costing and offer a BOM (bill of materials) tool.
Applications often include PDM (Product Data Management), CRP
(Capacity Requirements Planning), MRP (Materials Requirements
Planning), forecasting, MPS (Master Production Scheduling),
work-order management and shop-floor control.
SCM (Supply Chain Management)
Of all the ERP
modules, SCM has the greatest variability between vendors: It is
vast and varied, yet often adapted to the needs of specific
industries. In general, SCM improves the flow of materials through
an organization's supply chain by "managing planning, scheduling,
procurement, and fulfillment for optimum service levels and maximum
profitability," according to Lawson Software. Some vendors segment
their SCM into smaller modules. Oracle's JD Edwards, for instance,
breaks it down into Supply Chain Planning, Supply Chain Execution
(Logistics) and Supply Management (Procurement).
SCM features tend to include also production scheduling, demand
management, distribution management, inventory management, warehouse
management, procurement, sourcing and order management.
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