How to Choose the Best Cloud ERP Software

You have a lot of choices when looking for a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. The technology marketplace is brimming with vendors that claim to be the best cloud ERP provider. While each system has its merits, it’s important that you determine which one is the right fit for your business.

This resource will provide you with an in-depth look at how to select a cloud ERP system for your organization. In it, we’ll cover:

Evaluating, selecting, and implementing a new cloud ERP solution is a long-term strategic decision for the growth of your organization, so read on to learn how to best position your organization for the future.

Terminology and Glossary of Terms

Hundreds of concepts and terms relate to cloud ERP, but here are a handful to know as you single out the best cloud ERP system for your business:

  • Public cloud—This describes a deployment model that serves multiple customers deployed on common infrastructure—allowing multiple users to share common access to a specific instance of software. The public cloud is most popular for its flexibility, ease, and ability to scale at low cost.
  • Private cloud—By contrast, the private cloud serves a single customer buying their own instance of the software, so only that customer can access that instance of software. The private cloud offers greater control than a public cloud but no economies of scale.
  • Deployment choice—The option of choosing to deploy your ERP system on premises or in the cloud—if cloud is chosen, you can also choose between a private cloud or public cloud model.
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA)—This is the agreed-upon commitment between a service provider and a client—typically setting expectations for reliability and support.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)—This describes a software application delivered over the internet by a vendor—meaning instead of downloading the software on your own computers and in your own facility, you access it over the Internet.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)—Another category of cloud service, this describes a computing platform delivered as a service, such as application development tools.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)—A third type of cloud service, this is virtualized infrastructure delivered as a service—including servers and networking equipment.

Top Cloud ERP Success Factors

Every business will have different criteria for determining what makes a successful cloud ERP solution. However, there are a few elements that every business should evaluate—business fit, the ease of every experience, and its alignment with your growth goals.

Fit for Your Business

Many cloud ERP solutions are strong on general functions—such as financials or HR management—but often much weaker when it comes to supporting the processes and workflows that are specific to a single industry or sector. What works for retail doesn’t always work for distribution—and vice versa. That’s why it’s so important to choose a solution and provider that knows the ins and outs of your industry and can respond with valuable innovation to make your enterprise as efficient as possible.

When an ERP application has been developed specifically for your industry, it is better equipped to handle your processes with minimal or no customization. This means faster, more affordable implementation and simpler upgrades.

An ERP provider that specializes in your industry is more likely to:

  • Prioritize industry-specific innovations to strengthen your competitiveness
  • Offer other solutions that can easily integrate with their ERP software
  • “Speak your language” and anticipate your business needs

As a result, your ERP system will be a better fit that adapts and evolves alongside your changing organization.

Ease of Everything

You have enough challenges when pursuing business growth. You don’t need your ERP software to add to them. In fact, it should facilitate your success. Choosing an ERP system with an intuitive, easy-to-learn user interface can increase employee satisfaction and productivity. When you choose one that’s also fit for your business, you’ll likely find that everything you do is easier—making you more efficient and more profitable.

Choosing a cloud ERP solution can make your business simpler. You’ll no longer need to manage security, backups, and verifying those backups. You can rely on your ERP cloud vendor to keep your organization up to date with the latest best practices for offsite storage, performance optimization, and system maintenance. The top cloud ERP systems will leave you with fewer IT hassles and better security and reliability—so you’ll have more time to focus on creating value for your customers, employees, and other stakeholders.

The best cloud ERP systems also offer mobile functionality. This lets employees more easily collaborate, innovate, and get the job done by simply using their mobile devices. Data is not tied to a particular machine or location—the cloud easily and securely brings your vital information to you.

Many companies view an ERP upgrade as an opportunity to reevaluate business processes. Coupled with the advanced functionality of a new cloud ERP system, you may find that making a few tweaks to your processes could make them stronger and more efficient.

When you choose a top cloud ERP solution, you move your business to a reliable, secure, innovative, and efficient cloud system. When you partner with a top cloud ERP vendor, you’ll see how much simpler it is to focus on what matters most.

Future-Ready to Support Growth

Whether your growth strategy is already bearing fruit or you’re still in the planning phases, you want today’s decisions to help your business thrive tomorrow, next year, and beyond. With the right cloud ERP system, you’ll be better equipped to reach new markets, expand product lines, establish additional facilities, and grow your business.

Assess the development roadmap of potential ERP providers to understand where they see your industry going and how they will support change. Does their focus support your vision? Does it align with what research says about the future of your industry? Will they help you embrace the Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 4.0, omnichannel commerce, and more?

Innovation can be key to sustaining future business growth. An ERP partner that supports innovation will be useful, and one that understands its risks—and can help you navigate them—will be invaluable.

You’ll also want to look for an ERP provider that’s built on scalable architecture, as this will help you manage your organization’s future growth. By choosing a cloud ERP provider that can grow with you, you’ll find a technology partner that can support you through every step of your growth plans.

 

Ways to Compare and Assess Top Cloud ERP Vendors

Once you’ve determined what makes a successful cloud ERP system, you may have narrowed your list but lack a clear frontrunner. To identify the best cloud ERP vendors, consult analyst research and the experiences of your peers. You’ll also want to continue developing your own organization’s unique criteria to ultimately select the best cloud ERP solution for your business.

Analysts’ “Top ERP” Lists

ERP industry analysts like Gartner and Mint Jutras provide a reliable and objective analysis of ERP vendors and products. They’re plugged into the current trends and future projections of the industry, and they can provide valuable insights and unbiased opinions that you won’t get from prospective vendors. They’re also trusted names within the ERP industry, and their data is often featured or cited in publications and other studies.

An example would be Gartner’s 2018 iteration of their annual report—“Magic Quadrant for Cloud ERP for Product-Centric Midsize Enterprises”—in which they placed Epicor Software in the “Visionary” quadrant. This position is based on a full evaluation of our global ERP solution—Epicor ERP. The Magic Quadrant for Cloud ERP focuses on ERP systems that are offered in a cloud services application deployment. It covers midsize enterprises across all geographies with an annual revenue between approximately $50 million and $1 billion USD.

In another recent study, Mint Jutras investigated business goals, challenges, and current status in order to benchmark various business software systems and evaluate their performance. Almost 600 responses were collected from companies ranging in size, industry, and more. After claims that Epicor ERP was dedicated to “ease of everything,” Mint Jutras dug a little deeper into the data to see if Epicor did indeed make everything easier for customers. What they found was that while many software vendors claim to be “simple,” few—if any—can rival Epicor in the commitment to provide ease of use, ease of upgrading, ease of access, ease of deployment, and ease of learning—while also becoming a company that is increasingly easy to do business with.

While it’s a smart move to take analyst opinions and data into account, relying solely on them may not yield the best choice in cloud ERP for your business. Say, for example, you’re looking for the best cloud ERP system for your HVAC distribution business. Maybe you have one or two locations, but you don’t have the infrastructure in place to support some of the more robust software solutions used by large national or international companies. An industry study will likely not narrow its focus to something for your specific needs—they’ll likely evaluate all cloud ERP systems instead of just the cross-section of software that’s a good fit for your business. Analyst lists are great for thinning out the herd, but you shouldn’t stop your search there.

References From Companies Like Yours

Once you’ve looked at ERP analyst reports, it’s time to see what others in your industry are saying. Getting customer references from your peers is essential, because they can tell you what software they’re using and why they selected it, as well as give honest feedback on their experience. Speaking with users in your industry helps you learn the details of how existing or desired functionality might be handled or improved by the new system. Going back to our previous example, it’s important to reach out to other small-to-midsize HVAC distributors like you to find out what they’re using. Find out what they like, what they don’t like, what works, and what doesn’t.

If you’re not ready to speak with references, you can still get a good idea of a company’s experience in your industry by reading reviews and testimonials like these:

Metal-Tech Partners (MTP) is a multi-million-dollar telecommunications equipment manufacturer and supplier that provides custom-manufactured and fabricated parts and services to the international telecom industry. Based in Geneva, Nebraska, MTP strives to employ the latest technologies at every level. Recently, that has meant deploying Epicor ERP in the cloud.

“We’re a small company,” explained Caleb Wolf, IT and plant manager at MTP. “We just don’t have the resources to constantly upgrade our systems every year. Epicor was the best choice in the marketplace. It’s advanced, but doesn’t feel advanced. Security, reliability, functionality, and cost were our prime concerns. Epicor met all these criteria. We don’t even have to think about it. We just know it’s going to do its job.”

Bethel Park, Pennsylvania’s Brookside Lumber was first drawn to Epicor BisTrack software by its process workflow and modern architecture. Before long, they also began to see the Epicor team as a valuable business partner—not just a software provider. Since the original implementation, Brookside Lumber has also taken advantage of the way BisTrack Cloud software aids their sales team with more productivity while on the road, at the job site, and in the lumberyard.

“Our sales people that prefer to stay in the field servicing customers can conveniently and quickly access pricing, inventory, and orders with BisTrack Cloud,” said David Jones, president of Brookside Lumber. “The software is definitely a plus for rapid response to customer inquiries.”

Seeking out analyst reports and peer recommendations will provide valuable perspectives, but when it comes to choosing the best cloud ERP system, your own organizational needs and growth objectives should ultimately guide your decision.

Your Organization’s Unique Criteria

Ultimately, the best cloud ERP system is the one that fits your business. You have to assess your business needs and define certain criteria that only exist for your organization or line of work.

For example, manufacturers might require an integrated whiteboard-style production scheduling application that allows production planners to do their job within the ERP system instead of settling with disconnected spreadsheets. Manufacturers with government and/or defense contracts need to make sure they comply with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), so finding a cloud ERP solution that features built-in compliance processes is also very important.

Retailers should require a solution that offers them real-time visibility into their inventory and provides a mobile point of sale (POS) system—allowing their employees to complete customer transactions from anywhere in the store. It’s also paramount to choose retail management software that offers an eCommerce webstore so they can satisfy customers who prefer to shop online.

Distributors need to look for a software system that offers front counter functionality that can automatically enter customer order information—eliminating manual processes and rekeying errors. Delivering products accurately and on time can become easier by implementing a system that gives drivers —all from their mobile devices.

Lumber and building materials (LBM) dealers or distributors should look for a solution that promotes the logistics, inventory management, and sales best practices common in the LBM supply chain. An ERP system specific to the wood products and building materials industry should provide business leaders the visibility they need to support growth and decision-making.

These are just a handful of examples, but the point remains the same—find a cloud ERP system that fits you and the way you do business. Don’t settle for something that will require workarounds to deliver the functionality you need. Look for something that fits your business with ease.

 

Questions to Ask Cloud ERP Vendors Before Making a Selection

You know what makes a cloud ERP solution successful, and you know how to compare and assess your options. Now, it’s time to contact potential vendors.

Determining the best cloud ERP provider for your business requires asking ERP vendors important questions. Be sure to understand how their answers to these questions will impact your business.

  • What is your vision for the future of my industry?
  • Why should I choose to partner with your organization as my ERP cloud vendor?
  • How do you support global companies?
  • What is your security model, and how do you protect my systems?
  • How do you build trust and confidence into every aspect of my customer experience?
  • In what ways have you proven the value of your cloud ERP offering?
  • What benefits can I expect from your cloud ERP offering, and how would I measure success?

How well a prospective vendor answers these questions may end up being the deciding factor in selecting the best cloud ERP solution for your business.

 

Wrapping Up

Choosing the best cloud ERP software may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. To be successful, you need to look for a solution that:

  • Fits your industry
  • Promotes ease of everything
  • Will help your business grow

Empowered by this advice, you’re ready to begin your search for the top cloud ERP software solution for your business.

For more information, check out epicor.com/cloud.