What is Cloud ERP Software?

Cloud ERP gives companies access to their business-critical applications at any time from any location.

Cloud ERP software is enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that runs on a secure server, providing easy accessibility via the Internet. Its superpower is integrating every department under a single umbrella, acting as a central repository for companies’ critical business data.

Companies enjoy an updated and real-time view of their synchronized data along with extensive analytical capabilities, automated workflows, customizable dashboards and reports, vendor-generated updates, enterprise-level security, and ensured scalability for continued growth. Even better, users can connect to the Cloud ERP software using a web-enabled device at any time and from anywhere.

This 24/7 access combined with the streamlined and advanced business processes brought by Cloud ERP software opens the door to increased efficiency and productivity, boosting the bottom line. And because companies implementing Cloud ERP software pay a subscription—which is known as Software as a Service or SaaS—and only need an internet connection, companies can erase hardware and software, storage facilities for the hardware, and an extensive IT department from their budget.

Cloud ERP software is a modern, affordable, and comprehensive solution for companies operating in today’s digital economy.

What is ERP and how does it work?

With today’s businesses trying to operate efficiently while adapting to evolving requirements, expectations, and technology, “What is ERP software?” has become a popular question. To answer it, we must start by explaining what the acronym stands for: Enterprise Resource Planning.

As the name indicates, ERP encompasses how organizations (regardless of size) manage their resources. The term “resources” can include—but is not limited to—materials, equipment, employees, and capital. With ERP software, organizations can manage these resources and integrate separate departments—like financials, accounting, sales, CRM, and more—through a single, centralized application and interface. Company-wide information is shared through and synchronized in the ERP software and is available to all employees, putting everyone on the same page, at the same time.

What is cloud-based ERP, and how does it work?

Cloud-based ERP systems allow companies to access all the above mentioned benefits of ERP software via the internet. These systems can be categorized as: private cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS).

In private cloud ERP, the necessary hardware and software are physically located in a business’s own facility, and its IT department is responsible for deploying, securing, and maintaining the system. Initial costs can also be high, and employees may only be able to access the system remotely through a third-party application and/or device.

When cloud ERP software is delivered as a SaaS deployment, users can access the system whenever, from wherever—as long as they have an internet connection and a browser-enabled device. This “anytime, anywhere” access is a game-changer for businesses with remote workforces, field technicians, and multiple locations. The Cloud ERP vendor is also responsible for security, updates, and upgrades, so the customers’ IT teams are free to think about other growth-enhancing initiatives.
In some cases, as with Acumatica, businesses can also choose to deploy their ERP software as a hybrid of the private cloud and SaaS approaches.

What are the advantages of Cloud ERP?

One of the biggest advantages of Cloud ERP software (specifically, Acumatica) is its almost limitless customizability. Add-on solutions, role-based dashboards, open APIs, and industry-specific functions—all these combine to give companies unparalleled data visibility, powerful decision-making tools, and a future-proof platform for success.

Companies can implement Acumatica Cloud ERP’s General Business Edition or choose editions that have been tailored to the needs of their specific industries.

Industry Editions

To better understand the benefits of industry-specific ERP, consider the construction industry. Construction businesses have many moving parts. The office and field teams work in tandem to complete multiple projects on time and under budget, but challenges arise when they don’t have updated information. Construction-specific ERP software integrates systems and applications—including financials, job cost accounting, project management, inventory, CRM, payroll, and more—for a complete, real-time view of the business that instantly connects all workers in the team.

As if that weren’t enough, every instance of Acumatica Cloud ERP, regardless of industry edition, can also be customized with additional modules.

Modules

And the Acumatica Marketplace is filled with solutions, designed by our technology partners, that can extend the Acumatica interface to meet your unique business needs.

Marketplace Solution Examples

So, we’ve established that Cloud ERP is highly customizable, but how do those customizations actually benefit modern businesses?

 

What are the risks and benefits of Cloud ERP software, and how does the software improve business efficiency?

As with any high-dollar product or service purchase, investing in cloud-based ERP software comes with some risks. But, with proper planning, these risks can be mitigated, and they are far outweighed by the benefits Cloud ERP systems bring.

Risks of ERP Investment

  • Lack of leadership buy-in, resulting in the ERP purchase and implementation not happening at all
  • Lack of organizational buy-in, resulting in employees not using the ERP software and the company not reaping the rewards of automated business and management processes
  • Lack of training, resulting in sub-par use of the ERP system

Benefits of Cloud ERP Software

  • Powerful automation that streamlines simple tasks and eliminates manual workarounds
  • A central repository that connects multiple systems/applications and stores data from every department in an easily accessible, up-to-the-minute database
  • Anytime, anywhere access to the system, eliminating geographical restrictions
  • Automated workflows (e.g., approvals for Purchase Orders or Accounts Payable processes)
  • Customizable dashboards and reports
  • An end to month-end headaches caused by human error or disconnected systems—duplicate data entry, delayed financial reporting, incomplete or erroneous transaction entries, etc.
  • The power to manage multiple companies with one system and consolidated reporting
  • Vendor-managed hardware and data servers, IT support, and system updates/upgrades—meaning customers are not stuck with infrastructural and ongoing maintenance costs
  • Reduced strain on in-house IT teams
  • Fast, vendor-supported implementation
  • Flexible licensing that allows customers to adjust their use of the ERP system according to fluctuating needs (e.g., add/remove applications, add/remove users, etc.)
  • Robust, vendor-ensured data security (e.g., controlled physical access to the equipment, environmental protection, protection from unforeseen disasters, regular system maintenance)
  • Adaptable software that scales with the customer’s business

 

As the lists above show, the advantages of ERP software and the business value of an ERP system are very clear. But there are still other questions businesses should ask when thinking about buying an ERP solution—one of the biggest being: “How much does ERP software cost?”

What is the real-cost of ERP software?

The overall cost of an ERP system will, of course, depend on which system you choose. Pricing is subjective and takes many different factors into consideration. To justify the expense of an ERP investment, you should examine, not just the base cost of the ERP software itself, but also the system’s return on investment (ROI).

The most obvious system and implementation costs include:

  • Hardware expenses (for private Cloud ERP solutions).
  • Software licensing costs.
  • Per user fees.
  • Initial implementation, data conversion, and training costs.
  • Customization needs.

But when making ERP cost comparisons, businesses must also remember that ERP pricing structures will differ from system to system. And they should take any hidden costs into consideration. These can include, among other things:

  1. The time employees will spend implementing the system, learning how to use it, and developing new procedures with it.
  2. Future ERP system customizations based on changing business needs.
  3. Software upgrades.
  4. Additional training and consulting as time goes on and your business grows and changes.

The bottom line is to make sure you do your pricing homework before choosing an ERP system. To help with this part of the process, Acumatica commissioned Forrester, an independent, objective-research-based consulting firm, to study and report the Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) of Acumatica. We’ve also developed the Acumatica Cloud ERP Estimator—an interactive tool which will help you determine the savings, business benefits, and ROI Acumatica will bring to your company.

How to choose the right ERP?

There are many factors to consider when choosing an ERP system, and your examination of these factors will take place across a few steps.

The first step is ERP research, which includes weighing the cost of various ERP solutions, as we talked about above. If you’ve reached this first step, you’ve probably already decided that an ERP solution—with its ability to manage all business processes and spur data-driven decision-making—is a better choice than, for instance, simple accounting software, like QuickBooks.

The second step is ERP evaluation: comparing ERP solutions side-by-side. All employees who will be using the system should be included in this process. Their opinions, feedback, and suggestions, based on their frontline experiences with your business, will go a long way toward helping you make an informed—and supported—decision. (An ERP Comparison Checklist is an efficient way to manually evaluate systems based on productivity, functionality, technology, value, and risk.)

The third step is ERP selection. Keeping the company’s needs, timeline, and budget in mind, you’ll look at whether the solutions at the top of your list actually meet expectations. Here are some questions to ask when buying ERP software:

  • Does the solution address industry-specific pain points?
  • Does the solution address industry-specific pain points by role?
  • Does it have the reporting and analytics functionality my business will need in the future?
  • Can the ERP solution integrate seamlessly with complementary, third-party applications?

If the answer is “yes” to these and any other business-specific questions, it may be time to hit the “ERP buy” button…or is it?

Even if an ERP solution looks fantastic on paper, it still may not be the right choice if the ERP software vendor isn’t a good fit.

What criteria should be used to select an ERP software vendor?

When choosing an ERP system, the ERP software vendor must be taken into account. A vendor should not just sell software that meets your business’s requirements. It must be a partner, not a predator.

In a recent whitepaper, ERP Vendor Selection: Find a Partner, Not a Predator, analyst Brian Sommer says making a wise ERP decision includes completing a “cultural assessment.” He writes:

“Great cultures can be found in yogurt, acidophilus milk and some firms. Unfortunately, great cultures don’t always exist in technology firms that you’ve come to rely upon. And, if you do business with a technology firm with a bad culture, it could be a very expensive, frustrating, long-term decision. Can your organization afford being stuck with a bad choice for a decade or more?”

The answer to that last question, for any business, is obviously “no.” So, choosing a trustworthy ERP vendor is extremely necessary to success.

To help distinguish between a partner and a predator, Brian provides defining factors of a predator.

  • They cannot exist without prey.
  • They are short-term focused.
  • They want a relationship with your wallet, not with your company.
  • They use confusing, ambiguous wording and ask you to sign “voluminous” contracts.
  • They change their prices often.
  • They aggressively audit customers’ use of the ERP system.

If you do happen to choose the wrong vendor, Brian says it’s critical to accept that you made a poor decision and move on to a better option. As he puts it: “Vendors with a selfish, greedy culture will create lots of work for you, are hard to deal with and tend to overreach at every opportunity to empty your corporate bank account.” Don’t try to make the best of a bad situation, because it will just continue to worsen.

You need a true partner, not a leech in vendor’s clothing.

When is the right time to switch to Cloud ERP?

The right time to switch is now. Over the past few years, the world has changed dramatically, and, to keep up with these revolutions in the digital economy, businesses have to change with it. Modern businesses must be flexible and mobile, and modern Cloud ERP solutions have the functionality and scalability needed to make that happen.

As the world’s fastest-growing Cloud ERP vendor, with the only Customer Bill of Rights in the industry, Acumatica is ready to help you move forward and gather all the success the future holds for your business.

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