ERP University

What is Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)?

Enterprise Resource Planning software, or ERP, doesn't live up to its acronym. Forget about planning–it doesn't do that–and forget about resource, a throwaway term. But remember the enterprise part. This is the true ambition of an ERP system. It attempts to integrate all departments and functions across a company onto a single computer system that can serve the particular needs of all those different departments.

That is a tall order, building a single software program that serves the needs of people in finance as well as it does the people in human resources and in the warehouse. Each of those departments typically has its own computer system, each optimized for the particular ways that the department does its work. But ERP combines them all together into a single, integrated software program that runs off a single database, so that the various departments can share information and communicate with each other more easily.

That integrated approach can have a tremendous payback if companies install the software correctly. Take a customer order, for example. Typically, when a customer places an order, that order begins a mostly paper–based journey from in–basket to in–basket around the company, often being keyed and re–keyed into the computer systems of different departments along the way. All that lounging around in in–baskets causes delays and lost orders, and all the keying into different computer systems invites errors. Meanwhile, no one in the company truly knows what the status of the order is at any given point, because there is no way for the finance department, for example, to get into the computer system of the warehouse and see whether the item has been shipped. "You'll have to call the warehouse," is the familiar refrain heard by frustrated customers.

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What is an ERP Consulting Business?

The use of sophisticated ERP systems in different kinds of businesses worldwide gave birth to the ERP Consulting Business. ERP systems are too sophisticated to be installed, implemented and supported by end users, without the support of qualified ERP Consultants. Employing ERP Consultants as full time staff is not an option for end users, since they cost too high. Moreover, working at a single end user is very limiting to ERP Consultants, since they will be unable to compete with their peers due to lack of field experience in various industries. It is proven for dozens of years already that support by specialized ERP consulting companies is the most efficient option for end users.

ERP Consulting is an intelligent business requiring competent ERP Consultants. It is an international business, probably even more international than software development, and provides a very high ROI. The only resource required in ERP Consulting is the Human Resource. We strongly believe that Armenia and Armenians stand much to gain by adopting ERP Consulting. There are many more opportunities for young professionals in ERP Consulting, than there is in software development. Armenian young professionals must understand ERP Consulting and must adopt it to build a successful career, which is in very short supply worldwide.

Who is an ERP Consultant?

Normally, ERP Consultants are people with an Economics or Business Administration background, who have mastered at least one ERP product and are able to install, implement and support it for end users, as well as provide end–user training. ERP Consultants are required to be certified in their respective ERP systems, maintaining such certification during the tenure of their career. They must have a very good understanding of customers' businesses, and be able to analyze their needs and requirements. Hence, good inter personal communication and documentation skills are mandatory. Armed with such qualifications, ERP Consultants are valued professionals who are always in high demand.

Responsibilities of an ERP Consultant include:

  • Presale Activities – Accompanying sales executives during their visits to prospects and making product presentations and analyzing their needs.
  • Needs Analysis – Listening to prospects and customers to understand their business requirements, helping them with gap analysis to identify how best the offered ERP product meets their specific needs, designing the most cost effective ERP solution, which are the basic building blocks upon which a successful sales proposition can be made.
  • Installation – Installing and configuring ERP systems at customer sites, complete with system parameterization, version compatibility, data conversion, integration with third party modules, databases, remote access.
  • Training – Being a product expert and conducting training sessions, which are the foundation upon which a successful ERP implementation could be built.
  • Implementation – Having the skills of deploying processes which bring an ERP system live, by helping the end user with the design of a prototype, the creation of parameters, the capture of static data, the taking–on of opening balances and other related tasks.
  • Customizations – Analyzing bespoke reports, automations, shortcuts, data import & export, macros and other types of modifications customers require, for out–of–the–box ERP systems. ERP Consultants could either have the technical skills to carry out such tasks, or they could document these needs and forward them to software developers.
  • Project Management – Managing projects with skill, to assure the success of complex ERP implementations, at the most demanding customer sites.
  • Support – Providing on going quality support to customers, as the main ingredient in growing ERP Consulting business. ERP Consultants, with their product and industry knowhow and technical skills, make the retention of happy customers a reality.

Who is a Business Analyst?

The development of ERP systems and bespoke applications integrated with ERP systems requires the involvement of a Business Analyst. This professional has skills similar to that of an ERP Consultant, but with a difference. Whereas the skills of an ERP Consultant are focused on customer service, the skills of a Business Analyst are focused on products. While they should both have in depth knowledge of the ERP system on offer, the Business Analyst must be equipped with the necessary skills to understand and extend functional and technical features, while the ERP Consultant must know how to create a solution using the ERP product and the extended features.

Responsibilities of a Business Analyst include:

  • Needs Analysis – Gap Analysis to find out features that the out–of–the–box ERP system lacks, analysis of new features requested by customers which cannot be met by the ERP system or by Third Party applications, but can be added to the ERP system.
  • Functional Analysis and Documentation – Detailed functional analysis and documentation of the requirements formulated in the Needs Analysis phase, which are passed on to developers for technical analysis, coding and testing.
  • Testing – On going and pre–release quality assurance.
  • Support – On going post–release product support.