What is Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is the ability to deliver an integrated suite of business applications. ERP tools share a common process and data model, covering broad and deep operational end-to-end processes, such as those found in finance, HR, distribution, manufacturing, service and the supply chain.

A Brief History of ERP Systems

In the beginning of commercial computing in the 1960s, software developers built tools that could specifically calculate reorder points and economic order quantities. Through the 1970s these tools evolved to offer large scale manufacturing companies a more comprehensive approach to material requirements planning, which begat the name 'MRP'. The software developers kept coding. By the 1980s MRP tools had moved on to support plant capacity planning – at which point someone got marketing involved and they landed on the term 'MRP II'.

In the 1990s Gartner, an IT industry analyst, broadened the MRP II concept to make it relevant to all enterprise companies (not just manufacturers) and introduced the term ERP - Enterprise Resource Planning (find out more about its history here). By the year 2,000, Gartner were advising their clients to explore the opportunities that the internet created in terms of engaging suppliers and customers more closely with their ERP systems. This demanded a new name. The marketing people got involved again and came up with ERP II (you see what they did there).

Then, in or around 2010, came 'cloud'. Cloud has transformed the market for ERP software in two ways:

1) The list of ERP products that you might consider is now very different. Many existing vendors have struggled to migrate their software from on premise (Oracle, SAP R3, Infor). Other new vendors have emerged (Workday, Netsuite, Xero).

2) Cloud changes the way in which companies can construct Enterprise Resource Planning solutions for their business. Rather than rely on a single application to deliver the integration between processes, departments, divisions, organisations can now look to cloud technology and tools to deliver the same.

In 2020 you’ll find the words 'Digital Transformation' written large across many websites. The marketing people have been busy again! You can read our blog post on 'What is Digital Transformation' to find out more!

History of Enterprise Resource Planning

Why we work with Microsoft

We improve the lives of business system users to enable them to add more value within their businesses using a Microsoft enterprise resource planning system. We do that by making smart use of technology and providing great service.

  • Smart use: We strive to deliver solutions that are well architected and easy to use.
  • Which technology: We deliver solutions based on Microsoft technologies.
  • Great service: We have great people and strength in depth. We’re refreshingly honest and very direct.

Why Microsoft?

Why Microsoft

Individually Microsoft has products that are #1 or #2 in each of these categories. In combination Azure, Power Apps, Dynamics 365, Power BI, and Office/Teams make Microsoft’s offer unique – and save our customers money.

How so?

  • User experience: Microsoft products have a similar look and feel. This accelerates user adoption.
  • Integration: Microsoft provides this 'out-of-the-box'. That means we don’t have to build it – which reduces the number of days it takes us to deploy solutions.
  • Skills availability: Lots of people know each of these products. Access to a big talent pool has an impact on our salary costs – which has an impact on the rates we charge.

(If you’re wondering about the cost of an ERP system, we’ve got a guide which may help)

There’s another significant factor that we want to be transparent about - we've been lucky. We backed a winner. Navision became Dynamics NAV which became Dynamics 365 Business Central. As a result, the skills and experience we’ve gained over 30 years are still very relevant. We’ve not got many small groups of people focussed on different ERP solutions. We’ve got a big team that gives our people colleagues to learn from, career progression and the ability to deliver great service to customers.

Microsoft Dynamics ERP

Dynamics 365 Business Central

The Alternative Guide to Buying ERP

When it comes to selecting and implementing an enterprise resource planning system, most businesses are unsure of where to begin. To alleviate the strain (and benefit from a level of expertise) many hire an independent consultant to aid the selection process. This consultant reviews the options available, compiles a lengthy document explaining each one, and then organises a series of product demos. 

Pretty tiring, right?

But here’s the problem: this process was designed more than two decades ago – back when there were hundreds of different ERP solutions to consider. Now there are just four. Vendors of these four systems – Dynamics 365 Business Central, Business One, NetSuite and FinancialForce – will tell you that selecting their product will define the success of your project…

But we think they’re wrong.

Each of the above systems will largely meet the needs of your business and as such, the key (and first) consideration isn’t which platform you should choose, but rather who you should enlist to help you. In our free guide, The Alternative Guide to Buying ERP, we highlight how you can modernise your approach to ERP selection and ensure your deployment project is a success.

Download our guide to find out:

  • What’s going on in the ERP software market
  • The six factors to consider when evaluating ERP products
  • What best practice selection processes look like
  • Why your choice of partner and their cultural fit with your organisation is key to success

Your choice of partner will truly impact the success of your enterprise resource planning deployment project, so choosing the right partner – one which has the expertise and ‘fit’ you are looking for – will put you on the path to progress.

Download the free guide to buying ERP

Pick a Partner, Not a Price

For most businesses planning to implement an enterprise resource planning system via a partner, the main factor is always the price. In these projects, there are often several ‘costs’ to consider: the cost of deployment, the cost of support, the cost of training and so on. As a result, many businesses try to get a fixed or estimated cost from a partner upfront, typically choosing one that is ‘less expensive’.

But while every business wants to keep project costs low, choosing a ‘less expensive’ partner is no guarantee of savings. If anything, they could cost more in the long run! The truth is that the cost of an enterprise resource planning implementation project – regardless of the initial estimate or fixed cost given – will be wholly dependent on the hours (or days) spent on it. Therefore, the best way to control the cost of a project is to look at other factors (the partner’s people, culture, methodology and expertise) and mitigate potential risk.

By choosing a partner based on the factors above, you put yourself in a position where you can control the progress of your project and have the best opportunity for success. There’s always going to be some kind of risk – that much is clear, but we can help you to minimise it. In our ERP Pricing Guide, we address the main questions businesses have about ERP implementation projects, as well as:

  • Estimated vs fixed price costing
  • Real-life ERP deployment stories
  • Evaluating ERP partners
  • How to reduce risk, scope and timelines

If you want to find out more, you can download our guide for free by pressing the button below.

Download the free ERP pricing guide

Implementing an ERP system

From installing software and transferring data, to mapping processes and training users – implementing a new ERP system can be time-consuming and challenging… especially if it’s your first time.

It’s not uncommon to have issues during the ERP implementation process, issues like missing data, tools not working properly, insufficient testing, lack of budgeting and so on. 

But what if you could avoid all of these problems? What if your ERP implementation process could go smoothly and the final product had everything you needed? That’s where we can help!

With our unique implementation methodology – ‘Day in the Life’, we develop a model of your business within Dynamics 365 Business Central, so you get to see your data in a real business environment.

This process ensures you get a solution that works in context – with the items, suppliers and customers you know – and if you’re worried, we have unparalleled expertise and knowledge of Dynamics 365 Business Central (more than 20 years’ worth in fact).

Here are the steps:

Step 1. Demo
We start by showing you what the system can do with your data. Based on initial meetings, we develop processes to work within your business.

Step 2. Workshop
Next, we’ll go through how you would use Dynamics 365 Business Central and its processes, using real data to clearly demonstrate what’s going on and how functions fit together.

Step 3. Implementation
Having established what we’re going to do and shown you how it works, we put it into practice and build what’s been imagined.

Step 4. Playbacks
We use playbacks to clarify and communicate project progress as the implementation moves forward, helping keep your team and ours on track and confident in the work being done.

Step 5. Acceptance, training and testing
Now we train your users and test the processes we’ve put in place. We follow stages 1-4, ensuring that at the testing stage you’re using the system in the same way as you would if it were live.

Step 6. Pre-live playbacks
Are we ready? Almost! Before the final hurrah, we use this stage to assess readiness. This is a key user-driven playback as at this stage, users should be able to demonstrate their capability to process all Day in the Life scenarios. If you can work as normal with the system at this stage, then it’s ready to go live!

ERP Implementation

The key reasons why companies don't implement a new ERP system

Finding the right Enterprise Resource Planning solution and support partner for your business can be a delicate dance that can end with a stunning finale… or terrible crash! For many people, it’s easier to find good reasons to not take the risk and therefore to not start the implementation journey, such as:

1) Because their leaders don’t feel the real pain associated with their existing ERP system

Managers are often completely unaware of the process gymnastics or spreadsheet mayhem that their people have to perform/manage in order to do a good job for their customers. 

It’s not that their existing ERP system has broken – just that their business has changed since it was put in. Well intentioned staff find workarounds to make new processes work within the existing system – rather than get it modified to suit. This approach starts to build in inefficiency and the opportunity for errors to be made and service levels compromised. 

Our recommendation – take a walk with an order through your business. Count the number of times a member of staff has to touch it and understand why. That will quickly expose the extent of any issue you may have. 

If you’re worried about the time-consuming process of buying ERP, check out our free guide for an alternative, streamlined and cost-effective approach. 

2) Because the business has bigger issues to focus on

The business may well have bigger issues to focus on – a new product, new Partnership, new international marketa resurgent competitor who is winning on the basis of stock availability – maybe even a global pandemic. To address these bigger issues effectively your ERP system will likely have to support new processes. This is often overlooked when businesses put together and execute a plan – which in turn drives the behaviour in #1 above. 

Our recommendation – make business system support a subject that must be covered in any plan to change the business. 

3) Because it’s too painful

ERP replacement projects have a reputation – only some part of which is deserved. When they go wrong – they typically go wrong at the beginning. Customers or consultants get focussed on choosing the right product. Product salespeople, eager for an order, fail to push customers to rationalise their needs MoSCoW (Must Have, Should Have, Could Have, Won't Have this time) and rely on their project team to sort it out later. 

Our recommendation – change the way you think about the replacement process. To learn more, check out our ‘Alternative Guide to Buying ERP’ or our ‘Pick a Partner, not a Price’ eBooks.

4) It’s too expensive

Use of the word too would suggest that some ROI analysis has been done – the costs and business benefits assessed and understood. Since that’s almost always not the case – then the real issue will be #1, #2 or #3. 

We make no apology. We’re ERP nuts. We are unashamedly enthusiastic about the extent to which business software, well implemented and supported, can liberate businesses (make them more agile) and liberate people within a business to get more important stuff done (make them more effective). If you have an ERP problem. We’re easy to find. Hire the TNP team.

If you haven’t got an ERP system and need help choosing one, our free guide will help.  

How much does it cost to implement an ERP system?

For most – if not all – planning to implement a new ERP system, the main question is: “How much does it cost?”

Now when we talk about costs, there are often several variables to consider above and beyond the cost of the platform itself that add to the total cost of ownership (TCO):

  • Training and management: You may need to train your team on how to best use the ERP platform once its implemented and develop policies on how data and activities are managed within it
  • Maintenance and upgrades: What if your ERP system has problems that you can’t resolve yourself? You then have to call up your partner to request their help in rectifying them. Also, what if you need to upgrade your system to get access to new and more powerful features?
  • Costs incurred by the implementation specialist and/or partner: As your ERP system is being implemented, you may want to make changes to the specifications and add on new modules or advanced features. Not only does this add to the base cost, this also adds to the cost of adding and customising the solutions!

And this is by no means an exhaustive list – you also have unknown costs that arise from delays, problems and risks that you may not fully have accounted for (though the right partner will be able to help you to avoid them).

The answer to the question of cost is, therefore, quite difficult to answer – which is why we’ve put together an article on the topic explaining how you can accurately cost your ERP implementation projects.

So, how much does it cost to implement an ERP system?

Learn more here

ERP Resources

We have hundreds of free ERP resources readily available, including recorded webinars by topic specialists, how-to videos taking you through some of the simpler processes, and various eBooks & whitepapers.

Some of our resources include:

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eBooks and Guides

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  • How much does it cost to implement an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System?: When you start planning your ERP system implementation, the question of 'How much will it cost?' is likely to be one of your first thoughts. This question isn't straightforward, and often there are several variables that have an impact. Our blog will help you understand more about how much it costs to implement an ERP solution.
  • Implementing an ERP system with Agile: An Agile process is widely used in ERP implementations with great success. TNP use an Agile approach for ERP software projects as it allows for a step-by-step process and eliminates nasty surprises early on for a smooth go live!
  • Start with what you can do with your ERP system... not what you can't!: Ian Humphries, Managing Director at TNP, provides insight into how to successfully kick off an ERP implementation, and why it is important to focus on what you can do with your ERP system rather than starting with what 'it might not do'. He also covers TNP's 'Hot Week' approach and why it's a great way to start your ERP project.
  • Rapid Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Implementation: The idea of a rapid ERP implementation may seem too good to be true, but in our experience we have found that sometimes the need to get your system up and running outweighs the 'go steady' approach. Our blog covers what we mean by a rapid ERP implementation and how the process works in practice.
  • Why Vertical ERP doesn't work: Our blog covers our thoughts on how economics undermine the future of vertical ERP software providers using companies that grow fresh produce as the example. It also covers what makes TNP's approach to ERP solutions different.

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Case Studies

  • Sambro International: Successful IT projects are not just about the tech, it’s a combination of planning, process and people – as Sambro International demonstrated!
  • ClaranetEurope’s leading managed service provider saves time & resources across the enterprise with powerful, customised ERP solution from TNP
  • H+H: When COVID-19 hit, many grew concerned about working without travel. H+H chose to prove that it would be possible to deploy Business Central alongside TNP without international travel and face to face meetings.
  • Wells & Co select TNP to implement a new drinks ERP: TNP support Wells & Co to consolidate their systems into a single ERP solution, and integrate Drink-IT to handle to handle the more complex operations such as property management and telemarketing. 

Enterprise Resource Planning Support

We have over 185 people in the company, including over 40 customer support staff - this coupled with over 1,900 years of combined experience makes us the number one Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 Business Central ERP partner in the UK! 

We can help you with...

Want to find out more?

Looking to understand more about our enterprise resource planning software or simply want to know what a successful ERP implementation looks like? 

Check out our case studies here or contact our friendly team and we will get back to you in a jiffy! Alternatively, if you’d rather call us, get in touch via +44 (0)208 328 9818. 

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