Scale vs. Specificity—No Trade-offs Required

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As we continue to experience significant global shifts in demand six months after initial responses to COVID-19, it’s become clear that these unpredictable patterns will not stop or slow any time soon. Companies needing to invest in enterprise technology upgrades now face the tough reality that they will need to make those investments despite a global economy that remains uncertain at best.

Choosing an ERP system doesn’t come with the luxury of trial and error, and given the significant costs and operational pivots during a go-live process, it’s critical to get it right the first time. That pressure can sometimes lead selection committees to take what they perceive as the lower-risk path of choosing a generic ERP solution from a well-known global player, rather than an industry-specific ERP provider that may actually offer a more proven, robust solution for the company.

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Broad vs. Focused ERP Solutions

Large, global providers tend to be first-to-market with new technologies, but those advances are not typically designed to speak to the needs of a specific industry. That lack of focus can create the need for significant levels of customization for companies in specialized sectors like food production, where there is a need to track products by batch and lot for recalls; or like chemical manufacturing, where regulations demand enhanced reporting and audit management processes.

Every industry has operational requirements that must be managed systemically. So if the business need should drive the software choice and not the other way around, why would specialized manufacturers even consider a solution that is not built to serve their industry?

It comes down to a concern over the scale. Some industry-specific solutions were developed by former executives in said industry, so the functionality seems spot-on. But such companies may not have the capital to invest in ongoing innovation. In addition, they may not have the resources to adapt and grow with your business as it expands, as new products are added, or as new regulations are introduced. The average lifecycle of an ERP is almost 10 years, so it is vital to have a partner that can scale.

Perhaps, as a result, we see some selection committees favor scale over-specialization, but that, in turn, may force the company to invest in significant customizations that can come with unforeseen costs:

  • Time and price increases linked to customization. Generic ERPs can work well for very large companies with deep pockets to fund ongoing customization. However, adapting code to support specific industry functionality will likely hike costs significantly and could push your “go-live” date out by months. Most mid-market manufacturers see better value in software whose base functionality is designed specifically for their industry, such as recipe formula management for process industries.
  • Tricky integration of bolt-ons or ancillary functionality. System modifications not only cost more, but they also add complexity and can be hard to “bring along for the ride” when you upgrade the system down the road. Essentially, you’re programming the system to do things it wasn’t originally meant to do, requiring an ongoing investment budget to keep the system current.
  • Poor knowledge of your industry. You’ll invest lots of your valuable time teaching developers your business. With an industry-specific ERP solution, you’ll skip that step and become part of a peer group with similar challenges, where enhancements added for one member of the group become part of the software’s feature set, available to all.

Specialization that can Scale—the Best of Both Worlds

Luckily, it’s not necessary to choose between global scale and industry focus when selecting an ERP system. Today, the most robust industry-specific solutions come from well-capitalized companies like Aptean that combine the precise features you need with the resources to continually enhance those features. Aptean offers a family of industry-specific ERP solutions for the mid-market that gives manufacturers and distributors a balanced combination of vertical focus and the muscle to invest in ongoing innovation—specialized solutions that can scale.

If you’re choosing a new ERP solution, start with an uncompromising approach. Work with each of your business’s functional teams to define how the perfect system would support existing processes, then identify industry-specific ERP solutions that deliver most or all of these requirements out-of-the-box. After that, ask yourself these questions to vet the remaining providers carefully, making sure your solution is future-proof:

  • Do they have the resources to continually invest in innovation? 
  • Do they have a clear roadmap for the software and future versions? 
  • Do they have the staying power to support your needs well into the future?
  • Do they offer all the advantages of a cloud-based system or a clear path to get there?

You can have the best of both worlds—an ERP that is purpose-built with specificity for your industry, developed and backed by a company with the resources to help you navigate and scale the challenges of today and tomorrow. 

Your company is not generic. Your ERP system shouldn’t be, either.

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