It’s no secret that there’s a seemingly endless amount of cogs in the machine that is B2B – especially on an enterprise level. When you’re balancing data from across your entire organization, whether it’s payroll or inventory, things can get complex quickly. The complication only gets worse if you have to manually keep track of every single one of these data points, and use them to make informed business decisions.
Luckily, there’s software designed to streamline all of this data to help your B2B organization run smoother and more efficiently. With ERP software, every aspect of your business stays connected, taking the manual, error-prone tasks out of your staff’s hands and into an automated system. Let’s dive into how ERP software can help your business and how to integrate the best option for your industry.
ERP software is a tool for businesses that manages essential information and consolidates it into one, streamlined system. Short for “enterprise resource planning,” ERP software can organize the collection, storage and use of data relating to a company’s CRM, human resources, procurement, distribution, finances, ordering and a variety of other business processes.
By connecting all of this data into one place, B2B businesses can operate more efficiently without needing to deal with a convoluted back-and-forth between systems. Integrated data within an ERP system reduces the risk of contradicting information interfering with business processes, from order to shipment.
When ERP software is classified as “on-premise,” this means that the software must be locally installed on the business’s own computers and/or servers before use. This means that, as a business, you’ll be responsible for maintaining your software and updating it manually, as well as paying additional fees for support and training.
Typically, on-premise ERP software comes priced as a large, one-time license fee that stays valid after payment. This price is usually quite large, and combined with the extra fees that a business may need to pay in order to keep the software functional, it could get even larger. For this reason, on-premise software is best suited for larger enterprise-level businesses that have the budget to account for these fees.
However, one of the most beneficial aspects of on-premise software is it’s highly-customizable nature. On-premise ERP software can be customized to a business’s specific needs and requirements, which is especially useful for niche companies. If your business prioritizes control over your ERP software’s functionality, then on-premise may be your preferred route.
Rather than install and update your ERP software yourself, cloud-based ERP software is hosted and updated entirely by it’s vendor. This means that all of your data is backed up in a web-based cloud, making it easier to access via any device (including mobile) without any fear of losing that data.
Cloud-based ERP software also tends to be more affordable than on-premise ERP software that requires you to pay for a license to use it. Rather than asking for an expensive one-time fee, cloud-based software is usually based on a monthly or yearly subscription style of pricing.
Not only is cloud-based ERP software more affordable, but it also requires little to no maintenance from the end user. Since the software is hosted by the vendor, all updates, software maintenance and security patches are automatically deployed for you online.
Every B2B industry comes with unique business needs, so your ERP software should meet those needs in it’s feature set. If you’re running a manufacturing business, then the ERP software that you choose to integrate with should have features built in to support those operations.
ERP software designed for manufacturing businesses will allow you to manage operations on an end-to-end basis to maintain good customer service. Additionally, your software should give you access to data for planning purposes, and provide features that assist in improving production flow and quality.
Supply chain data is vital for manufacturing businesses to have access to, so the ERP software that you choose will need to provide you with real-time insights into that data. Finally, manufacturing businesses also typically have multiple facilities, so your ERP software should be equipped to manage all of them simultaneously.
A distribution business, although still B2B, requires unique features from their ERP software. For example, ERP software designed for distribution companies will make sales data, inventory levels and shipment schedules available in the same place to help run a leaner operation. The software should also include features that assist in coordinating operations all the way from order to shipment, playing a key role in orchestrating the distribution process.
Efficiency is key to distribution businesses, which is where ERP software shines. The software that your distribution company uses should help to improve logistics and inventory management efficiency, keeping your supply chain operations connected (even with multiple facilities). Using real-time analytics provided by your ERP software, you’ll also be able to forecast through procurement.
Although not as similar to manufacturing and distribution, professional services companies also require the efficiency of ERP software. If you’re in the industry of professional services, then the ERP software you need will provide you with flexible, integrated and real-time solutions.
Firstly, your software should give you access to project-based features to manage project completion from beginning to end. You’ll be able to manage basic resources, sales, jobs, invoicing, order management, and more within the software. This also means that customer service is streamlined to a single location, with all data and interactions on-hand to access at any time.
ERP software designed for professional services will also give you the ability to track financial data, manage resources and tasks, and collaborate with your team through various channels. Professional services can change frequently, so your software should allow you to monitor and respond to those changes quickly and easily.
Are you unsure as to whether or not your business would benefit from using ERP software? Implementing an enterprise-level system like ERP software can make a huge difference in most B2B organizations, but let’s go through the exact benefits you’ll see after integrating.
One of the main ways that ERP software boosts the efficiency of a business is by automating a variety of manual processes. By automating order entry, back office management, invoice creation, routine communications and financial report generation, ERP software can work to eliminate human error. Not only does automation improve accuracy, but it also gives business staff more time to work on other essential tasks that can’t be automated, boosting efficiency in the process.
In the B2B industry, it’s not unusual to use a complex pricing structure for your customers. Some customers may be purchasing orders based on negotiated pricing, while others may be part of customer groups that get discounts based on wholesale pricing. Add on top of that potential order discounts, order line discounts, tier pricing and possible promotions, and the system only gets more complicated. But, then multiply those factors by the amount of customers you deal with on a daily basis, and you’ve got an intricate system of pricing that can’t afford errors.
Using ERP software, this entire pricing system can be simplified by automatically calculating the accurate pricing for every customer. But, pricing isn’t the only thing that can be complex in your B2B process – inventory can also get complicated. Thankfully, ERP software can help with that too, giving keeping track of your inventory levels and real-time and keeping your customer’s updated on those levels as they place their orders.
Speaking of complex processes, ordering is far from simple in most B2B organizations. Certain customers may have order limits, require specific shipping conditions, have expected delivery times, or any other unique ordering condition. Integrated ERP software streamlines this process by storing all of your ordering conditions data and displaying it in real-time on your online store. This way, customers know exactly what to expect in regard to payment details, delivery costs and times, and any other ordering condition that may be applied.
But, your B2B customers need more than just a streamlined process for making new orders – they also need to be able to reorder from past orders easily. Rather than manually keeping track of all past orders, ERP software gives you access to order history information that you, as a business, can locate and complete a reorder based on. All of this data remains synced between your online store and ERP software, without the need for manual data synchronization.
Your ERP software is going to need to hold a large amount of data in order for it to efficiently assist in managing your business. By keeping all of that data in one place, your software makes it easy to access any information that you need to make the most informed business decisions that you can, considering all of details and context at your fingertips.
But, data visibility isn’t the only benefit from holding all of that data – you’ll also have access to streamlined reporting that can assist your business in analyzing it all. With better reporting at your fingertips, your business can improve long-term planning across all departments, from inventory management to accounting and finance.
In order to decide on the best ERP software for your B2B business,you’ll first need to compare
your unique needs to the features available with the software.
Manage a complete B2B online business with the right ERP software for your industry and needs.
Oracle NetSuite is arguably the most popular cloud-based ERP solution available. Their software consolidates several essential business processes, including CRM, accounting, eCommerce, reporting, real-time data visibility, inventory, supply chain management, procurement, warehouse & fulfillment, and much more.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 takes a unique approach to ERP software by combining a variety of specialized business apps, built on Azure and integrated with the Microsoft Power and Office 365 platforms, in a single cloud-based solution. These apps cover finance, supply chain management, commerce, human resources, and more.
SAP Business One is ERP software that’s available as either an on-premise solution, cloud-based solution, or separately powered by their proprietary computing database SAP HANA. This ERP software also has industry-specific version available, meaning it may be a better choice for niche businesses. Combining management for CRM, distribution, finances, inventory, projects, reporting & analytics, orders, HR, supply chains, warehouses and more, SAP Business One is a comprehensive B2B solution.
Traverse by Open Systems is a cloud-based ERP solution designed for several types of niche industries, from food service distribution to packaging. Their ERP software combines accounting, CRM, HR, and other departments while streamlining management for orders, supply chains, distribution, inventory, projects, warehouses, and reporting & analytics.
Epicor ERP is cloud-based software that provides enterprise resource planning functionality to several specialized industries, including rubber & plastics, electronics & hi-tech, aerospace, medical devices and more. Their ERP software combines essential features for managing CRM, HR, finances, distribution, warehousing, supply chains, orders, reporting & analytics, and more.
Sage Business Cloud X3 combines a variety of business processes, including financial management, sales, customer service, distribution, inventory, manufacturing and more into it’s integrated ERP software. This software is web-based and mobile-compatible; however, there is on-premises deployment available as well.
Acumatica Cloud ERP is, as the name suggests, a cloud-based ERP solution. Focusing on mid-sized businesses in a variety of industries, from wholesale distribution to retail & eCommerce, Acumatica offers businesses features that help manage their accounting, distribution, orders & inventory, supply chain, HR, CRM and much more.
One factor that makes or breaks the quality of ERP software is how easy it is to integrate into your business’s eCommerce platform. There’s three main ways to establish this integration: manual, scheduled and API.
Some ERP software will require you to manually import your business data from all of the systems and sheets that you currently use. This typically involves exporting a spreadsheet of your customer’s order data from the eCommerce platform you currently use, and then importing it into your new ERP software. While this process is one of the more simpler options, it’s also the most manual. Because of the sheer amount of data that may need to be moved over if your business is large in size, this method is best if your business is smaller and has less information to transfer.
Similar to the manual method, a scheduled import into your ERP software entails automating the manual import process. Essentially, you’ll be scheduling a recurring data import and export between your current data and your ERP software. You can determine how frequently you’d like this exchange to occur, and what exact time in the day you’d prefer. While this process is more automated than the manual import and export method, it still requires some setup.
If the eCommerce platform of your choice is a modern solution, then you’ll most likely have access to an API integration that allows you to connect it directly with your ERP software. By integrating with the API, your essential data within will be updated in real-time, making it much easier to make business decisions at any time. Typically, eCommerce platforms offer a “turn-key API” for most ERP software that is easy to set up; however, if your ERP software is older, or more niche and complex, then you may need to have a custom API developed to set up integration. API integrations like eBridge Connections and B2BGateway EDI are built to connect your eCommerce platform with your chosen ERP software.