3 May 2012 A Guide for a Successful ERP Strategy in the Midmarket: Selection, Services, and Integration Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) has been defined as an operational and transactional system of record. With its roots in Material Requirements Planning (MRP) it has long been used in leading manufacturers to uncover untapped efficiencies, reduce costs, and provide visibility to managers to aid in informed decision making. Over the ensuing years, ERP's benefits have spread to organizations of varying industries and sizes. While at one time there was a stigma that ERP was only for larger organizations, Aberdeen's research finds that 84% of organizations between 100 and 1,000 employees have already implemented ERP. These organizations are receiving significant improvements in cost containment and efficiency in operations. For example, Best-in-Class midmarket organizations have seen a direct reduction of 25% in operational costs as a result of their ERP implementation. This document is the result of primary research performed by Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen Group's methodologies provide for objective fact-based research and represent the best analysis available at the time of publication. Unless otherwise noted, the entire contents of this publication are copyrighted by Aberdeen Group, Inc. and may not be reproduced, distributed, archived, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent by Aberdeen Group, Inc.
4 Page 4 Of course, simply implementing ERP is not the answer by itself. There are benefits to be achieved by extending and enhancing ERP capabilities through integration with other applications, such as business analytics, and external sources of data. At the same time, for those organizations that have yet to implement, such a transformative solution can be a daunting task. Both situations can benefit from the enhanced capabilities that service providers can offer. The proof is in the results, midmarket organizations that have implemented ERP and utilize a service organization are seeing an average 14% reduction in operating costs as a result of ERP compared to 5% for those that are not employing a support organization. This helps to maximize the ROI on ERP investments. Based on research from two recent Aberdeen surveys, this report can serve as a guide to midmarket organizations on the reasons to implement ERP along with the benefits and capabilities those organizations can expect to receive. It will then illustrate the best strategies for: selecting ERP creating an evolving ERP strategy utilizing third-party services during and after implementation taking an integrated approach to ERP These steps provide midmarket organizations with a road map for future growth.
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7 Page 7 The Environment Facing the Midmarket According to Aberdeen's ERP benchmark survey of 174 midmarket organizations worldwide, today's market contains a variety of pressures. These pressures are causing these organizations to consider the systems they have in place and the way they conduct their business on a day to day basis (Figure1). Figure 1: Pressures Driving ERP Strategies Must reduce costs We need to be easier to do business with Need to manage growth expectations Interoperability issues across multiple locations Must improve customer response time 18% 18% 35% 31% 40% 0% 25% 50% Percentage of Respondents, n = 174 Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012
8 Page 8 1. Top of mind for organizations of this size is the need to reduce costs. Many midmarket organizations are in a growth phase. As such, they are experiencing the side-effect of increasing operational costs. As the organization takes on more resources and enters new markets, it must find a way to keep costs from spiraling out of control. 2. Additionally, growing organizations must contain costs in order to use available funds for increased investment. Managing growth expectations is difficult as the organization outgrows its original operational structure. There is a danger of losing the organizational identity as employees become more spread out across geographic locations and decision-makers are removed from direct access to daily operations. Thus, visibility is hindered and best-practice standards are not retained throughout the organization. 3. At the same time, as organizations become more complex, they have further difficulty interacting with both customers and the extended enterprise. Thirty-five percent (35%) of midmarket organizations feel that they need to be easier to do business with. Difficulty in communicating with the extended enterprise hinders the organization's ability to factor data from suppliers, resellers, and customers into plans, budgets, and forecasts. 4. Additionally, midmarket organizations have indicated a need to improve customer response time. Inattention to customer service has an effect on customer satisfaction, and ultimately customer retention and profits.
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10 Page 10 This group of pressures has influenced midmarket organizations to enact strategies to further help them conduct business on a more professional level and grow. In order to maintain organizational identity and enforce best practices, 68% of Best-in-Class organizations are standardizing business processes (Figure 2). Forty-one percent (41%) are providing visibility across functions and departments. These actions allow those at the top of the organizational structure to continue to make informed decisions and maintain employee consistency. Figure 2: Strategic Actions of the Best-in-Class Standardize business processes Streamline and accelerate processes 68% 59% 65% 62% Provide visibility across functions and departments Optimize the use of current capacity Integrate disparate applications 23% 24% 17% 41% 42% 38% Best-in-Class All Others 0% 25% 50% 75% Percentage of Respondents, n = 174 Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012 In alignment with the top pressure of increasing costs, Best-in-Class organizations are more likely to streamline processes and optimize the use of current capacity. The ultimate goal of these actions is to keep the organization's costs in check and increase profit margins. This is done even though costs may be increasing dramatically. Optimizing capacity allows the organization to continue to operate on a larger stage while it continues to acquire more resources.
11 Page 11 Of course, as organizations continue to grow, they will realize that they can no longer operate as they have in the past. Applications such as accounting tools or spreadsheets that may have been sufficient in the past can lack the functionality that is needed for expanded operations. Best-in-Class organizations are more likely to integrate disparate applications. As an end-to-end business application, ERP and its extensions provides midmarket organizations with an opportunity to do just this. As such, 97% of Best-in-Class midmarket organizations have already implemented ERP (Figure 3), in comparison to 81% of all others (the Industry Average and Laggards combined). Still, even organizations that have already implemented ERP may not be deriving full value from it. The system may not be able to interact with other applications, employees may not be properly trained, the IT department may not be able to fully support the solution, or many other factors. An ERP implementation must continue to grow along with the organization through modification, extension, and continued support. The reasons for implementing or extending ERP will be listed later in this report, but first it is important to identify just what is needed for a successful ERP implementation. Figure 3: The Best-in-Class Favor ERP Percentage of Respondents, n = 174 Best-in-Class Industry Average Laggards 100% 97% 84% 77% 75% 50% Have Implemented ERP Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012
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14 Page 14 Intelligent System and Services Selection Successful ERP implementations begin with selection. Misguided selection criteria can cause an organization to implement a system that is not properly suited, causing the organization to not reach full Return on Investment (ROI). In the midmarket, it is not all about cost (Figure 4). Of course, cost is a consideration, but flexible options such as Software as a Service (SaaS) can help to make ERP affordable for smaller organizations (see sidebar, SaaS and Cloud ERP ). Aberdeen asked survey takers to rate ERP criteria on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being most significant and 1 being least. By taking the average rating for each selection criterion it is possible to determine which factors are being considered most highly by Best-in-Class organizations in comparison to all others (the Industry Average and Laggards combined). While the differences between these averages may seem small, it is possible to derive significant insight into the most important criteria to judge a potential ERP solution on over 174 responses. For Best-in-Class organizations, functionality and ease of use rank highest. Ensuring that potential ERP systems have the functionality needed to run the business is essential because if that functionality is not there, the organization will continue to conduct business in spite of ERP and employees will not fully integrate the system into the operational structure.
15 Page 15 Figure 4: ERP Selection Criteria Functionality Ease of use Ease and speed of implementation Total cost of ownership Quality and availability of technical support Integration technology and capabilities Best-in-Class All Others Ranking on Scale of 1 to 5, n = 174 Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012 Additionally, Best-in-Class organizations recognize the importance of ease of use. What good is an ERP implementation if employees can't actually use it? Only through proper training and employee "buy-in" will employees look to ERP as a daily part of their job function. Of course, all this needs to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible, without causing disruption to the business. Aberdeen's ERP Implementation and Training: A Guide to Getting Your Business in Gear report explored the methods, such as integrating employee feedback from training into the project plan, that can help to facilitate this process. This should continue to be a factor after implementation. As time goes on, continued commitment to ERP training is important. Best-in-Class organizations are 133% more likely than all others to have an ERP onboarding process to train new users efficiently.
16 Page 16 Also, Best-in-Class organizations are more heavily favoring ERP systems with integration technology and capabilities. Of course, there may be some legacy systems that need to be retained. As an end-to-end system of record, ERP needs to be able to interact with these applications. Additionally, there are extensions of ERP such as Business Intelligence (BI) that must be integrated effectively.
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18 Page 18 Lastly, Best-in-Class organizations are considering the quality and availability of technical support. Support can come in many forms, whether it's from the software vendor or another third party. Aberdeen's ERP Selection, Implementation, and Training survey of 79 midmarket organizations found that Leaders are 34% more likely than Followers to have third-party support during the implementation process (Figure 5). Further, 87% of Leaders are using services in some capacity compared to 77% of Followers. This means that even after ERP has already been selected, it is never too late to enter into a relationship with a service organization. Since ERP will be a continuing source of value to the organization, it can be beneficial to enlist a firm with ERP knowledge to help achieve the maximum possible benefits of that solution. Figure 5: Leading Midmarket Organizations Use Services Percentage of Respondents, n = 79 70% 35% 0% Leaders 59% Followers 44% Third-party support during the ERP implementation process Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012
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20 Page 20 Services can add benefits to an ERP system in many ways. Leading midmarket organizations are more likely than followers to enhance their ERP solutions with the knowledge that service organizations can provide. This can come in the form of software customization, system implementation and configuration, system integration, or in ongoing support (Figure 6). For growing midmarket organizations, these services can take the strain off of the IT organization and other individual employees to allow the organization to take advantage of ERP. At the same time this can minimize any negative impacts that a substantial business transformation like ERP can inflict. When substantial changes to the business happen, such as the addition of new product lines, subsidiaries, processes, or regulatory requirements, service firms can be brought on board to ease the process. Figure 6: How Leaders Use Services Software customization 52% System implementation and configuration 43% System integration 39% Ongoing support 39% Leaders 0% 35% 70% Percentage of Respondents, n = 79 Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012
21 Page 21 Of course, if an organization chooses to supplement its ERP strategy with an investment in services, the organization must provide equal consideration in the necessary selection criteria for a services provider. There is one major differentiator in selection criteria for services between leaders and followers. Leaders are much more likely to consider their service provider's relationship with their ERP vendor (Figure 7). Who better to consult on best practices than an organization with experience in getting the most out of selected systems? Unsurprisingly, followers are much more focused on the cost of services. It is not wise to simply select the cheapest services because the services selected may not be sufficient to support the ERP software and the needs of the organization. The result could be a waste of money. Figure 7: Service Selection Criteria Local support Leaders Followers 57% 52% Relationship to vendor Cost of services 39% 35% 52% 58% 0% 35% 70% Percentage of Respondents, n = 79 Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012
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23 Page 23 One may be led to believe that adding additional investment on top of the ERP software itself would cause the organization to take longer to receive ROI. The data suggests that this is not the case. The results of including third-party support into an ERP strategy are impressive for midmarket organizations (Table 1). Those organizations that are using services are reaching ROI more quickly, have shorter implementation times, and are containing costs and project scope creep more effectively. Thus, the organization receives the benefits of ERP more quickly, minimizes the implementation's disruption to operations during the implementation process, and propels the organization towards future growth. If ERP has already been implemented, data presented later in this document will illustrate how employing a service organization will produce bigger benefits derived from ERP. Table 1: The Result of Third-party Support Result Services No Services Months until ROI Months from installation to first "go live" Percentage of pre-defined budget spent on 109% 121% implementation Percentage of time project completed beyond original timeline 12% 13% Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012
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25 Page 25 Integrating Business Intelligence and ERP A major factor in the success of an ERP strategy is making effective use out of the data contained in ERP. In today's 24x7 business world it is becoming increasingly important to be able to take actionable insight from available data to make agile, informed decisions. In the midmarket, this ability could be the difference between becoming a leader in the industry, or an also-ran. BI or analytical tools can be used in conjunction with ERP to provide business users with the tools they need to make quick decisions. Aberdeen's 2011 ERP benchmark survey, found that the Best-in-Class are 54% more likely than all others to be using BI or analytical tools (Figure 8). The result is quicker decisions (see Fast Facts). Figure 8: ERP and Business Intelligence Percentage of Respondents, n = % 30% 0% Best-in-Class Industry Average Laggards 54% 40% 27% ERP and Business Intelligence or analytical tools Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012
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27 Page 27 Of course, it is absolutely essential that the data being used in BI is the same as the data contained in ERP (and vice versa). Multiple data sources can cause redundancies and inconsistencies. BI, or any extension of ERP such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), must be integrated effectively. This integration can be handled in-house, or by hiring a service organization to handle integration and expansion. Best-in-Class organizations are more likely than all others to enable their employees to perform process that span different applications without consciously switching between those applications (Figure 9). This must be seamless and transparent. Employees then have one place to go for all of their data needs. They are now more likely to seek data out on their own and factor it in to all decisions. Figure 9: A One-stop Shop for Decision-making Percentage of Respondents, n = % 75% 50% Best-in-Class Industry Average Laggards 84% 75% 53% Processes that may span different applications can be completed without consciously switching between multiple applications 90% 71% 62% Data appears to be shared across applications seamlessly and transparently Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012
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29 Page 29 ERP Enhances Capabilities Best-in-Class midmarket organizations are using ERP to enable capabilities that help them to execute strategies that compact market pressures. First, ERP helps to implement standards across the enterprise (Figure 10). Again, as organizations grow, there is the potential of losing track of the best practices that have helped the organization to achieve success in the past. Both back and front office processes can benefit from standardization. For example, internal standards can help to facilitate financial reconciliation and promote efficiencies and cost savings in the corporate office. Additionally, standardizing order management and delivery can ensure that customers are receiving consistent interactions. ERP can be a communication and interaction point for these best practices. For organizations that are unsure of the best ways to conduct business, many ERP solutions contain best practice templates.
30 Page 30 Figure 10: ERP Promotes Standardization Percentage of Respondents, n = % 75% 50% 91% 75% Standardized enterprise-wide procedures for procurement, cash collection, and financial reconciliation Best-in-Class 78% 60% Standardized procedures for order management and delivery / fulfillment All Others 72% 52% Standardized enterprise-wide procedures for production planning and execution Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012 Next, ERP can help to promote collaboration across the organization. First, Bestin-Class organizations are 61% more likely than all others to feature crossfunctional continuous improvement teams (Figure 11). These teams are used to increase collaboration across the organization and drive further improvements and growth. From a visibility standpoint ERP is also being utilized to foster communication throughout the organization. Disparate business units can greatly affect one-another, so it is important for individual functions to be aware of what is going on in other parts of the organization. For example, Best-in-Class organizations are 75% more likely than all others to coordinate manufacturing organizations with customer service, logistics, and delivery. This ensures that manufacturing is in sync with the customer facing part of the organization. This results in consistent quality and superior demand assessment.
31 Page 31 Figure 11: Organization-wide Collaboration Percentage of Respondents, n = % 55% 20% 40% Best-in-Class Sales and product development collaborate to set proper expectations with customers 61% All Others 37% 38% Cross-functional continuous improvement teams are responsible for improving operational performance 84% 48% Manufacturing operations are integrated and coordinated with customer service, logistics, and delivery organization Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012
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33 Page 33 Further, ERP aids decision-makers with the visibility into daily operations that they need as they become further detached from individual employees and processes. This begins with the fact that the Best-in-Class is over twice as likely as all others to be able to drilldown from summary data into individual transactions (Figure 12). Even those that are not at the very top of the organization can benefit from the visibility that ERP provides. Best-in-Class organizations are 189% more likely than all others to provide a fully integrated view of all customer information to any member of the sales or marketing team. This facilitates customer interactions and leads to customer satisfaction. Figure 12: Real-time Visibility Percentage of Respondents, n = % 70% 50% 30% 10% 82% 40% From summary data, decision-makers can drill down to individual transactions Best-in-Class 69% 33% Real time visibility into status of all processes 61% All Others 55% 21% 19% Ability to automatically notify decision makers when certain conditions occur A fully integrated view of all customer information available to any sales and marketing person Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012
34 Page 34 Of course, this data is limited in value if it is old or inaccurate. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Best-in-Class midmarket organizations have real time visibility into the status of all processes. As an extension of this, these organizations are almost three times as likely as all others to provide decision-makers with automatic notifications when certain conditions occur. These employees are now armed with the most up-to-date information. They can then react immediately to mitigate adverse events or take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself. For example, an alert can be set to signify when manufacturing of a certain product is going to be delayed or hindered because of a manufacturing malfunction. Suddenly, fewer products will be available to customers, later than expected. Alerts greatly affect the organization's ability to adjust plans, budgets, and forecasts, and enable smart investments. How does ERP enable these capabilities? The technology needs to be in place (Figure 13): First, 83% of the Best-in-Class have integrated business applications that serve as a complete and auditable system of record. This provides visibility across geographic boundaries, helps to foster collaboration, and promotes standards. In order to ensure decision-makers have the most up-to-date information in a 24x7 business world, Best-in-Class organizations are providing them with triggers and alerts that prompt them to adjust strategies. As an extension of the above point, there has been an increase in the amount of midmarket organizations that are providing access to ERP through mobile devices. When applying analytical tools on top of this realtime data, decision-makers are aided with a powerful tool to guide their business.
35 Page 35 Figure 13: Technology Makes it Happen Percentage of Respondents, n = % 60% 30% 0% 83% 65% 35% Integrated business applications serve as a complete and auditable system of record Best-in-Class Industry Average Laggards 30% 18% 10% Users have access to ERP from mobile devices 55% 31% 20% Event Management (Triggers & Alerts) Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012
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37 Page 37 The Benefits of ERP When combined with ERP, these actions and capabilities offer substantial improvements to the business. Even Laggards see benefits in inventory turns, operating costs, administrative costs, complete and on-time delivery, and inventory holding costs from their ERP implementation (Table 2). Of course, by employing third-party support, these results are only enhanced. By taking an integrated approach to ERP, midmarket organizations are setting the stage for future growth. Table 2: Direct Benefits of ERP Benefit as a Result of ERP Improvement in inventory turns Reduction in operational costs Reduction in administrative costs Best-in-Class Industry Average Laggards 60% 29% 19% 25% 12% 8% 23% 13% 10% Reduction in inventory 17% 10% 12% Improvement in complete and on-time delivery 20% 14% 13% Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012
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40 Page 40 Recommendations and Key Takeaways By combining ERP and support services with the actions, capabilities, and technologies outlined in this report, top performing midmarket companies are finding a continuing source of efficiency, productivity and operational improvements, resulting in quantifiable cost savings, schedule improvements, reduced cycle times and increased inventory accuracy. Of course, it is never as simple as stating, "implement ERP." Additionally, ERP alone is not the complete answer. The following recommendations serve as a guideline for effective ERP selection, implementation, integration, and ongoing usage as well as the importance of continuing service support: Choose wisely. Successful ERP implementation begins with selection. Ensure that the selected includes the functionality necessary to continue to run the business. Additionally, employees must be able to pick up and use the system in order to receive full benefits. For top organizations, it is not all about cost savings. Consider services, but do it for the right reasons. Leading organizations are 34% more likely than followers to utilize third-party support during the ERP implementation process. Beyond implementation, services offer an opportunity to continually add to the value of ERP. While the most important selection criterion for leaders is local support, the biggest differentiator is the service organization's relationship with the vendor. If the services organization has close experience with the ERP vendor's solutions, the service organization is better able to support that solution. Once again, it is not all about cost.
41 Page 41 Take an integrated approach to ERP. ERP, along with its extensions, is designed to be a complete and auditable system of record for organizations to run their business. Sometimes, the extent of data contained in ERP can be daunting. Best-in-Class organizations are more likely to be utilizing BI and integrating it seamlessly with ERP to devise insight from ERP data. Implement standards. As an organization grows, it sometimes becomes more difficult to maintain organizational consistency. Geographically dispersed business units should be utilizing the same best practices that made the organization successful in the first place. Defined processes help to communicate these processes and help to promote a more cohesive organization. Promote collaboration. Additionally, collaboration is a major factor in the ability of the organization to continue to improve. Employees should not be working in a bubble. Access to collaboration tools will foster communication and increased unity. Provide real-time visibility. In constantly changing, volatile markets, it becomes increasingly important to stay agile. Providing real-time visibility, through mobile access, through event management, or through desktop access to ERP itself allows decision-makers to adjust plans, budgets, and forecasts and make informed investments.
42 Page 42 Commit to the implementation process. Midmarket organizations need to understand that in order to truly transform the business, ERP implementations require commitment. In 94% of Best-in-Class organizations, ERP has the continued commitment and attention of senior management throughout the implementation process and beyond. Additionally, 78% dedicate resources throughout the process. A key component of this capability is beyond. As businesses grow they are subject to a variety of changes. ERP should reflect those changes. Whether taking advantage of third-party support to continuously improve an ERP solution or not, it is important not to take ERP lightly. By combining these steps with a well thought out and evolving ERP strategy, midmarket organizations can continue to contain costs, communicate effectively, and improve to grow into more successful organizations. For more information on this or other research topics, please visit To take part in Aberdeen's 2012 ERP research, click here. ERP Implementation and Training: A Guide to Getting Your Business in Gear; April 2012 Turning Data Growth into Business Growth: ERP and BI in the SME; November 2011 Related Research ERP in SME 2011: Setting the Stage for Growth; September 2011 To ERP or Not to ERP: In Manufacturing, It Isn't Even a Question; February 2011 Author: Nick Castellina, Research Analyst, Enterprise Applications For more than two decades, Aberdeen's research has been helping corporations worldwide become Best-in-Class. Having benchmarked the performance of more than 644,000 companies, Aberdeen is uniquely positioned to provide organizations with the facts that matter the facts that enable companies to get ahead and drive results. That's why our research is relied on by more than 2.5 million readers in over 40 countries, 90% of the Fortune 1,000, and 93% of the Technology 500.
43 Page 43 As a Harte-Hanks Company, Aberdeen s research provides insight and analysis to the Harte-Hanks community of local, regional, national and international marketing executives. Combined, we help our customers leverage the power of insight to deliver innovative multichannel marketing programs that drive business-changing results. For additional information, visit Aberdeen or call (617) , or to learn more about Harte-Hanks, call (800) or go to This document is the result of primary research performed by Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen Group's methodologies provide for objective fact-based research and represent the best analysis available at the time of publication. Unless otherwise noted, the entire contents of this publication are copyrighted by Aberdeen Group, Inc. and may not be reproduced, distributed, archived, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent by Aberdeen Group, Inc.
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