If you’re in the market for a complete end to end ERP system, would like something based in the cloud to avoid replacing aging servers and want to keep your total investment under £1M over 5 years per 100 licenced users then take a look at SalesForce.com ERP.
Originally a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system the ‘Force’ platform has been extended by enabling selected partners to build apps and integrate them to both SalesForce.com CRM and each other. Such is the rate of development of this over the last five years that it is now possible to implement a full SalesForce.com ERP solution from Opportunity to Contract, through Contract to Cash even Asset Management and Depreciation.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems have for a long time been the preserve of large blue chip organisations who have invested millions on products like SAP. At an entry level Filemaker offers similar capability for the initial Opportunity to Contract stages although relies on integration to other finance packages such as Sage Pay for core accounting? The middle ground has up until recently been fairly poorly represented and it’s taken both cloud and app developments to come together on a scale not seen before in the business software space to bring about this new approach.
FinancialForce provides a core finance system that stands up to audit and as we found with our SalesForce ERP client; the pressure that is month and year end accounting. With minimal changes the package can be installed, along with the integration keys required, configured and then historical data migrated from legacy systems. As with any implementation of this size and scale separate sandboxes enable sufficient testing and training to be completed prior to exposing the business to a new system. In fact in the feedback session we ran after going live the only real criticism we received from the business was that we should have provided better user documentation, a project shortfall, but at the end of the day users found the system easy and intuitive to use and the missing documentation became more a nice to have, something to refer to, testament indeed.
Ascent provide a goods receipting and stock management capability and yes once again with minimal changes the package can be installed, along with the integration keys required, and configured before migrating ‘cleansed’ legacy system data. Changing stock systems provides a very good opportunity to count and adjust stock ensuring a clean start. In our case most time was spent developing Purchase Order templates using a separate forms package, Conga. The rest was refreshingly easy to do and overall all the apps we installed were very similar in concept to the apps you save onto your Smart Phone. Just download and play, although with SalesForce.com ERP apps the downloading is done for you. That doesn’t mean any lack of capability either, with multi-layer Bill of Material structures and automatic journal entries via the FinancialForce integration this is a highly credible end to end business system.
AccountAbility is a small company who have developed an Assets Management app, and with backing from FinancialForce integrated it directly with the finance package. Therefore if you want to track assets in terms of their location and value whilst depreciating them over time, this is an app that could work for you. Not just in simple business models either, we proved this app’s capability in a complex multi-currency, multi-company, multi-country scenario and with different depreciation rules set for different asset types.
Needless to say at this stage of evolution we didn’t get everything we asked for, there were various discussions around what would be developed and what might be deemed a customisation paid for by the client. It is therefore the case here, as with many software implementations, that there were some issues along the way. For instance SalesForce.com ERP partners are still learning how to work with each other, as well as what to offer on the development route map versus what is a customisation for individual clients. This given the relative newness of the whole approach is to be expected and will work out over time. Equally the risks associated with it are quite often mitigated by relatively low investments, with customisations being completed for just a few thousand pounds.
Bigger players, such as FinancialForce, are also stepping up with development route maps changing to accommodate clients where it is deemed something that might add value elsewhere. A degree of tolerance is definitely required around when functionality will be provided, because if there is something specific you’re looking for that is not available or on the development route-map, then wait a few weeks and ask again. We did and it worked.
Arguably the ‘Force’ platform’s greatest strength is also its major weakness when starting out. Roles, profiles and permissions enable two people to view and edit different fields on the same screen. A feature that allows really tight business object and screen development to create a simple to use slick system. The challenge is getting your head around setting them up in the first place; it really is best left to experts before handing over to standard IT Support who can easily assign new starts afterwards. We never seemed to get the client 100% self-sufficient on this and constantly had to buy in expertise to tweak what had been set up.
Overall SalesForce.com ERP offers genuine capability with all the bonuses a cloud based app development environment can bring. Clients may have to be a little patient when it comes to specific functionality if missing, but with huge flexibility on the development route-map that wait may not be for very long. Highly Recommended.
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