Implementing new ERP software is both costly and disruptive, so it makes sense to minimize how often you need to put your organization through the effort. The best way to do that is to pick a scalable application capable of growing as your organization grows and its business processes evolve. It’s often called “future-proofing” — investing in a future-proof ERP software that matches the way you do business now and supports your growth trajectory and need for flexibility into the future.
We firmly believe in helping our clients futureproof their operations, but it seems the term means different things to different ERP vendors. We see confusion surrounding the future-proofing term and the noble goals behind it causing companies to spend far more time and money on their ERP than they need to. So, how should you go about choosing a future-proof ERP and financial management software for your business?
Best-of-breed or all-in-one
You can’t have a conversation about a future-proof ERP without talking about the two camps. On one side are applications typically considered best-of-breed — Sage Intacct is the best example. Best-of-breed ERP and financial management applications boast robust core functionality and loop in third-party best-in-class (i.e., the best solutions for each functional area of the company) applications to provide ancillary or vertical functionality that is not contained in the core application. Conversely, all-in-one monolithic ERP product suites claim to have all the functionality you need under one roof. Oracle NetSuite is one example of a solution that touts its all-in-one functionality.
The truth is the line between these two camps is blurring. Best-of-breed applications continue to bolster their core offerings and all-in-one applications embrace third-party vendors when their core functionality is weak (think a mile wide and an inch deep). Rather than take sides in that debate, we prefer to side with our clients and prospects and recommend the solution(s) that best meet that organization’s needs, whether it’s a solution we offer or not.
When suite turns sour
Some vendors in the all-in-one camp compete by playing the “future-proof” card. “We’ve got a CRM module and you have customers, right?” they say. Or “We’ve got an HR module and you have employees, right?” Many of these vendors live and die by the checklists ERP shoppers frequently carry. “We’ve got that” is their mantra. What they don’t reveal is that in many cases, that ancillary functionality is barebones, designed to check the box, not to solve your unique business challenges.
Best-of-breed vendors like Sage Intacct can legitimately say “we’ve got that” too, thanks to the abundance of third-party applications available on the Sage Intacct Marketplace (or any third-party application with an open API). With direct integrations (i.e., via API) covering functionality from AP automation, expense reporting, HCM and Payroll, timesheets, CRM, eCommerce, EDI, to point of sale, the Marketplace turns Sage Intacct into a comprehensive — dare we say — suite of a solution.
Rather than focus on a shopper’s guide checklist, we encourage companies to consider the functionality they need and invest in the solution that most closely aligns with that functionality. Too often, we hear about companies that bought the all-in-one suite because it checked more boxes — but those boxes represented functionality the company paid for, but never used. In fact, many ultimately added best-in-class solutions to solve a problem.
Which way to turn
Savvy ERP shoppers are best served by building a high-performance ERP platform that includes rock-solid accounting and financial features surrounded by deep, horizontal and vertical components crafted by vendors wholly focused on that function. More often than not, the functionality available with these solutions goes far and above anything available within off-the-shelf Oracle NetSuite.
Another benefit of best-of-breed is potentially lower costs and a more rapid ROI. With a best-of-breed approach, you have more control over the cost since you decide which modules you license. With an all-in-one solution, the cost includes a suite of modules, some of which you may not need – now or ever. This doesn’t necessarily mean a best-of-breed, future-proof ERP application will cost you less than an all-in-one ERP application, it simply means you’ll have more say in how and where you spend your money.
An expert in everything?
The brutal truth is that no matter how well-funded and committed an ERP vendor is, they cannot be experts in every area. All-in-one vendors must dilute development in one area to bolster development in another. Best-in-class vendors, on the other hand, can devote all available resources to core, critical functionality and loop in third-party vendors similarly committed to their functional areas.
Honesty is the best policy
We said above that our commitment to customer success leads us to decline to bid on some projects that come our way. Case in point: if a prospect manufactures goods, we’ll refer them to one of our NetSuite or Dynamics 365 Business Central colleagues. NetSuite has native manufacturing functionality that Sage Intacct (at this time) can’t match. However, Sage Intacct continues to enhance the solution through development and alliance partnerships, so if you ask us again in a year or so, we may deny we ever said this!
At BT Partners, we believe in helping our client futureproof their operations. We do it by carefully understanding our clients’ current operations and their future goals and recommending a future-proof ERP solution that will seamlessly grow and scale with them. For most of the prospects we meet, that solution is a best-of breed solution like Sage Intacct, often combined with vetted third-party vendors we know and trust. Best-of-breed is simply that. The best of everything in an integrated, scalable, powerful financial and operations management platform ready for the now — and for the inevitable changes the future holds.