In a new data-centric and digitally connected business world, enterprise resource planning or ERP has a lot of promise. Business leaders and planners can use ERP automation for various important efficiencies and business process improvements.
But not all ERP system architectures are the same. The best ERP automation solutions involve taking some tasks and workloads and making them accessible to data governance rules, which will take a lot of manual labor and human effort out of the equation.
Here are five types of automation that can save a business a lot of work after implementation. Think about all these benefits of automating and ERP functionalities when you're pondering the benefits of automating with ERP system functionality.
#1 - The ERP System: Workloads
Many types of workloads can be automated using ERP solutions.
One of the best ways to start is by visualizing workflow and approval processes. That may involve using a flowchart or other tools. Auditors can look at how business processes move through various steps and procedures that combine effectively. Then, with attention to common outcomes and workload contingencies, the business can put ERP system automation in place and enjoy the benefits of automating.
In this type of process, regular auditing also helps. More evaluation of workloads will show where this automation can make the most difference and how to integrate it into existing procedures.
It's also important to remember that in most business processes and automation solutions, all workloads are not created equal. Part of the evaluating work is to determine which workloads are most sensitive and which are most amenable to automation.
As with the discipline of data security, workloads can be individually assessed as candidates for ERP system automation according to variables such as their position in the architecture or how they work with cloud or on-premises systems for automation solutions.
Experts talk about a system being close to a "desired state," and this type of analysis of ERP functionalities can be good for workload automation, too.
The bottom line is that ERP systems can be tied into tools that help with more precise automation of individual tasks.
Some of this type of work is related to the benefits of automating deals with the eventual storage structure for workload data. There is managing data in transit, and then there's the task of managing data in storage or archives. Looking at a whole network-compute-store model and a full stack, those responsible for workload efficiency can apply ERP in the right ways.
#2 - ERP Functionalities: Financial Forecasting and Planning
Another place where ERP system automation can help a lot is with budgeting and financial forecasting.
The ability to predict costs is not something that comes easily for most businesses, and there's uncertainty in developing predictive budget plans.
With that in mind, storing approvals in budget planning software can help a lot. ERP system automation can include automatically putting estimates into budget workbooks. Planners can use the following types of estimation:
- Percentage estimates
- Statistical averages
- Fixed ballpark amounts
Having an approval task tied to a specific amount of money helps with predictive forecasting. Many businesses with these ERP functionalities also include an identity and access management component — they customize people's account permissions according to what they need to do in the system. That ensures that the right stakeholders have access to the financial data they need to help with forecasting and budgeting moving forward, and that they take advantage of the benefits of automating.
#3 - Tracking Expenses
Here's another labor-intensive process for many businesses.
Someone must be responsible for tracking all employee and staff expenses, and approving or denying expense reports with items like meals, travel, and other more irregular types of expenses.
This process is often satirized on television, partly because it has to do with human nature — people trying to expense various things to an employer, and the reviewing HR department trying to limit expense approval. One example is denying the purchase of expensive hats or antique cars as legitimate business expenses.
But here's another place where ERP automation can shine. One of the benefits of automating is that, rather than having a completely iterative manual review of expenses, establishing rules for data governance takes some pressure off of human review staff. Automation solutions can help.
Tools for ERP functionalities can automatically decline anything over a certain threshold, and port the expense data into a visual accounting module. This way, human evaluators can more easily see and understand it. That principle of “digestibility” is a key part of modern ERP system options that add transparency to business. When you can see things better, you can use them better. Software designers think about that as they develop products.
Then there's the access component of financial tracking, where reviewers can approve or deny expenses via a mobile device. This “anywhere review,” built on the principle of responsive design, is a big plus for many HR departments. From BYOD (bring your own device) to the promise of a mobile dashboard, this capability is re-inventing business in a big way.
This helps with a particular type of issue related to expense tracking and approval — that's the timeframe in which this process gets done. ERP automation makes more of this review and approval happen in real-time, with real-time data.
Otherwise, what happens is that staff may get bogged down in reviewing old expense data. They may review expenses from previous work cycles while employees are out generating new expenses. That delay leads to inefficiency and burnout.
Having the expense data in real-time ensures easy, effective resolution for expense tracking processes.
#4 - Automating Payments
Then there's another way that ERP automation and ERP functionalities help businesses: in their accounts payable departments.
Apart from employee expenses, there are all those other payments, such as vendor and supplier payments, that need to happen efficiently and promptly.
One of the main aspects of this type of automation solution is contractor processing. Businesses doling out tax documents may be dealing with a wide spectrum of vendors, contractors, suppliers and other outside parties, including consultants. Anyone who sells goods or services in a non-employee context may need documents generated. Most executives are not unfamiliar with the painstaking process of trying to get everything done by tax time. This can be a significant bottleneck, and some painful logistical challenges often apply.
Here again, the visualization and imaging of payments makes them easy to resolve and easier to tabulate.
Moreover, the ERP solution often involves changing the siloing (or rather, de-siloing) of data — moving business financial data to where it can get the most use in the most effective role in automation.
Another way to think about it is that getting the payments made quickly keeps the inbox and outbox clear. The business can run more smoothly, and not suffer from payment bottlenecks.
#5 - Data Visualization and Reporting
From payroll to product development to accounts payable and invoicing, ERP automation does a lot of the heavy lifting that helps businesses streamline processes and become more agile. Experts often talk about data as business intelligence, and having that business intelligence in visual form does many positive things for a company or department.
For example, having a higher-level or “birds-eye” view of business finance data helps leaders chart a better path forward for a business. The combination of forecasting, estimates, and CAPEX and OPEX makes everything clearer, for more proactive administration and efficiency-seeking.
Automating processes like these with ERP can have profound benefits for companies. This type of innovation can help you move to a paperless system and manage fraud or data breach concerns. It can streamline the ongoing process of approvals. In addition, as mentioned above, it can help with buy-in for various types of expenses and payments. It can also help with compliance.
All these automation solutions can be a real boon for your business. Request your Multiview Financials ERP demo today to get more out of ERP and super-charge your business accounting processes with the power of automation. You’ll see how this type of upgrade empowers a business to do more each day.