Enterprise resource planning (ERP) system maintenance is a lot like car maintenance.
There are things that users can do to make sure that things are running smoothly. Periodically, there are issues that should be brought to the attention of a professional. When something goes wrong, it should be addressed quickly to avoid the problem escalating down the line.
The performance of an ERP system affects cyber, financial and job security within a business. Just like how a first-time car owner needs to learn how to properly care for their vehicle, businesses need to know how to care for their ERP software.
Here are 7 things that every business should know when it comes to the maintenance of their ERP system.
1. Get familiar with your ERP
Start by educating yourself about the ERP software that your business uses.
Read the manuals provided, know the software house that developed it, research the business who implemented the system for you, and which other organizations use the system within your industry.
This way you’ll have an overall feel of where the ERP fits in the marketplace and how well it meets the needs of your business.
You will also learn about any limitations or related software, allowing you to understand the full spectrum of technologies available to you.
2. Assess your internal capabilities
Some businesses have ERP specialists within their IT department. Some do not. Get an idea of whether or not your in-house staff can handle the ERP maintenance duties.
If they can’t, find out whether it will be handled through a third-party consultant, or if your business will pay for an ERP vendor’s maintenance plan.
Many businesses find it beneficial to utilize a team of third-party experts who specialize in delivering solutions for their ERP system.
3. Weigh the financial options
Choosing how to handle ERP maintenance and who to utilize for those services is a decision that should not be taken lightly.
Businesses should weigh-up the benefits/drawbacks of an ERP vendor maintenance plan and see if it fits in to their general technology plans. More often than not, businesses find they can leverage better value and level of service from a third-party consultancy team, with many providing specialized support desk teams for a specific ERP system.
If you are unsure how to make the call, remember this: Your maintenance plan should mirror your general technology strategies. The financial decisions should stay in line with the pace that your IT department implements and supports system-wide changes. Don’t overestimate the speed at which your business is ready to move, and be careful not to saddle your IT department with more than they can handle.
4. Set the parameters of a service level agreement
Service level agreements (SLAs) are an important part of contracting for maintenance services. For a third-party service or direct maintenance by the vendor, you must insist on a clearly explained SLA policy.
An SLA typically defines various tiers of severity for when problems arise. The level of problem dictates how quickly your service provider will respond and how fast they will provide a solution to the problem.
For example, the most urgent problem may be defined as a complete system failure and contractually requires a response within 30 minutes of notification. A problem with less urgency, such as a minor system bug that doesn’t affect important systems and is not necessary to customer service, may be able to wait until the next scheduled service check. SLAs protect the maintenance service from being at a businesses’ beck and call, although it also protects businesses from ballooning charges for special attention.
Having clear urgency definitions will help remove confusion and frustration from your service interactions.
5. Plan your ERP life cycle
In order to reduce costs, your business should plan the usability of your ERP.
How long will you go before upgrades? What is the intended life cycle of the platform?
You should weigh-up the short-term and long-term costs of maintenance to decide when it’s best to upgrade or consider switching to a new platform.
Every five years the life cycle should be reevaluated so that maintenance purchases reflect the cycle you are on.
For example, if you decide to try a new platform, maintenance contracts can be reduced in service and time span in preparation for the change.
Maintain proper security measures by performing regular backups and system restorations.
Installing patches as soon as they arrive from the vendor will help your business from becoming a victim of cyber hacks and data breaches.
7. Systems review
When in doubt, call in the professionals.
A system review is a type of health check for ERP systems and should be done periodically to assess the functionality of the system and address any issues that could be slowing it down.
Updates or upgrades are evaluated, with your business gaining a clearer vision of the opportunities for improvement and the budget required.
By following these tips, you will keep your system in top functional shape. The board will be happy that you are staying within your software budget, and all of the staff will be on the same page with a clear roadmap for managing the businesses’ resources for years to come.