Managing Multiple ERP Systems: Benefits and Challenges

Last Updated: September 22nd, 2023
Researched and Written by: Sydney Hoffman

Integrating multiple ERP software aligns different systems into a unified framework. This integration tackles challenges arising from disparate infrastructures, streamlining business operations. Benefits of ERP consolidation include:

  • Unified data view
  • Cost efficiency
  • Streamlined processes
  • Simplified IT
  • Enhanced collaboration

Understanding Single vs. Multiple ERP Systems

ERP software aids businesses in managing and integrating their core processes. From accounting to customer service, ERP ensures that departments have a synchronized view of data.

Regarding the single ERP vs. multiple ERP approach, the choice depends on the organization’s needs. A single ERP system provides a cohesive and centralized platform, making it easier to oversee operations. Companies often prefer this for its simplicity and holistic view.

However, as businesses grow and diversify, they may use multiple ERPs to meet the demands of various departments or regional offices. While having specialized ERPs might offer initial advantages, we recommend consolidating them for several reasons:

  • Unified Data View: A unified data view provides a single source of truth. This centralization eliminates misaligned inventory numbers, inconsistent customer details, or financial data variances. For instance, a sales department and a warehouse might have different inventory numbers for the same product due to separate systems; consolidating into one ERP resolves such conflicts.
  • Cost Efficiency: Maintaining a single system lowers costs related to licensing, training, support, and updates. For instance, training employees on one system rather than multiple platforms saves time and resources.
  • Streamlined Processes: A consolidated ERP removes overlapping or duplicated processes, like double data entry or multiple stages of approval, that might exist in disjointed systems. This streamlining reduces task duration and manual errors, ultimately boosting overall productivity.
  • Simplified IT Infrastructure: With fewer systems, there’s a reduced need for diverse server environments, network configurations, or backup protocols. A simplified infrastructure is easier to manage and monitor, minimizing potential IT issues.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: A unified system means all departments access the same data and tools. This common platform promotes clearer communication and faster decision-making. For example, a marketing team can collaborate with the finance team on budgeting without data translation between systems.

Integrating ERP systems, whether starting from multiple platforms or aiming to maintain a single, consolidated system, remains critical for ensuring seamless communication and data flow between departments.

Benefits of Multiple ERP Systems

Multiple ERP systems offer benefits that cater to organizational needs and challenges:

  • Specialization: Different industries have distinct needs. Using specialized ERP systems tailored for specific sectors ensures businesses get the most out of their platforms. Specialized ERP systems might cater specifically to sectors like manufacturing, with features for production scheduling, or the retail industry with detailed inventory management tools.
  • Flexibility: With multiple ERPs, companies can easily adapt to changes in their environment or industry without overhauling their entire system. If a finance team needs to update its module, it doesn’t disrupt the sales or HR modules in separate ERPs.
  • Regional Compliance: Companies operating in various regions may deploy ERPs that comply with local regulations. Local regulations might dictate data handling, taxation, or employee rights for global companies. Having multiple ERPs ensures that a European branch, for example, complies with GDPR.
  • Scalability: Multiple ERPs provide the capacity to add new modules or departments without overwhelming the existing framework. For instance, if an apparel manufacturer decides to venture into high-tech electronics, the processes, regulations, and intricacies involved in electronics manufacturing might be so distinct that a dedicated ERP or module makes sense.
  • Streamlined Mergers and Acquisitions: With multiple ERPs, companies can more quickly integrate newly acquired businesses, allowing them to gradually maintain their existing systems and merge data.

Challenges of Multiple ERP Systems

However, while multiple ERPs can be advantageous, they also present certain drawbacks:

  • Complexity: Multiple systems often lead to fragmented user interfaces, diverse reporting tools, or different data formats, making it challenging for employees to transition between systems.
  • Higher Costs: Each ERP system has its associated costs. When using several, these expenses can accumulate. The cumulative licensing fees, periodic upgrades, support contracts, and training sessions for each ERP can escalate overall costs.
  • Data Disparity: Data inconsistencies between systems might arise without proper integration. Different ERPs might record data differently. One system may store customer phone numbers in a different format than another, leading to potential confusion or miscommunication.
  • Maintenance Challenges: Keeping multiple ERPs updated and functional can strain the IT department, diverting resources from other crucial tasks. Multiple ERPs require diverse support strategies, backup schedules, and security measures.
  • Audit Challenges: With data spread across platforms, auditing becomes intricate, taking more time to cross-reference and verify information. Each ERP might have its unique set of controls and user permissions. Assessing the efficacy of these controls across multiple systems complicates the auditing process.
  • Inconsistent Customer Service: Differing ERPs might lead to inconsistent customer interactions. If sales and customer service departments access different data, it might result in divergent information relayed to the customer.
  • Reduced Transparency: Data silos in separate ERPs can obstruct a clear view of the organization’s overall performance, making it challenging to devise comprehensive strategies or spot trends.

Integrating ERP systems is a strategic move that capitalizes on the benefits while minimizing potential challenges. We recommend companies consolidate their ERPs to ensure streamlined operations and drive success more effectively.

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