Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are one of the most common forms of enterprise/business software. It is essentially a hub that combines all your business management into one online tool. It can include functions such as production management, order processing, business resources monitoring, CRM, payroll, inventory management, provides data on revenue, expenses, staff, clients, and much more. One of the most important questions of software development - is to build or to buy. We couldn't find something that worked for us off the shelf so we chose to build! Here's the start ...
Why did we need an ERP?
As a growing software development business, and with experience in management consulting firms, I was always of the firm belie that the success of the business would rely on a systemized approach to our business and its operations. Its one of the best things our custom software can offer our clients! So as we started to grow, we also looked to the tools we could use to get us there.
Some of the functions we knew we would need included:
- Client management - who were our clients and what was their status
- Project management - project numbering; pipelines; and statuses
- Task management - who was responsible for what; and when
- Timesheets - for review of budgets and billing of retainer hours
- Planning - a good way to plan and review the business from the top
- Documentation - a central way to find everything we needed about the business and share it with the team.
So we started looking!
Looking for an ERP System for a Software Business
We tried a range of alternatives; and looked at to how it could assist our business in doing our jobs better.
We started with the big names; right through to the obscure and dove right in to each - evaluating how it could assist with our day-to-day tasks and team.
The underlying findings can be sumarised as follows:
- Most of the systems met between 50-80% of our requirements - but none helped us to complete our solution end-to-end
- The missing gaps between the solutions often weren't "interoperable" - we had to manually transition or build a transition between the platforms
- Because we were using an off-the-shelf system, they were designed for a wide-audience; so each project took alot of configuration/customisation for our requirements - which was a steep learning curve
- While the systems provided reporting/documentation - there was little to no automation/smarts in the process.
So we had options of tools we could use. But most of these would assist out business - rather than drive it.
The decision to build our own
With this realisation, we started to look at the options to build our own. At each step of the way, there were a number of features that were not available online; but in our mind were not re-inventing the wheel. And it certainly helped that we provide the same solutions to our clients! So with that - we made the decision to build our own ERP system for Dcode Group (originally called Dcode Support - now called Kanopi).
When we decided to build this platform, we knew from the outset that the tool would evolve over time. So stage one of the development was really to get the framework in place and the right structures to enable the software to grown and develop over time. This is a similar process we recommend to our clients - build the based platform; then look to iterate and improve over time.
And with that, the syste commenced with basic Project Management; Task Management and Timesheet Management.
How's it going?
We've still got a while to go - and with every improvement, the team has a range of new ideas of features to include. But all in all, the system has been instrumental in helping our business grow.
It has allowed us to:
- Manage thousands of tasks in our system
- Respond and keep in touch with the team and external stakeholders
- Provide improved communication and explanation
- A knowledge base to help provide business systems and processes
- Engage directly with our customers - with a customer portal
- Improve Timesheet, Invoicing and Budgeting
- ... and much more
In essence - its has allowed us to do more with less and I highly recommend it.
Over the coming weeks we'll start talking more about the features and functions of the solution; and how they're helping to drive our business. I'll also start to share analogies of how similar systems built for clients are helping them too.
If you're interested in developing custom software for your business; contact us today!