When shopping for ERP software, you have to know what features vendors are offering and which ones your company will need. There are countless online articles listing the must-have modules, but what they can’t tell you is what everyone is actually buying. So we took some measures to find out.
We conducted a survey over the last year, pulling information from conversations with our ERP buyers. We received results from over 650 buyers about their challenges and past vendor failures. But our main goal was to find out which ERP software features were most important to buyers when shopping for an ERP.
We’ll go into greater analysis for each feature but here’s a quick overview:
- Most buyers need tools to manage parts of the supply chain, but few need end-to-end management.
- ERP buyers care about their finances more than other software buyers.
- Buyers don’t care about holding onto existing systems, except when it comes to accounting.
Accounting was by far the most requested feature for ERP buyers. Over 92 percent of respondents indicated they would like to see some accounting functions in their next ERP. Accounting’s position as the number one identified feature doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
However, the overwhelming number of respondents is still significant. In our marketing automation survey, the top feature was identified by less than half of those surveyed. In our HR survey, while everyone was open to the top feature, only 61 percent had actively named it as a preference. So we know ERP buyers are in higher agreement on their number one feature than other software buyers. The high percentage also tells us that ERP buyers care more about managing their budgets than other software buyers.
Just under 8 percent of buyers who did not consider accounting a key feature. Several responses within this group mentioned they were happy with their current accounting software and would like to integrate it into an ERP in the future.
However, there were a handful of responses where the buyer, although happy with their current accounting software, still considered accounting an important feature. One of these respondents mentioned her current system works for accounting, but not for inventory and shipping. If her opinions are similar to those of other buyers, it would seem they are willing to switch accounting tools if it means increased capability elsewhere.
Inventory, while not as highly sought after as accounting, still raked in large numbers with 62 percent of respondents. Interestingly, of all the respondents who didn’t mention inventory as a key feature, not a single one mentioned keeping their standalone system (the way many did for accounting).
This feature was third most requested at 43 percent. Of the respondents who identified manufacturing, over 40 percent of them went further and identified materials requirements planning as a need. Additionally, 49 percent of them identified a manufacturing execution system as something they would like to have.
Finally, 22 percent of those who needed manufacturing capacity specifically mentioned needing a Bill of Materials (BOM) as well. Interestingly, 3.5 percent of respondents across the entire survey wanted a BOM feature but didn’t mention desiring any other manufacturing components.
Customer Relationship Management
This was an interesting topic for a couple reasons. While it was listed as a key feature by buyers 38 percent of the time, it was concurrently referred to as a “nice-to-have” quite often. And less than one percent of buyers specifically mentioned wanting to integrate their current CRM into their next ERP. With this, we can conclude CRM is a lower priority, even for the buyers who identified it.
When anyone elaborated on their need for a CRM, they typically discussed automated marketing and lead tracking. One respondent said he needed an ERP with a CRM module because it took too much time to enter a customer’s information into each of his disconnected software systems.
An HR module was the fifth most requested feature at 26 percent. Most respondents just listed “HR” but a handful mentioned capabilities like recruiting, payroll, employee training and self-service portals. See our recent survey on HR for more in-depth results.
Just under 24 percent of respondents named warehousing as a key feature. Most respondents left it at that but a few elaborated for us. Only 3.6 percent of all respondents named “pick, pack and ship” as a feature the would like to see and 3.3 percent said they wanted traceability.
Overall, 20 percent of those surveyed wanted at least some BI capabilities.
Of those, 83 percent identified reporting as a key feature. But less than 20 percent actually used the terms “BI” or “analytics.”
But we know from our BI survey the primary function buyers want from BI is analytics. The low response rate from ERP buyers is probably due to the fact many buyers mistakenly use the terms above interchangeably.
Other Top Features
Distribution was a requested module 14.4 percent of the time. When coding the data, we considered condensing inventory, warehousing and distribution all as supply chain management. But keeping the data separate says more. Only 10.6 percent of respondents identified supply chain specifically. And few requested all three components concurrently. Not as many buyers were looking for end-to-end supply chain management as we thought.
Other notably requested features included barcoding at 7.6 percent, project management at 6.4 percent and mobile capabilities at 5.6 percent.
What It All Means
The empirical data lines up almost perfectly with what are considered to be the core components of an ERP. This is good and means vendors are offering the solutions buyers are looking for in the coming year. This data also emphasizes the need for ERP vendors to be flexible in their offerings. It’s clear there is a market of buyers who don’t need each module but are still looking for their functions to be highly integrated.
We also saw that the only existing systems buyers mentioned integrating were accounting and CRM. However, CRM integration was very seldom mentioned. So with the exception of accounting, it doesn’t seem as if any buyers have found a product to which they’re absolutely devoted. This is important to consider during your own software selection. While some popular products dominate their market, a large portion of their customers may very well jump ship when the next best system comes along. Don’t stop looking for the next best product simply because you know what the popular choices are.
To see which ERP solutions offer the features you’re looking for, check out our ERP Leaderboard. We rate the top systems and offer an in-depth comparison of their features. If still unsure, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 877-692-2896 so we can help you find the ERP of your dreams.