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Ever since the early 1990s, Fortune 500 companies across the world have been on the ERP bandwagon. With millions of dollars required to implement and well-publicized coverage of ERP failures, many wonder if ERP is worth the cost and risk to small businesses.

The topic of small businesses and ERP has been of interest to me, especially lately. Approximately 75% of our new clients and prospects interested in having us conduct an ERP assessment and vendor selection are companies with annual revenues under $100 million. In fact, one of our recent contract signings for this type of work is for a company with annual revenue of $15 million. Ten years ago, this type of small business interest in ERP was very uncommon.

The key things driving small businesses to ERP seems to be 1) growth of the small business sector, and 2) more focus on the small business market from ERP software vendors. Most of our small business clients are considering or implementing ERP because of their rapid growth and the corresponding strain it puts on their legacy systems. In addition, large ERP vendors that typically focused solely on the Fortune 500 market are now developing lower-cost solutions with more appropriate functionality for smaller businesses.

A third and final possible reason is because many niche ERP players have entered the marketplace to provide functional solutions for specific industries. Open technologies such as .net have reduced barriers to entry into the ERP market, so many smaller, industry-specific niche players are able to fill the voids left by the big ERP comapnies at a lower cost.

Although this increasing focus on small business is good for companies with limited capital budgets, it also poses additional risks. Now, there are more choices than ever, and some vendors’ products are much more proven than others. So small businesses should be especially thorough when evaluating and selecting an ERP package. They should engage in a vendor selection process that ensures they choose a solid software package that provides a strong ROI to the company.

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