ERP systems (enterprise resource planning) can be defined as integrated information systems, acquired in the form of a commercial software package, with the purpose of giving support to the majority of the operations of a company. Are generally divided into modules that communicate and update a central database so that information fed in a module are instantly available to other modules that depend on them. ERP systems allow the use of planning tools that can analyze the impact of manufacturing decisions, supplies, finance or human resources across the enterprise.
Although the concepts used in ERP systems can be used by companies who want to develop applications internally, the term ERP refers essentially to packages purchased. Examples of ERP systems on the market would be the R3, the German SAP, Baan IV, Baan, the Dutch American’s OneWorld JD Edwards, Oracle Financials from the American Oracle, EMS and the Magnus of Brazilian Datasul and Logocenter, Brazilian Logix.
The ERP systems have a number of features that taken as a whole clearly distinguish them from internally developed systems in companies and other types of commercial packages. These characteristics are important for the analysis of the potential benefits and difficulties related to its use and with the relevant aspects to the success of its implementation, are:
• ERP systems are commercial software packages;
• ERP systems are developed from standard models of processes;
• ERP systems are integrated;
• ERP systems have great functional breadth;
• ERP systems use a corporate database;
• ERP systems require adjustment procedures.
The basic idea of using commercial packages is to solve two of the major problems that occur in the construction of traditional methods of systems analysis and programming: non-compliance with deadlines and budgets.
Various alternatives have been used to try to solve this problem, such as the use of new methodologies of development, prototyping, the use of CASE tools (Computer-Aided Software Engineering) and the languages and object-oriented methodologies that aim to go permit re-use of software components. Between these alternatives is also the use of commercial software packages.
Business processes used in ERP systems, can be defined as a set of interdependent tasks and procedures performed to achieve a certain result. The development of a new product, the service of a request of a customer, or the purchase of materials are examples of processes.
Like other commercial packages, ERP systems are not developed for specific customers, looking for generic requirements of the largest possible number of companies, to explore the gain on its development. Therefore, so that they can be constructed is required to incorporate business processes models, obtained through the experience accumulated by the suppliers in implementation processes, repeated or elaborated by research and consulting companies in benchmarking processes.
The term best practices is used widely by vendors of ERP systems and consultants to designate these default templates, but it takes some care as to its real meaning as each company can still use a custom template for a standard process.
Despite this careful definition of the term, it is important to highlight the fact that ERP systems provide a “catalogue” of business processes created from an extensive research and experimentation. Access to this catalogue can in itself be interesting for companies. Often are included in this catalog processes and functions that were part of the development plans of the company, and that, for some reason, had not been implemented. The adoption of an ERP system then becomes an opportunity for these processes are actually incorporated into the company’s systems.
Finally, the ERP systems work, they are built as a single enterprise system that meets the various departments of the company, as opposed to a set of systems that meet separately to each of them. Among the possibilities offered by ERP systems integration are the common information sharing between the various modules so that each piece of information is fed into the system only once, and cross-checking of information between different parts of the system. An example is the verification of incoming invoices, receiving, comparing them with the data of purchase orders and ensuring receipt only with correct quantities and prices. Another possibility is the instant delivery of information, so they are fed into the system, for all modules that use.
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