Best ERP Software & Systems for 2021

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms have long been the backbone of the large enterprise. Back in the nineties, it was common to hear horror stories of years-long implementations, lawsuits, and a general lack of results. Nevertheless, the implementation process began to simplify over time. In particular, cloud-based ERP made these platforms more accessible to small and midsize enterprises. Today, the best ERP software and systems are central to the enterprise application space. 

Key Features 

ERP suites vary heavily in their emphasis, intended market, and functions. Even so, certain functions are key to most. These include:  

  • Integration: The tentacles of ERP extend from top management to the factory floor. The ability to integrate easily is key. 
  • Automation: The ideal ERP solution needs to facilitate reporting, interaction, alerting, and data transfer automatically or on schedules.
  • Data Analysis: Most ERP tools include some form of analytics, but some are more basic than others. 
  • Reporting: Flexible, infinitely customizable reporting is an essential feature for top management, financial managers, and compliance. 
  • CRM: Many customer relationship management (CRM) tools remain free-standing apps or platforms. However, most ERP vendors now include CRM as part of their suite. 
  • Accounting: One of the most vital functions for any ERP is dealing accurately with the money: ledgers, financial records, and more. 
  • HR: Human Resource Management should integrate well into any ERP suite. 

Where is HRIS headed in 2021? HRIS Trends for 2021: The Future of HR Management

Product Selection Tips 

ERP projects are notorious for their complexity. Unquestionably, a wrong buying decision results in integration and implementation phases that last months — with only minimal business benefit. Therefore, rigorous selection is vital. 

Here are some key tips:

  1. Favor ERP solutions with a proven track record in your own industry. Vendor promises to “figure out your industry” can easily run aground. As a result, the best ERP software often come with customized features that closely match existing processes.
  2. Ensure your potential ERP solution easily integrates with existing platforms, operating systems, and business applications. If you already have a successful customer relationship management (CRM) application, and an ERP vendor says you need to switch if you use them, then strike that vendor off the list. 

  3. Clearly define the functional areas you wish to improve and the business goals you wish to attain. The initial urge may be to seek one system to rule them all. Resist that urge and focus your evaluation of ERP options on mission-critical needs. Significantly, most ERP platforms allow additional integrations as your needs grow.
  4. Skip the buzzwords like artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT). These features are often nice to have, but they’re typically not mission critical.
  5. Don’t treat ERP the same as the roll out of a small SaaS application. From system specification to ongoing support, experienced project management is essential. In general, ERP implementation requires its own team with members that may have to stay on the project for months, if not years. 

Top Vendors 

CIO Insight considered many different ERP applications. Given that, here are our top picks in no particular order: 

SAP S/4HANA

Value Proposition

SAP logoSAP S/4HANA Cloud is an ERP system with built-in intelligence, including AI, machine learning, and advanced analytics. Its aim is to help transform business processes with intelligent automation built for the cloud. Above all, this ERP platform runs on SAP HANA. Its in-memory database offers real-time processing speeds and a simplified data model.

Key Differentiators

  • The big one is HANA, which SAP has been working on for more than a decade. 
  • Solutions tailored to many different vertical markets and industries, including best practices and customized functions. 
  • Available in public/private cloud, hybrid, and on-premise deployments.
  • Embedded AI, analytics, and intelligent process automation.
  • Consumer-grade user interface.
  • Processes that support monetizing subscription-based business models.
  • Universal parallel accounting allows companies to prepare and present financial statements according to different sets of accounting standards.
  • Bot environment technology services with SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation 2.0. 

Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP

Value Proposition: 

ORACLE ERP logo

Oracle Fusion Cloud Enterprise Resource Planning offers a set of enterprise finance and operations capabilities. Further, Oracle is directed towards touchless operations, continuous forecasting, and an enhanced user experience. Machine learning and artificial intelligence investments in each update are designed to enable CFOs and their finance teams to shift from an operational to a more strategic mindset. 

Key Differentiators:

  • Oracle Cloud ERP is delivered as a service, which allows the company to ship hundreds of new features to its 7,700+ customers every quarter. 
  • Recent innovations include Intelligent Account Combination Defaulting, Intelligent Performance Management, and additional digital assistants — including an expanded collaboration platform with Microsoft Teams.
  • Native integration to the broader Oracle Fusion Cloud Applications Suite, which includes SaaS applications for supply chain, human resources, and customer experience. 
  • Embedded analytics and reporting. 
  • Industry-focused solutions.  
  • Oracle and its partners offer tools to determine the financial advantages of a cloud ERP project. 

Infor

Value Proposition:

Infor logoInfor offers industry-specific ERPs and Industry CloudSuites to manage end-to-end processes for enterprises seeking digital solutions. To that end, functionality for each industry (including best practices for operational workflows) is built-in, eliminating the need for modifications. 

Key Differentiators:

  • Infor Cloud ERP solutions are deployed using Amazon Web Services (AWS).
  • Infor LN is the enterprise ERP for discrete manufacturers in asset-intensive or mission-critical industries like automotive, aerospace, high tech, industrial, engineering, and construction. 
  • Aimed at service-based organizations, Infor Financials & Supply Management is tailored for healthcare, public sector, and financial or professional services. 
  • Infor M3 is for process and distribution industries such as chemical, distribution, equipment, fashion, and food and beverage companies. 
  • The company also provides SMB cloud ERPs: SyteLine, Sun Systems, and SX.e
  • Industry-aligned analytical content is embedded, including pre-built reports, dashboards, KPIs, and more. 
  • Standards-based security, risk, and failover management, attack prevention, and processes. 
  • Preconfigured industry Implementation Accelerators.  

IFS Cloud 

Value proposition:

IFS logoIFS Cloud is a single product that delivers solutions across ERP, service management, and enterprise asset management. Moreover, IFS Cloud combines industry and functional strength with intelligent and autonomous capabilities whether it’s deployed in the cloud or in-house. 

Key Differentiators: 

  • Used in browsers on Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android devices.
  • Configurable dashboards provide a view of the information tailored to individual needs. 
  • Native mobile apps are available for field service, maintenance, warehouse data collection, CRM, time and expense reporting, approvals, and more.
  • Chat bot to perform everyday tasks using conversational voice or text. 
  • The acquisition of Axios Systems IT Service Management (ITSM) capabilities extends IFS Cloud into Enterprise Service Management.

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Value proposition:

Microsoft Dynamics 365 logo

Microsoft Dynamics 365 unifies CRM and ERP capabilities along with purpose-built applications that help manage specific business functions. Additionally, Dynamics 365 simplifies the licensing of business applications with the primary licensing method by subscription.

Key Differentiators: 

  • Optimized for midsize businesses with core business needs. 
  • Helps organizations integrate their financials, sales, purchasing, inventory, projects, services, and operations. 
  • Cloud and on-premises deployments.
  • Via HoloLens, Dynamics 365 produces new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. 
  • Multiple users can access Dynamics 365 applications through a shared device login.
  • Multiple business applications are available at a reduced price. 

Acumatica 

Value proposition:

Acumatica logoAcumatica delivers flexibility, efficiency, and continuity of operations to small and midmarket organizations. In fact, the entire team can access the platform from anywhere at any time. Integrate collaboration tools, conferencing solutions, and business applications with the platform. It features high availability, frequent backups, and multiple data storage locations to protect against disasters.  

Key Differentiators: 

  • Acumatica’s pricing model offers flexible licensing and deployment options and is easily expanded for a growing organization. 
  • The Acumatica ERP system includes integrated functionality for accounting and financial management, CRM, distribution and manufacturing planning management, retail, e-commerce, and field service.
  • Core components operate in the background so users focus their attention on workflows, productivity, and business logic. 
  • Customizable to the way you do business. 
  • System functions manage administration and configuration settings such as security, multiple languages, and multi-tenancy, as well as integration with reporting, document management, user interfaces, and notifications. 
  • Create custom reports and dashboards. 
  • Automated workflows. 

Kinetic

Value proposition:

Epicor logo

Previously known as Epicor ERP, Kinetic is a cloud-based enterprise resource planning system that launched in June. Epicor has long specialized in manufacturing, therefore its new ERP software offers advanced project and production management features focused on the needs of end-to-end supply chain industries. By and large, Kinetic’s browser-based applications simplify global supply chain management processes and regulatory compliance alike.

Key Differentiators: 

  • This completely browser-based application is accessed from any device, offering the ability to manage contacts, leads, and customers from anywhere.
  • Application Studio allows companies to create layers and add or change components, rules, and events in a drag-and-drop, low/no-code environment.
  • Epicor EDI offers purpose-built API endpoints to support real-time connectivity and error messages.  
  • Manage territories, teams, and forecasts from one place.
  • Designed to meet the FDA software validation needs of medical device manufacturers, and supports CMMC regulations for aerospace and defense.

SYSPRO

Value proposition:

SYSPRO logoSYSPRO offers ERP software designed for manufacturers and distributors. It is deployed on-premise, in the cloud, or accessed via a mobile device. In particular, SYSPRO Enterprise Resource Planning is well suited to outbound distribution control activities, as well as inbound supply chain management.

Key Differentiators:

  • SYSPRO ERP includes modules for financials, warehouse, and inventory management. 
  • As well as the usual ERP functions, it includes CRM designed specifically for manufacturers and distributors. 
  • Spans the supply chain and all business operations.  
  • Decades of manufacturing experience provide a highly tailored application that integrates with MES and shop floor systems. 
Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb has been writing about IT and engineering for more than 25 years. Originally from Scotland, he now lives in Florida.

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