Zambian businesses produce large amounts of data such as financial records, dealings with customers and suppliers and staff details. Without the right management systems in place, it’s very difficult to use the information to the advantage of the business.
We spoke to Mupota Muchelemba about what different options there are when it comes to software solutions, as well as the pros and cons associated with them in Zambia.
To integrate all aspects of a company’s operation many business owners engage a technology consulting company to help them implement Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. ERP refers to the software that companies use to manage information from all parts of the business. ERP software typically stores that information in one database, making all business units run in sync.
Benefits and Drawbacks to ERP Software
The biggest benefit is the visibility and integration it gives business owners of their operations. By keeping data from all parts of a company in one database, business owners are able to quickly identify areas of strength, as well as detect inefficiencies before they reach a critical stage.
Good ERP software helps businesses cut back on duplication of data entry and allows for improved workflow, ultimately boosting the company’s profits. When used correctly, the software provides a good platform for making strategic decisions and really improving relationships with customers, suppliers and industry regulators.
The biggest downside to implementing ERP software is the cost. It costs less than ZMW100, 000 for a small company but for large complex businesses it can stagger well into millions of Kwacha.
“From a cost perspective alone ERP appears expensive, and gets more costly if the people involved in the project do not approach it with the importance it deserves” said Mupota Muchelemba of Cirotech Software Solutions in Lusaka.
“The budget of the project has three components: software licenses, consulting and IT infrastructure upgrades. Keep in mind that consulting includes many things that are important in this kind of project like user training, customizations, change management and integrations”.
Other expenses include the cost of maintaining the software, making sure it is running at optimum performance and adapting it to the changing needs of the business over time.
“If you look at only the cost,” says Mupota “it will seem like a lot to pay for software but if you consider the improved revenue and customer service, productivity of staff and automations then that’s where it begins to make business sense.”
Selecting ERP Software
In order to implement ERP software, businesses first must find the solution that makes the most sense for them. There are many software providers in Zambia, with some specializing in services for large, midsize or small businesses. Some of the better ERP systems available include SAP Business One, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics, Syspro and Netsuite.
“As a rule, never settle for the first system you see. The reason is that you will hopefully use this system for the next twenty years so you must be absolutely certain that you select the right solution and the right consulting partner to help you make best use of it”, says Mupota.
Cirotech Software Solutions is one such technology company that helps businesses make the essential leap. “At Cirotech we sell and implement SAP Business One which is a single integrated ERP system used by over 40,000 small and mid-sized companies worldwide – some of those are right here in Zambia”.
Is this something you’re willing to invest in for your business? Have you already got a software system in place? How well does it work? Let us know in the comments section.