Enterprise resource planning

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Enterprise resource planning (ERP) support may refer to several business operations. One type is in the form of an outside company providing staff support for each aspect of ERP hosting, and another may refer to the software and computer networks that house and execute ERP programs.

For an organization implementing a new ERP system is always a major consideration. Even with a mature, installed ERP, support is still critical throughout its lifecycle. In addition to the expected internal IT support, companies necessarily rely on support from the supplier for fixes, updates and enhancements and may also rely on other resources for other kinds of ERP support.

The first line of support usually comes from the software supplier. The supplier will provide bug fixes, periodic releases and enhancements, and call-in or online support for an annual fee that averages between 18% and 22% of the cost of the software license.

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For those products that are sold through third-party affiliates (also referred to as Value-Added Resellers or VARs), that local affiliate is the first-line of support, backed up by the supplier itself. Affiliates are contractually allied with the supplier and are paid to represent the supplier, sometimes in a given geographic area or focus industry. The affiliate will usually offer a package that includes the software, installation and implementation support, data conversion and user training. Usually, the affiliate is available after implementation for continuing support as needed with consultants and programmers.

Some companies choose the option of outsourcing ERP support, in addition to the support available from the supplier and/or its affiliates. A number of companies offer expertise and experience with specific software products and their use in various industries. Some are associated with large firms including hardware companies (IBM, HP), or accounting and advisory firms. Some are independent local or regional technology support organizations.

Whoever you are considering for ERP support, biographies/resumes of the people who will be working directly with your company should be reviewed and the people interviewed before signing the contract. Be aware that larger support organizations may insist on the flexibility to substitute other consultants, so be sure to include an approval clause.

When planning your need for ERP support, staffing ratios and other rules of thumb might be helpful, but it really comes down to the amount of in-house support there is and how reliant you will be on outside support. Take full advantage of the support available from the software supplier and its affiliates, but also consider some independent advice and support from non-affiliated consultants and industry experts that can help you see beyond the specific features, functions, and capabilities built into the ERP software that you are considering or have selected.