What an ERP Can (and Can’t) Do for Service Contractors
Grow your business, reach your goals and streamline processes.
Thin profit margins. Distributed workforces. Stiff competition. These are all challenges for companies in the janitorial and security industries. But, they aren’t insurmountable. Leveraging integrated, industry-specific technology can help. A holistic technology solution like an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system can provide improved operational efficiency, up-to-date and accurate information, and more in-depth insight for decision-makers. To successfully implement this type of solution and realize the benefits of it, though, you need to be realistic about what it can (and can’t) do for your business.
It CAN help you reach your organizational goals.
When an ERP aligns with your corporate goals, business needs, and is designed for your specific industry, it can provide a platform to achieve your strategic objectives and allow you to manage your business more efficiently. But, with so many ERPs to choose from, it’s necessary to consider how the technology aligns with your security business or commercial cleaning company from start to finish. That’s the key to finding the ERP that’s right for your business.
Your technology platform needs to line up with your corporate strategy and your specific business needs. This requires an in-depth look at how the ERP will help you provide more value to your customers and your bottom line, now and in the future. Consider whether the ERP will position you for growth, even allowing for growth without having to add more staff or resources. That’s key in industries with tight margins, like janitorial and security. It’s also important to have a software system that addresses the specific needs of your industry. For example, janitorial contractors need work and project scheduling features to effectively manage service agreements, customer expectations and resources. A contractor in the security industry must have industry-specific compliance tracking and flexible workforce scheduling to ensure qualified employees are where they need to be. All those functions should be integrated with the back-office components of the business for seamless operations management.
The long-term success of the ERP and the extent to which it can help you meet your business goals is contingent on buy-in from the C-suite through field-based cleaners and guards. Setting realistic expectations and getting employees onboard with the vision is necessary to successful implementation and future success. Whether they are decision makers who want complete business data or back office administrators who want features that make their day-to-day tasks easier, all employees must embrace the technology. If executives or other employees have unrealistic ideas of how technology will help them or how it works, they’ll be disappointed when high or misplaced expectations don’t match reality. And, consequently, these employees will be less likely to adopt the system to its fullest potential, making it harder to reach goals.
It CAN’T magically earn you more money.
An ERP is not a miracle cure-all. It takes time, money and preparation to successfully implement an ERP across a commercial cleaning or security guard business and see the results of your investment. It’s important to have practical expectations about the investment of time and dollars that goes into purchasing, implementing and maintaining holistic technology platform.
To get a return on your investment, you must – invest. Realizing ROI doesn’t happen overnight, either. In fact, in their 2018 ERP Report, Panorama Consulting cited that 50 percent (the majority) of survey respondents said it took three years to recoup the costs of their ERP, while 28 percent stated it took two years or less and 19 percent said it took more than four years. Investing in an ERP can be daunting simply because of the cost of the software and the time it takes to see that ROI. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead. To accurately budget for your investment, consider current and future costs. Look at licensing fees for your users. Determine the cost of implementation including things like training or technological infrastructure upgrades. Analyze the need for ongoing maintenance and the costs associated with that – IT employees, ongoing training and upgrades. Look at future customization. It’s possible you’ll want to evolve your ERP beyond the “out-of-the-box” features as your business needs and markets change.
Implementing an ERP is not just a monetary investment, it also requires a significant time investment. So, be sure to do it right the first time by being aware of the challenges and how to overcome them. According to Panorama Consulting, it takes 17.4 months, on average, to fully implement an ERP. That’s because an ERP covers nearly every aspect of your janitorial and security business, so it requires significant setup and training. You may also have to adjust your current business processes so they fit more closely with how your technology functions. A software partner focused on your specific industry can help facilitate the transition and necessary change management through expertise and best practices, optimizing the implementation process.
It CAN bring a lot of value to your business.
Investing in an ERP, particularly one that’s designed for your industry, is worth it in the long run because of the many ways it can add value to your business. And, the benefits of an organization-wide technology platform can come a lot sooner than the ROI. In that same 2018 ERP Report, Panorama Consulting stated that 40 percent of respondents had realized benefits from their ERP within 12 months with an additional 37 percent realizing benefits within 13-18 months. Respondents mentioned multiple benefits, including the availability of information, increased interaction and integration, improved data reliability, improved productivity and efficiency, better informed decision-making, improved lead time and inventory levels, and controls for compliance.
An ERP provides value through these benefits. You get enhanced efficiency by automating processes and providing a seamless flow of the latest data. This eliminates manual data entry and the errors and rework that could result and frees you up to spend more time on high-value activities. You can also achieve a more in-depth perspective on your whole business. With the holistic view that comes from an integrated solution, you can drill-down on costs, giving you better insight and more control over margins.
It CAN’T serve you well if you don’t evolve the technology.
The most successful businesses must change to fit market or customer needs and maintain steady growth. You must evolve your technology platform to accommodate that, otherwise, it simply won’t help propel your business forward. And, in the competitive landscape for service contractors, you can’t afford to miss opportunities to win business, achieve efficiency or scale operations.
Once you’ve moved past the initial implementation phase, it’s important to evaluate how you can better leverage your technology to be successful. Consider moving beyond the basics and implementing other parts of the ERP. If you’ve only set up the core business processes like human resources or accounting, you may need to implement features like automated timekeeping, business intelligence or self-service features. You may have also reached the point where you need to go beyond the “out-of-the-box” features and use third-party integrations. For example, you may need applicant management tracking, guard touring, contract management, sales tax processing or a learning management system to help you run your business more effectively. With ongoing maintenance and improvement, you can better leverage your ERP to further drive your business.
Although an industry-specific ERP doesn’t have magical powers, it can provide your cleaning or security business a platform for your continued success. By setting realistic expectations and realigning your business to work with your technology, you will get a return on your investment, and then some. But it’s not magic and it won’t happen overnight. It’s a combination of foresight, practicality, change management and good planning. Implementing a holistic technology platform is a long-term investment, but it comes with a powerful payoff.