Employee collaboration is critical for any successful business operation. If personnel cannot communicate in a timely and effective manner then productivity will be negatively impacted. Having a workforce that is operating in harmony is especially critical for firms using enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools, which are highly functional applications that are essential to a number of businesses and industry verticals.

An ITWeb and New Era Solutions survey found that 95 percent of companies believe "best of breed" organizations are defined by the performance capabilities of their ERP solutions.

Stuart Scanlon, sales and marketing director at New Era, asserted that an ERP implementation is one of the most "disruptive" deployment types. Firms sometimes opt for platforms that offer the path riddled with the least risk instead of making sound decisions.

"Best in class companies perform better as they are able to make more informed decisions based on accurate data. An illustrative example of this would be four people, each representing their different business units, traveling in one vehicle. Their direct communication would enable them to make better, and quicker, decisions as opposed to four people traveling in different vehicles," Scanlon said.

The challenges with ERP tools
It is clear that collaboration is critical for any successful ERP deployment, but this is not the only issue highlighted by Scanlon, who explained that the challenges with ERP can be broken down to the technology itself, the people using it and the process behind the software.

"Each of these elements is interdependent and often it is when one of these factors are out of kilter that the other two are thrown into flux. This is largely one of the key reasons that organizations make uninformed decisions to throw out systems," Scanlon added.

Businesses that want to promote a truly collaborative ERP system should consider adopting a cloud-based environment that opens new possibilities for employee communication. This is because the cloud is available via the Internet, allowing personnel to access corporate applications and documents anywhere at any time, giving new meaning to worker productivity, especially those who are always traveling or at job sites.

The cloud is an especially attractive technology for small businesses that can now finally benefit from integrating ERP suites into daily operations. This is possible thanks to the cloud's affordability. Rather than purchasing expensive solutions that require an upfront capital investment – even if they are never used to full capacity – firms using the cloud only pay for the services they consume, so resources are never wasted by companies that are focused on expansion and efficiency.

Companies that want this level of collaboration for their ERP systems should conduct thorough research on potential vendors to find the right fit for their operations and respective industries. The popularity of the technology has attracted many service providers to throw their hat into the ring in efforts to gain market share in this space. Although this may result in more competitive pricing, it also means heavy saturation, making it difficult for organizations to find the most reputable option.

That is why vendor selection is one of the most important yet often overlooked aspects of an ERP implementation. Firms should not jump at the chance to adopt the least expensive software, but the most functional. Businesses that follow this advice from the start will be in a position to excel from day one, rather than customizing the system to meet new demands or worse – going back to the drawing board in a year or two by replacing the entire solution.