Separate your Output from your ERP

Why separating your output from your ERP makes a lot of sense

Over the course of the last 30 years, we have been so fortunate to help thousands of customers and there are one question customers often ask us “why should we use Output Management when we have similar capabilities in our ERP”?

There are some generic and some customer-specific answers to that question but we overall always recommend customers to separate output from their ERP(s).

Most ERPs today do have some kind of capability enabling them to deliver standard output. We, for instance, are working with more than 10 ERP vendors because they could not keep up with market requirements. Because of new technologies, digitalization and globalization this will just increase even more in the years to come. Even the vendors have seen the writing on the wall.

So let me try to answer why customers should use output management and not build up output in the ERP.

New ERP

The output functionality of your ERP is designed to handle THAT ERP’s output requirements. Several ERPs even have version dependent output! Exactly for that reason, we recommend you to separate output from the ERP. This way you avoid having to redo or change your output when upgrading.

Reports show that companies in average change ERP every 7-10 years, some “experts” recommend doing it sooner, the reality is that some customers stay with the same ERP much longer. Because it does the job and changing is very expensive. Some are changing ERP because the old one no longer cut it, corporate decision, diversification, Cloud, lack of know-how, others simply stay with the old one as long as it is supported and there are many other reasons.

Regardless of the reason when the time comes, the project part of having to redo all your ERP-specific forms, labels, emails, PDFs, etc. is challenging. To many, they don’t even know or remember why things are as they are. Headaches like – identifying what documents are being used, why they look as they do, customer/supplier modifications, dependencies, etc….. Just documenting these things can be very time consuming and sometimes even impossible. Resulting in a go-live where you have to firefight issues related to undocumented scenarios.

Customers coming to us today have from 10 to several hundreds of designs. Working with InterForm we normally reduce such a number, but imagine having to pay an ERP consultant to redo everything! Not to forget that most of the ERP consultants we know don’t fancy creating reports/output at all. Things you don’t like you are normally not good at…….

Not to forget all the testing that you then have to do afterward making sure all outputs, workflow routines, printers, etc. are as you want them. That is easily weeks of work that you subscribe to “every time” you change your ERP.

New landscape

The next argument is that your ERP is designed to manage its own data when it comes to output. The trend for some years now has been to keep a standard core supported by a number of best of breed applications completing the overall business requirements. Output Management is the best of the breed and by including that in your infrastructure you will be able to compose exactly the output you need.

Cloud

If you are considering upgrading to a cloud-based ERP remember to discuss how printing is managed with your vendor. You will soon learn that this is an area where there is a lack of expertise.

You can argue if you decided to use Output management when you were On-Premise why would change that when you step into the cloud? You would not and you should not. Printing from the cloud is a far more complex process stressing the importance of having a tool that is agile and designed to handle the output.

Output channels & localization

ERPs are designed to accommodate the most common requirements when it comes to output formats. E.g. providing any output as PDF having drivers processing it for printing. A quick way to provide very limited output capabilities.

There are however many more formats being used depending on what market and industry you serve. Functionalities like label printing, RFID printing, Barcodes, PDF/A, Electronic signing, XML, E-invoicing (ZUGFeRD 2.1, Peppol much more), FTP, Graphics and much more…

InterForm Output Management invests in making support for new formats and new industry requirements because that is what we do. Functionality your ERP vendor will not necessarily adopt in the pace that you require.

Standards and regulations

In order to optimize supply chains, industry standards are introduced for optimizing customer and supplier collaboration. A full set up of guidelines for working together including a description of how documents like labels, shipping documents, invoices, etc. should look like.

Designing and maintaining industry templates including customer variants is very hard and time-consuming. In most cases when changing ERP you stay within the same line of business, therefore it makes a lot of sense to have all your content separated so you don’t have to build all of it again.

Our recommendation is that as soon as you have changes to the ERP standard output you should activate an output management tool.

WHY? Because such change is important for your company and if you apply that in your ERP, this logic stays with the ERP and is only available as long you stay with it.

No programming

With InterForm Output management, you get a tool that does not require any programming. With a WYSIWYG design tool, you are able to edit or create new designs on your own without involving any programmer! Designs are updated with just a few clicks or by dragging your data to a new position – simple and easy.

This is all in contrast to how most ERP consultants have to spend a lot of time coding document designs and uploading changes before they can see the result. Taking a lot of time and costs a lot of money. This is all despite that most solutions provide standard output capabilities!

By having your output separated from the ERP, the way you design output will remain identical no matter what ERP that you are using and your output and all the know-how stays with you also when you change ERP!

Peter

Hey there, thank you for reading my posts. I write about output management. In fact, I have done it for 15 years and I love it. With that said, I like to share what I learn. Through the years I have had many roles - presales, sales, marketing, and today I am now CEO and owner of InterForm with the same learning mentality. I am very interested in topics involving new trends, what is going on out there, and how we can help customers solve challenges. My true passion is helping and inspiring customers. I like to be inspired by others so please reach out to me if you have something to share. Peter