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Get the Promise of ERP without the Limitations

by Mark Schmidt

Posted on May 16, 2018 at 9:00 PM


Agility and speed are among the crucial characteristics shared by successful enterprises in today’s highly competitive business world. Outdated business systems can be one of the largest impediments to achieving the agility and speed necessary for success. Old, ineffective business applications can stifle a business and keep it from reaching its full potential. Just one outdated system can bog down an entire operation and hinder its success.

This Executive Brief reviews the benefits of business process automation (BPA) and enterprise resource planning (ERP), shares the limitations of ERP, and presents an alternative from Direct Focus Software that, for some businesses, will be more effective and less expensive than ERP.

ERP provides organizations with the ability to deliver an integrated suite of business applications. ERP tools share a common process and data model, and help organizations track and process information across all departments and business functions, from inventory procurement, to production, to sales and beyond.

Common ERP functionality includes:

Over the past 20 years, ERP systems have grown in popularity and have been deployed in thousands of organizations. On balance, the consensus from most ERP customers is that ERP is a valuable tool for business productivity. But the experience of many ERP customers has exposed some notable limitations and frustrations related to the deployment, ongoing support, and day-to-day use of ERP systems.

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The Primary Benefits of ERP Solutions

What are the primary benefits ERP users hope to gain when they invest in ERP?

Improved productivity and efficiency

A study by IDG Global Research1 found that companies with more usable data experience a 15 percent increase in efficiency. In a highly competitive global economy, an effective and properly deployed ERP system can indeed deliver a productivity boost and a competitive edge.

Better availability of information

A study by IDG Global Research found that companies with better business intelligence are four times more likely to optimize their inventory levels. The benefits of having access to quality information are well known. An ERP system offers a centralized location for data, with a standardized format, where employees can obtain information. An ERP system can improve the quality of accessing, processing, and sharing information across the business.

A single source for data

Most readers of this document know firsthand the challenges and pitfalls of trying to reconcile data and information when employees get it from multiple sources. An ERP system offers a centralized single location for inputting, storing, and accessing all of the company’s data, so everyone is getting the same information from a single source.

Standardization of processes

Standardization enables organizations to implement best practices. Everyone using an ERP system will be processing information in the same format.

Limitations of ERP Systems

As mentioned earlier, the limitations of ERP systems have also come to light as more applications have been deployed. These limitations include:

Cost and budget overruns

ERP deployments tend to come at a significant price, and the business benefits often take a while to be realized. ERP systems for small and mid-sized firms can run at least $250,000. Large enterprises can spend more than $1 million on an ERP system.

Time to deploy an ERP system

According to recent studies, the average time it takes to deploy an ERP system is 21 months. Such a timeframe means a new ERP deployment is almost two years from delivering business results and ROI. During those two years, the customer’s capital is tied up and the business is often disrupted. Panorama Consulting Group found that 60 percent of ERP projects are not completed on schedule.

Additional expenses for IT staff, training, and support

One of the areas businesses often overlook when investing in an ERP system is the need to invest in additional IT expertise and the need for new user training.

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“Over the past 20 years, ERP systems have grown in popularity and have been deployed in thousands of organizations.”

Changing business processes to fit an ERP system

Imagine an organization being forced to give up one of its competitive advantages in order to adopt a “best practices” way of doing things developed by its ERP vendor. This can, and does, happen.

Potential ROI is not fully realized

A study conducted by Panorama Consulting Solutions in 2016 found that 50 percent of ERP deployments failed to realize half of the desired ROI.3 The study found that a lack of training and change management were responsible. It’s human nature to resist change. Without getting user acceptance and buy in, ERP deployments will experience resistance and suffer from the lack of user enthusiasm. Don’t overlook budgeting time and funds for user training.

Paying for unused features and functionality

Anyone who has purchased off-the-shelf software has experienced the frustration of excess capacity and functionality. With an ERP system the problems associated with this phenomenon are amplified. Customers are paying for excess functionality they don’t need and are not using. Excess capacity can introduce complexity and slow down the system. Users find themselves navigating through non-relevant features or needing to disable or attempt to hide functionality they do not use.

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An ERP Alternative: The Direct Focus Approach

In today’s fast-paced, competitive, data-driven world, having a scalable ERP-type platform—one that can quickly add application pieces or live in the cloud—is becoming essential. ERP-type systems make it easier to track the workflow across various departments. They reduce the operational costs involved in manually tracking and often duplicating data using individual and disparate systems.

With years of ERP deployment experience, the team at Direct Focus Software has observed firsthand the limitations of ERP. It used this experience to develop an ERP alternative with the goal of unleashing the promise of ERP and eliminating the limitations.

DF-Sphere is a comprehensive system and rapid development platform. Thanks to the power of its innovative object data interpretation (ODI) technology, DF-Sphere can enable business software solutions that are flexible, customizable, adaptable, and best fit the client’s business environment.

DF-Sphere ERP alternative solutions deliver a number of benefits to their users, including:


DF-Sphere is truly modular, offering customers a wide range of features and functionality. Users can start at a smaller scale and focus on core modules with the most impact on key business areas, then scale up after proving business value.


DF-Sphere features an open module architecture that allows users to change functions quickly and add features to meet their business needs. Functionalities and features in each module are configurable and customizable to best fit the business environment. Most changes to configurations can be done in-house by non-technical business people through the administrator interface.

Administrator interface

As part of the solution, Direct Focus provides an administrator interface that enables non-technical personnel to maintain the system, make changes, and adjust configurations. This intuitive, user-friendly administrator interface is custom designed according to the customer’s business environment.


The DF-Sphere platform is designed to handle change from any quarter, including changes or updates to the business process, policy compliance, organizational structure, or business environment. This capability allows customers to begin with the functions they need immediately and unlock additional capabilities as needs change.

“Having a scalable ERP-type platform — one that can quickly add application pieces or live in the cloud — is becoming essential.”

Best business practices

DF-Sphere includes modeling tools to help users develop job templates and identify work patterns. These templates and patterns help streamline business processes, standardize workflows, and automate manual processes.

Data optimization

Customization capabilities enable users to change and custom design each screen to create the right data and right view. Data optimization helps effective utilization of limited business resources.

Internal communication

DF-Sphere fosters internal communication and organizes team collaboration with features like system messaging and email notifications at the individual or corporate level.

“Direct Focus lets the users and their organizations determine their own processes and best practices.”

Businesses that are considering the automation of certain processes with ERP should explore DF-Sphere, an ERP alternative from Direct Focus Software that will help solve business problems and deliver ROI.