Achieving Success in ERP: Essential Career Tips - SystemsAccountants

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes Achieving Success in ERP: Essential Career Tips

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are the backbone of successful operations in today’s data-driven business landscape. These integrated software suites streamline crucial functions like finance, supply chain, and human resources, offering businesses a unified platform for enhanced efficiency, data visibility, and decision-making. 

As systems like NetSuite, Unit4 ERP, Microsoft Dynamics and SAP become increasingly sophisticated and prevalent, the people who can master them are presented with exciting career opportunities. However, if you want to go beyond system knowledge and lead the implementation and maintenance of these complex platforms, you need the right mix of skills.

With insight from industry experts, this guide offers essential career tips, empowering you to unlock your full potential and achieve success in the ERP ecosystem.

Entering a career in ERP

Careers in ERP often don’t follow a linear trajectory from entry-level to senior leadership. Instead, professionals from a wide range of finance and technology backgrounds can become ERP specialists thanks to the experience they’ve accumulated in other roles.

Because the system is substantially – but not exclusively – concerned with the organisation’s finances, Accountants are often well-qualified. Non-accountants can also have successful careers in ERP, and often these people are technology specialists who have a deep understanding of the software. These professionals have either developed this experience over time, perhaps with some training, or have worked for the software vendor before moving on to consult on ERP management and implementation.

What unites ERP experts is hands-on experience. “Exposure to projects end to end is absolutely critical in your career if you want to be successful in ERP” says David Hammel, UK Managing Director of SystemsAccountants. “Implementing and managing these systems means solving complex problems, and the skills you learn are scalable.” 

If you want to show commitment and boost your chances of a first career in ERP, read our article Certifications and courses for careers in ERP, EPM and finance transformation.

Key takeaway
Accounting backgrounds and finance systems technology backgrounds are ideal starting points for becoming an ERP specialist. With these foundations, hands-on digital transformation experience can take you into important strategic leadership roles.

Grow your technical expertise

Regardless of the specific vendor or industry you focus on, a solid understanding of the core functionality modules of ERP systems forms the foundation of career success.

  • Financial management

Financial management involves understanding Accounts Payable/Receivable, where you will learn the processes of managing vendor invoices, payments, customer billing, and collections. General ledger expertise comes from recording financial transactions, maintaining accurate financial records, and generating financial reports. You will be expected to learn how to manage the lifecycle of an organisation’s fixed, physical assets, including depreciation calculations and maintenance scheduling.

  • Supply chain management

Supply chain management modules often concern how to optimise the flow of goods, materials, and information within an organisation. This will include key functionalities such as inventory control, purchasing, and warehouse management.

  • Customer relationship management

If your chosen ERP system offers an integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) module, understanding its capabilities can be invaluable. This often involves managing customer interactions and sales pipelines.

  • Human capital management

The human capital management side of ERP involves HR processes, managing workforces, and becoming familiar with payroll, benefits administration, and workforce management processes like scheduling and performance.

Systems specialist or ERP all-rounder?

While core functionalities provide a solid foundation, familiarising yourself with the specific strengths and nuances of popular ERP systems can set you apart. Hirers are often looking for expertise in a specific platform, so doubling down on a particular software platform can be an effective career strategy. Some leading systems are:

  • Workday: Workday specialises in cloud-based software for finance and human resources, designed to help organisations manage their operations more effectively. Utilising artificial intelligence and machine learning, its ERP applications support financial management, human resources, planning, and analytics. 
  • Oracle NetSuite: A cloud-based ERP system, NetSuite is popular with small and medium-sized businesses. Focusing on its cloud architecture and functionalities tailored towards this market segment can position you for success in fast-growing companies.
  • Microsoft Dynamics: Known for its tight integration with other Microsoft products, Dynamics offers a comprehensive suite of ERP solutions. Understanding its seamless integration with Microsoft Office and its diverse industry solutions can be a valuable asset.

While specialising in one of these systems can open promising career opportunities, this isn’t the only path for ERP consultants. “Sometimes the best ERP systems managers are systems agnostic,” says David Hammel. “They’re not completely wedded to the technology because they see it as more of an enabler to change, to change processes, to improve data, to make life easier for users.” 

Key takeaway  
All of the major ERP technologies are constantly changing, and to remain competitive, individuals must actively seek knowledge of how the solutions evolve, and keep updated with the latest releases, features, and technology roadmap.

Unlocking your potential: the soft skills of an ERP specialist

While technical expertise forms the backbone of a successful ERP career, soft skills can be equally valuable. Critical thinking can help analyse problems, identify root causes, and develop creative solutions. You will also need the adaptability to embrace change and adapt to fast-moving situations. We have identified four crucial soft skills that set some of the most successful ERP specialists apart.

  • Communication

“Communication can prove to be a more potent tool than years of finance experience when navigating complex ERP implementations and managing diverse stakeholders.,” says Isabella Romanazzi, Director of NetSuite Recruitment at SystemsAccountants. ERP implementations often involve collaboration across multiple departments, each with its own language and priorities. Strong communication skills are needed to bridge these gaps. You need to carefully listen to stakeholder concerns, understand their needs, and translate technical terminology into clear, understandable terms. 

  • Leadership

ERP implementations are also rarely smooth sailing. Unexpected challenges and roadblocks will inevitably appear, and the ability to navigate through choppy waters is the hallmark of a talented leader. The finance systems leader must also be able to delegate tasks effectively, empowering team members and providing support when needed. Anticipating and addressing potential conflicts within the team constructively demonstrates strong collaborative skills.

  • Change management

A major aspect of implementing an ERP system involves handling significant organisational change. Strong change management skills are needed to guide the business through a transition, and will require the ability to win buy-in from key stakeholders. That could be board level, or a senior manager from a different department within the business.

“The soft skills side is about stakeholder management and vendor management. Being a good influencer, good negotiator is really important, particularly when it comes to commercial due diligence,” says David Hammel. 

  • Teamwork

ERP projects are not solo missions. Collaboration is the only route to success, and the most impactful ERP professionals work effectively within teams, fostering a sense of shared purpose and collective responsibility. 

Key takeaway  
Anticipating resistance to change and addressing it with empathy and understanding demonstrates a commitment to successful change management. By honing these soft skills alongside your technical expertise, you can emerge as a well-rounded, talented ERP professional.

Building your network and brand 

Developing the right skillset is just one part of the toolkit individuals need for a successful career in ERP. It is a dynamic world, and a strong network and personal brand are equally important for climbing the ladder.

As the technology moves so quickly, the ERP community thrives on collaboration and knowledge sharing. Building a network of professionals in this field offers a multitude of benefits including awareness of job opportunities, mentoring and guidance with experienced professionals who can offer career advice, and staying on top of industry insights. There are numerous avenues to cultivate your network within the ERP community from industry events and conferences to online forums and collaborations. 

Beyond networking, establishing a strong personal brand can significantly boost career advancement. Leaders in the field of ERP often contribute to insightful articles, blog posts, or white papers related to ERP topics. Leveraging social media platforms like LinkedIn to share industry news, engage in discussions, and react to industry news can also help showcase your knowledge.

Key takeaway  
The world of ERP is continuously shifting. By cultivating a strong network and demonstrating thought leadership and a commitment to lifelong learning, you can set yourself apart in the competitive world of ERP. Your network and professional brand are valuable assets that will contribute to your long-term career success.

Where the career can take you

The ERP landscape is one of constant change, so those who are keen to explore emerging technologies, and actively seek out opportunities to expand their skill set stand a better chance of advancement. 

A successful career in ERP can lead to some important senior positions. Senior consultant roles can see you working with major global businesses in a leadership capacity, while many software vendors hire experienced prior users of the platforms to lead sales. It’s also possible to reach CIO and CFO positions after a career spent driving ERP-focused transformation. 

“The journey to becoming an ERP expert is an exciting and rewarding one,” said Isabella Romanazzi. “By equipping yourself with a strong foundation in core functionalities, staying abreast of industry trends, and honing your soft skills, you’ll be well on your way to success.”