Bewildered by the claims flooding the ERP market? Everybody seems to be either ‘cloud’ or something close. Everybody says they’re the best, the most trusted, the most reliable. Who’s right? Use the following five keywords to help discern the real amid pretenders.

1. Cloud

Whether on-premise or SaaS, today’s ERP providers define themselves in relation to the cloud. Forbes recently reported that 47% of organizations plan to move their accounting to the cloud within the next five to ten years. In an attempt to hijack this anticipated growth, many legacy systems have skipped serious development and gone straight to marketing—selling their existing products, perhaps with minor tweaks, as full-on ‘cloud solutions.’ Words such as ‘private’ cloud (hosted, owned, and maintained by the client) and ‘hybrid’ cloud (cloud and on-premise modules jerry-rigged together) should raise a red flag.

2. Unified

Some solutions framed as ‘cloud suites’ are really best of breed systems, mishmashes of individually-licensed modules from other sources (often from companies the provider has acquired). Other cloud solutions function so narrowly that you have to buy separate software licenses for relatively basic functionalities. In either case, the provider does nothing to help you integrate potentially incompatible modules.

3. Configurable

A growing consensus recognizes configuration over customization as a best practice in ERP implementation. Customization requires that technicians alter the source code of a vendor’s solution, generating an array of operational challenges and making your every future update both difficult and dearly expensive. Ninety-nine percent of the time, your organization would be better served by a SaaS solution that configures to your organization’s dimensions without requiring tweaks to the code. Configurable providers can offer their clients seamless upgrades, some every quarter.

4. Scalable

When considering an ERP solution, always ask the vendor about scalability. Can the system adapt to new dimensions? Can you add new entities with ease? Is there a built-in ceiling? Outgrowing your ERP system is an excruciating experience, and many organizations do not survive it. Consider your growth plans now and select an ERP system accordingly.

5. Automation

Is your organization ambitious? Would you like to take advantage of innovative technology to automate as many processes as possible? Functionalities like OCR scanning, streamlined work-flow, automatic check printing, and bank integration all leverage automation to save you time and money.