Today’s ERP gives enterprises of all types and sizes access to enterprise-class software technology. But the promised benefits often come with distractions and pitfalls for the unwary.

The decisions you make today – about upgrading, ERP add-ons, ongoing user training or choosing a consulting partner – determine your ability to get the most value from your ERP system tomorrow and in the future. It takes a special kind of intelligence to successfully negotiate the mean ERP streets.

You need to know what you know and what you don’t know. Keep your antennae tuned to economic and industry trends that will affect your business and industry. Know which questions to ask and when. Examine all claims made by solution vendors or consultants.

These ERP street-smart tips will help you look sharp, think fast and get the most of your ERP system.

Manage for continuous improvement: Much of the benefit of ERP comes from continuous improvement gained by refining business processes and ensuring best practices. Understanding and refining your business processes and examining how ERP can facilitate or improve them is one of the most important things you can do to maximize the value of your ERP.

Know when it’s time for an upgrade: Too often, businesses subsist on outdated systems because the fear of disruption to the business obscures the benefits of upgrading. Has keeping your system updated become costly and time-consuming? Do your users have remote access to data? Can your suppliers and other trading partners interact with your system? Leverage your maintenance dollars wisely. An ERP system should eliminate complexity and duplication of effort, while facilitating product quality and customer service.

Educated users make your system more intelligent: Ensuring user success with your ERP is a key driver of competitive advantage. Give your users the training the tools they deserve so they can leverage your ERP system and business processes intelligently and effectively. Too often, companies rely on ‘tribal knowledge’ training to educate new employees. This can lead to process shift and a general lack of understanding in the system.

Get smart about ERP add-ons: Sometimes, key benefits a company wants from an ERP implementation are not part of the purchased ERP package at implementation. ERP add-ons – like CRM, advanced supply chain management and vendor relationship management – provide very specific functionality or technology to complement ERP systems. Add-ons, whether new modules or other “bolt-ons” can help extend the value of an ERP system – but you‘ll need to watch out for functionality and interface pitfalls.

Extend the access to ERP data: Cloud-based, mobile and social capabilities extend the power and reach of today’s ERP solutions, giving users access to critical information from anywhere – user training can make the difference between successful and mediocre outcomes.

When considering a consulting partner, choose wisely: Your ideal ERP consultant will truly add value to the important decisions that can make or break your ERP system. Look for a partner with a proven track record – and the references to back it up – of helping clients get the most value from their ERP systems with upgrades, add-ons, ongoing training, and decisions about evolving opportunities with cloud, mobile and social ERP. The partner should provide both ERP product knowledge and project methodology to the ERP endeavor. Get ERP street smart and stay that way: Leverage your consultant to learn what you need to know to make the most of your ERP system.