Igniting Startup Velocity

The Strategic Role of ERP Solutions in Growth and Innovation


There is an opportunity for ERP Solutions to become simpler and nimbler – adjusting constantly their products to the requirements and timelines that startups operate on.

" Julian Herman Managing Director and Partner

Startups, known for their agility and innovative approach, require ERP solutions that not only harmonize the need for standardization with a high degree of customization but also provide deep insights and traceability in managing data processes. In the dynamic world of startups, there’s a widely shared view that most conventional ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems are often too complex and rigid to be seamlessly integrated within their fast-evolving operational timelines.

Enterprise Resource Planning platforms (ERPs) have been present in LATAM for the last 40 years and are the technological backbone of sales, manufacturing, and financial operations for many of the largest companies. Most of these ERPs used to have large total cost of ownership (TCOs) and had opportunities in their deployment and stabilization periods. ERP vendors generally estimate software should cost 2 to 3% of annual sales; one vendor generally says new implementations take 6-12 months. (Read more on the ERP evolution and how to find the right approach for your ERP transformation.)


Over the last ten years, the emergence of both Software as a Service (SaaS) instead of on-prem, vertical service providers and open-source software have streamlined ERP adoption and made it more flexible and accessible for businesses of all sizes. These developments made it less important for startups to deal with intricate architectures, infrastructure, and acquiring in-house expertise for ERP adoption.





Our in-depth exploration into how startups engage with ERPs involved comprehensive interviews with 10 diverse startups. These ranged across a spectrum of geographies, industries, and stages of development – from nascent ventures to high-valued unicorns.


The rich insights gleaned from these dialogues shed light on the adoption patterns of ERP systems, unveiling key trends and adaptable strategies relevant to startups of varying sizes and sectors.


A notable observation was that numerous startups begin to seriously consider ERP integration only upon reaching the Series B funding stage or under the influence of new investors. A significant barrier for these companies is the lack of standardized processes and workflows.





This fosters a view of ERP systems in which there are opportunities into how inflexible and ill-suited they are, especially when incorporating international fiscal, legal, and regulatory requirements into their frameworks.


On the other end of the spectrum, more mature startups, especially those that have progressed beyond the Series B or C stages, frequently acknowledge the pivotal role of ERP systems in instilling financial discipline and serving as a reliable ‘source of truth.’ This perspective starkly contrasts with that of younger startups, which often exhibit skepticism towards the accuracy and reliability of their data reporting.


The downfall of FTX, which filed for bankruptcy, serves as a cautionary tale. Here, the reliance on informal communication channels like Slack for billing and consumer-grade software such as QuickBooks for critical record-keeping resulted in significant challenges in maintaining data integrity and procedural consistency, a point underscored by federal prosecutors.

Throughout our discussions, startups recognized several advantages of implementing ERP systems:

  • 1.

    Enhanced control over administrative processes, leading to more streamlined operations.

  • 2.

    Improved financial oversight, a critical aspect for those with multi-country operations.

  • 3.

    Support for structured and organized growth trajectories.

  • 4.

    Better and more efficient interactions with vendors and customers.





    Despite these benefits, the hesitation towards ERP adoption was attributed to wide opportunities around:

    • 1.

      The high total cost of ownership (TCO) and extended deployment times, often amounting to 2-3% of annual sales and taking 6-12 months to implement.



    • 2.

      A preference for more flexible, API-driven customizable platforms instead of traditional ERP models.

    • 3.

      Concerns about stifling the entrepreneurial drive and dampening the spirit of innovation.



      Among the startups that successfully implemented ERPs, common strings included:


      1. The increasing preference for SaaS models, specialized vertical service providers, and open-source software in the past decade, making ERPs more accessible and adaptable, and lessening the need for complex, in-house expertise.
      2. An evolving understanding among startups on integrating ERPs into their workflows, moving away from the confines of traditional ERP frameworks.
      3. A widespread opportunity, expressed by 90% of the companies we interviewed, to become less dependent on ERP vendors for ongoing support.
      4. The standardization of backup processes supported by ERPs, particularly in financial operations, to safeguard against data loss and inconsistencies.


      These insights bring to light the multifaceted perspectives of startups on ERP adoption, highlighting both the challenges and opportunities presented by these systems within the distinctive landscape of startup growth and management.


      Drawing from these findings, we propose targeted recommendations for startups contemplating ERP integration:


      1. Specialized SaaS Selection: Startups should prioritize SaaS platforms focused on their short to medium term operational needs. This approach minimizes upfront investment and is a fast track to improved results.
      2. Strategic Implementation: Embrace a phased, strategic approach to ERP implementation. Startups should start with what drives their business and then strategically expand by incrementally integrating additional features.
      3. Customize for Balance: Customize ERPs with a balanced approach that blends an organization’s unique needs with leveraging built-in tools. This streamlines processes and enhances operational efficiency.
      4. Prioritize Integration: Look for ERPs that offer robust API capabilities, seamlessly integrating with your existing systems and tools.
      5. Embrace Innovation Platforms: Look for ERP solutions which support and amplify a startup’s innovative capabilities. Adopt adaptable and flexible solutions which resonate with the fast-paced and dynamic environment typical of startups.
      6. Prioritize Openness and Future-Proofing: Actively take steps to minimize vendor lock-in. This can be achieved by opting for platforms with open standards, strong community support, and long-term vendor relationship sustainability.

      By adopting these strategies, startups can navigate the complexities of ERP integration and align their technological decisions with their growth trajectories and overarching business goals.


      These recommendations strike the balance between fostering innovation, enhancing efficiency, and ensuring scalability, and sets the stage for startups to fully leverage ERP systems in their unique business contexts.

      About the Authors

      Julian Herman

      Managing Director and Partner
      Santiago de Chile, Chile

      Julian is a Managing Director and Partner in the Santiago office. He currently leads BCG technology practice for Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Latin America. Julián is an active member of the Latin American entrepreneurial ecosystem, serving as a startup/venture accelerator advisor, an Endeavor mentor (for the past 15 years), and an angel investor. He is currently teaching in the MBA and Master of Innovation programs at the Universidad Católica de Chile. Julian holds a MSc management of technology (as a Sloan Fellow), Massachusetts Institute of Technology; MBA, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College and Business Engineering, Universidad De Chile.

      Carlos Ortiz

      Enterprise Solutions Director
      Bogotá, Colombia

      Carlos is a Director in the Bogotà office of BCG Platinion. He currently leads the enterprise solutions practices in the region with a focus on ERP modernization strategies bringing in extensive experience in systems integrations in multiple industries. Carlos holds an electronic engineering degree and a MBA from the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia.

      Neysser Blas

      Lead IT Architect
      Paris, France

      Neysser is a Lead IT Architect in the Paris office of BCG Platinion, bringing over a decade of expertise in enterprise solutions architecture, major digital transformation programs, and infrastructure & operations management. His professional journey spans a diverse array of sectors, including retail, logistics, automotive, aerospace, and pharmaceuticals. Neysser holds a Master’s Degree in Engineering from Telecom Paristech (IMT) and a specialization in Management and New Technologies from HEC Paris.

      David Pacheco

      Principal Enterprise Solutions
      Madrid, Spain

      David is a Principal in the Madrid office of BCG Platinion. Currently, he is part of the architecture practices and enterprise solutions practices, with a strong focus on data and analytics topics. He holds a Diploma in Business Science and an M.Sc. in Business Management and Planning from the University of Malaga, as well as an M.Sc. in Visual Analytics and Big Data from the University of La Rioja.