Difference Between ERP and SAP

SAP vs. ERP: Demystifying the Confusion

Key Takeaways:

SAP is a multinational company that provides enterprise software solutions, including ERP.

ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning and is a type of software that integrates all of a company’s functions into a single system to streamline and optimize operations.

SAP is the leading vendor of ERP software, and it sells different ERP products based on the size of the organization and the business model/industry.

There are many ERP software vendors, varying in size, each with their own product type and sales and distribution models.

Oftentimes, people wonder what is the difference between SAP and ERP. Are they simply different names for the same thing? No.

You see, sometimes a company sells a product so well and for so long that the company and the product become synonymous. Like XEROX, the name of a company that sells photocopiers, came to be synonymous with photocopy. And Band-Aid, the name of a company that sells bandages, became synonymous with bandages. The confusion between SAP and ERP is somewhat similar.

SAP is the name of a multinational company that sells (among other software solutions) ERP software. SAP also named its solutions SAP, which very likely contributed to the confusion. Now if you’re wondering what ERP software is, no worries. Read on to find out more about both SAP and ERP, and the differences between them.

What is ERP?

The abbreviation ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. It is a software that helps organizations optimize their resources by improving the communication between its various departments. ERP software has different modules for each functional area, such as purchase, accounting, supply chain, manufacturing, sales, and delivery. These modules collect related data and share it across the organization with the help of an integrated platform. 

Difference Between ERP and SAPFor example, in a manufacturing organization, the software collects data about pending orders, raw materials required, inventory levels, work in progress, finished goods, and delivery schedules from the relevant departments. Using this information, the ERP solution can suggest when to order raw materials, how much of each raw material should be bought, when manufacturing can/should begin for a given ordrer, and when the order shold be shipped to meet the promised delivery date. It also gives executives an overview of the workings of each department and the current state of affairs. It helps flag when things are out of order, and ensures important tasks such as replenishing stock levels are not missed out.

There are different types of ERP software to cater to the different processes followed in each industry.

What is SAP?

SAP is a multinational company that develops various software solutions to help organizations manage operations. SAP stands for ‘Systems, Applications and Products’ and the company is one of the largest manufacturers of ERP software. It sells different solutions for different industries and also offers different ERP products based on the size of the organization. In addition to ERP software, SAP sells solutions for specific functional areas such as customer relationship management, supply chain management, product lifecycle management, etc.

ERP vs. SAPAll SAP products include the term SAP, such as SAP Business One, SAP S/4HANA, SAP Business ByDesign, etc. SAP ERP products have a wide range of modules to cater to the various business models of their client base. Examples of SAP ERP modules are CRM (Customer Relationship Management), FI (Financial Accounting), LIS (Logistics Information System), HCM (Human Capital Management) and EHS (Environment, Health, and Safety).

Differences between SAP and ERP

For a deeper understanding, here are some key differences between ERP and SAP.

Basics of ERP and SAP

Simply put, ERP is a category of software that integrates the various departments in an organization, helping to streamline and optimize operations. There are various companies that produce ERP software. 

SAP is a multi-national company that manufactures enterprise software such as ERP. SAP’s software solutions, including its ERP software, may also be referred to as SAP.

Application of ERP and SAP

ERP is used in organizations of all sizes to streamline processes, optimize resources, improve profistability, and gain insights into performance. Many companies offer industry-focused ERP solutions, optimized to meet the unique needs of businesses in the industry.

SAP’s ERP solutions are usually used in larger organizations as the cost makes it forbidding to smaller enterprises. SAP software provides the same benefits as other ERP software, and covers a wider range of applications than industry-focused ERP software.

Modules of ERP and SAP

ERP software solutions have certain basic functional modules, such as human resources management, customer relationship management, supply chain management, financial management, inventory management, and business intelligence. In addition, some solutions have advanced modules related to functions like sales, marketing, manufacturing and delivery, based on the needs of their client base.

SAP’s ERP solutions include a large number of specialized modules. In addition to the basic functional modules and the advanced modules listed above, they have modules related to environment, health and safety, enterprise performance management, plant maintenance, inspection and repair, and quality management, among others.

ERP vs. SAP: Comparison Chart

The following table summarizes the differences between SAP and ERP:

Feature SAP ERP
Definition SAP is a multinational company that provides enterprise software solutions, including ERP. It is the leading vendor of ERP software. ERP is a type of software that integrates all of a company's functions into a single system in order to streamline and optimize operations.
Full Form Systems, Applications and Products Enterprise Resource Planning
Basics Vendor providing a suite of enterprise software solutions, including ERP. SAP may also refer to SAP’s product offerings Category of software integrating all business functions into a single system.
Scope Covers a wide range of business functions including finance, HR, logistics, supply chain, and CRM. Integrates all business functions, including finance, HR, manufacturing, supply chain, sales, and CRM.
Implementation SAP software solutions are typically implemented by a team of SAP experts. ERP software is typically implemented by a team of IT professionals or consultants.
Cost SAP software solutions can be costly, especially for large enterprises. ERP software can vary in cost depending on the vendor and scope of implementation.
Vendor SAP software is produced by SAP SE. It may be sold by the company or by third party resellers. There are many ERP software vendors, varying in size. Each ERP manufacturer has its own sales and distribution model. Ex. Oracle Applications, Sage Groups, Posibolt


SAP is the manufacturer of various enterprise solutions, including ERP. ERP is a type of software solution used by enterprises to streamline and optimize their operations. SAP is the leading provider of ERP solutions, and also names its solutions SAP, which may have contributed to the confusion between the two.

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What is ERP, and how does it differ from SAP?

ERP is a general term that refers to a type of software, SAP is a specific vendor that offers an ERP solution. SAP is known for its robust functionality, extensive customization options, and industry-specific modules, making it a popular choice for large enterprises. However, ERP systems can vary widely in terms of their features, so it's important to evaluate each solution's capabilities and suitability for your business needs.

Is SAP considered an ERP system?

Yes, SAP is an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. It is a comprehensive software solution that enables businesses to manage various aspects of their operations, such as finance, inventory, sales, and human resources. SAP is a popular choice for large enterprises due to its scalability, customization options, and industry-specific modules.

Can ERP and SAP be used interchangeably?

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) is a general term that refers to a type of software used to manage business processes. SAP (Systems, Applications, and Products) is a specific vendor that offers an ERP solution. While SAP is one of the most well-known ERP solutions, it's important to note that not all ERP systems are SAP. Therefore, the terms "ERP" and "SAP" cannot be used interchangeably.

What are the key features of ERP and SAP?

The key features of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems, including SAP, typically include the ability to manage various business processes, such as finance, inventory, and human resources, within a single system. ERP systems also provide real-time data visibility, automation of manual processes, and standardization of business practices. SAP, in particular, is known for its extensive customization options, industry-specific modules, and scalability.

Which industries commonly use ERP and SAP?

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems, including SAP, are used across a wide range of industries. However, certain industries tend to use ERP solutions more frequently than others. Some examples include manufacturing, distribution, retail, healthcare, and professional services. SAP, in particular, is often used by large enterprises in industries such as automotive, aerospace, and defense.

How do ERP and SAP impact business operations?

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems, such as SAP, can have a significant impact on business operations. By providing a centralized system for managing various aspects of a business, ERP systems can increase efficiency, reduce manual labor, improve accuracy, and provide real-time data visibility. ERP systems can also help standardize business processes and enable better decision-making by providing access to critical information.

What are the benefits of implementing ERP or SAP?

Implementing an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, such as SAP, can offer a range of benefits for businesses. Some of the key advantages include increased efficiency, improved accuracy, reduced manual labor, and real-time data visibility. ERP systems can also standardize business practices, enable better decision-making, and provide a platform for growth and scalability.

Are there any drawbacks to using ERP or SAP?

While ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems, including SAP, offer many benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider. ERP systems can be complex to implement and may require significant resources to set up and maintain. Additionally, ERP systems can be expensive, particularly for small and mid-sized businesses. Finally, there may be a learning curve for employees unfamiliar with the software.

How can I determine if my business needs an ERP or SAP system?

Determining whether your business needs an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or SAP system depends on a variety of factors, including the size of your business, the complexity of your operations, and your growth plans.

An ERP system can be a good choice if you need to manage multiple business processes within a single system, improve efficiency, and gain real-time data visibility.

SAP, in particular, maybe a good choice for larger enterprises with complex operations and specific industry requirements. To determine which system is right for your business, it's important to evaluate your specific needs and consult with a qualified ERP consultant such as Posibolt.

Can ERP and SAP be customized to meet specific business requirements?

Yes, both ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems and SAP can be customized to meet specific business requirements. ERP systems, in general, are designed to be flexible and adaptable, allowing businesses to tailor the software to their unique needs.

SAP, in particular, offers extensive customization options and industry-specific modules to help businesses meet their specific requirements. Customization can range from simple configuration changes to more complex programming, depending on the level of customization needed.

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