10 Tips to Help You Make a Smart ERP System Selection

Posted by James on August 11, 2016 at 2:00 PM
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Suppliers have a lot to say about why their respective Enterprise Resource Planning software offerings are the best. Navigating through the wealth of competing information during the selection process can feel like cutting through a rain forest with a dull steak knife. Ultimately, your goal is not to find the best overall ERP system. Your goal is to find the right ERP system for your company. Here are 10 suggestions for organizing the chaos and allowing your team to make an intelligent decision.

  1. Know the big issues: There are five major aspects to keep an eye on throughout the selection process. These elements form the foundation that supports your search; so you need this foundation to remain as sturdy as possible. You can find detailed descriptions about these items in our first post in this series:
    • functionality and usability of the system
    • history and maturity of the product
    • reliability and perseverance of the supplier
    • availability and vibrancy of the support community
    • credentials and reputation of the implementation partner
  2. Make a list and check it twice: Work with your internal stakeholders to identify unique procedures, processes, and functional requirements that you require to support your business today and in the foreseeable future. Ask these people to write them down; then compile the lists and solicit comments until everyone has a strong sense of the specific system requirements. You'll find that many of the functions your business needs will be common to your industry. Even more valuable, however, is identifying needs that are unique in the way you do business with your customers. These uncommon aspects of your organization are the things that the right ERP system will really have to accommodate.
  3. Focus: There are more ERP system options than you might think. There's no sense wasting time, energy, and resources listening to sales pitches for systems that don't have the right capabilities. Search the Internet, use selection tools, consult with implementation partners, ask colleagues for their experience, and employ every tool at your disposal to identify the handful of systems that have the right functionality for your specific industry. This research will cover all or most of the industry requirements, leaving you free to investigate the requirements that set your business - and your future ERP system - apart.
  4. Zero in: Once you're convinced that the basics are covered, you can begin your deep dive into how well the short-listed systems address unique requirements within your organization. Because your organization's requirements are one-of-a-kind, don't expect any package to have all the functions you want right out of the box. However, do expect - and thoroughly investigate - the ability of a potential solution to adapt to those specific needs with no or minimal programming.
  5. Recognize that easy-to-use is not always a cliché: There are few software systems out there that don't claim to be 'easy to use', 'intuitive', or 'user-friendly'. However, as user experience design expert, Éric Lord, points out, 'user-friendly' does not mean the same thing as 'simple-to-use'. An interface is only friendly to a user when it respects and accommodates that user's knowledge. What's important when evaluating ERP systems is that the software fits the way your users operate. For that reason, be sure to include actual users in the selection and implementation processes. Only by test driving the system can they tell you if it suits the activities in their daily routines.
  6. Get the full price: Once you've narrowed the field down to your final two or three candidates, you'll start seeing competing proposals. Compare them carefully to insure that they all include the same menu of goods and services, and don't hesitate to ask any vendor to update a proposal with missing items. Depending on your required configuration, your proposal should include costs for some or all of the following:
    • hardware
    • software
    • tools
    • custom tailoring
    • conversion
    • user training
    • implementation project management
  7. Check references: Request contact information for companies in your industry - preferably of similar size - that are using the systems you're evaluating. Talk with them. Even better, visit them and see how the software works in a live situation. During those discussions, make sure to ask about the quality of support, availability of user communities, and how well the supplier maintains the system.
  8. Control the demo: Left to their own devices, vendors will show off what their respective systems do best. Some of that is fine and demonstrates an understanding of potential. However, limit it to a small portion of the allotted demo time. For most of the demo, require the vendor to address scenarios that you have developed in advance around key aspects you need to see. These scenarios should be constructed from your organization's unique requirements, as determined in points two and three. Allowing your users to see - and test drive - any system is critical to validating it's usability within your particular situation.
  9. Avoid being penny wise but pound foolish: Companies will sometimes look for ways to cut corners as a way to meet budget limitations. Selecting a less expensive but poorly matched system, skimping on implementation costs, and forsaking adequate user training are all ways to end up with ineffective software that is low on value and high on long-term costs. Focus on the benefits that satisfy your requirements, and be willing to pay what it takes to implement the right system in the best way possible.
  10. Put your A-Team on the project: Select a strong leader to champion the selection and implementation projects, and assign your top performers to these teams. Unfortunately, the individuals you'll want actively involved are likely those you can least afford to spare from their daily responsibilities. Remember: these projects are temporary, and having your best people participating will help them get done right the first time.
Did we miss a tip that you'd recommend to others? Share it in the comments!

Topics: ERP Selection

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