Selecting any software solution for your business, regardless of its intended level of use, can be a daunting and time-consuming task, with many potential pitfalls along the way.
Therefore, when your business begins evaluating an ERP system solution, it is important that you understand the steps you must take to help ensure the procurement processes runs as smoothly as possible.
Before your business even begins to contact possible ERP system vendors, it is imperative that your business has a clear understanding of what they require from a prospective system.
With ERP systems typically operating across many departments, it is important that those involved within the procurement processes consult everyone who will be in contact with the system, from end users to senior managers.
Once you have consulted the relevant parties and established a list of requirements, you can then start to prioritise them, establishing the ones that are essential, and the ones that would be desirable and only of benefit to a few, select members of staff. Once you have a list of requirements you should be better placed to decide how potential ERP systems will be evaluated and scored.
As well as establishing your requirements from any prospective system early on, it is also important to consider how you envisage a new ERP system assisting the business with achieving its company goals, both short and long-term.
Unlike the system requirements phase, which is likely to command considerable time due to the consulting process required, your businesses’ goals should be firmly established, with it more being a case of those within the business envisaging how they see the ERP solution selected assisting.
Whether the short-term aim is to improve system efficiencies, or the long-term goal is for your business to branch out into new markets, it is important that your business at least has an idea of how an ERP system could help them achieve these goals.
ERP systems are a core component of any businesses’ system structure; therefore, it is important that you consider the affect a new ERP system will have on your other systems currently in use, and whether it has the potential to compliment them.
Selecting an ERP solution that is unable to integrate with systems that are currently successfully in use within your business could lead to unnecessary costs and problems, with the benefits you acquire from your new ERP system likely to be dwarfed by the problems that it has caused in other areas.
More often than not, you’re likely to find that ERP systems that are widely-used are less likely to suffer from integration problems, mainly due to the fact that someone is probably going to have encountered the problem before, meaning a solution is likely to have already been designed and implemented.
Whether you are looking to find a development partner going forward or want a team of experts to implement a new ERP system for you, sourcing the market for potential ERP vendor partners before you select a system can be a great way of ensuring you will have plenty of options available to you in the future when you require expertise around the software.
Much like we touched upon above, popular ERP systems are likely to benefit from a wide partner network, meaning you not only have an array of experts available to you, but that you are able to carry out a better procurement process with more potential suppliers involved.
For businesses that opt for an ERP system solution with a limited, or non-existent partner network, they are leaving themselves vulnerable to relying on the ERP system vendor to implement and assist them with their system going forward, with no other option should the partnership not work. Most business often find they gain better value and expertise by utilising an official ERP system partner rather than going directly to the vendor. Often, official ERP partners also offer a support service too, meaning you are not solely reliant on the vendors offering.
The popularity of the system can also influence training options available to you. Before selecting an ERP system, it is important that your businesses understand the scale of the training they require and have an idea of how much time and budget they should allocate.
Many businesses can underestimate the cost and role of training, meaning when the implementation is completed there is a lack of resources to carry out the training that is necessary to use the system to its full potential.
Systems that are popular within the market are not only likely to be more user-friendly, meaning there will be less need for training at outset, but they should also enable you to benefit from extra resources, whether it be manuals, training partners or user forums.
While even the greatest technological minds may struggle to predict the next big breakthrough, gauging the vendors willingness to embrace technological advances in the past can give you a good understanding of how committed they are to staying abreast of the latest technology.
Is the vendor constantly developing its system with mobile apps? Are they starting to work with smart voice assistant technologies? The answers to these questions should give you an insight as to how comfortable they are working with new technologies, ensuring you can have confidence in them in the long-term, reducing the chance of your business being left behind and unable to utilise new technology in the future.
Regardless of whether you are part of the panel choosing a new ERP system for your business or selecting a hotel for your next holiday, customer reviews and references play a massive part in all of our buying decisions, and this process should be no different.
While of course you should play close attention to the volume of reviews, more importantly you should seek out references from business in similar industries and situations as you.
Once you have these from the vendors, you should reach out to the businesses to find out more about how the system has worked for them in detail. These conversations often give you the best chance to evaluate whether the system is suited to your business, while it also allows you to have some of your key questions answered. It is also a good for helping to make you aware of any potential pitfalls that may lie ahead should you opt for the particular ERP system.
While for many business, the overall cost of the system and implementation will be at the top of their list when it comes to the evaluation, it is important your business chooses the right ERP system for them, not the cheapest one.
While of course price should be a strong factor in any overall decision, the positive effect an ERP system that is well-suited to your business can have on profits and efficiencies far outweighs the initial outlay. Especially if you were instead going to opt for less-suited system, that while cheaper at the outset, was going to require a whole lot of customisation and training for it to be suitable.