Date posted: September 24, 2015
As ERP systems have evolved, expectations for what they can deliver have risen. This is understandable, both in terms of increased functionality at the core of the enterprise and greater integration across the enterprise. As the primary and most expensive IT investment most companies will make, the assessment process when selecting ERP needs to be thorough, to ensure that the best choice is being made, and through that assurance to help provide the courage and confidence needed to act. Choosing an ERP system can be a daunting task.
A recent article on Manufacturing Business Technology proposes a dozen steps companies should considering taking during the process of selecting an ERP solution. They seem good ones to us:
- Define your initial requirements along with the triggers that will require you to consider additional capabilities. Begin by asking each functional leader what they need to be able to do today. Then consider the company strategy and phase in additional needs based on specific triggers like sales growth (when we hit 500 customers, we will need a hosted CRM solution), locations (when we move into Asia, we will need advanced planning and compliance management), and headcount (when we hit 3,000 employees we will need a complete HCM solution). This approach will give your team an outlet for exploring additional capabilities without exploding your list of initial requirements.
- Use vendor demonstrations as a means of exploration while nailing down current requirements. Carefully define the scope of your ERP project based on the current needs of the company. This will allow vendors to be more detailed in their proposals. However, vendors should also be allowed time to showcase the completeness of their strategy, portfolio of solutions and associated roadmaps.
- Align teams early on— and augment when necessary. Make sure a clear and concise charter for the project is documented and supported by the full internal team, including C-level officers. Align with corporate decision-makers early and involve a cross –section of teams in the evaluation committee
- Get specialized treatment. Select an ERP solution that fits the specific needs of your vertical industry. Choosing a solution that already contains functionality to address industry-specific requirements, terminology, and regulations will help reduce the need for costly modifications.
- Be open to change. Avoid customizations at all costs. They cause your ERP to be difficult to upgrade and support. Consider instead that you can adopt standard processes and change your internal business practices.
- Focus on user experience. When choosing an ERP, be sure to consider the ease of use and the overall user experience in your selection criteria.
- Leverage on-demand training methods. As you make your ERP selection and plan the implementation phase, allow for adequate training of personnel, but also explore the vendor’s on-demand training and support capabilities.
- Set realistic expectations. Do not try to rush through or skip necessary steps of a phased implementation. This can happen when people who were not involved in the selection process own the implementation.
- Communicate, collaborate and document. Be sure to keep track of decisions concerning your project’s scope, your expectations, and concrete deliverables. Collaborate with your ERP vendor on successful implementation strategies, taking advantage of lessons learned from previous successful implementations.
- Consider Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and growth. Make sure your vendor has the team in place that can help you examine the total cost of ownership of proposed solutions. ERP selection should involve executive level conversations weighing such factors as infrastructural investments, current support costs, business agility and growth.
- Move beyond functionality. Capabilities like mobility and cloud promise many new ways for employees to engage with business applications and each other according to their own schedules. This brings in to play additional evaluation topics (e.g., data security, network requirements and upgrade policies).
- Look to be flexible. Newer solutions are supported by flexible, user defined workflows, screen configurations, analytics and reporting tools that require no involvement from IT resources. Whether developing a product for a highly demanding market, adding high-value services or specializing in made-to-order quality products, a flexible ERP solution allows organizations to focus on the details that matter most to customers.
While this list may not be exhaustive, it certainly is a very good starting point.