In this special blog series, Navigating the ERP System Selection Process, we’ll review the steps manufacturers should be taking to select the right ERP vendor and set themselves up for success throughout implementation. Over the next few weeks, you’ll learn how to define and manage your ERP expectations, strategy and budget while selecting an ERP partner who is right for your business.
Once your organization has defined the business drivers for your new ERP system, it’s time to move from big-picture to technical requirements. Many times, companies get this backwards, or skip over organizational goal-setting altogether. However, the business drivers fueling your ERP implementation will serve as a critical foundation in assessing available systems and how best they fit your needs. From industry focus to deployment options, there will be a gamut of decisions to be made. Before diving in, think through some of the following specifications, and consider which are nice-to-haves and which are deal breakers.
Customization used to be the only means to adopting an ERP system to fit your exact business needs. Over recent years, specialized ERP systems have emerged, focused on industries spanning from fashion to pharmaceuticals and mid-size businesses to global enterprises. Limit your short list to systems that recognize and accommodate your business’s unique requirements. First assess out-of-the-box systems based on what’s built in, not what could be tacked on or customized. You want a system that can adapt to your current processes, not the other way around.
On-Premise vs. Cloud
If you are updating an aging ERP system, chances are your old system was run on-premise. Perhaps you have robust IT resources to help you manage the hardware, upgrades and maintenance tasks that go into system upkeep. However, now is a good time to weigh your options. Most cloud-based models allow you to license the software from your vendor at a per-user rate with the responsibility of IT support and complete data center management resting on their shoulders. Before making the call, read up on the benefits of cloud-based ERP systems.
This might be a difficult box to tick in the early stages of system selection, but it is one to consider as you begin demoing ERP systems. Keep in mind the comfort level your workforce has exhibited with new technologies in the past. Is the ERP interface user-friendly? Do the dashboards provide the info you need in a format you can follow? Will the platform integrate with existing programs, or will users need to toggle between windows and log into multiple systems? Remember, at the end of the day, your employees need to be able and willing to use the system as intended in order for your organization to fully experience expected benefits.
Reliability means that your company can count on accessing the system when and where they need it, be that on a laptop during a conference call or from their mobile device while visiting a client. A system’s reliability will depend on the servers, security mechanisms and other technologies supporting it. While some on-premise ERP systems hold their ground, the system up-time levels of cloud-based equipment is often difficult for them to match. Whichever you choose, ensure that downtime is minimized and backup mechanisms are in place to protect your data in the event of a disruption.