Now that your ERP selection power team has identified your top-tier business drivers, what’s next? The good news is that you’re halfway to the finish line, and you’ve successfully set yourself up for the next step: generating and prioritizing the short list to help you select the best ERP system to meet your established goals.
This next step is very much akin to creating a list when searching for a new home: what features are your “nice-to-haves,” which are value-added, and which are your “dealbreakers”? Many times, companies do this backwards or skip over organizational goalsetting altogether. If you’ve been following this series, you’ve already identified the business drivers fueling your ERP implementation, realizing they will serve as the critical foundation for assessing available systems that best fit your needs. In other words, your key business drivers have helped you narrow down your long list of possibilities to a short list of viable options. Just make sure that, as you begin demoing potential ERP systems, your short list includes the following five issues that could become dealbreakers:
Issue 1: Customize or Specialize?
Once, customization was the only means to adapting an ERP system to fit your exact business needs. ERP upgrades are certainly faster than a full software implementation, but many organizations have “customized their software to the extent that these upgrades are essentially the same as a full implementation.1” Today, specialized ERP systems focus on industries ranging from fashion to pharmaceuticals and mid-size businesses to global enterprises. Be sure to include on your short list systems that recognize and accommodate your business’s unique requirements. First assess “turnkey” systems based on what’s built in, not what could be tacked on or customized. Ideally, you want a system that can adapt to your unique processes, not the other way around, but if your system needs customization to function, then add to the short list the need to select a vendor best suited for the job.
Issue 2: Location, Location, Location
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, if your business is growing, IT may “struggle to stay ahead of the basics, often spreading themselves too thin to adequality support the organization’s more strategic initiatives to facilitate change and modernize the business.3” Plus, a growing business demands that your ERP system accommodate for increases in user numbers and transactions, and unfortunately, “some on-premise solutions cannot scale without additional servers.1” Now is a good time to consider the benefits of a cloud-based ERP system. Most models allow you to license the software from your vendor at a per-user rate, and with the responsibility of IT support and complete data center management rests on your vendor’s shoulders, not yours.
Issue 3: User Experience
As you begin demoing ERP systems, keep in mind the comfort level your workforce has exhibited with new technologies in the past. Yes, an ERP system is a large investment, but a successful implementation “ensures more efficient processes, centralized data, and reduced errors and costs. But none of this can happen if your workforce doesn’t adopt the system.2” Is the ERP interface user-friendly? Do the dashboards provide the info users need in a format they 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 should use the system comfortably and efficiently for your organization to fully experience the benefits of a successful ERP system implementation.
Issue 4: Accessibility
Can your users access the system whenever and wherever they need it, be that on a laptop during a conference call or from their mobile device while visiting a client? A system’s accessibility 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 difficult for them to match.
Issue 5: Protection
Simply stated, whichever system you choose, ensure that it allows you to minimize downtime and protect your data in the event of a disruption.
Now that you’ve narrowed down your ERP selection criteria to a short list that addresses your key business needs, it’s time to move to the final stage of the selection process, so stay tuned. Until then, remember that “evolution in business is inevitable. Selecting the right ERP system ensures that your business systems and processes can transform to meet whatever tomorrow has in store3.”
1:ERP selection guide. (n.d.). Panorama Consulting Group
2.Reinbolt, M. (n.d.). ERP software selection process and criteria. SelectHub
3.Select an ERP system that keeps up with the evolving needs of manufacturing operations. (2020). Infor.