If you’ve been following the steps outlined in our previous blogs, then your journey to ERP selection is nearly complete. You’ve gathered an ERP selection team to discuss your business drivers and software needs. You’ve analyzed the cost of ERP ownership versus the gains. With these thoughtful conversations behind you and comprehensive reports in hand, you are prepared to make the biggest decision of all: choosing an ERP solution.
Working with an ERP Selection Consultant:
Let’s be honest: the goal of an ERP vendor is to sell and generate revenue. If you hired an ERP consultant during the selection process, then you have a savvy negotiator on your end to lead you through this process and look out for your best interests. If you haven’t, now is the time to consider doing so. They can use your short-list to create a “negotiation workbook providing apples-to-apples comparisons”1 between each ERP system under consideration. And just as you created a short-list of business needs, your consultant can help you create a short-list of eligible ERP vendors to consider during this final phase of the selection process.
Sifting Through Your Potential ERP Partners:
When selecting the right ERP partner, set high expectations, and remember that the vendor you select will act as a partner not just to your ERP team but to your entire organization. The best way to gauge a given vendor’s fitness for the role is to witness their team in action. Look for a vendor who understands your industry speak and your business needs. In both your face-to-face meeting and your request for quote (RFQ), you’ll want to investigate the following qualifications:
- Expertise. Has the vendor worked with other similarly sized organizations within your industry? Is this knowledge reflected in their software features, knowledge of best practices, and comments from references?
- Customer service. What is the vendor’s customer satisfaction and retention rate? What are their support channels and do they have partners who can service you as well as their direct teams?
- Security. What are the vendor’s data monitoring and security protocols? Ask questions about the credibility and reliability of third-party software and vendors.
- R&D. How often does the company update their software? Are there planned enhancements or product launches that could benefit you?
Scheduling Your ERP Partner Demos:
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, schedule vendor demo sessions for your key decision-makers. To ensure you receive the most productive demos, be prepared to send your own demo scripts along with the RFQ which will allow vendors to “create personalized demonstrations that address your business requirements.”1 Better yet, offer the vendors a small set of actual data to provide more meaning to the demo observers. What you don’t want is a standard sales demo, so allow the vendors adequate time to prepare so they can demo to meet your key requirements
Selecting an ERP Partner
Depending on your requirements, you may find that several ERP systems can provide the functions and features you want. However, your success will largely depend on how that solution is implemented to fit your needs. Do you want to work directly with the ERP provider? Do you want to work with an implementation partner of that vendor? What is the vendor or partner implementation methodology and success rate? How will either of them service you once you go live? These are important questions to consider and ask during reviews with reference customers.
Ultimately, you need a partner who understands your particular business application requirements. As a mid-sized manufacturer, you may be competing in the same space as big, international players. Some ERP vendors specialize in implementing sophisticated IT systems for companies who have large IT departments to manage the process. It’s important to find a partner who has worked with other mid-sized manufacturers, so they can complement your internal resources and help you achieve the results you’re looking for in weeks not years.
Once you’ve selected your ERP partner, take some time to celebrate; you’ve earned it. The calculated steps you’ve taken throughout the selection process will bring your business the ultimate reward: a modern, cloud-based ERP that “creates a digital foundation with the agility to easily transform as your business grows. Evolution in business is inevitable.” Selecting the right ERP system ensures that your “business systems and processes can evolve to meet whatever tomorrow has in store.2”
1. ERP Selection Guide
2. Select an ERP system that keeps up with the evolving needs of manufacturing operations