Select an ERP System – Part 4 – Some Basic Checks

Select an ERP System – a free series to guide you

This is part 4 of a series of blogs designed to help you choose and implement a new ERP system.

In this blog, we look at some of the basic checks you should carry out before engaging with your potential new ERP supplier. Previous blogs covered the selection process, ballpark costs and implementation and are available at our blog page.

It’s important to think of your potential new supplier in terms of the likelihood that they can be a positive business PARTNER. The partnership element is key, as trust on both sides will be hugely important. How comfortable do you feel with them?  Is this a company you feel you can work with for many years to come?

There should be clues early on in your discussions. Do they talk down to you? Use jargon? Or do they demonstrate understanding? Suggest alternative ways of solving your issues? Ask them how many customers have been with them for more than 5 years? 10? 20? And what is the percentage of customers who renew their support annually? The answers to these questions provide a useful insight into the way the supplier looks after their customers.

All of the above assumes you’ve actually visited the supplier’s offices. Don’t be so impressed by the website that you accept an on-site demo and never visit the supplier’s premises or meet with ‘rest of the team’. There are a number of virtual resellers these days who have no real office and a constantly changing team of contractors who may implement and support your system. That can keep their costs down but you have to consider whether that’s the type of supplier you want.

Check out their financial status. This is so easy these days with sites such as Companies House WebCheck and Duedil offering low cost ways of reviewing accounts, credit history, owners, court orders and so forth. There’s no excuse not to have a decent handle on the likely longevity of your potential supplier.

A key consideration is knowing who will implement your system. I alluded to this as an issue with smaller ‘virtual’ companies above but it’s equally important with larger companies. It is not uncommon for organisations to lead the presentation with their best people who, once the order is signed, and never to be seen again. So, that nice chap who really seemed to understand your business and demonstrated superbly how the system would deliver all those valuable benefits is actually based in another part of the country and only comes out for demos. The implementation team, sadly, are all young graduates learning their trade… on your implementation!

Also, be careful what you sign up for. It can be tempting to sign up for a long-term support deal at a tremendous rate, only to find the support is poor and you’re locked in for three years! Why commit until you’ve experienced the support?

You might think that many of the above issues can be squared away by reference visits but again there is scope to get this wrong as well. Check that the reference is someone who the supplier did actually implement the system at, and not just a site they now support. Equally, be alert to the ‘reference site’ that gets used all of the time, perhaps because they benefit from lower or zero support rates. Ask for an extensive list, identify sites similar to your own and approach them for a reference.

The Changing Face of Navision through the Ages.

Many people are surprised to hear that Microsoft Dynamics NAV is not far from reaching its 20th birthday here in the UK!

At Turnkey, we have been selling Navision since 1996 when the first ‘proper’ Windows version appeared in the UK. A small team of people in Borehamwood led by Yash Nagpal, and supported by the likes of Sandy Giddings and Hynek Muhlbacher, had believed enough in the product to take on the established UK players from scratch.

Things were a little erratic at the time. VAT didn’t really work properly. You didn’t ask for remittance advices (not needed in Denmark apparently) and all of the training material featured Danish Kroner and was delivered by European trainers. There was a sense that we were all at the start of a rather exciting journey with an incredible new product.

Along the way, Navision (UK) cashed in its chips with the Danish owners in what turned out to be the first stage of the process of the Microsoft acquisition Those of us who were lucky enough to be successfully selling the product at the time benefitted from the incredible generosity of UK MD Yash Nagpal who rewarded his loyal partner base with trips to Thailand (regrettably work commitments prevented me attending so my wife gallantly went along instead) and, perhaps the best of all, a 10 day whirlwind trip around the best that India had to offer. The latter trip included visits to all of the major sites, participation in an elephant  polo match and an overnight cross desert camel ride.

Screenshots of the product through time show how much the product has changed but it’s a credit  to the original development team that the underlying functionality remains much the same. And, of course, the products great strength has always been its inbuilt development toolset. Who knows how many exceptional systems have been built over the years with that fantastic product.

Here are a few of the screens which illustrate the development so well:

Navision circa 1996 – not quite the look and feel of Windows-

NAVISION 1996

The Windows-like version was originally called Navision ‘Financials’ but then had a brief period, for no apparent reason, as Navision ‘Attain’ –

Attain2

The influence of Microsoft was apparent in this first new-style release post their acquisition. The Outlook style interface –

NAV5

And finally, we moved to the ‘Role Tailored Client’ which originally saw the light of day in NAV2009 but has been finessed into NAV2013 –

NAV2013RTC2

Sadly, Yash is no longer with us but many who knew him were pleased to hear that he was indulging in one of his passions, golf, at the time of his passing. I’d imagine he would be proud to see how far the product has come from its humble beginnings in Borehamwood all those years ago.