How to Select an ERP System – Part 1 – The Selection Process

The number one rule is Identify What Makes Your Business Different. There are so many high quality ERP systems out there that do pretty much the same thing. You buy something, you add a margin, and you sell it. You want to record the purchase, manage the stock, record the sale and show the profit in your accounts. Your choice is not what software, just where to find the best combination of price and reputable supplier.

However, it will all go horribly wrong if you haven’t pointed out the differences about your operation. Perhaps you need to sell the item but record serial numbers, or monitor expiry dates, or immediately create a service record and remind the customer that maintenance work is essential within 12 months, or…or…or. If you haven’t listed what you think are your uniques, you can end up in trouble. That’s why it’s often the second time user who gets it most right, having found the glaring functionality holes in their first software selection. So write down your ‘uniques’.

Second, never assume. It’s so common for businesses to upgrade their system and find that things they relied on in the first system, and assumed would be there in the ‘upgraded’ system, are not! This even occurs when upgrading with the same supplier to a new release of that supplier’s software. So write down what you like about your current system and would be reluctant to give up (and anything you hate and are happy to lose).

Third, there are presumably a number of reasons for upgrading. You have a list of things you feel are missing and will be an essential part of your shiny new system. So write down the new functions you’re seeking.

Fourth, prioritise. Some of your requirements may be available bit at extra cost. If potential suppliers know what’s most important, they can point out the additional cost of some of your less important requirements. That way, you can apply some simple cost-benefit analysis and decide whether the extra cost is justified.

Finally, analyse your users. You should split your users into those who need full and unfettered access to all parts of the software – the accountants, the order processing team, the production manager etc. – and those who have a simple functional requirement – entering PO’s for approval, updating project costs, booking stock in and out. It is increasingly common for software suppliers to offer two flavours of user – full and ‘light’ or ‘limited’. The latter can be bought at a fraction of the cost of the former and offer serious cost savings.

 

Next time – Ballpark costs.

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How to Select an ERP System and Not Get Badly Stung in the Process!

A couple of years ago, out of sheer frustration at the number of prospect companies who had chosen to proceed on a clearly misguided software acquisition path (in my humble opinion and clearly not at all sour grapes!), I put together a ‘Guide for Business Advisers’.

 

I hoped that this guide would help many avoid the worst or most obvious mistakes. It has subsequently been utilised not simply as a guide for those terming themselves business advisers such as IT consultants, the local enterprise company’s ERP expert or a business’s accountants; but also as a useful set of hints for the poor sod in the prospect company who has been handed the poisoned chalice of finding the next ERP system. We’ve met everyone from the CEO or CFO down to the new graduate given this as his or her work project!

 

Things that had inspired me to write the guide included finding a prospective client who had committed to an unbreakable 3 year support contract with a supplier on the basis of a single presentation. It cost a five figure sum to release them from the contract but was worth it. More commonly, we find a prospective  client fails to carry out some basic due diligence and ends up purchasing from a company which looks great on the web and turns out to be no more than ‘one man and a dog up a close’ (as we say in Scotland).

 

Over the next few blogs, I plan to summarise the contents so that readers may have an insight into a process which I have observed in my 30 years operating on both sides of the fence – as IT consultant advising clients when I was in the accountancy profession as a ‘Computer Audit Manager’ and more recently trying to be as objective as possible while selling ERP systems on behalf of IT companies.

 

In the next blog, we’ll start with the ‘Selection Process’ and subsequent blogs will consider ‘Ballpark Costs’, ‘Implementation’, ‘Things You (or your Client’) Should Check Out’ and ‘New Technologies Worth Considering’.

 

As the guide was originally published in February 2011, this affords me a great opportunity to update the Guide and, who knows, have a runaway eBook success on Amazon!