From new businesses to the best-known brands, everyone depends on daily activities that make sure products and services are delivered, income is processed, and staff are paid. The ERP system that best suits the organisation in its early days is unlikely to still fit after the next major growth milestone, and whether you’re starting out or have years of success behind you, ERP choices can be make or break.
The first step is to review what is currently working well with your ERP system, and what is missing. Interview each department as they will all have different feedback. What suits accounting may not suit sales, and features unimportant in marketing may be essential in customer service.
When we perform business technology alignments, we talk to people around the organisation, and we often come across information that the leadership team doesn’t know about. When you are looking at changing software, it may be worth repeating the process with a specialist ERP scoping consultant.
If staff are doing a lot of manual data entry, using many spreadsheets, or giving your printers a daily workout, it is likely to signify an ERP shortfall. At this stage, also gather details of software you are using outside the ERP that could be unnecessary with the right system in place. At this stage, also consider if your business is using the full capability of the existing system, or whether a few adjustments could suit your needs.
Creating lists of pros, cons, essential capabilities, and desired features will help you to conduct an accurate needs analysis, and prevent you from getting sold on the wrong system by a shiny website or compelling sales pitch.
Research what others in your industry are using. Chat at networking events and ask staff who have worked in other organisations. Your IT provider may be a great source of information, along with business coaches, consultants, and industry experts.
Investigate Your Options
Equipped with your needs analysis, you’re ready to seek information from vendors without getting sidetracked. Don’t get caught up in the marketing buzz – instead, use your requirements list and ask the vendors to report back about how they can meet your identified criteria. Talk to your accountant, industry and ERP experts, and research online.
Now you’re ready to narrow the contenders down to a shortlist. At this point, rate each option against your checklist. Ask for references and check them – learning from others’ experience with the software will give you better results. When following up references, ask open questions, and seek details that will be useful in making your final decision.
Ask the vendor for a demo of the software, and expect them to show you exactly how the ERP can work for your intended use. Don’t be afraid to request extra information or ask for the demo to be varied, so that you can envision the fit in your environment and understand how your users will engage with the new system.
Selecting a new ERP is a big decision that is likely to take 6-12 months. Take your time to review, research, reference check, and then implement, because your ERP has a profound effect on your business, and this will ensure a better outcome.
When preparing for transition, consider whether your data is clean or will need cleansing. Select a suitable date to go live (this is commonly the start of a new financial year, but it doesn’t have to be). Plan who in the business will manage the rollout, and how much capacity they have to take on this major task. Identify any impact on the business or effect on your clients. You may not be positioned to do it all in-house, and may need the vendor or some external consultants to help. Some businesses use an external project manager to keep all parties accountable.
Training is Critical
Both before and after your go-live date, if you are to get the most from the new platform. Your vendor or their partners may offer formal training, and it is worth appointing an app champion within your organisation. This person will access additional training, attend events, and become your ERP expert.
Ultimately, choosing an ERP is a journey, not a race, so don’t rush into it. A correctly chosen system will drive business efficiency, whereas a misstep can be both a distraction and a money pit. In our own business, we’ve changed ERP systems three times in 20 years, and each system was the right choice at that stage in our journey, but as we grew and our industry changed, we had to adjust to match.