Getting ready to look at enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions? This is an area where an ERP consultant or “partner” can really help. Experienced consultants know what’s out there and can help you determine which ERP software will help you achieve your company’s or organization’s goals. Whether you are working with a partner now or are starting a preliminary search on your own, here are 15 criteria to consider:
- Goals and objectives – The goals and objectives for your ERP project should jibe with the company’s overall mission and strategic plan. Perform a gap analysis of where you are now and where you want to be and then create specific objectives for your ERP project.
- Support for your business processes – The ERP software you select must be able to support your fundamental business processes. It’s easy to say “We can work around that,” but it may be harder than you think. Most business processes have evolved to their current state for very good reasons. You should analyze your business processes and make any changes or adaptions before you implement your ERP.
- Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – Do a TCO analysis over 5 years, including software, hardware, consulting maintenance, training, additional headcount, and upgrades.
- Time to implement – Ask how long it will take to implement the solution. Now ask to see the “fine print.” Make sure you understand what’s in the estimate and what is not. Lock down the project and avoid scope creep.
- Phased implementation – Sometimes a phased approach is the least disruptive and easiest to implement. Can you roll out the project to one department at a time? Can you roll out selected functionality now and work on secondary functionality as people as beginning to use and accept the product?
- Data in/out, data integration, data management – How easy (or difficult) is it to work with the data in the solution you are considering? Will it require data cleansing or translation? Will you require an ongoing data administrator? Will a data administrator require special skills?
- Functionality – Focus on “must haves” such as financial consolidation, reporting, and multiple currencies. Don’t be swayed by dazzling demos of functionality that you will have to fabricate a use for. Maybe it’s really great stuff and maybe you’ll find a perfect use for it, but be sure to fulfill your real needs first, no matter how dull.
- Product positioning – How is this solution positioned in the market? Does it have specific functionality for a particular vertical? Is it geared toward organizations of a particular size? Where is the vendor’s experience and where are its successes?
- Upgrade path – Know going in what the upgrade options are and how an upgrade will impact not just ERP but other IT priorities in the next 5 years as well. Is the software scalable? Agile? What kind of licensing models are offered for expanding the user base? Does it support your plan of expansion and/or acquisition?
- Customizations/integrations – Does the product have additional modules that can be added (functional integrations)? Does the product offer out-of-the-box integrations with other existing software? Is there an active community of add-on developers?
- Vendor/developer stability/commitment – Take a good look at the software vendor. Is the vendor active in the industry? Check its financial history to ensure the company is successful and that it’s a good bet they will be around for a while. What kind of support do they offer for past versions? Has the company won any awards? What were the criteria for the awards?
- References – Most vendors will give you a link to a good customer success story or even hand you a printed story on nice glossy paper. Don’t stop there. Ask for references that you can talk to or even visit. Then do it.
- User friendly product – What is the user experience like? Again, don’t be dazzled by a demo-er who can jump all over the screen and create a complex, rainbow-colored graph in seconds. She probably has had years of experience with the product and may even have some pieces pre-built in the background. Try the product yourself. Then let your users have at it. Try giving it to the users with no instruction. Really listen to their input. If they can’t be made comfortable with the solution, they won’t use it.
- Training/problem solving/on-going support – What options are available for training? How will you train an on-going stream of new users? Is there an active user community? Is there a database of FAQs? Are there user conferences? User conferences not only help users solve problems, but they regenerate enthusiasm for the solution and give users ideas to better leverage it.
- Partner network – Is there an active community of partners? Partners that get better support from the vendor will perform better and partners that are well known and well regarded in the partner community are usually your best bet for a successful implementation.
For more information about how an enterprise resource management system can help your business call NexVue at 203.327.0800 or email us at [email protected].
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By Sandi Richards Forman, NexVue Information Systems, www.nexvue.com