January 2012 | How-To | Ten Tips

Ensuring a Worry-Free ERP Implementation

Tags: Logistics I.T.

The complaints most often associated with implementing an enterprise resource planning system (ERP) focus on flexibility, scalability, and upgrade and maintenance costs. To avoid snafus, do your homework before making a purchase. David F. Ross, senior manager, professional department, at APICS, The Association for Operations Management, offers this advice to guide your selection.

1. Consider industry expertise. The ERP vendor should have extensive industry experience and expertise to help you tackle complex business challenges and achieve rapid ROI.

2. Confirm that the ERP vendor will serve your current and future needs. Your ERP solution should allow you to continually adapt to new business, changing market environments, and technology strategies. Ask the ERP vendor for evidence of its ability to provide strategic, enterprise-wide, mission-critical applications to support your evolving business model.

3. Prioritize value-added solutions. Look for a robust application suite and critical functionality, coupled with a track record that reflects strong return on investment (ROI) and low total cost of ownership. The software should provide demonstrated and sustained business advantages.

4. Look for a highly structured implementation methodology. A proven implementation methodology removes uncertainty and facilitates a quick, effective, and worry-free start-up. Above all, the methodology should provide for change management to guide personnel whose workflows may be altered.

5. Seek out a flexible solution. Because no two businesses are alike, it is crucial that you can tailor the ERP solution to fit your industry's needs. Customization does not mean expensive changes to software code and presentation. Rather, a flexible ERP application suite should offer robust, system-wide settings and utilities that allow you to define how each application supports your company's unique business policies and procedures.

6. Investigate the solution provider's balance sheet. Make sure the vendor is on sound financial footing and shows evidence of consistent growth. Also ensure the vendor adheres to sound corporate and fiscal management practices.

7. Verify the technology architecture's strength. The ERP vendor's technology must be able to grow with your business. Ensure that its technology tools support e-commerce, Web storefronts, XML-based EDI, interactive electronic communications, browser-based views, secure Internet access, automated workflow, portals, service-oriented architecture, and cloud-computing solutions.

8. Make sure the provider is committed to enduring service. Among the support tools vendors should supply are business and software consulting, education and training, a national help line, installation and upgrade assistance, and technical support.

9. Select a solution that has a strong user community. Nothing speaks to the probability of ERP implementation success like the experiences of other companies that have installed the system without problems.

10. Ensure the vendor's integrity and dedication. An established ERP vendor should be able to provide a list of successful implementations and customer testimonials verifying growth and increased profitability from the software.