5 Key Things to Consider in an ERP Software Selection Project
Picking the right ERP solution can be tough.
There are lots of options when considering an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system today, partially because generic ERP solutions that must be customized are being replaced with cloud-based, industry-specific solutions. From agriculture and transportation to entertainment and banking, there now are specific solutions for many industry verticals. There also are generally more ERP options than ever, even before you factor in industry solutions. We can thank cloud ERP for that.
Choosing the right system for your business can therefore be a considerable challenge. Feature set, configuration and system integration adds another layer of complexity to the selection process.
There isn’t one right answer, unfortunately, or a magic formula for picking ERP software. But there are some best practices that can help you make the right choice.
Navigator has helped businesses roll out more than 500 ERP implementations over the past 25 years, so here are some of the key tips we’ve found useful in helping during this sometimes-daunting process.
1. Determine Your Specific Industry Needs
An ERP solution should fit your industry vertical and specific business process needs. If not, employees will avoid the solution even after rollout and training, instead opting for spreadsheets and unsanctioned third-party solutions.
This is why it is crucial to perform a business self-evaluation before launching your search.
As you take the time to define your business, its structure and how it operates as part of the planning process, assess your current software situation to evaluate integration and customization needs. Take the time to determine specific goals and desired process improvements, too.
Who will ultimately choose the system and who will use it? What features are necessary? What budget and resources will be committed? What is your timeline for implementation? You’ll want to know these elements as well as any industry-specific regulatory and compliance needs.
Taking the time to do this kind of thorough assessment can help you find the proper industry-specific solution partner.
2. Consult with Key Stakeholders and Team Members
As you evaluate your business and its needs, you’ll need to rely heavily on your key stakeholders and employees who will be using the system on a daily basis. Tap those members of your staff who have an extensive and intimate knowledge of what your business needs from a new ERP system.
This unique staff input not only helps with knowing your company’s actual needs, it also helps create a clearer connection between the old system and the new one you ultimately select.
An added perk of these consultations is the sense of ownership your team will feel with the system update. Because staff are involved in the new system rollout, they will be more willing to accept new processes over the old ways things were done; they will have a sense of ownership of the new system from the start.
3. Make Sure the Solution Can Grow with You
Because ERP sits at the center of your business, the system you select will likely be with you for many years. Your business is not going to stand still, and neither should your backend system. Any solution you choose should be adaptable and able to evolve with your company as it grows.
Cloud ERP is automatically and continuously upgraded, which helps with adaptability. But also look for the underlying flexibility of the system, even if it is geared toward a specific industry vertical. Can it scale? Can it support multiple ways of handling the same business function?
As you consider your options, also keep in mind that your vendor needs to have the same staying power as the solution itself. One downside of the proliferation of ERP offerings is the possibility of selecting a vendor that won’t be able to help you with details like third-party integrations now and also in the future.
4. Note Any Necessary Third-Party Integrations
ERP works best when it is able to connect with other systems, otherwise it’s utility as a central nerve system for your business is compromised. Your ERP system should include any necessary integrations and connectivity, or at least be integration-ready with the assistance of an implementation partner.
The best ERP integration for your company depends on your specific business, its currents systems and your integration budget. There are several integration options available.
A point-to-point integration individually connects ERP software with other software and tools, while customized applications or adapters are specifically designed to your business needs and integrate various business tools. Finally, there are Enterprise Services Buses (ESBs) which connect applications via a “communication bus” that serves as centralized tools where applications communicate.
Whatever your company decides upon, you’ll want to have support handy to help with integration guidance.
5. Keep an Eye Out for Product Support
No matter how much information you gather on ERP implementation and optimization, you’re going to need assistance from a partner—whether your vendor or a third-party. Otherwise, you run the risk of adopting a system with fantastic features and capabilities you may never actually configure properly and use.
The right ERP solution partner will help you properly leverage your committed internal resources, evolve your business systems and processes, and capitalize on your new ERP system.
With this in mind, you’ll want to select a vendor that “plays” well with your company and will make a great partner for years to come. Be on the lookout for a dynamic community of consultants, integrators, customization shops and support the chosen ERP solution, too. It is this kind of support that will help you get the most out of your software investment.
Use Our Evaluation Guide to Get Started
With all the factors to consider for successful ERP selection and deployment, no single factor is more important than a company’s self-evaluation efforts. Skipping this key step and not thoroughly assessing your company’s situation can result in choosing the wrong solution or having your project go awry before it begins.
We’ve put together a vendor-neutral ERP Evaluation Guide to walk you through all the questions you should ask before selecting an ERP system. The guide will help you understand all you’ll need to make the best choice for your business.