10 Tips for choosing an ERP Software Provider
When it comes to choosing an ERP Software Provider or Partner, it can be a complete minefield. Should you select the ERP solution first, then shortlist some providers or should you research different ERP solutions and providers together as a combined package and then short list accordingly?
There are so many variables at play here and sometimes it can be difficult to know how to get started. From our very many years working with customers and ERP solutions, we would say that there is no specific right way and different companies will choose different routes according to their own set of circumstances.
From our experience, companies will select a number of different ERP systems for comparison purposes. You may know which products to include in your selection process, but how will you know which Provider to choose for each of these products? You may choose to approach a Solution Provider based on a Google Search, a radio ad, a referral, or some other way. But regardless of how you come to find them, here are some pointers to help you choose the right Solution Provider for your ERP project.
1. The Knowledge
It’s all very well having lots of product knowledge and understanding all the nuances and features and benefits of the product. But can you be sure that the Provider you are engaged with really understands your industry? If your industry is Retail, then you should be working with a Solution Provider who really understands the nuts and bolts of Retail, who can demonstrate their experience and has customer testimonials or references in the Retail Sector.
2. The Experience
Aligned with the first point, it’s also about people, their previous experiences, projects they have successfully completed and their ability to really understand your business challenges. It’s about translating these challenges into solutions that solve your particular problems.
It’s also about determining their confidence level and their desire to not just replace old with new. You can determine this by their approach, by their line of questioning, by their suggestions and recommendations. You could buy the exact same software application from two different vendors and have completely different experiences. You should always keep your eye on the end goal. What will this project do for our business? How can it enhance, automate and transform or disrupt how we do things? Can it give us the capability to excel at what we do and potentially catapult us to a whole new level? Does your ERP Provider bring creative ideas to the table and push the boundaries to help you realise your full potential? Do they care about the outcome for your business?
3. The Trust
This is a difficult one to assess at the beginning of any relationship. How many “stories” have you been told when you are looking to buy something in the past? How do you know who to trust? When choosing an ERP Software Provider, you cannot afford to be left high and dry. It’s too important and you need to be sure that the Provider you are engaging with is trustworthy. How can you tell? Our suggestion is to get to know your Provider early on.
- Build the relationship
- Ask lots of questions
- Judge their sales engagement process
- Do they do what they say they will do?
- Have you met more than one person in the organisation?
- Did you speak to anybody in authority?
4. The Fit
Choosing an ERP Software Provider that fits with your company and your culture is paramount. It’s a partnership you are entering into and the synergy should be there from the beginning.
At some stage during the pre-sales engagement, it would be a good idea to get some customer references for you to chat to. Find out not just if they did a good job but what they are like to work with, after all the relationship doesn’t just end when the project goes live. You need to feel comfortable that you can work as a team and share the same aspirations.
One common pitfall is where ERP Providers heavily discount/reduce the number or cost of Professional Services days just to win the business. Of course, commercial reality always comes into play. However, it is more important to striking a balance between getting good value and a well-thought-out project plan versus getting a great deal and having it fall apart at the seams during the implementation. Nobody wants to have a failed ERP project with a rescue plan potentially costing a lot more time and money to rectify.
6. Scope it Out
Investing in an ERP system is not a decision to be taken lightly. Although tight timescales and project deadlines are often driving forces, rushing to the starting line to “get cracking” is in my view, a recipe for disaster. It might sound like the most obvious thing in the world, but it’s always worth asking, does your ERP Provider have a process that includes a Workshop or Scoping exercise? It’s no different to building a house without architectural drawings. You are literally walking into the big unknown and that’s very scary as you can fall very hard if you hit any number of bumps along the way.
What you should be looking for is a workshop – no compromises – with a documented response. While it may be impossible to unearth every single possible scenario, the objective should be clear. Your Provider should guide you and your team through a process which helps them understand your business, your processes, your roles, your challenges, your pain points and your plans and ambitions for the future.
Workshop before Order
You should look to get some comfort from your ERP Provider from this process. In our view this is also something that you do should before you agree to purchase any software. We would suggest that you side-step any scenario where you are being pushed into placing an order for software before the end of the month or quarter with the intention to begin the workshop a few weeks down the track. It’s too late then to do a U-turn as you have already committed to buying the system. What if the workshop unearths something you had not considered before and will now cost an additional €’s to resolve? Our advice: Always do the workshop before placing any order for software.
7. The Plan
Think about when you award the contract to a Provider. They may have bent over backwards during the sales and pre-sales engagement, but what happens next? Are there resources in place to kick off the project to meet the intended timelines? Do they know how to plan the project? Have they got dedicated resources? How important are you to this Provider?
We would suggest that during the pre-sales engagement you ask to see a sample project plan (and not just a copy and pasted template). The plan should include a target commencement date, milestones and go-live dates.
Another factor to take into account here is the approach to the plan. Is it a Big Bang plan or a phased plan? What might suit the ERP Provider may not match your internal capacities.
8. The Teams
Get to know your project team during the pre-sales process. You should ensure that the Project Team are engaged with the project during the pre-sales and beyond. This will help ensure a smooth transition between sales and project implementation with no “hand-over gaps”. Get to know the Project Manager as you will potentially be working with this person for a period of time (weeks, months or even years).
It’s vital that you also assemble your own internal project team who can be assigned to work on your project in conjunction with the Providers project team. Remember also that this is your project and you and your team will retain responsibility for the day to day running of the system when the project is complete. So, the more your team can be involved in the implementation the better. You will also need to consider if they will be 100% dedicated or will they be working on their day-to-day jobs at the same time.
9. The Funds
Due diligence should be carried out to ensure that you are working with a company that is financially stable.
10. Size Matters
Time and time again we have been brought into projects that initially have not gone well and that need rescuing. There is a perception that because you are a big company, you should choose a big company to implement your ERP solution. Big can sometimes (but not always) mean losing out on the personal approach. Your judgement here will be based on all of the above elements and sizing up for yourself whether you think your ERP provider can measure up. Some points to consider here include:
- Are they too big or too small to take on your project?
- How many other projects do they have on the go?
- Will your project get the attention it deserves?
- Do you have a dedicated team assigned to work on your project?
- Can they roll-out global projects?
Starting an ERP Project? Why not get in touch to have a chat with us?
Author: Brian Doherty
Brian works in our Project Management and Consultancy Teams and brings a huge amount of experience successfully leading ERP projects across Retail, Distribution and Services sectors.