How to Ensure You Get the Best System For Your Needs

Successful ERP system selection can sometimes be more problematic than a system implementation. Many companies rush to enter into dialogue with vendors before they have adequately determined what they want from a system. Therefore having a structured approach to the selection process is vital to ensure they find one which matches their needs.

The First Step to Successful ERP System Selection

The first step is to establish that you require a new system. Audit the processes within the business to determine what you want from a new system, but also why you need one. Gradient runs information sessions within organisations to demonstrate the issues caused by present methods. This process paints a realistic picture of what organisational life could be like with a new system.

When selecting software, always start by setting out the business case, ensuring it aligns to your strategic objectives. Then analyse what you currently do and what business processes need improvement to meet those objectives.

Pull all the process and system requirements into a document to send to the vendors. Depending on the complexity of the business, the report should be approximately 20-30 pages long and should avoid questions that require a simple yes / no answers. Vendors have to explain how their ERP software will benefit your business.

Spend some time researching the ERP systems market place, perhaps by visiting websites, attending some exhibitions and having initial conversations with those vendors who not only specialise in your industry sector but deal with companies of your scale of operation. Issue the completed Statement of Requirements document to a list of between four and eight vendors.

Ensure you get the approval of a high-level budget for the project. The budget doesn’t need to be too accurate at this stage. Consider hardware and network costs as well as software and services (e.g. training and consultancy).

When the vendors respond, the whole selection committee should spend time to review the responses critically.  A right answer should be a detailed document in which the vendor explains how their system will overcome your issues. Following the review, select two or three vendors to follow up in more detail.

The Next Step – Demonstrations

The next part of the process involves a half-day to a one-day demonstration by two to three vendors. Following this will be a thorough two to three-day workshop with your preferred vendor. Once you have chosen the two or three vendors you want to see; the next step is to decide what you wish to demonstrate. You can’t possibly see everything in the software in a day or half-day demonstration, so be selective. Ask the vendor to show the activities that are two things. Firstly, critical to your business. Secondly, identified as being potential issues in the statement of user requirements.

Pull together this information into a report and send the same agenda to each of the vendors to enable you to make a good comparison. Also make sure you add in the agenda time to view their offices, meet some of their people and see the support desk. At this stage of the selection process, most software performs well. Often the choice between vendors comes down to which vendor suits your business best. This may be more about organisational cultures than software. Although it is important to take detailed notes in the demonstrations and be prepared to score them if it helps your thought process. Also, recognise that ‘people buy from people’.

Once you have your preferred vendor, arrange for a two to a three-day workshop with the system at your premises. Arrange for as many of your end-users as possible to view the system as this will increase buy-in and the likelihood of a successful ERP selection project. It will also act as a good starting point for future implementation and spot any functionality gaps you missed.

The Final Step

Providing your user base is happy; then the final step is to negotiate contracts. Some people feel more comfortable than other consulting agreements; in all cases, make sure the negotiations are polite and fair. For example, don’t consider playing one vendor against another. You have a long term relationship to build, and in the long run, it won’t do you any favours. At the same time, don’t be afraid to negotiate; all vendors can move a little.

What Next?

At Gradient, we can help you select the vendors that best meet your requirements. We will help you put together a comprehensive specification document detailing all your critical requirements linked to your strategic objectives. We do this while ensuring that your internal people have ownership of the decision.

If you would like to find out more, contact us today for an initial, no-obligation discussion about your aspirations and how we can help you and your business deliver your vision for the future on +44 (0) 1282 463710

Still not convinced? How about learning more about Gradient and why you should let us help you by clicking here.