In our last blog post, we introduced the idea of having a clear step-by-step plan to ensure your ERP system selection is a success. We talked about steps one to three, including getting buy-in from senior management, selecting the project team and setting clear objectives. This companion blog post will guide you through the next four steps:

Step Four: Defining the Feature Requirements

Once you have set clear goals for your ERP project, you will have a much better understanding of which features you ideally need your ERP software to have. This step is probably one of the most time-consuming steps in the whole process, but as an independent ERP consultant, we cannot overstress just how important it is.

Creating a clear list of the features you require starts with you having a good knowledge of all your current business processes, and the best way that these should be undertaken. This means you shouldn’t just think about how things are done now, but how they should be done (which may be different), and then you can ensure your new system will enable you to do things the right way.

The best way to go about this is to speak to employees in all areas of your business. Many ERP projects fail as they are based solely on recommendations from the finance department, and no information has been gathered from operations, warehousing and logistics, customer services, sales, marketing and so on. You should also ensure that any regional offices and subsidiary companies have also been spoken to. Also, don’t forget to ask not only what their user requirements are now, but what they anticipate they might be in the future.   And finally, don’t forget to include your requirements for such as:

  • Integration with existing software
  • Reporting and business intelligence
  • Compliance
  • Data security

Step 5: Shortlisting Software and Suppliers

In order to narrow down the list of potential solutions, you should first list your key requirements and then research the software market, talking to potential suppliers and referring back to your requirements list at all times.

Once you have a ‘long-list’ of potential suppliers, the next thing you should do is to send them a request for information (RFI). The RFI that you send should include your detailed requirements as well as questions for the potential suppliers, including:

  • How well their software fits the requirements
  • Technical requirements and hosting options
  • Their approach to implementation
  • The level of on-going support they provide
  • Their business and their experience, particularly their experience with similar clients
  • Ballpark costs

You may also want to take a look at their financials as well to check how stable they are as a business.

Once you have shortlisted two or three systems from the answers to your RFI, you should then evaluate them in depth.  In our experience, if the RFI responses don’t help you narrow the list of potential solutions down to two or three, having short demos that focus on your key requirements, from the top five or six suppliers, usually helps to cross some off the list.

Step Six: Evaluating Software and Suppliers

This stage of the selection process involves thoroughly evaluating the short-listed solutions, as well as the suppliers and the services they provide, through a combination of demonstrations and in-depth questions.

Software demonstrations are one of the most crucial parts of the selection process, and you should make sure that people from the project team are there when the demonstrations take place. Make sure you see a demo of all of the key features that your business will use, and perhaps use a scorecard system to assess each demonstration to help with your discussions later on.

The in-depth questions you ask of the shortlisted suppliers should explore in more detail the aspects covered in the RFI, as well as the following:

  • References
  • Product
  • Final proposal and price
  • Contract(s) – software and hosting

You should aim to speak to at least three appropriate reference sites, and ideally visit at least one.

Step Seven: Making the Decision

The final step in the selection process is actually making the selection. You have gone through months of researching and evaluating and should now be at the stage to discuss the pros and cons of each offer. Once you have decided on your chosen supplier, you should let the unsuccessful ones know as soon as possible. Then all you need to do is put a formal agreement in place with your chosen supplier – reviewing it first and requesting amendments, if necessary – and you are ready to start working on your implementation plan.

To learn more about how to make sure your ERP system selection and implementation are successful, please contact Alison at Greenbeam Consulting on 0843 523 5630 or by email at [email protected]