5 things you should keep in mind when selecting an ERP system

The Datel blog explores why the right mindset and approach are critical to making the right choice when evaluating ERP systems.

Implementation costs, project planning, scalability, modularity – selecting an ERP system can feel like serious business. But with the right approach selecting an ERP system can be a beneficial experience that provides insight into the world of ERP and a glimpse into the future of your business.

Here are five things to keep in mind during your ERP selection process:

Establish the essentials – what, why, when

Ask yourself ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘when’. This might seem obvious, but identifying those factors in respect to your ERP requirements means you can establish what you want, why you need it and what you’re willing to invest. These questions will also allow potential implementation partners to help you more effectively.

By establishing exactly what you want and why, a software reseller will be better positioned to make potentially transformative suggestions and recommendations. Establishing what you don’t know can uncover blind spots in your selection process, in contrast to finding an oversight long after the system has been implemented.

Identifying what you don’t know or have yet to decide helps you establish questions to ask a prospective vendor or reseller - and people within your business.

You’re already in business – so take your time

If you’re looking to implement an ERP system or retire existing legacy software, there’s only benefit to be had from taking your time in the selection process. With so many factors to consider – from modularity and add-ons to support and costing – a hasty implementation could mean you miss critical consideration points. An effective ERP suite can become an efficiency engine within your business for years to come.

Taking a little more time to ensure it’s the right engine, then, doesn’t seem like such a big ask. Of course, ERP won’t necessarily make your business work – that’s down to you – but a well-implemented system will improve your day-to-day operations and strategic planning capabilities, which all potentially lead to a better bottom line.

Be implementation ready – with the right research

‘Do your research’ might seem like another obvious point as it’s something we do for virtually everything we buy, from headphones to televisions to cars. But due to the intricate nature of ERP systems, a comparison website or a single user review may not tell the full story - a pair of headphones doesn’t require an implementation specialist or technical support team. Keep in mind, too, that research applies to vendor, solution and reseller.

What’s more, an excellent solution might appear ineffective when poorly implemented, skewing that user’s perception of the system’s capabilities. No single source of information will necessarily provide a definitive answer. Collating and comparing information from multiple sources ensures you’re able to find the ERP solution that’s right for your business. Potential sources of information include development roadmaps, case studies, testimonials, message boards, events, and online demonstrations.

Talk to everyone, ask everything

Talk to people, ask questions and remember that no query is too basic. What’s more, nothing will give you a better idea of the ‘on-the-ground’ experience a solution provides by speaking to the people who use it. Taking the time to fully understand what you want will give you the confidence to reject that smooth sales pitch that, while seemingly attractive, may not be the best fit for your business.

And who do you talk to? Everyone: vendors, resellers, customers, consultants and people on your team who may have previous experience of ERP solutions.

Resellers may offer reference sites - same-sector businesses that use similar systems and implementations. This gives you the opportunity to see a real-world example of your prospective system as delivered by that implementation partner within your sector. And that previous legwork will empower you to make the most of those conversations. The more you know, the more you have to go on when making that final decision.

Set realistic expectations – but keep an open mind

No single ERP solution will accommodate each and every nuance within your business – but a well-designed, well-implemented system might fulfil ninety-five percent of your requirements. And while not quite a hundred percent, the right system will offer more utility than a poorly implemented system that only reaches fifty percent or perhaps even less.

Understanding the upper limit of what can be achieved with an off-the-shelf solution can act as a reference point in considering what you’re willing to spend. Remember: your current budget might fund that sixty-percent now, but a solution from a forward-thinking vendor will let you fulfil the remaining thirty-five percent in the future when the resources become available.

What next...

With a ‘more you know, the more you have to go on’ approach, your investigation into the world of ERP can be a gradual, gratifying experience that can reap long-term benefits for your business. And so with the right knowledge and, most importantly, patience, selecting an ERP system can be an enlightening and educational endeavour that, even if not pursued immediately, can change the way you think about doing business forever.