by Geoff Green
Enterprise Account Manager

How to identify what you need from an ERP system

If the first step of selecting a solution is identifying your business’s need for an ERP system, the next step is understanding what you need that system to achieve - a process that can be helped along with the following steps:

Identify your requirements

Identify who your system is for. Talk to the people in your business to identify how a business management solution can help drive efficiency in their department. Ask them about gaps in processes, or establish areas in which large amounts of time are spent on manual processes or makeshift workarounds.

Identify who the system will affect. This doesn’t exclusively mean would-be system users. It can include managers, directors or supervisors who need information from the system, to the IT Managers and technicians response for managing and maintaining the solution. Drawing on their requirements and technical expertise will help you refine your system shortlist. 

Identify the functionality you absolutely require. Identify the functionality critical to the success of your business. This will allow you to eliminate systems that don’t support that functionality and give you time to focus on the systems that do.

Identify the functionality you want. Once you’ve identified ‘deal-breaking’ functionality - things that you absolutely need your system to do - identify what else you want to achieve outside those core requirements. No single system will accommodate every facet of your business - but establishing a 'want list' will help you identify how much of your business a system can support.

Identify where you want your business to be. You’ve identified the functionality you need now - but what about the functionality your business needs in 5 years? Ask yourself if you plan to enter new markets - or pursue rapid growth through acquisitions and pro-active recruitment.

Identify potential solutions that fulfil those requirements

Focusing solely on industry-specific solutions could narrow your field of search compared with a more generalist ERP solution. The former may appear more attractive at first glance - but won’t necessarily provide the wider benefits of a generalist solution, which you can then enhance with industry-specific functionality to suit your needs. It also means the system can grow to include other business functions in the future.

Exhibitions and webinars are a chance to learn about solutions directly from the software author. If you have questions that aren’t specifically addressed, don’t be afraid to contact vendors or resellers to ask the questions that matter to you.

Script those must-ask questions, which might include:

  • Does this solution meet my requirements?
  • What kinds of companies typically use this solution? Are they like us?
  • Are the upfront and ongoing costs consistent with my budget?
  • What other solutions can we extend the software with?
  • Who can help us to implement the solution successfully, and keep it running effectively?

But this list is hardly exhaustive. There may be questions unique to your business or industry. Your aim, then, should be to draw up a list of credible solutions - not to make a final decision. And as your selection process continues, you may need to review and refine your requirements in light of what’s available.

Select the partner alongside the system

Business solutions are often sold through resellers, who have specialist expertise in translating your business requirements into a working solution.

Reseller choice is crucial if you’re implementing your first system. They guide you through the process, meaning you’re more likely to be reliant on their expertise and ability to communicate effectively.

That means you should feel confident your prospective reseller understands your business - and your industry. This will ensure they’re able to effectively adapt a generic solution to your specific requirements.

A reseller should be able to produce a prototype system specific to your business with a sample of your data to demonstrate how the solution would work in a live scenario - this can be a powerful benchmark in assessing the capabilities of a reseller in relation to your needs.

But resellers are also responsible for providing technical support, ensuring your system is able to fulfil its promise of driving efficiency in your day-to-day business operations without disruption or downtime. Ask them about their service level agreement, which should specify their support capabilities, target resolution times - and how often they meet those targets.

Make the most of your time - with our help

Knowing what your business needs from an ERP system is a crucial step in your selection process. Spending that time upfront to identify and refine those requirements will allow you to focus on the prospective solutions able to drive transformation within your business.