Find the right ERP software so your business makes better decisions and improves customer service in the most efficient way possible.
Maybe you’ve heard of ERP and weren’t sure exactly what it means or does, or you are already interested and want to know how to go about finding a system. Let’s talk about what it is, what it can do for you, and how to find a system to help you reach your goals.
ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning; it is a way to integrate all the departments and their functions onto one data system so that everyone in the organization has the same and most updated, accurate information to work with. The benefits are many and you can imagine most of them:
● Efficiency - Everyone is working with the same current data so better decisions are made. Since everyone sees the same data, communication is easier between departments and offices, whether on a different floor or in a different country.
● Time and Costs - Time is saved on updating information from one department to another, or one division to another. It could be that you have several employees that spend a significant part of their time making updates, so the time saved is a huge cost saving as well.
This being the huge undertaking it sounds like, how do you go about finding a company that will help you improve all your systems? You could have someone else help you find them or you can spend the time doing it on your own. Either way, here are the major steps you need to take while looking for a company to help you improve your business systems.
Step 1 - Define the Solution
What are you specifically trying to achieve? What business goals will this undertaking solve for your company? If you can’t define the results, then you don’t need to go through this endeavour. And yes, this will involve top decision-makers, so if they aren’t heavily involved in this process, stop now. This process will involve looking at all your data and how decisions are made throughout the company, so this all-inclusive process will make a major impact on the business, necessitating involvement and buy-in from the top down. Knowing what company goals will be impacted helps you evaluate which system will work for you. Have a list of the top 3-5 goals that this change will help you achieve. And don’t define them in terms of software only. These are corporate goals, not just IT goals.
Step 2 - List the Criteria for Success
Define the parameters the new system has to have so you eliminate systems that aren’t compatible with these criteria. Include measures that make the system unique to you.
● Can they work with your current software platform? Can their system grow with your needs?
● What are all the costs involved? This includes the initial cost of the system but also includes any hardware upgrades, training, ongoing support, etc. Don’t make a decision strictly on cost but it does have to be a consideration. Ultimately, these expenses should be offset by the savings and efficiency the system provides.
● How will you measure whether you are achieving the goals you set out to accomplish? You will want a way to track the system you’re integrating into your company. The evaluation of the system will be ongoing for it to be successful.
Step 3 - Do Your Homework
Now begins the process of comparing available systems for your organization. Get references of other clients from the software company.
● Is the majority of their business with companies of your size? Who else is trying to achieve the same goals as you with their system? Most providers specialize in a certain type and/or size of company that they work with and if that profile resembles you, that should indicate a good fit for your company.
● Did the software company stay on schedule and were costs quoted correctly? If not, why? Were there any surprises?
● Finally, would they make the same decision again? If so, what would they change?
Step 4 - Invite and Evaluate
Invite your top prospective software companies in for a demonstration. Take note of what they ask of you in return before the presentation.
● Does the company want some background on your business? They should or how else are they going to give specifics on meeting your goals?
● What is the presentation like? Did they specifically focus on the goals you identified for the software or was it a general presentation for any company?
● Did they talk about just the segments you are interested in to address your goals or all the features they offer that you aren’t going to use?
● Are the details what you need? Are the time and cost quotes in line with previous conversations? What does this mean for your current method of doing business with the new flow of information and processes? How much testing and adjusting of output will happen?
Step 5 - See It In Progress
It would not be unusual to ask to see the system implemented at another client’s site. While time-consuming, it is your final chance to keep from aligning with the wrong vendor for your needs. This significant addition to your business warrants an opportunity to see the system in action, and be able to speak to someone involved in the original decision-making and someone that understands the system in detail. You want to know:
● Have their goals been met since the software change?
● What has been the greatest benefit?
● How does the company respond to questions or issues?
● How was the training? Is it ongoing?
● What would they have done differently?
As part of business process management, ERP implementation is a significant endeavor for any company. With several ERP systems out there, finding a vendor that will help you improve all your systems will take some time and effort on the part of the major decision-makers in your organization. Be sure to do your homework and find the best fit for your needs, and if you feel you need some assistance with this critical task, consider turning to a company like TGO Consulting, who specialises in ERP consulting, and other business process improvement methods.
Melanie Valenzuela has been writing about business topics for several years and currently writes on behalf of TGO Consulting. When not writing, she can be found working on her world perspective through travel; or challenging her heart rate through tennis, running or attending a Kansas City Royals baseball game. You can find her on LinkedIn.
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