If you’re in the market for a new ERP system and don’t know where to begin, you’ve come to the right place. Adopting a new enterprise resource planning system is no small task, and requires a healthy amount of due diligence to ensure project success. Afterall, having the right ERP system in place can mean the difference between success and failure for many businesses. To help ensure you make the right choice, we’ve put together a list of 12 steps for choosing the right ERP solution.
1. Gather a list of requirements:
Start by gathering a comprehensive list of requirements and needed functionalities for your new system. Do you want everything to be cloud-based and accessible from anywhere in the world? Or are you okay with a more outdated non-cloud solution? Do you want one single system to handle the majority of your business processes including CRM, HR, marketing, sales, supply chain, inventory and more? Do you have certain software in your tech stack that will need to be integrated with your new ERP system? How many user licenses will you need? There’s a ton of questions you should be asking yourself, and it would be beneficial to get any key stakeholders to participate in this discovery process as well. There might be a requirement that your IT department thinks of that your accounting department would not have.
2. Analyze your current resources:
What resources, both financial and human resources wise, do you have access to to help with this transition? Do you have an internal IT department that already has expertise with ERP’s? Do you have the financial ability to not only afford new licenses, but afford the customization and consulting work that comes along with successful implementations? Make note of any resources that would help (or hinder) you along the way. When you get further in the discovery process, your ERP vendor may be able to address some of your issues and suggest solutions.
3. Lay out your current business model:Are you an e-commerce company? Do you have international sales, complex tax accounting, or a global supply chain? How do you sell your product or service? This will be important to understand, since some ERPs are not made to handle international operations, subsidiaries, complex accounting, or other advanced business models. Lay out a high level overview of how your business functions in the market landscape.
4. Gather a list of goals for the new system:
What are you trying to accomplish by upgrading to a new ERP system? There must be a clear business initiative behind making this large of an investment, so lay out those driving factors. You might be outgrowing your existing tech stack, be experiencing shortcomings from an existing ERP, or need automation to reduce manual labor and error-prone data entry. Whatever your driving factors are for making the transition, make them clear and known. This will help you better assess which ERP will be a strategic fit.
5. Evaluate the strategic fit:Now that you know what will be required from the new system, and what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s time to evaluate the strategic fit of the platform with your existing operations. Will this new system work with your desired integrations, and will it be able to perform all of the tasks that are required? What industry or business specific features will enable your business to accomplish more? If you’re in the construction industry, having an ERP with project management capabilities will go a long way. If you’re in retail, you’ll need top-of-the-line inventory management. Are you a small business or enterprise? Different ERP systems are geared towards different market segments. Some, like NetSuite, are built to scale and can handle nearly any sized business.
6. Understand how the ERP will help you accomplish your goals:
If your goal is to scale your organization, or to improve your financial management, be sure to get a clear understanding of how each ERP will help you accomplish exactly that. ERP systems can have varying strengths and weaknesses, so be sure to document what goals you expect to achieve with this new system, and make sure that the system is capable.
7. Get references:Get references from other organization(s) if able. You might have a friend or business partner who has experience with a top ERP, and can help point you in the right direction. A word of mouth recommendation from someone in a similar industry will go a long way in helping you decide. If you can’t find someone you trust to give a recommendation, fear not. There’s countless online review sites available, and many of them provide a deep technical analysis to back up their findings.
8. Locate any sources of recognition:There’s a number of technology and business thought leaders that provide awards and recognition to players in this space. For instance, you can check out Gartner’s reviews for the best Financial Management ERP suites. Make sure you look up reviews and awards from reputable sources. You might be able to find reliable information on a “clear winner” in your industry.
9. Evaluate vendors:When it comes to purchasing new ERP licenses, you have a couple of options. You can go directly through the vendor, or you can buy from authorized third party sellers. You may be asking why you would buy from a reseller rather than directly? It turns out, there’s a strong business case for purchasing an ERP through a third-party vendor. Vendors are often certified consultants for a certain ERP system. If you buy NetSuite through a certified Solutions Provider, they’ll not only be able to provide the license, but implement your instance, build your integrations, and create your customizations. During this evaluation stage, be sure to have the vendor setup a thorough demo & discovery meeting with your key stakeholders. The vendor will be able to help walk you through the process, and can help you identify any extra requirements that you might not have thought of. Further, they’ll be able to provide a roadmap regarding making it from this discovery stage all the way through a successful implementation. Be sure to ask your vendor about their certifications and past project success to make sure that you’re hiring an industry leader.
10. Understand what customizations you’ll need to tailor the ERP to your business:
When you implement a new ERP system, you get the “out of the box” version. However, to maximize the ROI from this new system, you’ll need to customize your instance until it’s tailored perfectly to your organization. This can mean custom modules, unique fields and relationships, saved searches or reporting dashboards, and a whole lot more. You’ll want to get a good understanding of what customizations you need, and what customizations are available.
11. Figure out your “real” cost:
Here’s another situation where purchasing through an ERP consultant & implementation specialist comes in handy. You might be able to find pricing regarding your ERP system of choice online or through an in-person demo, but this is unlikely to be your true cost. You may have to pay for additional modules, customizations, integrations, etc. When purchasing through a vendor that can handle both the licensing sale, and all the customization work, you get a much clearer understanding of your true costs.
It is worth noting that a successful ERP implementation can have a drastic impact on your business. This is not one of the areas you want to skimp financially on. If you choose an ERP system simply based on price, it is likely to cost you more money in the long run.
12. Figure out a realistic timeline:
Once you’ve established business requirements, chosen the ERP you want, and have a vendor in mind, be sure to get a realistic timeline for implementation. After all, it’s not uncommon for an ERP implementation to take 100 days or more. Be sure to get a clear understanding of how long the whole process will take, so you know what to expect and how/when to shift your resources around.
Congratulations on starting the journey to a new enterprise resource planning software. ERPs are incredibly powerful tools that unlock a world of potential for your business. As with any major business decision, you’ll want to do your research and adequately plan for the sales and implementation process. Afterall, you want this to be the last ERP you’ll ever need.
Follow the steps above to gain clear insight into your business needs, what options are available to you, and the best way to pursue those options. If you do your due diligence, a new ERP implementation will help fortify your bottom line, increase your ability to scale, and streamline your operations.