Erp systems by their very nature are robust and complex beasts, but when implemented and utilized properly, they can transform your business from “Good to Great”. The key however is not as much the system as it is a combination of you, the vendor and the system. I have seen very good systems do a less than stellar job when implemented poorly or when underutilized by the end user. I have also seen systems that had no business being set up in a manufacturing environment, run a facility extremely well, because the implementer set it up well and the end users utilized its features to the max!
The responsibility of any business that is seeking an erp solution is to be prepared and do your research. Each system you review will have strengths and weaknesses, and each vendor will as well. All will suggest different ways of approaching your business and some will even insist on changes to your business processes. The key for you is again being prepared. Here a few key steps to getting prepared and being ready for the onslaught.
- Identifying the pain– What is it that has brought you to the table in the first place? Do you need to stream line production, keep better track of job costs or do you need to improve the quality of quoting and estimating? What ever the reason, now is the time to analyze your business pain points and find a solution for as many as you can, if not all.
- Get everyone on board– You are about to change the way your business operates and if you want it to be for the better, make sure every department is involved from the start. Erp is going to affect them all and change can be intimidating unless it is understood and supported. People who are opposed or resist change will have negative affect on the end result. If they see that upper management is behind the change they will be far more receptive to it. Let me put it another way if senior management is not onboard stop now. Rework your business case and present it again, you need them on side!
- Pick and prioritize your features- You’ve identified the pain now choose the pill. Which features will eliminate the pain, accounting, job costing, order entry or maybe it’s scheduling. What ever it is, list the features in order of importance and be sure to highlight the ones you can’t live without as critical.
- Set your Budget- Setting the budget is the greatest variable in any erp search. Let’s be clear, erp systems are robust and comprehensive systems and as such they can be expensive. The mistakes that are made with budgets are two fold. First, eliminating systems to early based on price. Remember cheaper isn’t always better. Second failing to budget for implementation cost, these costs often out pace the software costs.
- Pick your team- Select a person or people to lead the search. It is great if you have someone who has worked with systems before and even better if they have actually implemented a system. This team should review systems and vendors, establishing base pricing and gaining insight into the features, functions and differentiators of each system.
- Do the Demo – Demos can be frustrating for both parties as the vendor tries to highlight and focus on their strengths and you struggle to understand what the heck you are seeing. Take control; select someone, usually from your search team, to lead the demo. Tell the vendor what you want to see. Be honest, tell them what business specific problems you are trying to address. The process should be two way, allow the vendor to show their solution but follow up with feed back. Often there is more than one way to handle each situation, you want to see them all so that you can determine if one or any are suitable for your operation, before you start to customize.
- Understand the Data- Who is uploading the data you or the vendor? What data is going to be uploaded, many companies have stale or outdated data that doesn’t need to be transferred. Remember the golden rule garbage in garbage out! You don’t want to pay for useless data to be uploaded then deleted.
- Understand Implementation- Who is doing what? What does the vendor expect from you and your people and what do you expect from your vendor. Make sure the divisions of responsibilities are clearly spelled out. Above all else don’t rush; implementation takes time to get it right. Make sure your people are trained properly and all your business processes are simulated to perfection before going live!
Following these simple steps and your search will be less frustrating but most of all, your project will be successful.