ERP is one of the most complex yet powerful software available that many businesses and organizations are now looking to implement. It has become the heart of businesses that helps them to achieve their goals. But what makes it even more complex is to do the right ERP selection for an organization that better understands business needs without any compromises.
If it is your first-time ERP selection, then there are certain criteria you must consider while screening ERP vendors. Apart from it, you must always keep in mind, What are your business goals, and requirements, and how each criterion can affect your business?
Although, Selecting ERP software itself is not an easy task and is a time-intensive process, therefore, in this guide we have tried to break down the whole ERP selection process into a simple milestone that helps you to select the right ERP selection consulting partners.
But before we proceed further let us better understand What does an ERP mean?
What is an ERP?
ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning is sophisticated business management software that helps businesses or organizations to manage and upkeep all the business processes altogether in a single system. It is mainly based on accounting and business operations due to which it has become a leading solution for enterprises to grow their businesses and sustain an edge over competitors.
What is the ERP selection process?
As we have already said, the ERP selection process is not an easy task and the process is quite sophisticated. To make it easy for you to understand the whole ERP selection process, we have gathered all the major components of the ERP selection process that will help you to create a digital transformation roadmap using ERP. Let us check them out!
The foremost step is to gather all the information and feedback from users who are going to use the ERP software. Especially give attention to those who are involved in manual processes and usually used to spend a lot of time. If possible, it would be better to consult and involve an SME (Subject Matter Expert) in the process that can help you to implement the system throughout.
In case, if you do not collect information from the users and follow only the manuals, you may have to face a lot of trouble and protests in the future.
Negligence cannot be tolerated at the beginning of the ERP selection process or else you may have to bear ERP implementation failure. So, it is better to be vigilant and careful about collecting data, information, and feedback from all the users and then make a comprehensive report based on that.
Provide all the information about your company and give the proper reason why are you looking for ERP implementation in your organization. In business terms, this process is popularly known as Request for Proposal (RPF), in which clients ask vendors for detailed ERP cost estimation of the project.
But one thing you must keep in mind is that at this stage, any cost estimation your vendor provides can vary from the final one and you should not completely rely on it. It is because the software demos, research, and sheer dedication are all required to provide an accurate ERP quote service.
Check out our ERP Quote Machine or watch our youtube video below to see how our ERP Quote machine works for ERP Cost estimation.
Create a Formal Report (Business Requirement Document)
Get your documents ready in systematic and easy language so that they can be easily broken down according to the workflow of your company. For example, if you are running an eCommerce business and you have received a bulk of orders that needs to be fulfilled in a stipulated time, the first step would be it passes to the Fulfillment section, where the accounts department will send out an invoice.
Similarly, you must get ready with your documents by writing down all the requirements for your sales process, then figure out all the requirements for warehouse management and fulfillment processes. It must also include whether it is required to purchase the item to fill the order.
After that document, all the steps involved for the accounting part from orders received to complete billing. However, your users must have their unique style to handle all these business processes, which you are not required to mention in the document. Instead, you can ask your Sofware vendor to do a little customization and make changes as per your requirements. Such as implementing automatic invoices and bill generation and future due payments or Automatic records and tracking your revenue transactions.
Avoid typical Business Requirement Document format
For convenience, many users refer to online resources for the BRD format. These online BRD templates often include a lengthy format and have thousands of lines of requirements that become difficult for anyone to read. Due to this, vendors also find it difficult to go through every line and it also takes a lot of time.
As a result, vendors may lose interest in your project and won’t pay attention to your deal. Businesses or Organizations that rely on these Typical BRD templates are not aware of their requirements and generally fail to understand what features and functionality they need from the new ERP software.
To get better and highly customized ERP software, you are required to share some of the very critical and sensitive information with ERP vendors. So, it is better to have a signed confidentiality agreement with the vendor before sharing any private information. Even most of the vendors will also want you to sign their privacy policies and vice versa.
The next step on our ERP selection journey is to find out the features that you must look into an ERP vendor to shortlist. This is one of the most critical steps that help you to find the most suitable ERP software. You can shortlist the best ERP software based on various parameters and the targeting of the different groups of businesses that have different needs. Therefore, we distribute the ERP applications in four different categories.
Category1: ERP vendors that provide ERP software for the entire business processes such as HR, Accounts, Inventory Management, CRM, etc.
Some of the popular ERP software in this category are Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance, Oracle Cloud, Infor M3, etc.
Category2: ERP vendor whose field area is to run large parts of a business but doesn’t include the HR department and payroll management system.
Some of the popular ERP software in this category are Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and Oracle Cloud.
Category 3: ERP vendor whose field area is less powerful than Category 2 but runs major other components of the business, such as Accounts department, CRM, etc. But it may not include some other important business components such as Supply chain and manufacturing.
Some ERP vendors in this category are SAP Business One, Sage 200, etc.
Category 4: Low-cost ERP software that targets small businesses and works only for a particular area of business. These types of ERP software are entry-level and have a comparatively low price and generally require less cost for implementation. Best suitable for small businesses that are looking for automation for their new activity and are independent.
The most appropriate vendors for this category are Quickbooks, MYOB, etc.
If you can figure out the right category of ERP software that can fulfill all your requirements, it will also help you to sort out the right ERP vendors in the same field. For instance, if you are running a consulting business whose net worth is about 500$ million per year, and that has extensive Accounting and HR functionality, you would prefer to go with category 1 ERP software with some Category 2 software if needed. Rather than Category 3 and 4 ERP software.
After that, you will be required to find the representative for each ERP software brand and pitch them. Once the representative acknowledges your request, either they immediately follow up with you or it may take even several weeks (depending upon the brand to brand) to meet up with you in reality to discuss the project.
After that, bring out your Business Requirements Document that helps you to discuss your project in-depth and the features you want, but avoid sending it to vendors directly. Unless or until you have already shortlisted a minimum of 3 vendors that are ready to give you a presentation or demo.
For your convenience and better clarity, avoid demos or presentations with more than three vendors. It is better to narrow down your list to the top 3 by comparing each other and checking which has an edge over one other. If you have demos with more than 3 or 4 vendors it will create confusion and it becomes difficult for you to select the right one.
- Don’t hurry with the RPF process
We do not recommend you go directly for a Request for Proposal without finalization. Finding the best ERP software and the best vendor for implementation is quite different from your regular buying process. In which, your purchases are generally based best prices for better products or materials.
- Presentations and Demos
The first thing you can ask the vendors while discussing the project is to show a small presentation or a small demo of the app. This way it will give a small taste of the app, its user experience, and its design. At this point, it will become easy for you to decide which vendors are most suitable to move forward with the process.
To save time and resources for both ends, if possible, conduct a digital or remote conference, where the vendor can give a short presentation or a demo, and if you find the app is not as per your expectations, you can simply end the conference and politely say No.
Ask your vendors to give a simple, short but impactful demo within the stipulated time, so that you can carry out all the demos in a single day. After the end of the demo, ask your team members or the participants to give their valuable feedback about the demos and discuss finalizing vendors for the next round.
- The Final demo rounds
Now for the final demo round, you will have a maximum of 2 finalist vendors and you can ask them to give a detailed and final demonstration. This process can take up to an entire day for each finalist, so it would be better to ask them to do it at the site. If possible, ask your Subject Matter Experts to coordinate with the vendors while setting up the final demonstration.
It would be very helpful for vendors to deliver their best with their complete potential and in return, you will be able to do the Best ERP selection for your business. In addition to that, coordinating with the vendor will also let you know their work culture, let you know their pros and cons and you can also be able to reveal things that might be not good for the organization and kept hidden until the implementation is done.
Co-ordinate with your Implementation partner
One thing you should never forget is to include and coordinate with your implementation partner during the whole ERP selection process. It is the most vital step that many clients often make mistakes for not including the implementation team throughout the ERP selection journey. After all, you are going to completely rely on the implementation team who will do the software configuration and bring it to live.
So, the first thing you need to do before starting the ERP selection process is to determine an implementation partner. It helps them to learn better about you and they can provide their services more efficiently. Even some of the top-tier ERP software companies such as Microsoft prefer to work with an implementation partner.
Although there are software publishers are also there that provide implementation along with their software, they lack the special skills and advanced services that implementation partners have. However, if your budget is limited and you are looking for a cost-effective alternative, a software publisher may look at a more cost-effective option rather than an implementation partner.
Assign a Dedicated Project Manager
After completing the whole ERP selection process and finalizing an ERP vendor, you will be left with a fat contract form to sign. At this moment you will realize how mammoth the task is going to be. Many small businesses, lower middle-market companies, and Middle market companies often lack a dedicated Project manager to look after and manage the implementation process. Even if the implementation partner provides you with a project manager, they will not focus on the client’s needs but rather focus on the tasks assigned by the ERP partner.
Without a dedicated project manager, all the responsibility to carry out the implementation task will be on the shoulders of the key sponsor. But small businesses to middle-market companies usually do not have the luxury to hire a dedicated person for this role, whereas, fortune companies hire a dedicated person for each role.
Having a dedicated project manager who has prior implementation experience can be beneficial but if things are a bit more complex and the task is enormous, you will be required to have a complete team with a variety of roles. The team should consist of experienced and skilled people who have worked with different ERP vendors for different businesses. They should be easily adaptable to your work culture so that it becomes easy for them to coordinate with others to carry out a successful implementation process.
Avoid hiring a Project manager on contract, because they can go on vacation or sick leave which can delay the project for an unpredictable time, rather have a dedicated team instead.
It is also possible that there can be a huge difference between the client’s expectations and the implementation partner’s performance. Therefore, we highly recommend having a dedicated ERP consulting service provider like ours, for complete ERP implementation and Management, because it can be risky as a project and expensive as an ERP implementation. So, it helps you to know whether the task is as per your expectations or not.
Whereas, A project manager from the client’s main role would be tracking all the issues without affecting the plan execution, managing the budget, and make ensure everything is working as per the plan and promised by the vendor. Send your team for training and testing, let them know what the company exactly wants, make sure they are available for the training, and ability to handle the decisions which were made earlier and able to complete the given tasks such as data migration, making changes, and integrations.
One of the sudden unforeseen problems in an ERP implementation is data migration. This process is critical that helps to make sure the data in the new ERP system is correct and complete. This is quite an important task because many individuals in different parts of the business depend on it.
Proper planning and execution of data migration can help you to make the whole ERP implementation protection successful, on time, and within budget. It also allows removing useless or outdated and useless data that is hidden in the old system of the organization.
Conversely, if you give low priority to data migration it can lead to some severe problems such as incorrect or duplicate data and other challenges.
So, you must ensure the cost of data migration must be included in the total cost before you go to the key sponsor for making the final deal on the software purchase. It is because any hidden costs or unexpected fees can spoil your budget, therefore this value should be included before you make your final deal.
Estimate Software total cost
When you approach a software company, they will provide you with their list of SKUs (Stock Keeping units). First, create an estimate form but do mention carefully every item in the list, so that you do not have to regret it later. For example, if you are looking for multiple companies linked together then you will require a different SKU Which is different from multiple individual companies.
It is also possible that you do not need to have CRM, in this case, you are not required to pay for that either. Check if your company has heavy transactions, if so, you need a premium Server, while others prefer to have premium dedicated support and completely depend on their ERP vendor or implementation partner. So, you have to check thoroughly what premium support is mentioned or not mentioned in the SKU.
On the other hand, you also need to ensure to understand the total tenure of the contract form. For instance, if the contract is for 1 year, it means the software company can raise the price at the time of renewal or after the end of one year. It is also possible that software companies that have not been able to make live their ERP within the first year, have to renew the license without even using it.
Negotiate wherever possible
To have a better and cost-effective deal buy the ERP software only if you are going to use it now or in the coming weeks. If the software is available in different modules and you do not need all of them at once, but will be required soon, use this as an opportunity to get better discounts on the complete package if you bought them now.
It is because, if you buy modules one by one and the overall effective discount would be less as compared to the discount on the whole package. Then why would you buy new individual modules later, which have a lower discount rate than you negotiated at the very beginning? It all depends on how well you are with negotiation. Are you okay with the discounts on long-term deals or do You prefer to pay initially less with fewer successive discounts on future purchases?
Whatever it is, one thing you must keep in mind is that the final negotiation can be a very tiring and long process. Even if you think the deal is about to end and you are eager to start the ERP implementation, the subscription agreement can get stopped with your legal advisor.
Also do not forget to consider the total time length your procurement team will require to go through contracts, necessary paperwork, and the timing of the contract to get approval. It has also been observed that inflexible software contracts are likely to kill a complete deal.
Best ERP Selection Criteria to follow in detail
To make things short but impactful we provide you with the six best ERP software selection criteria, that help you to finalize a software at the end of the ERP selection process. By the time you are ready to select your finalist, an intended software selection process should provide you with enough data to determine the best ERP software selection criteria.
One thing you must keep in mind is that these criteria will not be enough and helpful to begin your ERP selection because you will not have enough data or information. Hence, you must gather all your evaluations and based on that determine your finalist.
Now check out the ERP selection criteria given below:
ERP selection criteria 1: Ease of using APP and its functionality
Evaluate all the major key sections of the software and its functionality. For example, if one of your target sections of the software is a financial application, evaluate all the parameters of core accounting functionality. Check if the software is user-friendly, easy to use, and understand its user experience, and the overall design. This has to be one of the primary ERP selection criteria that you must follow, it is because, after all, the ease of using an app and its functionality matter most, the rest are the secondary things that are not that important for the end-user who will be busy doing other ERP processes.
ERP selection criteria 2: Ease of Technical integration
Once you have shortlisted your finalists compare and evaluate them based on How well they are easily able to integrate APIs, their technology platform, and how well and robust their data center is. Search for the features that you are looking for which make a difference and provide an edge. For example, if it is necessary to integrate your new ERP with the existing systems, check what integration tools are provided by the ERP vendors.
On the other hand, if you are looking for something that has the above extraordinary functionality, ask yourself, will you have access to all developer tools as your organization will expand as the time passes by adding more complexity to it? Or has the access to developer tools been stopped so that you are required to contact the software provider directly all the time?
Finally, check if the software company has global coverage of data center locations or not? It is very crucial for Multinational companies. Think of it, if Maintenace’s schedule hinders the company’s business hours in very different time zones.
ERP selection criteria 3: Pricing
One of the biggest mistakes that some ERP selection teams usually make is to completely focus on the pricing very early. You cannot simply evaluate the Pricing unless you have detailed information about what and how many modules you will require, the integration part, customization charges, and support from third parties.
Evaluation of the price at the early stage should only let you know which application will be going to be too expensive and which not. It is because implementation costs for some applications may go up to millions of dollars. If that sounds out of the budget for you, you can eliminate them at the initial stage but the only drawback is if you shortlist based on their pricing you may miss out on a great option too.
We have observed that some of the highly experienced vendors can accurately estimate the software costs whereas others don’t. As an ERP consultants with years of experience, we know better how to detect high-cost estimations and we guide our clients to avoid such mistakes and help them to choose the right partner.
At the time when you shortlist your finalist, the pricing may be a deal-breaker. But you should not consider it as the only criteria for ERP selection rather consider it one of the other ERP selection criteria.
When the contracts are ready to be signed, the last thing you need to do is to compare the costs of total software modules to be used and complete implementation costs for a minimum of 3 years. Consider all the points and try to make a progressive decision that completely balances both situations, either you go with a more powerful and costly solution that has the potential to grow with your company or go with a more affordable option that sounds like the best deal for today.
However, if you chose the affordable option to implement it now, it may turn out to be an overall expensive deal, if you are required to have a bigger application within 2 years. It is because for that you have to pay again for complete implementation, which adds extra cost.
ERP selection criteria 4: Software Vendor health
Generally, customers judge software vendors based on their market reviews, customer base, business scale, and revenues. However, all these factors are not standard benchmarks to judge any ERP software Vendor, but when it comes to comparing your shortlisted Vendors, the more reputable and healthier become an obvious choice.
When we talk about comparing a small-scale software company that is famous for a specific niche and whose yearly revenue is below 10 million USD with the secondary applications bragging about a huge customer base and millions or billions of revenues per year, it would be the best for you to go with large scale companies and are feasible.
However, many of you get attracted to go for smaller firms that offer lucrative deals and have a good reputation for providing niche-based functionality. Do you ever think, what if this small firm stops doing research, development, and investing in its technology and the worst case gets acquired or goes bankrupt? You will only be left with no support, and no updates, and the product will end.
ERP selection criteria 5: Implementation Considerations
As you know, for a successful implementation project, one of the primary steps in ERP selection is to find the right ERP consulting partner for your business and it is also considered the essential criteria for ERP selection. When you can successfully determine your ERP software as well as an implementation partner, there are some characteristics of the ERP implementation to consider which are given below:
Consider the timing of Business – There is no right or wrong timing for a business or a project to start working on. However, there might be a favorable time as compared to others. For instance, there can be the perfect time after a small firm has been taken over or merged or when they decide to go for either a major expensive upgrade or to go for completely new software. Or else, the perfect timing for doing business would completely depend on your team.
Implementation Support– An ERP implementation needs overall involvement and engagement including senior-level people, Executives, Senior Managers, and other important internal leaders on the project.
ERP Implementation plan- One of the fundamental parts of ERP implementation to make it successful is to have a proper plan and methodology. Complete project planning, management, and Communication are some of the keys that make it successful.
ERP selection criteria 6: Follow your instincts
The Final ERP selection criteria are to follow your instincts. While many people would not agree with this, our subconscious mind can sometimes help us to make the right decisions. However, it would be a drastic mistake if you only considered this ERP selection criterion, but you should not completely ignore it like any other random ERP software selection criterion.
Screening software in the ERP selection process
There have been thousands of ERP software available in the market just like many ERP vendors are. However, we do provide you with a complete Guide on the ERP selection process, one thing you cannot deny is the fact that it is next to impossible for an individual to do the whole ERP selection process by themselves, especially if they are beginners or new in this field.
Error Elimination method
For screening software, we came up with an innovative approach Error Elimination method that helps to make sure our clients are 100 percent sure about their right ERP software selection as well as perfect implementation partner.
First, we begin our process by asking our clients about what sort of issues or problems they are trying to fix using software and then we analyze whether these issues can be fixed in real life using new software. If anything, wrong happened due to the new ERP, at the moment we will not recommend anyone to upgrade their older ERP system and eliminate it from our recommended list.
We carefully monitor and analyze our client’s business model, technology, and strategy to determine their pain points and the roadblocks to growth they are trying to fix using Software.
We look at a client’s strategy, people, business processes, and technology to identify what pain points and limitations to growth they are trying to solve with software. We give preference to the benefits rather than focusing on the costs of various apps available in the market to make it to our recommended list.
Significance of Honest Guidance
In business everything is fair, this is what the majority of the ERP software vendors follow. They show only what they like you to see and due to the availability of thousands of apps in the market, it creates great confusion among clients to pick a particular app that meets their requirements.
Therefore, do not start contacting software vendors randomly if you do not know exactly what your requirements are. First, at least determine what your requirements are so that you don’t get into the terms of a salesman easily. On the other hand, it may also be possible you get caught in the wrong section of the software.
In addition to it, if you can contact about 50 software vendors, you will end up hurdled with calls from the different salesperson who ask you to check out their software and demos.
Therefore, the best approach you must follow is to screen out the vendors first and narrow down your list from hundreds to 3 or 5 in the list. This is exactly what we do as ERP consultants. We screen out the vendors just like we do screen out the ERP software.
Get the right ERP vendor and software match
Getting everything right for the ERP implementation process is one of the primary key points that makes it successful. And it can only be possible if we get the right match with the implementation partner. It is always recommended that you should not continue with the software selection process until you are not 100% sure that you have the perfect vendor.
But it has also been found that, if you have the right software that has all the features that you need, the implementation vendor you have is not the perfect match for it. Because the implementation partner or vendor should be able to know how to resolve issues if anything went wrong with the software.
In addition to that, it has also been observed that, if you can determine the perfect implementation partner for your project but the software, they ask you to use is having issues. So, finding the perfect match between the ERP vendor and the implementation partner is a very significant part of the process. You should not continue with the process unless or until both vendor and implementation partner are compatible and the right fit for each other.
Ask for the demos
After shortlisting the vendors and letting them start the software demonstration, do not let them spend more time on the presentation part but rather ask them directly to showcase the software demo. It is because it lets you analyze easily to figure out how things will work in real life and in action.
For example, if you went shopping for a smartphone, you would prefer to look at the demo models first rather than directly reading the specifications. You need to analyze whether the ERP system is capable of doing what you want it to.
Screening ERP software is itself a full-time job
For a successful ERP selection, the process requires a lot of time and effort. And therefore, many ERP consultants have full-time jobs. But there are many out there that can help you in real life. The difficulty level of finding the right software has become less now compared to earlier. Now you have solutions ready online easily, likewise, if you need our help or any sort of assistance, we are always available to help you.
How can you carry out a successful ERP demo?
ERP system selection for your business itself requires proper planning, in-depth research, and proper time. But ERP selection consultants can make it easier before signing a contract with a vendor and starting the implementation.
Follow the tips below to conduct a successful and great ERP software demo:
- Do a survey and collect all the information regarding the requirements of people that will be going to use the software.
- Make a list of all the requirements and prove it to the vendors you have shortlisted.
- Now contact and ask the shortlisted vendors as well as implementation partners to participate in Demo.
- Ask each vendor who will participate in the demo to sign a confidentiality agreement.
- Provide your Requirements and other essential papers to each vendor.
- Ask SMEs from every department to be part of the demo.
- Make a strict time slot for each demo and ask participants to follow the same.
- Narrow down your list of vendors and allow only a maximum of 5 demos in a single day.
- Strictly follow your time slot and do not allow any vendor to present a demo for more than two hours.
- Provide your requirements to the vendors so that they can prepare well for the demo.
- Encourage Vendors to show what you want to see not what they want you to see.
- Give weightage to the Application demo rather than PowerPoint, reports, graphs, etc.
- At the end of the demonstration, provide scorecards to the participants and rate the software based on that.
Organize a small round of ERP system demos with Shortlisted vendors
Since we have already told you, there are plenty of vendors out there, and conducting demos for all of them would be nearly impossible. So, to make the ERP selection process easier, first, you need to shortlist them based on the various criteria mentioned above and then ask them for a short demo of their ERP software.
This way, you will have an idea of what features they have to offer and how would be the user experience.
As these ERP demos are going to be short, make sure you focus on features that match your requirements and also try to understand How each vendor can be beneficial for your business. One thing you should not forget is to involve your team members after all they will be going to use the ERP system more often and also help you out to further narrow down to two vendors as finalists.
Asking SMEs to get involved in the shortlisting process provides you with concrete support in making final decisions. Their valuable feedback will help you to know what would be the best for your company and what is not. Eventually, you will be able to choose the right contenders as finalists.
Ask your SMEs to give proper scores either on the scale of 1 to 5 or 1to 10 based on the vendor’s performance at the demo and make this one of your ERP selection criteria.
Conduct final round of ERP Demonstrations
When you have successfully able narrowed down the shortlisted vendors up to two finalists. It is time for the showdown, schedule a full-day demonstration of their ERP software with full potential. And ask your vendors to come to the company site to showcase what they can offer in detail.
Before conducting the final round of ERP demos, conduct a conference and Explain to your team members How important it is to have an engagement with the process during the final round of these ERP demos.
The Vendors would like to talk to your SMEs so that they can know what are the pain points and requirements you have, which helps them to prepare for the final round of the Demo.
At this moment in the ERP selection process, it has become essential for your team members to engage with each finalist vendor because you have found them the most viable option in the crowd.
Now from the above post, you must have figured out how daunting the ERP selection process can be. Which consists of a lot of steps from conducting and scheduling ERP software demons, getting the paperwork right, evaluating your options, shortlisting, Budget Estimation, Pricing, Technology platform, and many more. And it is not an individual’s cup of tea to execute the whole ERP selection process alone. It is better to work with an ERP consultant instead.
We have years of relevant field experience and a have a dedicated team of professionals who have expertise in ERP selection, ERP implementation, and ERP Upgrade or Migration. On top of that, there is no need for your team members to show up for the demos or do the evaluation part. We will do it for you and provide you with peace of mind.
Then what are you waiting for? Contact us now and schedule an appointment today!