After a few months of speaking with midsize business owners, we’ve noticed thematic challenges in our conversations (and honestly, it feels like finding easy solutions to these can be harder than starting a business itself):
- Too much to do, too few hours in the day. Business owners do not have enough time to accomplish everything they need to get done today, let alone prepare for future endeavors.
- Limited headcount, unlimited tasks. It’s tough to decide how and when to best utilize existing resources when there’s an endless to-do list.
- Instincts (not data) driving decisions. Since data is difficult to compile from piece-meal solutions, it’s hard for business owners to rely on anything other than gut feeling for decision-making.
Upon realizing these challenges, identifying the need for automation and insight, and deciding it’s time for an ERP evaluation, many business owners are left asking themselves what to do next. At this point, many casually peruse vendor websites and enter their contact information, only to find their inboxes flooded by more salespeople than they can keep track of with a slew of information that only complicates the process.
Never fear, business owners, there’s a better way. Below are three foundational steps to guide you through your ERP vendor selection.
Before any external research, take one step back and have each department in the organization assess their automation, data, and reporting gaps. Identify which data is currently inaccessible and quantify what the lack of information and automation is costing each department in time and money.
Next, it’s helpful to pinpoint any inabilities to grow, and build a plan to “future proof” your business based on the identified gaps (by introducing new product lines or services, sales channels, warranties and repairs, subscriptions, etc). An ERP solution should not only fill gaps, but help achieve future goals.
Once the internal research is pulled together, get the organization’s leadership team to discuss the results. It’s important to figure out which gaps, if filled, will increase production and revenue. Once functionality gaps have been listed, the team should work together to prioritize a (potentially lengthy) list down to the top five.
Make a List, Check It Thrice
Once internal functionality needs have been identified and prioritized, the initial vendor assessment becomes a more palatable task. It’s much easier to qualify and focus ERP vendors based on tangible needs, instead of vendor marketing material.
You can quickly pare a list of 20 vendors down to 10 based on basic functionality, deployment, or timing requirements. You can further narrow the list by asking ERP vendors to prove they can serve your needs via product demonstrations and customer references.
Get your list down to the final two or three by getting a feel for who your vendor is culturally and the level of service they will provide you once you become a customer. Cross vendors off the list until you find yourself with a hard decision to make – and then go with the ERP vendor you best imagine your employees using every day.
Put in the Effort and Reap the Rewards
No company would add a new item to its product line without conducting a deep analysis of functional fit and profitability. Business owners are realizing that evaluations of ERP solutions should be treated similarly.
It’s going to be work, there will be a cost involved, and not everyone is going to love the idea of doing the preparation… however, finding the right functional solution and cultural fit can make all the difference to an organization’s daily productivity, and provide great returns for years to come.
Once you’ve selected your vendor, be sure to read Six Ways to Get the Most Out of Your ERP Implementation to ensure your new system gets up and running smoothly.