245 million years ago, large, lumbering beasts ruled the world. They reigned supreme. But things went sideways for them when their environments experienced catastrophic disruption. The once unrivaled giants of the prehistoric era… were gone.
One could argue that the same disruption has occurred in the software ecosystem, in fact, we predict that monolithic systems are slowly becoming extinct. The shift from on-premise to Cloud-based software is just one of the many reasons that some giants have been left behind. However, beware - there are some software dinosaurs still roaming the ERP prairies.
There is light at the end of the tunnel though (and not of the asteroid kind). It's important to realize that there are ERP solutions out there that can solve your problems, and with a little bit of preparation, they can truly help your business work better. We’ve put together some steps that should help you make an educated decision about choosing the right ERP solution, hopefully avoiding prehistoric terrains and a Tyrannosaurus wreck.
1. Understand Your Workflow
In order to better manage your business, you need to understand it from the ground up. This means taking a very close look at the day-to-day running of your business: from production to inventory management, from invoice tracking and generation, to shipping as well as delivering and reporting sales.
Identifying business processes isn’t limited to deciphering functions and systems though; understanding the faces behind the spreadsheets and reports is just as, if not more important. Ultimately, it’ll be these humans that work with the ERP system on a daily basis. Focus on things like how your employees switch from one task to another. What do they require to be able to do their job best? Think about how they currently use software tools, and the ease with which they will be able to adapt. How can you help optimize the workflow routine to maximize employee productivity?
2. Identify Pain Points
It is important to remember that half the work of resolving problems is identifying them. Jurassic times call for Jurassic measures.
After completing a thorough analysis of your business’s workflows, you will have gained incredible insight. You’ll be able to identify and parse apart different problems, enabling you to work smarter, not harder.
When you have your workflows mapped out and your analysis complete, think about the problems that ERP software can help fix. Some of the most common problems managers face include ordering too many or not enough of an item, spoilage of raw materials, or failing to manufacture enough of a new or popular product to meet a surge in demand.
But fear not! All these problems (and more) can be solved by the right Cloud ERP solution. We are on our way to ERP enlightenment. Well, there’s still some hustling to do… rest assured it won’t take you millions of years, though.
3. Determine Business Requirements
So, what do you need your software to do? Make a note of the things your existing software does that you do (and do not!) require. You might need your new system to be able to integrate with your shipping handler or your e-commerce store. Another requirement might be the ability to access data from anywhere, and that the software is scalable and flexible. What if your management team has determined a set budget for your ERP implementation? Clear pricing with no hidden costs would be a huge bonus.
4. Compare Different Options
Once you have identified your needs, it's time to do your research. It is important that all stakeholders have a say in the decision-making process. Work through the features each possible solution offers. ERP functionality is vast and features vary immensely, so careful consideration is required. Try not to get scared off if the solutions you are considering offer “too many” features. It’s important to make sure that you have the features you need today, with the possibility of more in the future as your business grows and changes.
5. Shortlist Finalists
We’ve cleared the Jurassic period and now we’ve moved into the Cr-ERP-taceous. The end is in sight. Almost.
ERP software is a major business investment, and you need to get the selection right. In order to do so, you should, for example, make sure that your finalists offer demos of their product, maintain in-depth user documentation, and possibly even allow some kind of free trial of the software. The demo is a great time to loop in every department and make sure all key stakeholders have the chance to ask questions that are relevant for their job function and to even try out the software.
There are lots of other ways to get an inside look at your finalists. For example, head to YouTube and watch videos that give you a glimpse of the user experience and interface. Check out forum posts to find out common problems. You could even check out the company’s social media pages, to give you an idea of how they interact with customers.
6. Consider Costs in Depth
We touched on budget a little earlier in this checklist, but now it's time to look at the costs in depth. Every aspect of pricing will have an impact somewhere down the line, so here are some of the key questions you should be asking:
- What is the pricing structure? Do you need to pay a large amount upfront before you have a working system? Or, do they have a monthly subscription model that allows you to scale up over time?
- If you will need to add paid integrations or add-ons, is there a clear pricing structure?
- What about training? Is it included? Does it look easy to learn?
- Do they provide implementation or customization services? If so, are they done by your software provider or by a value-added partner? If you hire a partner or implementer, are those costs clear?
- What are the maintenance costs? Do you need to get extra servers or expand your IT department?
7. Validate Your Decision
Let’s face it, every software company is going to tell you that their system is the best fit for your business. Be an educated customer. Read online reviews. Talk to other customers. Also, make sure you know how to read reviews and talk to other customers. Use more than one source for your research to make sure it's accurate. Check out software directories and independent comparisons, if you can.
This list maps out what is actually a lengthy, time-demanding process that requires the collaborative work of multiple minds. Each step is crucial in ensuring ERP success - we speak from experience. But in the end, your staff will thank you for a smooth transition. Your customers will appreciate the streamlined service. And, your business will see increased efficiency and productivity.
And, if you will grant me one more dinosaur analogy… If we could liken our software to something prehistoric, we’d have to be the asteroid itself. We like to think of ourselves as disruptors in the space, breaking down the status quo and banishing software fossils from existence - I dino what else to tell you.