Preparing for ERP Vendor Selection

Preparing for ERP Vendor Selection

Our new guest writer Joseph Albright writes his debut post for Learning Without Scars with “Preparing for ERP Vendor Selection.” Joseph Albright has over 25 years of project management and procurement experience working with equipment manufacturing facilities and dealerships around the world in training, supporting, and implementing ERP systems in the areas of Finance, Sales, Purchasing, and Rental. In addition, he has led numerous teams and projects in cost reduction and spend analysis initiatives totaling tens of millions of dollars in annual savings. Joseph’s main passion is working directly with customers and adding value to their organizations.

“Do you know what you want?” “Do you know what you need?” These seem like pretty simple questions to answer yet when talking to a potential ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) provider they can be pretty hard questions. Some responses range from a straightforward “Yes” (followed by a list of requirements) to “I think so, but we’re not entirely sure” to “Not really, can you help”. All of these, including the first one, have inherent consequences that are not always good and choosing an ERP system provider is too large an investment to not be certain about the answers to those questions.

Choosing to invest in an ERP is a large investment. It can cost anywhere from $100,000 to $2,000,000 depending on the complexity of the system, what parts of it are going to be implemented, and the number of users that will be using it. That’s just for implementation and does not count ongoing license and maintenance/subscription fees. Typically, it will provide for Purchasing, Sales, Inventory Management, Financial Management, and Reporting. Additional features such as CRM, HR, Manufacturing, Parts and Service Sales, and Rental can also be implemented as well as many more cross-functional features. The cross-functional and data analytics features can bring huge benefits to an organization but will also require cross-functional resources which significantly add to the cost of implementation. Not knowing precisely what the requirements are for implementing such a system will only add more cost and delay any return on the investment. Be sure to have a predetermined budget that includes not only external costs but internal costs as well and has been agreed to by all internal stakeholders.

So, what needs to be known? How best to answer those two key questions? Well, the very first thing to determine is how is the business currently being run. What are the current processes in each functional area and what pain is being experienced within those processes? Document and map out these processes and determine the gaps between the way things are currently being done and the way they should be done. These gaps are most likely causing the pain. Determine whether these gaps can be resolved by simply changing processes. If not, they become potential Functional Requirements for an ERP system to resolve. 

Once all of the cross-functional gaps have been identified, the list, along with any other requirements, can become part of the Vendor Selection Scorecard.  This scorecard should be reviewed, prioritized, and weighted by a team of cross-functional stakeholders who will also become the stakeholders during the ERP implementation. Finally, be sure to include the IT Department or IT provider in both creating the scorecard and in discussions with the ERP vendor candidates to discuss any technical requirements as well. The scorecard becomes the criteria for identifying those ERP solution providers that seem to be best able to meet those criteria and can further be used to create the RFP to send to the selected vendors. It is good to have five to ten potential vendors to choose from initially if at all possible. 

Following this process enables a company to come to the table prepared to discuss and agree on requirements, scope, budget, timeline, and required resources. Companies who have not done their due diligence in terms of documenting processes and gaps tend to rely heavily on the vendors themselves to suggest the best solutions.  While in theory potential providers should have the knowledge and integrity to do so, even with the best intentions things get missed and the system fails to provide the desired outcome.

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