What should I consider when selecting an ERP Partner? Neil Holdsworth, consulting director at Clear Business Outcome explains further.
A DECISION NOT TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY
An ERP project is often a significant investment for a business; a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The scale and level of that investment will obviously vary from business to business, depending on your size, the scope of the project, and how much you need to customise the software to meet your needs.
Right from the beginning of the project, it’s crucial that you do your homework and investigate who and what type of ERP partner is right for your business and above all; help to achieve your long-term objectives and business outcomes.
1) KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A VENDOR AND AN ERP PARTNER
Whilst both Vendor and Partner can co-exist harmoniously together, it’s important to know the difference between the two.
A company that is classified as an ERP vendor tends to be multi-million-pound global corporations. Their core focus is to develop and supply a specific ERP software package across a wide customer base.
A strategic ERP partner sells the software on behalf of the vendor. Whilst smaller in size and turnover, the partner acts as an advocate of the software as well as complements that vendor in agility and flexibility.
The core focus of the ERP partner like Clear Business Outcome is to work with the customer by understanding their businesses’ specific needs, objectives and long terms outcomes enabling; the partner to add value by customising the software to suit their needs.
Without the vendor, the partner wouldn’t exist. The partner delivers the essential softer elements i.e. the human touch, building long-lasting relationships that may not be provided by the vendor.
2) DEFINE YOUR BUSINESS OBJECTIVES AND DESIRED LONG-TERM OUTCOMES
When you are setting off on a journey you must define your desired destination. It’s crucial that any business considering an ERP system needs to know where they are now and where they want to be. The business goals and objectives are ultimately the backbones of the ERP project. What’s more, your business must think about the long-term objectives as well as the immediate outcomes; whether that be to control costs or increase revenue over a certain time period.
3) ENCOURAGE USER BUY-IN WITH A STRONG PROJECT TEAM
It goes without saying, your business could have the best processes in the world, however, if the people following that process haven’t bought into it, then that system will fail.
Right from the very beginning, the ERP project must have the full support of the Senior Management Team; as they are essentially the starting point of cascading the project across departmental functions. The SMT should clearly communicate what are the desired goals and outcomes as well as outlining the goals for each department. All different departmental goals should all be aligned to achieve the ultimate goals of the business, therefore; ‘Everyone should be singing from the same hymn sheet’.
Your ERP project would also benefit from a strong project team who not only will dedicate their time and skills to support this project but who are also seen to be strong influencers across the organisation; particularly to the employees who will be using the system daily. The influencers will help to infiltrate the project message to users but will also communicate why the users are integral to the overall project as well as ensure that they bring the correct requirements to the table.
4) COLLABORATION IS KEY
It’s always good to do some background digging on your potential ERP partners i.e. what industries do they operate in, customer base, customer feedback, and success stories. However, it’s even wiser to meet potential partners in person; not only as it gives you a good indication whether they are a right fit for your business but provides a tell-tale sign whether this will be a good partnership or not.
A good tip for any business thinking about collaborating with an ERP partner is the reinforcement of the desired goals and long-term objectives, and whether potential partners can work with you to make this happen.
5) CONSIDER YOUR DEPLOYMENT OPTIONS
Depending on the size and nature of your business; CBO in conjunction with Epicor offer the following deployment options:
Saas (Software as a Service) – This is a subscription model where your business is leasing the software, which is hosted in the cloud. This option is more desirable to smaller companies who are investing in ERP for the first time as it gives them the ability to get the best out of ERP without having to invest in infrastructure and hardware, therefore; more of a cost-effective route to take.
On-Premise – This is when the server is located at your site and is paid in full. Larger businesses may find it more cost-effective over the lifespan of the software to purchase the licenses upfront. Once again, this all depends on the size of your business, whether you have the infrastructure to support on-premise, and what you’ll save over the period of use of the software.
Private Cloud –The software is bought outright and is hosted by a third-party supplier. ERP partners like Clear Business Outcome can provide your business with recommendations of third-party companies they have worked with or currently with.
6) SEEK A PARTNER WHO HAS A SUCCESSFUL AND PROVEN IMPLEMENTATION METHODOLOGY
To ensure that your ERP project goes to plan and is successful, look for an ERP partner who has a proven and successful implementation methodology and should have the following stages:
- Set clear objectives – As mentioned throughout, establish where you are now and where you want to be.
- Appoint a strong leader and project team – Appoint a strong project leader and a team who can dedicate their time and support to this project. You should also ask yourself who are the businesses future successors? Ensure that your future successors are part of this project team, as they will have a better understanding of the direction of the business as well as potentially help you to achieve your goals.
- Timings and phasing – Consider project timings as well as how will the ERP system be implemented across various business functions. For example, if the project was phased into smaller chunks; it will be less disruptive, fewer variables will be in the mix and you are achieving the benefits quicker.
- Recommend processes that will help achieve desired goals and outcomes– the potential partner would then recommend some good practice processes specifically for your business.
- Agreeing processes and refining software configuration – To support the above processes and recommendations.