Deciding on your ERP software is one thing but what about selecting the right ERP partner to deploy it?
A team that combines experience of your chosen industry and the technical skillset to deliver a good implementation is hugely valuable.
This not only saves you money; the extra insight from past projects will smooth the path to implementation success and ensure you reach your end goals efficiently.
Thankfully we’ve put together an article that guides you through the dos and don’ts of identifying and selecting your perfect partner, and hopefully you’ll come out of this with a step-by-step plan for finding the best fit possible.
Interested? Read on.
Begin to plan with a Business Process Review
Before you set about improving your current system, you’ll want to make sure you have the best possible understanding of how it works.
This means doing a detailed Business Process Review and having a clearly defined idea of the practical workings of every department within your business.
Of course, you’ll already be an expert in your chosen field, but taking the time out to think about these processes carefully invariably offers new insights.
It is during this stage that you will better understand what works, what doesn’t, what needs to change, and what you’ll keep the same.
Another way to think about this step is to make sure your chosen ERP software works for you, rather than the other way around. Process Mapping is essential to making sure the software fits your processes, as opposed to bending your processes to fit the software.
For guidance on how to carry out a Business Process Review click here.
Define your selection criteria
Once you have a better understanding of what you want from your ERP software, you’ll need to come up with a reliable selection criteria to help identify your long list of potential partners.
A good place to start might be ensuring your ERP partner has experience of delivering ERP projects within industries that are similar to your own.
Another key consideration would be the levels of support offered by the provider to ensure end-user adoption is successful.
There are so many variables and different businesses will have different priorities.
With this in mind, make sure you draw up your list and stick to it, as it’s one of the key tools to see you through the selection process.
Draw up a long list and stick to your chosen criteria
With your criteria confirmed, you’ll want to draw up a long-list of potential partners. Google is very much your friend here.
At this early stage it’s best to keep things as broad as possible. Don’t be afraid to add as many relevant providers as you can, even if you reach thirty, forty or fifty names.
The world of ERP is a big one and there is a lot of choice out there. Right now it’s best to learn the industry, familiarise yourself with the key players, and get an idea for the options that are out there.
A good thing to keep in mind is the difference between vendors and resellers. Many vendors will have a group of resellers that they work with. These resellers will know the software inside out but may have industry specialties that make them a closer fit for your needs. You might want to consider this when making your choice.
In general though, try to be as flexible as possible.
Reduce your long-list to a few star names
Now that you have a long-list, you’ll need to start whittling it down into something more manageable.
Think about what you’ve learned from your Business Process Review and what you need most from a prospective partner.
Do you value a presence in the UK so they can offer on-site support? Would you prefer cloud-ready or on-premise software? Does your potential partner have experience of working in your industry? All of these and more are important criteria to consider.
Once you apply some of these questions, you’ll soon start to reduce the long-list and get your first clear picture of who your potential partner could be. A list of five should give you enough flexibility.
Use RFIs to get to know each other better
At this point, it’s a good idea to send out a Request for Information (RFI) or Invitation to Tender (ITT). This gives you a chance to outline your organisation and its ERP requirements in detail to potential ERP partners.
It is a great chance to learn more about your potential partner, the software, their previous projects and their industry-specific experience.
All of this comes in handy when selecting a partner. You’ll begin to build a picture of whether they have delivered similar projects in the past.
On the flip side, it is a good chance for potential partners to learn more about your business and its unique quirks and requirements.
While it might not initially seem like a positive, it is useful for prospective partners to know as much as possible about your business, the number of staff you employ and number and location of sites, as well as being educated on your specific industry. This gives them a chance to opt out if they feel they do not have the required expertise.
Finding a partner that is enthused by your business and can exhibit past projects in similar areas is a good route to success.
Arrange a ‘Discovery Meeting’
There’s only so much you can learn from online research and mulling over facts and figures.
At the end of the day, you’ll want to know more about the partner you’re entrusting with delivering improved business processes.
It’s an unreasonable burden to start meeting up with companies at the long-list stage. However, once you have a few solid names that are close in terms of experience, the industries they have worked in and the type of support and training that they offer, you’ll want to meet face-to-face.
Prepare a list of questions based around your biggest areas of concern. You should also get to know the personalities you will potentially be working with. In other words, what makes them tick? Will they go that extra mile to do the best job possible? Are you satisfied with their expertise, not just with the software but with your industry and business also?
During the discovery meeting, your prospective companies will arrive on site to learn more about your business processes. This can only help when they begin to advise on the modules that you’ll need and what represents an unnecessary expense. if they do this, they’ll have a better insight into your business. This could be augmented further with an on-site tour.
Often a face-to-face meeting can swing things considerably from what you initially think is the best option. Be prepared to alter your viewpoint significantly once the discovery meeting is over.
For more advice on the sort of questions to ask, click here.
Request a demo to see the product up close
Now that you’re honing in on your potential partner, you’ll want to see them up close and personal with the software that you’re considering.
The demonstration is a critical part of selecting an ERP software product. Properly handled it will give you vital information to compare and contrast different ERP software systems and help you make the best selection possible.
To get the most from the demo, make sure you provide your potential partner with a couple of scenarios to walk you through in detail.
Your current set-up will depend on a specific set of business processes. You’ll want to see that your chosen software can handle as much of it as possible and that your potential partner can think on their feet when needed. This is a great way to learn about their expertise.
Try to see what the product and partner are capable of in relation to your industry and specific business needs and you’ll be much closer to finding the best match for you.
Value functionality and partner experience over cost
It will come as no surprise that it is difficult to cost your software and implementation without both sides having an in-depth understanding of what the requirements are.
To make sure you’re getting all of the necessary modules, and not wasting money on bells and whistles that represent little value, you’ll need to have a proper discussion with your prospective partners.
The costing process is usually dependent on two factors: the software licensing and the time and effort put into the implementation itself.
A good implementation partner should be honest with you on what you need and what you don’t. They should also be able to clearly articulate how they have arrived at an estimate. Keep in mind that some partners might come up with a low price that is only going to inflate later down the line. Try to identify when a deal looks too good to be true and keep your expectations as realistic as possible.
This being said, it is easy to get hung up on cost, and we would encourage you to value the success of the implementation ahead of pricing, within reason.
If this means spending a little more on consultancy hours or on the modules needed to succeed, then it will no doubt pay off in the long term.
In addition, it should be possible for a prospective partner to discuss financing options with you in order to make the implementation more viable and to ensure that you are able to finance a successful project.
It’s easy to make the mistake of discarding options that are a perfect fit for your specific needs because they are above the original budget, or if recommended features come at added expense.
This isn’t to say don’t be critical. All it means is that at this early stage it is important that you keep your options open and place your emphasis on the key criteria that you have already outlined rather than money per se.
For more information about budgeting your ERP implementation, click here.
Check references before you take the plunge
So you’ve done all of the research under the sun, fed back to your team and even met your potential partners face-to-face in deciding who is the best fit for you – but there is still one thing you might want to check out. References.
Any business worth their salt will have a list of past partners and case studies on their website. The last step before taking the plunge is to check these out and make sure everything adds up.
It’s not like you’re always going to find anything that swings your opinion, but it’s still smart to look into it just in case.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll have all of the information necessary to make an informed decision!
Want to find out more about what CBO has to offer? You can get in touch for a preliminary discussion here.