How to select an ERP partner
Deciding on your ERP software is one thing but how do you select an 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 for our take on how to select an ERP partner.
Start your 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 ERP partner 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 when trying to select an ERP partner is ensuring your partner has experience within your industry.
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 standout ERP partners
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’s a great chance to learn more about your potential partner, the software, previous projects and their industry-specific experience.
All of this comes in handy when selecting a partner. You’ll also 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, 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 of sites are all insightful. 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 an ERP ‘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. Do this and you’re much closer to being able to select an ERP partner.
For more advice on the sort of questions to ask, click here.
Request an ERP demo to see the product up close
Now you’re closer to how you’ll select an ERP partner, you’ll want to see them hands-on with the software that you’re considering.
The demonstration is a critical part of how to select an ERP software product. Properly handled it will give you vital information to compare and contrast different ERP software systems. This goes a long way towards helping 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 knowing what the requirements are. This applies to both sides of the project.
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. First, the software licensing, but also the time and effort put into the implementation.
A good implementation partner should be honest about 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. Try to identify when a deal looks too good to be true and keep your expectations realistic.
This being said, it is easy to get hung up on cost. We encourage you to value the success of the implementation over pricing within reason.
It should be possible for a partner to discuss financing options with you to make the implementation more viable. This a long way to ensuring a successful project on both sides.
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.
For more information about budgeting your ERP implementation, click here.
Check ERP partner references before you decide
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. However, 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 select an ERP partner!
Want to find out more about what CBO has to offer? You can get in touch for a preliminary discussion here.