Selecting an ERP system, as most of us know by now, is not an easy thing to do. The nature of it means it touches every part of your business. For this reason, you need to involve all your key users in determining their requirements.

What you normally end up with is a list of user requirements in the form of an Invitation To Tender (ITT), RFI, RFQ or another similar acronym.

Whatever it is called, this document actually contains a list of perceived answers to questions and issues that will not exist in a properly implemented ERP system. Therefore it will inevitably drive the implementation of ERP software solutions off track – providing these ‘requirements’ from the budget will mean the ERP system is sub-optimally implemented.

To be frank, the last question I would ask users is “What do you want?” People can only respond to a question like this based on their experience, which doesn’t always enable them to understand the capabilities of different modern ERP solutions. The typical answer to “What do you want?” is “To fix my problems”, which does not help to move things forward.

As we know, the problems of a particular user/area of business are probably the result of something going wrong elsewhere in the business process. So Fix My Problems becomes Fix My Symptoms, which can further divorce you from the true issues in the business.

My starting point for selecting an ERP system is to understand the business processes that will be supported by the ERP. In order to determine the requirements of the ERP replacement, you need to identify the root cause of any issues and pain points in the business that are restricting growth in revenue and margin. You can then start to model processes that would improve your performance and ask ERP vendors to map their systems to those processes. But do not close your eyes to the art of the possible – it may be that an ERP vendor, given their breadth of experience, can offer better solutions than you can think of yourself.

The key people to involve in the ERP selection process are those who are running the business at a high level. Distil their vision into a clear set of process requirements, get power users involved to make sure this is actually what the company does and then invite vendors to pitch to those processes.

This will keep the selection process focused on business requirements rather than individual user requirements and result in a much cleaner search process, followed by an optimal implementation project.

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