Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is all about making life easier.
With a system of integrated applications, your business can run more smoothly – back-end operations are automated, and many redundant or time-consuming tasks are taken out of the hands of your already-busy employees.
But making the change to a new ERP system isn’t as easy as the part that comes after it.
To help you along the way, we’ve put together a few tips for choosing and implementing a new ERP system – from setting your goals through to supporting your staff.
1. Make a list of requirements before you start shopping around
Don’t just jump on the lowest price, the latest trendy technology or the flashiest appearance.
Assemble a team that’s representative of your business as a whole – at least one person from each department, with a good mix of management and front-line workers – and work together to decide exactly what you need from a new ERP system.
A natural and easy place to start is by figuring out exactly what it is that’s lacking in your current software. Your business might have outgrown the software’s limitations, or the software might not integrate well with the rest of your business’s technology.
From this list of negatives, you can start to build a concrete list of realistic objectives and requirements before you approach any vendors.
It’s not just about helping you to make sure you’re choosing an ERP system that meets all your criteria. It’s also going to make it much easier for any ERP vendors to help you get what you want.
2. Choose your vendor carefully
If defining your requirements is the most important thing you can do before choosing an ERP system, then selecting a vendor is easily second-most important.
In most cases, it won’t be a short-term relationship. After they’ve helped you to choose and implement your software, they could be working with you for years to come – training your staff, upgrading your systems, and adding new functionality as your business grows and changes.
Ideally, you want a vendor that specialises in your specific industry – or at least one that’s experienced in an industry that shares similar business processes to your own. You want a vendor with a proven track record and one that’s likely to be around a few years down the line.
In any case, it’s essential that you talk to a few of their previous or current customers. Ask those customers what went right or wrong, and what they would have done differently if they could. If an ERP vendor can’t refer you to at least three happy customers, that might be a warning sign that the vendor doesn’t have the experience you need to feel confident in committing.
3. Think before you customise
Getting a bespoke ERP system that’s fully configured for your specific needs sounds appealing. But for many businesses, the high cost just isn’t worth the gain.
It’s not just a case of eating the cost of an expensive set-up – you’ll also need to factor in the costs of upgrading, a longer ROI and the lower stability that comes with getting a customised system
As with most business decisions, it’s all about finding the optimal balance. An off-the-shelf system that’s ready to go might not be the most flexible ERP, but it could be the most stable and most cost-effective in the long run.
Before you decide to go with a customised system, you need to ask yourself:
• How easy would it be to change the way we do business? If you’re able to change your business processes to suit a pre-made solution without harm, you could avoid the huge costs of a customised set-up.
• Is my business likely to change? Many off-the-shelf ERP packages are built with flexibility in mind – and the costs of adopting a customised system to cope with the changes in your business could be huge later.
• Are any of our current business processes critical to our competitive advantage? If they are, you need to be willing to lose that advantage if you choose a pre-made system that forces a change in your processes.
4. Get the right training and support
Unfortunately, going live with your new ERP system is rarely the end of the project.
Your staff will need to be trained in a new way of working – and they’ll need time to settle in and get to grips with your new business processes.
In many cases, this training and ongoing support will come from your ERP vendor or partner. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect the potential of your own team.
By selecting one or two of your more tech-savvy staff members and giving them the opportunity to receive more in-depth training, you can have your own in-house ERP champions to give the rest of your team the direct support and guidance they need daily.
Making the change to a new way of working is never easy – but getting the right help is. If you’d like to talk to an expert about how modern software can make running a business easier and more efficient, get in touch today.