Choosing an ERP System: What You Need To Know
Let’s cut to the chase here: choosing an ERP system will determine the success of your company over the next 20+ years. Therefore, the process for determining your needs and choosing an ERP system that fits those needs should be done thoroughly and deliberately. This selection is a bit like getting married – you don’t want to rush through the dating process or be fooled or bullied into making this selection.
There are many systems to choose from and primarily follow significant industries. They will be in two major categories: Horizontal systems and Vertical systems. Horizontals are more open, flexible and allow configurations to be made for special items critical to your company but where there aren’t industry ‘verticals.’
Examples of horizontal systems are Microsoft Word or Excel, where they have great functionality and allow the user to do whatever they’d like with the system. Vertical systems are highly tailored to a specific business model and have specific functionality for that kind of business. Examples of this are the diagnostics systems you see at an automotive garage. At their core, they have desktop systems but have precise sensors and programs preloaded with all models and makes of cars to properly analyze how the vehicle is running.
The most critical element here is you know your business. If you are a larger organization, assemble a team of people who have expertise in every facet, and give them the ‘charter’ to find the best fit for a system to run your company hopefully indefinitely. Each of these people will represent the company’s various needs and inform the team about what they see as crucial decision points in making the decision. In addition, this team will likely become the ‘core implementation team,’ so if they have been in on selecting the software, they are already on board to support the project.
Just like buying a new piece of clothing, you or your team will know your needs, and the right system should ‘feel right’ in addition to having all the right features. Part of that ‘feel’ is how you get along with the people you’ll be buying from and working with. These will be your business partners for a long, long time. Don’t make your decision based on a ‘first date’…be sure you not only feel comfortable but be excited about the ‘fit’ of the people and the new system.
How to Choose an ERP Software That Fits Your Needs
Determining how to choose ERP software is greatly dependent on what your needs are and how well you explain them. Don’t worry about understanding databases, programming languages, and other technical jargon. Today there are Cloud-based systems, on-premise systems, and ones that can be deployed both ways. Factors to consider when choosing an ERP system boil down to the functionality and fit of the system, and when you find one you like, then talk about how it is deployed.
Concentrate on clearly explaining how your business works, from beginning to end. Developing a thorough document that describes your ‘current state’, including all processes and systems that currently support the company, will help you evaluate where you are presently. Then, document your ‘future state’ – what your vision is for the future when you have the new system in place.
Entering information only once and having a system that prompts the user for all the correct data is essential. Notifying other staff and driving business processes is another. The ability to have real-time dashboards that show all of the critical business measurements at your fingertips will be a given. At the same time, the system should also maintain all of the regulatory or compliance data needing to be tracked. Perhaps you’ll need interfaces to shop floor equipment or CAD systems. Your ERP system will be your ‘single version of the truth’ – the one place to go to understand what’s happening in your business.
Tips on How to Choose an ERP System
The journey of choosing a system should include your internal selection team and the explanation of your ‘current and future states in most cases; these are some valuable strategies & tips on how to choose an ERP system we see customers utilizing:
Assemble 10 or 20 products and transactions representing 80-90% of your business. If the new system can handle all of these easily, then you should have a good fit.
Your vendor should be willing to demonstrate the system in great detail, showing how it can handle the example data set above. This is also an opportunity for you to see the system working and envision how your staff would work with it. Can the system be tailored for specific staff who only work with a limited part of the business? Is there adequate security in place to prevent information from being seen by the wrong people?
Any viable system should have excellent customers who are enthusiastic about the design and the people they worked with during implementation. Don’t be afraid to spend an adequate amount of time referencing genuinely understanding how things went for them. Ask leading questions like “if you could improve something about this system, what would it be?”. Remember, you’re close to getting married here, so you want to know these things!
Ultimately, your decision needs to fit your pocketbook and provide a solid foundation for running your business as it grows and evolves.
When Choosing an ERP System, Choose EpiCenter ERP
EpiCenter represents Epicor Software Corporation, and we ‘hitched our kite’ to Epicor because their ERP product is very flexible, easy to use, but has the depth to handle any level of complexity necessary for a $10 million or a $500 million company.
The software is one thing, and we love Epicor ERP (now called Kinetic), but we feel that it’s the people on our team that make the difference. We are very proud to have assembled a fantastic group of people and developed implementation methods that work. We have done hundreds of these implementations and have accumulated a tremendous amount of experience that you can take advantage of.
Your ‘fit’ with our software is just as important to us, and it is for you. If the software fits, then the next question is: “Who will you want as your business partner for implementation and ongoing support over the years”?
We have many references and a stellar reputation, and if our software fits with your business, we’d like to get to know you, and hopefully, our people fit with yours!
written by Jeffrey W. Glaze, President