Most project teams from mid-market and distribution organisations are challenged by an ERP selection project.
This is because an ERP project cuts across each area of the business, impacting functional areas from finance, accounting and supply chain, to shop floor, production, inventory, quality management, shipping and more. Manufacturers and distributors have already gone through lean initiatives, cutting away excess and thereby are operating with lean staff.
While it’s tempting to consider these initiatives as pure ‘technology or projects’, that perspective is not effective and often results in an implementation that fails to meet expectations. IT may lead the project and certainly has a major role, but ERP projects touch almost every area of the business. The new system will naturally bring some change to how business is done, so it’s important that business process owners are heavily involved.
Thus, when a project team is considering an ERP selection project, it’s imperative that the selection process be based on a solid foundation of industry expertise, vendor research and an intimate knowledge of the business, all aligned with the goal of improved business performance.
Software decision drivers: aligning selection with the needs of the business
At its most fundamental, establishing strategic software decision drivers during a selection project involves matching the future state of requirements a business must achieve to drive business process transformation against the system features a technology solution offers.
Monpellier’s ERP consultant team has guided organisations on this very approach. This set of software decision drivers will vary for every organisation dependent on what is the best match for the specific functional areas of the business.
Six categories of software decision drivers
Manufacturers and distributors should take into consideration the following software decision drivers when entering an ERP project:
Features and functionality
- Does the software meet the future state needs of the business?
- Will users find the software intuitive and easy to use?
- Does the software have advanced industry functionality to support dynamic business needs?
- Does the vendor understand the specifics of the business?
- Is the vendor aligned with the specific requirements of the organisation?
Solution agility and viability
- Is the vendor invested in this product solution?
- Will the software be part of its service offering for the long-term?
- Does the platform fit within the team’s technology roadmap?
- Is the vendor following industry standards for current future integrations?
Total cost of ownership
- Are licensing fees, maintenance and subscription costs understood?
- Are fees for services/support and integrations included?
- Does the vendor’s implementation methodology align with the organisation?
- Is the project plan comprehensive with adequate detail?
- How are risks and issues managed?
When the focus is business process improvement, and not solely technology, the project team has a better chance of conducting an effective technology evaluation that is designed to meet future state needs. That’s the power of a strategic approach to software decision drivers.
In a perfect world, once you implement ERP software, you don’t have to worry about your centralised business system again. The realist is that an ERP system needs upgrading like any other piece of software. Chances are good that you aren’t driving the same car you did 5 years ago and I highly doubt that you are even using the same smartphone you had 2 years ago. The fact is that technology is not just changing, it’s constantly improving.
That means software built even a few years ago starts to age and new versions are needed to take advantage of the incredible new opportunities today. For instance, ERP systems are moving towards mobile solutions to augment the core package. That wasn’t possible even 3 years ago.
Plan your future updates to your ERP system – today
Whether you are investigating the benefits of ERP software for the first time of have a system in place, it is best to plan for periodic upgrades in software. Just like you schedule tune-ups for your car, tune-ups are also good for ERP software.
The thing about upgrades is, while they bring a host of improvements, fixes and new features, it can take time before employees using the system are totally familiar with what’s new. There can also be slight downtime to the system while the ERP upgrade commits to your system. That’s why its extraordinarily important that you have a plan in place for updates.
Generally, creating a plan for downtime – how to minimise it – and training on new features is essential. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but communicating the expected changes and how it will impact day-to-day operations needs is key. All that could be rolled up into a simple company-wide email or phased in with specialised support from your ERP implementation partner.
Additional benefits of ERP upgrades
Upgrades are also like spring cleaning for your data. Before installing the upgrade, you should perform a backup of the existing data. You might also sort out old data, archive old records, and optimise the configuration of the database server to get the best performance from your system.
All of this preparation is important to keep your ERP software running smoothly and at optimal speed. Once your upgrade is complete, you have an ERP system that works even better than it did before.
Also, ERP system security improvements are generally parts of updates. You don’t need me telling you how many data breaches have happened, you can flip on the news and you’ll likely hear about a new cyber attack. ERP systems house an incredible amount of data that powers your company. Not everybody can afford to recover from the pain of lapses in security and upgrading your ERP system is one of the tools you have control over.
It all comes down to driving to work in a Model-T car and using a rotary-dial phone which is inefficient in this modern era, and so is using old software.
For more information about ERP upgrades, or if you just simply want to see what solutions are out there, that might fit your business processes better, you can contact us here, or give us a call on 0191 500 8150 and speak to a Business Software Consultant.
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