For many businesses, embarking on a selection project to find a new ERP system is a daunting prospect.  Often the first step will be to search online for ideas and resources only to find statistics about failed implementations and tale after tale of when the selection has gone wrong.  The success stories are harder to find and that isn’t because it never goes well, it’s just people aren’t as quick to write about it when it does.

So what can you do to prepare for finding a new ERP system to give yourself the best chance of success?

The answer is, quite a lot, and here are some of the recommendations that can make all the difference.

First of all, consider whether you’re actually ready yet to start looking for a new system.  All too often businesses will start researching ERP solutions and vendors but they haven’t properly thought about what they will want the new system to do.  In terms of functionality, it needs to meet your business requirements for the future, not just what you do now or even what your needs were when you put your current systems in place.  Business objectives and priorities change all the time and chances are your business looks different now to when you last reviewed your systems and processes and what worked well then might not be right for the future.

Do you have your current processes documented?

Having these written down can be a really good way to spot where there is duplication of effort and help to ascertain whether there are efficiencies that can be gained.  As a minimum, you should have your critical, more frequent business processes documented.  There’s nothing worse than losing that longstanding employee who knows everything there is to know about a process, then discovering it was all in their head and nobody else has that knowledge.  Make use of existing operating procedures, job descriptions, user manuals – in essence, anything that describes what you do day to day.

Whilst doing this, it’s an idea to make a note of the pros and cons of your existing processes and systems.  This is a good way to identify which are worth carrying forwards and which are causing you issues and definitely need to be done differently in future.  As part of this, it’s not unusual to find that despite the existence of business systems, there may well be manual processes that have crept in overtime along with regular exporting of core data to external tools such as Microsoft Excel in order to work around gaps and disconnects with what is in place.

Another thing you need to do is to be realistic and that means being realistic about every aspect of the new system.  This includes the amount of time, effort and cost that will be needed to implement it properly.  It’s not the sort of project that you can go into half-heartedly and come out on top.  You really need to put the effort in at the outset to ensure everyone in the business is fully on board from the top down otherwise it will just fall by the wayside.

Having completed these initial steps, you should then have a broad “shopping list” of what you’re looking for.  An important activity then is to properly prioritise this list in some way so that you create something sensible and achievable to take to market.  Your method of doing this can be as simple or complex as you wish, just so long as it clearly defines what you really have to have to work from day one to support your business (capture a sales order) as opposed to what it would be great to have, but that you can wait a while for (a multicoloured, mobile-ready dashboard to show sales by product group by customer).

It can be hard to find the right person in a business that has the right skills and expertise to manage all of the above steps in order to select a new system and that also has the time to invest in this and the actual implementation project whilst continuing with their business-as-usual activities.

In many organisations, the Finance Director will be chosen to sponsor the ERP selection process and often it will have been their idea to look at it in the first place.  This typically happens since Finance are often most impacted by not having the right systems in place to produce the financial insights that the business needs in order to perform effectively. Whilst they will have a good knowledge of what is needed from a financial system, they will however be unlikely to know what systems are available that would suit other core functions such as sales, planning or manufacturing.  The best systems will need to be a good fit for all functions so the business needs must be considered with close involvement of the wider group of stakeholders.

Many businesses find that they just don’t have the internal resources or skills available to successfully undertake an ERP selection project and therefore decide that they need help from external consultants such as Gradient Transforming.  Having helped many businesses implement ERP systems over 25 years, we feel well qualified to help specify and select a new ERP solution, given our consultants have ‘real world’ experience across a range of disciplines.

So if you are struggling with your current systems and not sure where to start in seeking a replacement, get in touch for an initial chat.