Step One: List your requirements
The first and most important step on the road to successfully finding your perfect ERP software provider is to compile a complete list of your requirements for the software.
It is crucial that all users and everyone involved with the ERP solution has their say at this point, as these requirements will form the framework for the entire ERP installation project.
If there are specific reports that you need to run or processes that you need to complete then it might be a good idea to provide a demonstration of these along with the base requirement. Then your ERP software provider can develop your solution to fit your needs
You may discover that some requirements listed are either contradictory or conflicting. These requirements need identifying and resolving at this point before they develop into a bigger problem later on.
Step Two: Create a summary checklist
Once you have all your requirements gathered it is time to make a summary ERP software checklist to give to suppliers. This should be an exhaustive list of all the key requirements across all ERP modules. The language in your checklist needs to be as unambiguous as possible, so leave out qualitative words like ‘user-friendly’ or ‘flexible’ - all ERP software providers will claim to cover these points but in reality, they leave a lot of room for interpretation. You should also try to avoid computer jargon such as ‘connect to’ or ‘interface with’ another machine. If you need to send a particular cutting pattern from the system to the machine tool electronically then state this as simply and precisely as possible. It may not sound as fancy but will provide more information and clarity to your potential ERP software providers.
Step Three: Personalisation and expansion
Some of the features listed in your supplier checklist will be specific to your organisation – for example, producers of consumer electronics may require additional ERP support at the product-testing phase. These items should be teased out and highlighted to your potential suppliers in order for them to provide ballpark cost.
You should also think about how your business might expand in the next five or so years. This expansion plan may require additional elements to be incorporated into your ERP solution, so planning for them now can create a more flexible system capable of dealing with your expansion, with little pain or expense.
Step Four: See it in action
Once you have completed the above steps you are ready to complete a needs analysis with your prospective ERP software providers. This is an important step that some businesses miss and will help demonstrate to you that the supplier understands your requirements. Remember to be somewhat flexible at this stage; suppliers will know the latest technology that could work better for you than your initial suggestions and specifications. After all, you don't want your new ERP software to be a complete replica of an old system!
A good ERP software provider will also offer you a demonstration at their facilities – if they don't then you should insist on one since seeing the software on a single-user portable PC is not always very representative. Demonstrations at their facility will help to filter out the less reliable, less professional providers leaving you with a shortlist of the very best suppliers.
These steps have been summarised from our full ERP software checklist guide, which you can download for free.