Selecting ERP software for your business should not be considered the most challenging task of your professional career. With research, the right tools and the right partner you’ll be able to confidently select the best Enterprise Resource Planning system for the needs of your business today and into the future.
Since 1990, DWD Technology Group has helped hundreds of manufacturing and distribution companies find the right business management solutions for their unique needs using our proven step by step software buying process.
Step #1 – Begin Identifying my Company’s Business Software Needs
During this step, your business will learn how to begin preparing for the search for a new ERP solution. Distribution and manufacturing companies often identify the need for a new software system and begin researching their alternatives because of a few common reasons.
- They require an additional range of capabilities such as a bill of materials, supply chain management, and advanced inventory needs.
- They want to integrate their systems to achieve efficiencies.
- They need a more comprehensive business solution to fill their growing requirements.
- Data has become corrupted and system speed is lacking.
Once the need for a new business management program has been determined a few key things should take place.
- Gather a project team – the team should have the knowledge to represent each major department of your business.
- Determine your project objectives – changing the goals of your business software search in the middle of the process can have a negative effect on your results.
- Determine a realistic budget – consider all expenses related to the project including updating hardware and other outdated systems that your new program will rely upon.
- Set a realistic go-live goal – keep in mind that everyday business still has to happen during this time period.
Once you’ve completed these initial steps, your project should be off and running.
Step #2 – Determine My Options
To be able to determine what software solution you should consider, you first need to learn what your business needs from the business management program. This is often accomplished by completing a formal needs assessment review.
The software assessment process will help you determine objectives such as:
- What issues are we currently having with our accounting software?
- What functionality do we need in the new system?
- Who will be users of the new accounting/ERP/CRM system?
- What existing systems need to be integrated?
- What information needs to be derived from the new system?
While completing a detailed needs assessment is time-consuming, it will help you in selecting the right ERP system by providing your team with the insight they need to make informed decisions.
Step #3 – Evaluate Business Management Solutions
Once you’ve completed a needs assessment process, you will have the information needed to request a detailed business management software demonstration. During the tailored business management software demonstration, you will learn if a solution meets your most critical requirements and ultimately, whether it is the best solution for your business.
Key things to expect during an ERP software demonstration:
- The ERP software demonstration should be tailored around the critical requirements that were uncovered in your needs assessment. It should NOT be a high level or general overview of the bells and whistles of the software.
- The reseller should show you the key advantages of the software AND make you aware of its weaknesses. Keep in mind, no system is perfect. If a reseller is not showing you limitations along with advantages, they are not providing full disclosure.
- A quality reseller will involve a product expert during the ERP system evaluation process so system features and functionality are not over-promised.
- You can expect a software demonstration to last 2 or more hours depending upon the level of functionality your business requires.
Following the software demonstration, you should receive a formal proposal
If you are evaluating multiple business management software solutions, be sure you compare apples to apples. The formatting of proposals can vary, so take notes of each line item, not just the total cost.
Costs that should be included on a formal proposal include:
- Cost of the system solution
- Software implementation and set-up fees
- Training fees
- Cost for an on-going maintenance plan (software updates & upgrades from the vendor).
Step #4 – Select the Best Business Management Software & Partner
Selecting the best business management software product for your company can be a nerve-racking decision. If you’ve completed a detailed needs assessment and participated in a customized software demonstration, you should have the knowledge you need to make an informed decision.
Key tips to remember when you select a new ERP Software solution:
- The ERP software you select should be just right for the needs of your business. It should not contain too many features making it difficult to use, nor should it contain too few, not meeting your needs entirely.
- The ERP software you select should contain features that streamline your business operations helping you to achieve efficiencies along the way.
- The ERP software should be flexible enough to fit your unique business needs. Don’t allow limitations to force manual accounting operations.
- It is critical to make sure the vendor of your product is financially solid, guaranteeing it will be around to serve your needs for many years.
The software reseller you choose as your partner can make or break the success of your project. It’s critical to select an ethical partner who will disclose the good and bad and always has your best interest in mind.
Key tips to remember when you select a software partner:
- A good partner will take the time to fully understand your company and its needs.
- It is important to determine if the partner has your best interest in mind. Are they trying to find a solution that works best for your business, or are they trying to sell you their business package?
- Ask if the software partner has multiple software consultants available to support you, particularly in emergencies.
- It’s beneficial to work with a partner that understands not only the technical capabilities of the business software package, but also the practical uses for your business.
The relationship you build with your software partner will last for years, so it’s important to choose a true “business partner”. A true business partner will have the expertise to be a resource for your technical, accounting, payroll, distribution and manufacturing questions.
Step #5 – Implementation & Go-Live
Behind every successful software, implementation is a sequence of steps to follow. Failure to complete one of these process steps can have a factor in the success of your project.
Major steps you can expect during implementation:
- Implementation kick-off meeting – you are assigned a project manager who works with you to establish goals, objectives, and timelines.
- Procedure and software setup meetings – your partner will review your current workflow and other processes so the software program is configured to work within your company’s business processes.
- Conversion of your data – a fair amount of data should be converted electronically including; chart of accounts, GL summary balances (12 months) customer lists, vendor lists, employee lists, inventory items, open invoices, and open orders.
- Data entry – your team will need to manually enter items that are not converted electronically.
- Training – should be provided throughout the implementation and include areas such as transaction entry, posting, and monthly reporting procedures.
- System testing & practice – this step is critical and will help avoid issues from occurring in the live environment.
- Go-live – assistance should be provided during the first day or two of go-live processing.
You should plan 2-6 months for the implementation. The length of the implementation depends on the nature of the project and the availability of your staff. It’s important to remember that your team will have to complete their daily work in addition to their implementation activities.
Our 5 steps to selecting ERP software will provide you with the tools you need for a successful journey through the ERP Software buying process.
If you’re looking to move to a new Enterprise Resource Planning software program, we’d love the opportunity to help you through the process. Contact us to request a free software needs assessment today!