Why do so many businesses eventually scrap their start-up accounting software and disparate systems for enterprise resource planning (ERP) software? The most common reason is due to rapid business growth – what an ERP system is built to accommodate. When running your business on basic accounting software or multiple systems, it can be challenging to keep up with increasing transactions, new customers, and rising complexities. By integrating your core business processes into one accessible platform, ERP software eliminates the time-consuming manual processes of your outgrown systems and helps you increase efficiencies, enhance productivity, and boost performance.
Importance of ERP Software Selection
The decision to implement and adopt a new ERP system is not one that comes lightly, as it involves a certain amount of time, money, and change management to be successful. No company investing all those resources into a new ERP system wants to experience implementation failure and suffer the repercussions of delays, additional costs, and business disruption. As a result, the planning and preparation that goes into selecting an ERP system are critical.
The ERP software you choose will directly impact the future of your business. That’s why software requirements gathering is one of the most critical steps in your ERP software selection process. Taking the time to meet with key stakeholders and users will help you:
- Clarify expectations
- Define business goals
- Document specific technical and functional requirements
- Encourage buy-in and adoption
- Enable process improvement
Requirements gathering can seem like a time-consuming process, but getting on the same page with your team and identifying your business needs before you start ERP selection will be advantageous in the long run. One of the worst things that can happen is to skip this entire process to save time and end up selecting an ERP system that doesn’t fit your business. You’ll spend more time and energy trying to fit a square peg in a round hole – only to have to turn around and either go back to your old ways or implement a whole new system again. Neither of which is very good for morale (or your pocketbook).
While there are many reputable enterprise solutions to choose from, ERP systems by their very nature are complex and deliver a wide range of features that you may or may not need. Some solutions will only give you a portion of the functionality you are looking for; others will deliver precisely what you need. The challenge is identifying what software best fits your business model, your employees, and your customers, and your growth goals. Once you have a clear understanding of what capabilities you need in an ERP solution, the easier it will be to pick a solution, select a technology partner, and set your business up for a smooth ERP implementation and successful software adoption.
Open Door’s ERP Selection Criteria Checklist
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to a business, and the same thing applies to ERP software. Every organization is different, and therefore, your ERP selection criteria will be unique to your operations. At Open Door, we have helped companies in North America invest in the right technology for their business for over 30 years. We have developed our ERP selection criteria that you can use to evaluate your organizational goals, identify your solution requirements, and compare against specific vendors. With this checklist, you can rest assured that you have chosen the right ERP software to last the life of your business.
Regardless of what ERP systems you decide to evaluate, we recommend that you go through this checklist before seeing any software demos. With a solid understanding of your goals, the functionality you need to be successful, and a defined list of questions to ask, you will be better prepared and less likely to be impressed by pretty visuals and unnecessary features.
- Essential Functionality
When comparing ERP systems, the technical fit should be a key factor. All ERP systems generally include a similar set of core business applications, like financial management, sales, and inventory; however, each vendor has different functional strengths that can better suit them to your industry and business. In the requirements gathering phase, make sure you clearly outline your priority functionality – basically the capabilities you need to operate your business day to day and can’t live without. Everything else falls under a “nice to have” category, which you can then use to narrow down your search further.
Ease of use will directly impact your organization’s speed of adoption and how quickly you will start to see a return on your investment. Consider who your users are and ask them what tools they need to be more productive every day. A more familiar and user-friendly interface will help them get the most out of the system. Other areas to consider are data accessibility and mobile features.
Cloud, on-premise, hosted, or hybrid – how you decide to deploy your ERP system will impact everything from your upfront costs and licensing to upgrades, storage, and security. The decision of how to deploy your ERP system depends on several factors, including your existing infrastructure, IT department (if you have one), functionality, security, and accessibility. Once you have decided on the best deployment option for your business, you will be able to shorten your ERP selection list significantly.
With a clear list of your must-have functionality and business processes, you will be able to see how unique your requirements are and if you will require customization. The truth is, customizations can be expensive and complex to maintain – unless you select an ERP system designed for flexibility. Many cloud ERP systems, for example, offer the option to tailor your platform with additional business apps or add-ons.
- Implementation Timeframe
A mid-market ERP implementation can take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years depending on the software and the complexity of the project. To mitigate risk and ensure success, ERP implementations are thorough and typically include time for planning and strategy development, data migration, configuration, installation, and training. An exact timeframe will be hard to find in the early stages of research, but you can start to get an idea of how long other projects by specific vendors have taken by reaching out for references and looking at reviews.
- System Scalability
Your business is growing, and with the addition of an integrated ERP system, it should continue growing for years to come. When you invest in an ERP system, you need to make sure it has the ability to not just scale up but scale down as well. 2020 has shown us that anything can happen, and you need to be prepared.
You only want to make an investment in an ERP system once, so make sure you select a credible vendor with a solid reputation for continuously investing and supporting their product. Look for how often a vendor releases regular updates to the system and what kind of enhancements they make. The ERP partner you select should also offer their own support and training to make sure you are getting the most out of the software at all times.
Start Your ERP Software Research
In the early stages of ERP software selection, people come to Open Door seeking an innovative, knowledgeable partner they can approach and rely on. Tired of getting lost in the shuffle of large technology providers full of stringent processes that appear more about feeding a bottom line than driving customer success? We offer our customers the ability to unlock the opportunities that well- suited, well-executed technology can bring.
At Open Door, we concentrate exclusively on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central’s cloud-based enterprise application suite. As one of the most affordable and scalable ERP solutions on the market today, this ERP system should be at the top of your list for evaluation.
To help you learn more about this cloud platform and assess whether it is a good fit for your business, we have developed an all-inclusive guide that includes everything you need to know about functionality, implementation, licensing, pricing, and customization, and partner selection.
Once you are armed with the facts, feel free to contact our talented group of business applications, ERP, and process management technical experts to learn more about Business Central and how it can be adapted to fit your operations.