When organizations decide to implement ERP software, they often jump right into ERP selection without taking the time to prepare. They assume they can select the right technology by simply evaluating software features and benefits.
However, there are many activities that should precede ERP selection. Before you start thinking about ERP vendors or perusing top ERP systems lists, consider focusing on these seven activities:
Ensuring Organizational Alignment
The key to a successful ERP selection is ensuring that stakeholders across the organization understand and agree with the organization’s strategy objectives. Then, you can consider how you might use technology to achieve objectives, such as improving the customer experience, creating new business models or generating new revenue. This isn’t the time to focus on specific technologies but to establish a foundation that ultimately will help you evaluate ERP vendors based on their ability to enable your strategy.
Developing a Business Case
What business benefits do you expect to realize from new ERP software? What are the expected costs? Knowing the answers to these questions is critical to justifying an ERP investment when executives ask about ROI. To really win them over, you should outline exactly how new technology will enable your organization’s strategy objectives. Most ERP failures can be prevented by ensuring stakeholders understand technology’s role in digital transformation.
Mitigating Change Resistance
As soon as you’ve made the decision to implement new ERP software, you need to inform employees. You may not know what specific technologies will be involved, but it’s never too soon to start communicating about the overall goals of the future ERP implementation. By evaluating your organizational culture and employees’ openness to change, you can develop an organizational change management strategy that helps employees embrace change. Encouraging employee buy-in is not just about increasing system usage. Employee buy-in is critical long before implementation. For example, employees can provide useful input during the selection process. Building enthusiasm before selection can maximize their future engagement.
Defining Business Requirements
Many organizations do not have clearly-defined processes, but as they embark on their ERP project, they realize the necessity of business process mapping. Documenting current business processes helps you prioritize functional requirements and identify opportunities for improvement. While no ERP system will address every business requirement, process mapping gives you an idea of which requirements are most important. Process mapping also helps you understand who owns processes and data, so you know who to involve in the selection process.
Transforming Business Processes
While some processes may only need incremental improvements, processes related to your competitive advantage may need a complete overhaul. In other words, they need business process reengineering. This is an approach to business design that focuses on breaking down functional silos and providing end-to-end process understanding. It involves thinking about the purpose of each process and the hand-offs between functions. Ultimately, this approach builds process efficiencies that will guide your selection of ERP software. If a system can’t support your optimized processes, then it’s not right for your organization.
Understanding Deployment Options
Do you want to house ERP software within your IT department or host it externally? Complex organizations that need heavy IT control, gravitate toward on-premise deployment, while organizations that need less control generally outsource their IT functions. Here’s some of the terminology you might encounter as you’re evaluating deployment options:
Software hosted in an external environment that is either single tenant or multi-tenant
Software managed by a specific vendor in a multi-tenant cloud environment
Software hosted within your organization
A combination of on-premise hosting and cloud hosting
All platforms and technologies hosted by external provider
Developing an IT Strategy
In addition to deployment options, there are several other IT strategy decisions to make before ERP selection. For example, you’ll need to determine an integration strategy – do you want a single ERP system or several best-of-breed systems? While best-of-breed ERP systems can help you build competitive advantage, they also create technical complexities, integration challenges and data issues. Many organizations implement single ERP systems since they enable standardization, which can reduce change resistance. However, single ERP systems don’t allow you the flexibility to choose the best software for each of your functional areas. This means you might need more software customization, which is costly.
Selecting an ERP System
These seven activities will help you establish a foundation from which you can effectively evaluate ERP vendors. Now you have the necessary information to analyze the functional and technical fit of any digital technology on the market. You know what criteria are most important to your organization, so you can narrow down your potential options until you find the technology that supports your digital strategy and improves your competitive advantage.