Implementing ERP is a process, not an event.
Because ERP touches every function and department of a business, it is truly a complex undertaking with many details to consider. A successful ERP implementation can take anywhere from six months to a couple years to complete as a result, depending on the size and scope of the organization.
You need a good plan for your implementation because it is a significant process. You also need a good ERP vendor that not only delivers the right technical solution, but also supports the process of your rollout. Selecting a vendor is an early key for ERP implementation success.
Before arriving at the vendor selection step, you should have already performed a comprehensive, thorough audit of needs, current business processes, project requirements and other considerations such as technical requirements. This is the information you’ll need to determine the right ERP vendor.
You also should have asked some basic questions about potential vendors. These include:
- How long have they operated in the industry?
- What is the vendor’s track record?
- Has the vendor experienced a reorganization in recent years?
- Does the vendor have specialized experience with companies similar in size and industry?
- Will you be able to count on them for system updates, upgrades or changes in the future?
You’ll want to know about available solutions, product functionality and practicality, support capabilities, and all costs associated, too.
Once you’ve done your research and determined the best options, be sure to take these additional steps to ensure the vendor selection and onboarding process goes smoothly.
- Give Vendors Time to “Get” Your Business
Just as it took time to perform your internal audit, your vendor also will have a learning curve.
Don’t make the mistake of the building the car while driving it.
Schedule enough time for prospective vendors to truly understand how your company functions, how all the elements integrate, and what your organization seeks to achieve by implementing the ERP solution.
The vendor can’t give you an optimized solution if they don’t fully comprehend what you need in the first place.
- Coordinate Vendor Meetings with Key Employees
Key stakeholders in your organization are on the front lines of your operation each and every day. By allowing vendors to speak directly to these important team players, you’re again be empowering their understanding of your organization, its challenges and risks. You’re also help to establish relationships between the vendor and employees that will lead to a smoother process down the line.
More importantly, you’ll want—and need—buy-in and support from every level of your company. Involving these key stakeholders early and often in all stages of the process, including ERP vendor selection, will drive and encourage workforce acceptance of the many changes ERP will precipitate.
- Remember You’re the Customer, Not Them
Often companies get the notion that they should put their best face forward when selecting a vendor—like cleaning the house before hiring a maid service. Conversely, some ERP vendors will push you to select them without showing you exactly why they should be chosen.
Your company doesn’t need to impress the vendor; they need to impress you. If you’ve provided them with your business needs and requirements, they should be able to clearly demonstrate why their ERP system will address those needs and requirements.
- Preemptively Coach Executives on How to Handle Vendors
Vendors can sometimes be pushy. Their goal is to get the sale by any means necessary. It’s highly likely that an aggressive vendor will bypass other contacts in an attempt to engage with an executive. But a vendor receiving a premature “yes” from an executive in the midst of your search is not good.
Get ahead of this potential vendor move by advising your executive team to redirect any calls or meeting requests back to evaluation team lead. With your executive team all on the same page, you’ll present a united front and not subvert your search.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Let a Vendor Go
Changing vendors early in the implementation process is far better than changing later.
It’s quite possible that you or a vendor might realize a misalignment in the product or service they’re able to provide as compared to your business needs. Or maybe there’s a cultural mismatch between your company and the vendor.
Be disciplined enough to acknowledge the mismatch and make a change to a different vendor if needed.
Working with the wrong vendor is a recipe for disaster. ERP implementation is a big project, and the results impact your whole business. You can’t afford to stay with the wrong vendor, so pull the plug if things aren’t working out as expected. Especially early on in the process.
- Remember That You Can Work with Another Value-Added Reseller
Many businesses choose to work with a valued-added resellers (VAR) instead of working directly with the vendor. A benefit of working with a VAR is their specialization in working on complex IT projects. Some also possess expertise in working with companies in specific industries and are therefore able to deliver a deeper understanding of any specific technical and regulatory requirements during an ERP implementation.
But just as there can be misalignments with vendors, there also can be misalignments with VARs.
Don’t forget that you can change your VAR without having to change the underlying vendor. There are usually plenty of VAR options for any given solution. If you start the process with one VAR, you don’t have to stick with the same one if things aren’t working out. There are plenty of VAR options available.
- Bring an Independent Consultant to the Party
It’s a vendor’s job to position, promote and push their product offerings.
During the selection process, every vendor you approach will be biased toward their products and services. Tapping an independent third party to assist with comparing and contrasting systems is a good way to gain an impartial perspective of your options and see how each will apply to your business requirements.
Plus, your organization will stand to gain from the experience an independent consultant brings to the table. Independent consultants are able to offer practical advice on how to streamline the process because they’ve assisted with ERP projects at other companies before.
- Don’t Be Surprised by a Little Drama
No matter how much research you perform and groundwork you lay, there’s always going to be some turbulence during the selection process. As with the development of any relationship, there’s going to be personality clashes, misunderstandings and miscommunications as your company and the vendor gets to know each other.
What you should never tolerate is a vendor who is difficult to work with from the very beginning, however. If this is the case, consider a different vendor.
As you embark upon your ERP implementation journey, make sure that you and your leadership team remain firmly at the helm of the project. By managing vendors effectively, you’ll be able to maintain control of the process and mitigate any issues arising in the relationship including unpreparedness, pushiness or a lack of support.
The selection process is critically important, so we’ve put together an ERP evaluation worksheet that will help you cut through some of the complexity and define a process that works. If you need further assistance, you also can speak with one of our ERP consultants by calling (801) 642-0123 or writing us at firstname.lastname@example.org