In the first article of this series, we outlined the necessary steps an organization should take to prepare for an ERP implementation. As one lays the foundation for a project of this magnitude, there are many essential activities that will impact the success of all phases. As illustrated in phase 1, before you select a partner, you should have the following documentation:
- A requirements outline
- Vision of the new system
- Scope and quote for the entire project
- RFQ outline
- Detailed scoring matrix
As the organization moves to phase 2, the intake and review process will highlight the partners that best fit with the needs of the business. In this step, casting a line to all potential providers is beneficial, regardless of reputation, especially if the RFQ and scoring matrix are robust. The internal cross-functional team should be responsible for evaluating vendor responses and score them based on the matrix created, identifying a short of list of potential candidates. Trust your internal team and process – this will ensure a strong solution, implementation plan, and team.
- Most organizations only invest in a new ERP system once every 15 to 20 years, so take the time to thoroughly search for the best partner. Ignore preconceived market chatter and select a solution that best fits your functionality needs, business processes, and company culture.
- A solid scoring methodology and cross function team will ensure a smooth evaluation process and empower the organization to pick the best solution.
- Provide the finalists with key workflow scenarios, targeting your vision for the future and capturing intercompany capabilities. This will encourage prospective partners to demonstrate their effectiveness and outline how they will take your company into the future.
- Reach out to all viable solutions: As infrequent as organizations go through this process, it is particularly important to cast a wide net, and the cost of reaching out with an RFQ is minimal. Be sure to contact all possible partners with solutions that could potentially meet your requirements.
- Evaluate RFQs and select a short list of solutions: At this point, your team has created a matrix to score the RFQ responses – it’s crucial to take your time in this evaluation. When scoring, think through these questions:
- Which vendors have thoroughly addressed the needs we’ve described?
- Which solutions best fit with the vision we’ve outline?
- Did the vendor demonstrate a clear understanding of our needs?
- How will each solution help drive change?
This will help you create a short list of potential partners to continue to review.
- Develop workflow scenarios: Once the short list of finalists is selected, meetings should be set for prospective partners to demonstrate their capabilities. Develop workflow scenarios for each potential solution, encouraging providers to align their capabilities to your business and project needs.
- Inquire and gather further input: The difference between selecting the right partner or the wrong partner could cost the organization millions. Continue your evaluations by researching the prospect’s successes and failures. Reach out to companies and peers who have engaged with each prospect – don’t underestimate the experience of others. It Is important to identify the partner who’s delivered their service and product on time, within budget, and as promised.
- Interview the proposed implementation team: When you feel you are zeroing in on the partner of choice, take time to bring in the proposed Implementation team. All team members will most likely not be selected, but they should know the lead members. The chemistry between your team and the vendor’s team will be critical to the project success.
- Don’t let market perceptions dissuade decisions: There are many stereotypes in the marketplace, which can lead to inaccurate reputations among providers. Some companies may be identified as being too difficult to work with as implementation partners, while others may be known as ‘too expensive’ or ‘too new’. Don’t let the market dictate what’s right for your organization by allowing unauthenticated perceptions of solutions be your guide. Include ALL possible prospects in the process – they may surprise you! In fact, partners with negative reputations may have worked extra hard to resolve these stigmas and in the process made themselves a stronger option.
- Don’t over or under build the selection team: Typically, the internal selection team in this phase should be about 8-10 Individuals. If the team is too small, there may not be enough people to validate the final decision. If the team is too big, there may be too many voices and a decision could be severely stalled or never made.
The internal team should be comprised of individuals empowered to review and select the best partner for the organization. This team does need to be prepared to present to the executive team once they have made their selection.
- Don’t forget to research licensing options and OGS: Don’t accept the cost estimates given by the ERP providers without understanding the assumptions used in the licensing and ongoing support. User licensing is usually based on the breadth of the access per user. You need to know how many users you will have in each category level to know the cost of the licensing and subsequently the cost of the OGS.
- Don’t overlook customization needs and critical methods: Many enter this type of project with the intent to not customize, yet avoiding customizations is nearly impossible. At a minimum, prepare to modify customer facing documents and some reporting. Most importantly, don’t ignore verifying the architecture and methods that will have to be used to ensure modifications can be made. Integrations are inevitable. Be sure your processes are strong and well-documented, so the changes will not impact upgrading the ERP system in the future.
- Don’t ignore the provider’s BI and BA offerings: Most ERP solutions today will include, at minimum, a partner-based solution for business intelligence and business analytics. This solution whether embedded or via partnership must be evaluated prior to a decision being made. Require that the solution provider demonstrate their BI and BA offerings. For this demonstration, you may want to bring in your data scientists or BI teams. They will be the best resource to evaluate the capabilities and limitations of the solution.
The selection process can be time consuming, and the final decision made will shape the compute capabilities of your company for up to two decades. The key to ensuring the solution you select will truly work for your company is hinged on the scenarios you prepare for the vendor to execute. Make sure the selection team is in lock-step with how you develop and evaluate the scenarios.
Overall project cost and timeline will be derived from this part of the process as well. Getting the timeline as accurate as possible is one way to avoid overruns in cost. Licensing and platform are important to staying within budget, but adherence to the established timeline is critical to controlling project spend.
Take the time to think through the current system, the system your business needs now, and the system that will be the most beneficial in the future. Be transparent and forward about the business needs and demands with your new partner – trust will provide a solid foundation for success.