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Best Practices for ERP System Selections: Part 2

ERPSoftwareDemoThis month we’d like to continue in our ERP System Selection series to give you a better perspective on Best Practices for ERP System Selections. Click here to read Part 1.

Now that you’ve got a good start in the qualifying process of looking for a new ERP system, what’s next? Let’s look at the top seven things to consider in a business software demo.

Once you’ve worked through your core requirements and “wish lists” on what you’d like the ERP system to do, you can now start to evaluate various ERP solution packages to see how well they match up to your needs, and to start to compare which package and vendor may be the best match for you. Here are some helpful hints that will reduce the risk of picking the wrong system and will ultimately lead to a smoother implementation, and valuable daily working application. 

A Demo is a Commercial for the Vendor and Solution

When you invite a vendor to demo their package solution to you, they will try to set the agenda by showing you all of the features/functions that make their system shine. It will highlight what they do very well and will minimize or eliminate areas where they do not provide the best solution. With your shopping list of features and critical functional areas, you can take control of the demo to make sure they answer your specific questions that are relevant to what you do in your daily operations. A disconnected demo can be more confusing and make it more difficult to do a fair comparison in the end.  

Don’t Buy the Sizzle – You Want to Focus on the Steak!

It’s an old saying but sales people tend to want to distract you with “cool” capabilities and “advanced features” which may or may not even apply to what you do or need. Try to stay focused on what you truly need, and don’t make a decision based on some feature that you may never use.

Have Good Questions Prepared in Advance

The more you know what you want, the better you can describe it and ask good questions throughout the demo. It should be an interactive process. Have specific questions prepared in advance that you need answered. It gives you a good list to check off as you go. It saves time, keeps them answering your process questions, and keeps you in control of the demo. 

Develop a Demo Script and Send it in Advance

This is where a professional consulting services firm can help. They can help a company transform a list of requirements into a scripted demo with multiple functions and “what if” scenarios. A demo script can be up to 35 pages long, and lays out your BOMs, routings, invoices, work orders, item masters, accounting reports, and overall flow of the business from quote to cash. If a vendor truly wants to earn your business, they will want to invest the time it takes and respect what you have given them to follow. If they insist on showing you just what they want to show, then you may want to consider another vendor who listens more than they talk.  

Have a Score Card

Create a score card that everyone on the team can use to grade each demo. Break it up based on Ease of Use/Navigation, Functional Capability, Search, Flexibility, Recovery from Errors, and Overall Value. Each person on the team will need to gather together after the demo to compare notes. This a great way to rate the demos based on some quantifiable factors, not just on whether or not they liked or disliked the demos.  

Timing is Everything

As with most things in life, timing is everything when it comes to software demos and presentations/closing. Every software vendor typically wants to “close” and will use whatever leverage they can to get the deal. This includes discounting the software pricing, annual maintenance costs, or implementation costs. Use this to your advantage to negotiate the best deal you can get. End of the quarter or end of year timing has proven to be a good time to buy. 

Every System Needs Some Customization

In almost 20 years of working in ERP systems, we have yet to see a true “out of the box” perfect fit for any company once they move through implementation. It’s important to look at the tools to help you modify the system to your needs. This can be as simple as User Defined Fields (UDF) to custom programming tool kits to develop new applications and interfaces. Over time, revising reports and customer files will be necessary to maintain the application for changes that happen in your business. Make sure what you buy has the ability to adapt for a longer lifetime and ROI. If the system has little or no flexibility, it may be a red flag going forward.  

We hope this gives you some good tips as you move forward on this decision path. 

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Scott Holter is the Director of Meaden & Moore’s Business Solutions Group. He has spent 20 plus years in manufacturing and technology consulting.

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