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9 Mistakes to Avoid in Your ERP Selection

Credits:Curt Barry, President of F. Curtis Barry & Company

Mistake #1: Setting wrong initial expectations There are typically five things management always wants to know upfront in the project before the detail system selection process proceeds: What are your company’s systems requirements from a functional perspective? What are the gaps between available commercial systems and your company’s needs which could require modifications or lack of functionality? What is the TCO (total cost of ownership) for the entire project? What is the schedule to complete the process? What internal and external resources are required to implement and support the project? Catch what I just wrote: They want some idea of the answers to very difficult questions before the detail work is performed. These are not unreasonable expectations but for those with no experience in selecting and implementing an ERP it may be a coin toss in terms of accuracy. As a result your project sets expectations which may be faulty and difficult to deliver on.

Mistake #2: Pushing selection responsibilities off onto IT It’s not just IT’s project. Large-scale ERP and OMS implementations will change the way your company does business and how many employees will do their jobs. Assemble a strong cross-department project team drawing from those who will use the system. Be sure to have executive sponsorship backing the project from start to finish, and a project manager capable of coordinating and supporting iWho in your company will manage the project? Don’t rely on the vendor’s project manager, who will have their own responsibilities. They cannot be responsible for your people, the process changes, training and procedures and readiness. For large projects this is a full-time job; if you don’t have the resources, seek outside expertise.

Mistake #3: Failure to develop detailed business requirements The best practice here is to develop a requirements document, gain user sign-offs and turn that into an RFP document. It will also be useful for scripting demos and tracking the mandatory changes required. We cannot overstate the importance.

Mistake #4: Limited search, limited vendors What is your short list of qualified vendors for RFPs and demos? Conduct a multi-vendor bidding process. Not only will you get the best price, but vendors can bring best practice insights that you would not have otherwise gained.

Mistake #5: Picking technology over functionality Balance technical decisions with functions available from the application system. Yes, platform and systems technology is extremely important. But are you giving up functionality by selecting the most leading-edge technology? Strike the right balance.

Mistake #6: Modifying, not adopting to a new application Companies often try to make the new system look like their current one. You should minimize modifications throughout the process, at least initially. Modifications add risk and cost, and extend timeframes or make the system undeliverable. Merchants abort implementations every year because they underestimated the effects of contractual modifications. In software demos and discussions, evaluate the vendor’s alternative processes rather than deciding to modify. Challenge modifications deemed “necessary” after reviewing the alternative processes. Consider changing your business processes or using the system “as is” for six months before making certain modifications.

Mistake #7: Superficial demos Merchants frequently select ERP or OMS systems after spending a few hours in an Internet vendor demo. This makes no sense to me as these are complex systems with thousands of functions — you need to schedule at least one day to see the major functions. Take control of the demos. Script and prep for them. What does the entire team want to see? From the RFP responses, what do you need demoed? Prepare in-depth examples with your data, and send them to the vendor in advance. Be sure that major stakeholders are involved throughout the demos and that each functional area participates. Develop a process to take notes and record follow-up points.

Mistake #8: Insufficient vendor due diligence Visit client sites with similar merchandise and operations using the version of the software you’re purchasing. You wouldn’t believe how many companies never see the product live in a similar company before signing.

Mistake #9: Signing the contract prematurely Avoid the sales person’s push to close the deal with offers such as “I’ll give you 20% off if you sign by end of the quarter.” Don’t let a vendor sidetrack your process by using sales tactics designed to end your competitive bid process. If you find out later this isn’t the right system, you’ve signed an agreement and the deposits are generally refundable.

Credits:Curt Barry, President of F. Curtis Barry & Company

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