One size does not fit all
If you are a small to medium-sized business (SMB), then you know you have unique needs when compared to a large company. This is especially true when it comes to evaluating ERP solutions for SMBs.
An ERP for a Fortune 100 company is not typically a good fit for an SMB. This is not to say that a “large” solution is bad; I was an SAP consultant for five years and helped companies implement that product—but SAP’s ERP is built for larger companies. I have nothing bad to say about the platform; it can do just about anything, but that does not make it a good solution for an SMB.
There is a complexity to SAP’s ERP system—a required “care and feeding,” and an assumption that the company running it has a fair number of resources—that creates the dynamic where it may not be a fit. Frankly, that is why other solutions specifically targeted to SMBs exist.
Infor ERP is one of those solutions that’s built for the SMB manufacturing company that is managing a work order. It is really that simple. However, if you look across our customer base, these companies are engineer to order, configure to order, make to order, make to stock, or a combination of all these. They all manufacture something different, like capital equipment, precision parts, or any number of items, but they all need a solution that helps manage capacity, understand costs, handle their supply chain and labor costs, and understand operations at a detailed level.
So, how do you go about “figuring out” if an ERP is the right fit for your SMB?
Dollars and cents
I speak with people who are evaluating ERP all the time, and I do not envy their task. There are a variety of vendors, matchmaking services, and selection consultants that exist to “help” companies find the right solution.
One of the most difficult things to figure out is how much an ERP solution costs, because you need to fit that into your search criteria. We have many resources here at Visual South to help you do that; the first one I would recommend is our ebook on how to evaluate ERP.
I cannot speak for other vendors, but I like to talk about the cost of our solutions in my first phone call with someone. What I have found is that they are relieved and, in many cases, surprised that I do this; it is not uncommon to hear them say, “You are the first vendor to tell us what your solution costs. Thank you.”
I want a prospective customer to understand what the costs are so we can decide if it makes sense to continue talking. In some cases, we are out of the budget range; in others, I am told, “That is in the neighborhood of what we were expecting.”
However, not all vendors operate this way. They don’t want you to know the cost until they can do some sort of demo for you, because they work for someone who thinks if they aren’t doing demos, they aren’t doing their job. They might also believe that if they give you a price before they show you the solution, you will say it is out of your budget. Then they’ll have to explain to their higher-ups why they don’t have demos scheduled!
My belief is that every sales rep knows how much their solution costs, and you should insist on knowing that before investing time in a demo. Bear in mind that you should still allow the vendor to understand your needs fully to make sure he/she can give you an accurate budgetary number.
This is hugely important, and you can find out a lot about the functionality in a solution without a live demo. Most vendors these days can provide you with video overviews of their solutions, so you can get a feel for their capabilities. It is a good idea to ask the potential vendor open-ended questions about what types of companies they help—but even more importantly, I believe, are the questions they ask you. You can tell a lot about whether a solution is a fit by what you are asked.
A good solution provider might ask questions that reveal issues you may not have realized you had. This is a sign that they have functionality that addresses your needs. All ERP solutions have “cool” functionality, and expect to have these components be front and center for a lot of solutions, but do not take your eye off the ball. “Cool” functionality does not always provide a solution to a problem. In the same vein, there are some vendors who do not want to dive deeply into functionality because their methodology is to “get something in place,” or “get the basics in and build complexity.” These are good approaches, but only assuming that the solution can handle the complexity. There are some vendors who do not want to talk about complex issues because their solution cannot handle them. Their job is to get the initial sale done, then hand you off to someone else who breaks this news to you during implementation.
In short, make sure you are comfortable that the solution can handle your level of complexity.
In my opinion, people are the most important factor (assuming that the previous two items are a fit). You need to be especially comfortable with the people you are working with. Although this is a technology purchase, it is still a people-driven business. When you implement ERP, you are entering into a long-term relationship, and there are bound to be bumps in the road along with head-scratching issues to overcome. You want to make sure to have a partner invested in your long-term success.
Turn to the expects
We typically work with companies that manufacture something. These companies are experts in their products, but not experts in implementing ERP—and that is why they come to us. Our team can guide you through a successful implementation of ERP solutions for your SMB and be a valued resource for years to come.
Most companies don’t evaluate ERP on a regular basis. If you are looking for ERP but are not sure where to start, how about talking to an expert who is not a salesperson? Click here to learn more about Jack Shannon and sign up for a free phone consultation to discuss your situation.