A big decision
If your company is evaluating ERP solutions, you already know that choosing the right system is a big decision. The evaluation process is not straightforward, or something that companies do on a regular basis. Selecting a new ERP is typically a “once in a (business) lifetime” decision, because if you land on the right solution, your company will extract value from it for decades.
Most of my 25+ years of experience in the ERP industry has been working with mid-sized manufacturing businesses. There are some specific criteria mid-size businesses should use to evaluate ERP—asking the right questions and looking for certain features is critical to making a good, long-term decision for your company.
Top criteria for evaluating mid-sized business ERP
These three elements will help narrow the field and you choose the best ERP for your mid-sized business:
Industry fit: The solution chosen should be built for your industry. Otherwise, you will inevitably be forced to use workarounds to get the functionality needed.
You’ll be able to determine industry fit through conversations with vendors/partners and software demonstrations. But remember that you’re never going to know how everything is going to work in your future state simply by looking at demos and asking questions. While it is good to be thorough, a lot of companies drive themselves bananas by using spreadsheets and checkboxes to discover how every single transaction will play out in the software. They are hoping to find a fatal flaw in one of the solutions which will then lead them to the “best” choice.
The truth is that if you are evaluating solutions built for your industry, it is highly likely that they will be a good fit in many ways, and just as likely that something during implementation will be discovered that you aren’t crazy about. This is normal. Look for solutions that have 90% of the functionality needed, as well as a personalization layer to bridge any gaps.
Vendor reliability: I define “vendor” as the developer and provider of the software. Depending on the vendor’s business model, they may also be the implementation provider.
From a software perspective, make sure the vendor is on solid financial footing and regularly invests in the ERP solution via releasing new versions, providing great support, and so on. Your company will ideally have a decades-long relationship with the ERP, and you want to make sure your vendor is investing in the solution chosen.
For a mid-sized business that is considering an ERP where the vendor is also the implementation provider, make sure to understand what the relationship will look like after signing on the dotted line. It should be crystal clear how it will transition from the sales resources, to the implementation resources within that company, because those teams are usually completely separate with different goals and metrics.
Also, are you okay with being a small fish in a big pond? Typically, software vendors are simultaneously managing lots of implementations, and you need to fall in line with their processes, or sadly, fall out. Many of these types of vendors expect customer attrition because they are much more focused on software sales than implementation and customer service. If you feel good about how your mid-sized company fits with the software vendor, and your position in the go-forward relationship, this is a good thing.
Implementation partner strength: In the cases where the ERP vendor uses partners for implementations, make sure that you are comfortable with the combination of vendor and partner. Implementation partners are typically more mid-sized themselves, and thus more of a reflection of the customers they work with. In this scenario, you are most likely a bigger fish in a smaller pond, and can build a relationship with the implementation partner. These partners are typically more responsive and less bureaucratic due to their size, and their focus is on successful implementations and superior customer service.
In my opinion, a good implementation partner is the most important criteria for a mid-sized business ERP because they know success depends not on the ERP itself, as much as how you use it. The partner will give guidance on how to do that, and will value having a long relationship with you. These are typically more of a relationship of equals, rather than a large vendor and small customer.
Let us know if you need assistance
No matter where you are in your evaluation journey, it is important to select the right ERP system. Want to bounce some ideas off someone with decades of ERP experience? Click here to sign up for a free phone consultation with Jack Shannon, our in-house expert who is not a salesperson.
Visual South typically works 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 company, and be a valued resource for years to come.