9 tips for selecting and implementing an ERP system

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff

4. Carefully evaluate your options before selecting your ERP system. "Poorly run and ill-defined evaluation projects can lead to poor implementations," says Tom Brennan, vice president of Marketing, FinancialForce.com, a provider of cloud-based ERP solutions. "Dicey requirement definitions and vague priorities can lead to the wrong vendor selection."

In addition, "lack of participation and input from key stakeholders in the evaluation stage can lead to poor acceptance and user adoption. And don't forget that delays running the evaluation project itself ultimately delay the go-live date and the time to benefit."

"Another item many organizations miss during the selection phase of an ERP system is reporting and metrics," says Tiffani Murray, an HR technology consultant. "What do you want to be able to gauge from the system? Is this possible via the existing, prebuilt reports in the system or will you have to pay extra to get custom metrics that will drive your business, hiring and resourcing? Find this out in the selection phase and not after you've signed a multi-year contract."

Also, do not forget about integration. An ERP solution that does not work with your existing legacy and/or critical office systems is not a solution but another expensive piece of unused or unusable software.

Finally, "find a partner that specializes in your industry," says Jim Shepherd, chief strategy officer, Plex, a manufacturing ERP provider. "Better yet, find one that is dedicated to your industry. Those trying to tackle the entire ERP world can't offer the same expertise."

5. Get references. "First and foremost, when shopping for an ERP solution provider, ask the vendor for at least three references," says Reuben Yonatan, founder, GetVoIP.com, a VoIP shoppers guide. Then "ask the customers what went right, what went wrong and what they might have done differently. If a vendor can't provide at least three verifiable, happy customers, they may not have the experience you need."

Similarly, if you are a member of an industry association, ask colleagues for ERP recommendations.

6. Think before you customize. "Consider the amount of customization required to configure and deploy," says Steve Bittner, vice president of Professional Services, Unanet, a provider of Web-based software for managing people and projects. "Highly customized systems will generate higher cost, not only in the initial deployment but when upgrading from release to release," he says.

"Those businesses with unique requirements need to consider whether those requirements can be mainstreamed to eliminate the steep cost curve," Bittner says. In addition, businesses need "to understand [their tolerance] for longer implementation cycles, longer ROIs, more instability, [which can come with customization]," he says. "A turnkey solution may offer less flexibility but more stability, and less initial and ongoing cost."

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