"Many vendors don't offer the customer a realistic perspective of what is required. Yet to get the best benefits, the customer and vendor must devote the time to selecting and implementing an ERP software solution in line with the business," said Craig Such, managing director of Access Supply Chain.
According to Craig Such, managing director of Access Supply Chain, it's when an end user has failed to define exactly what is required from a solution in order to meet the precise needs of the business -- and then expects the software to provide all the answers anyway.
A vital role any vendor should play is to demonstrate fully how a solution will fulfill business expectations. "In some cases, a vendor may underplay the amount of planning and resource necessary, just to get the order," says Such. "Unfortunately, the user will get a system that neither achieves his immediate goals, nor supports the business going forward."
Such says the biggest cost any user faces when purchasing an ERP software system is the one least likely to be mentioned: the time it takes to get it right and the potential disruption. "Many vendors don't offer the customer a realistic perspective of what is required. Yet to get the best benefits, the customer and vendor must devote the time to selecting and implementing an ERP solution in line with the business."
For Access Supply Chain, the equation for ERP software excellence is simple -- you can't get out what hasn't been put in. Here are the key elements of its blueprint for success:
Clear requirements are key to a solution. Define these for every part of the business, particularly with an eye to the future and your changing needs.
Select a solution based on product functionality and implementation resources and techniques. ERP software is not about buying software or services: it is a solution. A user must select a vendor who can demonstrate that its system can achieve clearly articulated business objectives, and that there is a clear understanding of the business and its needs.
Follow a proven implementation methodology for example, Prince2. Having selected a system, the next task is to make sure it is delivered on-time and to budget. In very few instances is this clearly defined, says Such. "Prince2 is a well recognized and respected standard, in terms both of implementation and methodology, that can be applied equally well to projects of any size. It ensures the project scope is clearly defined -- who is responsible for what, when and how -- with tight procedures built in, so the erp software project is constantly reviewed at every stage before sign-off."
Go for a fully integrated solution. Information entered in one area of the business must flow right through the organization, so there is no duplication; nor should there be any software integration issues, which can be a common occurrence.
You'll get better support direct from a localised author. ERP software can be complex and require specialist support. Resellers that lack real expertise can sometimes offer only diluted levels of support, while products from overseas may not be in line with the latest legislative changes, such as Intrastat or waste packaging regulations.
Ensure that you are shown how the solution will address your needs. Too often, a vendor will assure a customer that its solution can fulfill all of their requirements, without actually providing the evidence. seeing is believing, so ensure it is standard software not bespoke software for the demonstration.
Be sure that quotations are broken down into detail and compare like for like. All modules involved need to be listed, such as manufacturing orders, as well as the service days and project stages. Omissions can create problems later on and prove costly to remedy. Also, users need to ensure that software upgrades are included and not charged as an extra.
Beware of solutions that claim they need very little implementation. An ERP software solution is only as good as how well it is implemented. Failure to scope an implementation adequately can mean only a 75% fit -- with the 'missing' 25% being what delivers greatest benefit to the business.
Insist on a detailed presentation of how the software can fit your business. Regardless of what people say, comparable solutions will take a similar number of implementation and training days. A detailed breakdown of what is involved is critical.
And Such adds: "Finally, you can't just run the solution -- you have to pilot and prove it, testing out all potential issues before you go live. You can't afford to skimp on training: you must invest in your users up front if you want the right payback. Implementing ERP software properly takes time, resource and good planning. But it all seems worthwhile when that vital report you need, that used to take a day and half to pull together, is now delivered at the press of a button."