Six Steps to Select an ERP System
Selecting an ERP system for your business can be a daunting task. Myles Chippendale, Lead Technical Analyst at Open Plus, provides six steps to guide you through the process
Posted by Myles Chippendale, 13th October 2011
Integrating your business processes with an ERP system is now a necessity for most ecommerce and multichannel retailers. And as much as the decision to implement a solution shouldn't be a difficult one to make in the first insistence, there will immediately follow numerous difficult choices, the first of which involves the selection of the solution itself. In this phase it's very easy to end up with much of your time tied up comparing different products and fending off solutions salesmen. The key is to remain mindful of your business's needs and be realistic about your capabilities to meet them with a given ERP system.
Here are the six key steps that we believe will help you through the decision-making process.
1. Before you go anywhere near an ERP vendor, document your requirements. Be realistic about what you must-have and what would be nice-to-have. Bear in mind that your needs may change as your business grows. Forecast future needs as clearly and realistically as possible.
2. When looking at a system, ask yourself if it provides the features and functionality you need out-of-the-box. If you have everything out-of-the-box and the price is right, then the chances are you're on the right track, but this scenario is highly unlikely. Are there plug-ins or modules that are already developed (but not in the core system) that provide the missing features? How available are they and what are they likely to cost?
3. How configurable is the system? This question will lead back to your documented requirements. For example, if you run an ecommerce business, will your ERP allow you to support your operating under different bands of tax in different countries?
4. How easy is it to implement new functionality and features? In light of the current rate of growth seen in many ecommerce and multichannel retailers, this is a major, not to mention complex, issue. As much as you can attempt to forecast future requirements, there will always be unanticipated needs. You want an ERP system that supports your future projects.
-Is the source code available or are there recognised extension points? Will you need to pay a specialist development house to implement new features? If so, how well designed is the software to be extended by third parties? In this respect, implementing an open-source ERP system has particular advantages, but the open source option will likely require specialist help.
-How well documented is the system, especially with respect to technical details?
-Are there active support channels (and do they cost anything)? This applies both to your development needs and to 'standard' users within your business.
-Do the domain model and database schema fit well with your business? Is it easily and naturally extensible?
-And if so, how long would it take to extend the system?
5. How well documented is the system with respect to a user manual and processes?
6. Finally, how much does it cost? Obvious, perhaps, but extremely important!
'No Concrete or Universal Answers'
To sum up, the main consideration - aside from the price - is assessing how much of your needs are met out-of-the-box with any given solution and how configurable within your abilities the system is. For those needs not met it's a matter of how easily, quickly and realistically attainable they are.
Remember, there are no concrete or universal answers to these questions. You know more than anyone that your business has its own unique processes and your ERP will have to support this mix.
'An Expert, Impartial View'
If you're struggling to align your ecommerce and multichannel needs to an ERP system, you can avail of an Open Plus's free Systems Review Service. We will give you an expert, impartial view with no commitment or related costs. Just get in touch!
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