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Dilemma for organizations choosing an ERP – Is it really so tough?

I have been in ERP field since 1995-96. It amazes me how – more we change, more we remain same!  Technologies have changed, information dissemination has grown beyond imagination. Knowledge about technology is available at any level from newbee to techies. But, basic human thoughts remain rooted in doubts and expectations.

More information we have, more confused we become, because we wish to have it all. The critical faculty of human mind of discrimination and filtering the right information that is useful to him/her that comes from common sense gets submerged in the cacophony of too much information, its noise and search for the highest technological panacea.

Reams of articles have been written about ‘How to Choose an ERP’! I wrote my first one in 1996-97 or so. It seems it is still relevant except that software has become more powerful and can do lot more.  At the same time the business processes – the nuts and bolts of manufacturing, marketing and managing fund flows haven’t really changed much, except the way we use the data that has become virtually on-line and the way we can dice and slice the data to get better insight into business performance.

Blown away by software bells and whistles, people tend not see the wood for the trees.

One repeatedly urges client to have some fundamental  logical approach upfront while taking a decision on ERP –

  1. Why do I need ERP? Reasons for acquisition of ERP for a new organization and an old                   organization are different.
  2. What are the issues that become pain points because I don’t have integrated solution?
  3. Create a document  after interacting with different departments, what they are doing and how they are doing it. Basically, the processes they follow. You will be surprised that there will be divergent opinions when you put it on paper!
  4. List out the key issues and pain points that you wish to resolve through an ERP.
  5. When you see any ERP , keep this list on the top and then see the ‘wish list’ that users have put up.
  6. Importantly, have a budget in mind for ERP implementation. I know people who are ready to see every product from a ‘Tally’  to a ‘SAP. They end up seeing 19 – even 30 demos. By the time they finish this ‘evaluation’ they are too exhausted and confused. So much so, that I have seen them postpone their decision to overcome fatigue or confusion.
  7. Don’t be blown away by sales talk of the vendor team, stick to your agenda. Don’t allow vendor to drive the agenda. Bring vendor back to your critical issues and how he/she is going to resolve it.
  8. Ask for a live look and feel of the ERP, let vendor not just sell goodwill of its brand and get away with flashy ppts.
  9. Ask for references to see how the vendor is supporting its existing clients, get more information about it from the web. It is possible now.
  10. You can, then, look at bells and whistles that will make the software usage a good experience for the users.

If you look at this bare bone listing of key points that need to be kept in mind while choosing an ERP, there is no point that relates to technology per se!

Yes technology is important, quite important. But, will technology deliver if the software is not built right? If it doesn’t have critical features that you wish to have? Is it a good idea to purchase a Merc if you have to travel on roads that require a SUV? Or the other way round?

If there were uniform business rules and global best practices that every organization can or should or must follow, there won’t be so many flavours of ERP! If ERP could be implemented like assembling a machine, there won’t be such diverse stories about client delight or horror! ERP requires dedication from your side, not just vendor side to see that you end up with happy ending. Make the right choice with clear focus, without being detracted by information noise floating around you and you will end up a winner.

About the Author:

Ratan Sharda is Chief Consultant with Eastern Software Systems (ESS) and has been associated with ESS for 10+ years. He has a rich industry experience of 33+ years of which 21+ years have been in IT. He is a Post Graduate Alumini of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai and has written and edited several books on social and management topics. To check his LinkedIn Profile, please click here and to connect with him on Facebook, please click here