The 2 Questions you need to ask ERP Vendors (it’s not what you think)

Are you considering upgrading or replacing your company’s ERP system? Whether you are working directly with a software vendor or a third-party services provider, the two questions below will help you determine if you are talking to a company that knows what it takes to get you to go-live quickly and successfully.

We don’t mean to imply that these are the only two questions you should ask. Of course, it is important to ask about features, find out how many companies are using the software in your industry, and check references (don’t ever skip that last one). However, it is most often the implementation process, and the people supporting that process, that make or break a system implementation. So – make sure that you not only have the right software, but the right partner to work with during and after your implementation.

“Explain your new customer onboarding process”

No two companies will have the same answer to this question, but they should all have one. There should be a formalized process in place that the vendor can explain in detail or, better yet, provide to you in writing. Whatever the process, be sure that they are comfortable and capable of discussing the details. Do you have a kick-off meeting, and what is accomplished at those meetings? Do they provide you with information about local user groups, support and project management contacts? The answer to the second question should be something like “absolutely, that is all included in our new customer packet.” You also want this process to involve “hand-over” meetings or activities that transfer information you discussed with the vendor’s sales team to the services team that will be running your implementation. One of the common complaints following an ERP implementation is that the consultants who came in to implement the system were not aware of much of the information that was discussed, and promises that were made, during the sales process.

What is important here is that the service provider has a process already in place and that they are proud to discuss it with you. If it appears that the people you are talking with are uncertain, or making one up as they go, be wary.

A formal process is important because it is the best way to ensure that nothing gets lost between the sales group and the implementation consultants, that everyone knows what their responsibilities are, and both you and the services provider are on the same page when it comes to project milestones and time-frames. It is the framework on which a successful project is based.

We want a customized quote entry screen (or cycle count program, or PO receiving screen …). What is the process you would go through to help us make that happen?

Again, you want a vendor that has a formalized process in place for evaluating, designing, and implementing any customization requests.
You DO NOT want a vendor that answers this question by assuring you they have a development team with lots of experience making these types of changes (though that is not necessarily a bad thing, by itself).

You DO want a vendor that describes a process for evaluating the requirement, including investigating the business reason behind the requested change. Experienced ERP implementation consultants will steer you away from customizing the software when possible, because they know that this can increase project cost, delay implementation, and make it more difficult to upgrade in the future. You want to be working with a group that isn’t afraid to challenge you, and who is working to build a long-term relationship.

It is extremely easy for an ERP vendor to make sweeping statements about customizations, while ignoring the long-term effects those changes may have. References are important here – talk to companies who first implemented this system recently, and those that have been using it long enough to go through an upgrade or two. Ask specifically about their experience with software changes and upgrades.

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