Advisory Services

October 18, 2021

How to Navigate the ERP Selection Process in a Software Project

selection process

We previously covered the nitty-gritty of the pre-planning phase before you dive into an ERP selection & implementation project. Hopefully you’re feeling more confident and knowledgeable about nailing down your goals for the project and gaining buy-in from the leadership team & staff. Now we’re getting into the meat and potatoes part: the Selection Process. From our many years of experience working closely with digital transformations, we have some candid advice you should consider when selecting an ERP solution for your business.

Narrow Down the Contenders BEFORE Reaching Out

Now that you’ve reached this stage, you need to focus your attention on refining the requirements. First things first, do your research before you start talking to vendors. Narrow down the number of ERP solutions to the top 5 to 6 you want to engage with. A lot of our clients get overly excited and say, “We’ve got about 20-30 systems we want to consider!” Well, that’s great, but that’s also A LOT of demos and time spent getting to know all those solutions in detail.

You should also be prepared because once you tell these companies you potentially have a project for them, you’ll start getting calls, whether you’re ready for them or not. That’s why it’s important to define the process of your selection & your requirements before reaching out, so they don’t define the process for you using their convincing sales tactics. No one has time for demos of 20-30 different solutions. Not to mention that the sales calls will be overwhelming.

Once you’ve chosen your top 5-6 solutions, take it another step further. See if you can dig a bit more into the details to narrow it down again, this time to your top 3 picks. If you end up with 4, that’s ok – you don’t want to eliminate too many and end up only negotiating with one company. That said, you also don’t want to waste time watching demos of solutions that don’t meet your requirements so eliminate any that you can early on. Finding that perfect balance will save time in the selection process, as well as get you one step closer to finding the right solution for your company.

Document Requirements

Now that your requirements have been defined, you need to document them in a format presentable to potential vendors. If you do a full-blown requirements definition process with 3,000 questions, most vendors probably won’t respond to your Request for Information (RFI). You may think everything is important and necessary, but you might be eliminating valuable solutions. Vendors tend to see an RFI with thousands of questions as an indication the company doesn’t really know what it needs and is therefore throwing everything into the RFI.  They may not respond.

That’s why we recommend, instead of submitting an all-encompassing RFI when a lot of requirements are fairly standard across solutions, focusing on the 1-2 dozen unique differentiators that your company really needs. One important note that Todd Perlman, President of BT Partners, outlined “Once you’ve taken the time to put together a requirements document and sent it to the vendors, and they’ve taken the time to respond to it, that document should become part of the contract. Their responses to your requirements are key.”

Why You Should Use Demo Scripts & Demo Data

We highly recommend that you create demo scripts & demo data for vendors to use, to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. This will help you not get distracted by the vendor and focus on your specific differentiators or unique requirements. The effort a vendor/partner puts into a unique demo will also tell you a lot about them and whether they’re the right fit for your project.

As Todd stated, “A lot of vendors want to show the software the way they show the software. They don’t want to load your data or walk through your processes. They want to show you all the cool bells & whistles, and those are great, so in your demo script set aside time for anything else each vendor wants to show you. If you don’t take each vendor through a similar process though, then you’re running a big risk that you won’t be able to compare the solutions as far as how it’s going to work in a day in the life of your company.” Any vendor that’s not willing to put the time in to show you the solution the way you need to see it, doesn’t deserve your time.

That said, know when to be flexible , and if you’re shown a great, viable solution but the partner doesn’t present it in a way that’s useful to your business, don’t be afraid to ask for a different partner. You need to see the solution from the people who are ultimately going to be responsible for implementing it. Todd sums it up well: “You can select the perfect solution, but if you don’t have the right partner, you can end up with a poor implementation and a poor solution. However, if you select the best partner, with a solution that’s a good fit but maybe not the perfect fit, you can get a great implementation and great solution.”

The Importance of an Implementation Team

Possibly the most important step in the selection process is involving your future partner’s implementation team right from the get-go. They are the true experts of the product they represent and should be very familiar with the requirements and all discussions. It’s important to vet and meet with this team before agreeing to anything, especially since these are the people your internal team will be working very closely with for a decent amount of time. We don’t want a salesperson, who works on commission, to convince you that you need something you don’t, or worse, sell you something that doesn’t achieve the project’s goals. Todd reiterates, “The partner’s implementation team needs to be a part of the process, from the beginning, as opposed to a hand-off from the sales team.”

Meeting with the implementation team helps avoid any misinterpretations. We’ve seen this multiple times with clients, where a salesperson or solution engineer thinks a problem can be solved one way, hands off the project to an implementation or delivery team, and there are issues. As Todd added “There are too many details that come out throughout the course of an evaluation that could possibly be communicated in a hand off. You don’t want to run the risk that something got misinterpreted, or even worse, wasn’t covered at all.” . You don’t want issues cropping up after you’ve purchased the software,  when it’s too late to change course. Especially when 44% of organizations say their ERP is inflexible and are exploring options for extending it with a new system.

Next Steps

We understand this is a lot of information to absorb in one sitting and it may seem overwhelming, but BT Partners can help walk you through the selection process so you don’t have to go about it alone. A knowledgeable partner will also offer practical and honest advice, so you feel comfortable making those not-so-easy decisions. An ERP implementation is a challenging but a necessary tech project to keep up with market demands. We want to help set your business up for success when you decide it’s time to tackle one. We’ve now covered the Pre-planning for a Software Project and Selection & Requirements Processes. In the next blog, we’ll be discussing the final, and what we think is the most exciting phase: Implementation.

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