We’re happy to welcome this guest blog post from Tom Miller, a columnist for ERP Focus. 

We all want our ERP to be tremendously successful after implementation and help our business become even more profitable. That success ultimately begins with getting the selection process right at the very beginning of the process. The latest ERP research shows that, on average, selecting a new system takes 22 weeks; don’t waste that time by following the steps below.

Why do we need this ERP?

Why do we need an ERP? Or, why do we want to replace our current ERP? Either question is where we start defining the requirements we will have for ERP.

List the needs of all departments. Get these lists right from managers and workers within those departments. They have a better perspective on the requirements than you. Ask the same people from each department where they feel pain. Some transactions are more difficult than others. Some work seems to always need revisions before it is completed. Someone has been chewed out by their boss more than once for a task they thought was done correctly.

List the requirements from all departments and rank them in importance to the entire enterprise. This will require some negotiation as we all think our department’s needs are first. Reach a consensus among the ERP team as to the best ranking. Now, look carefully at the ranked list and draw a line below the last requirement that absolutely MUST be achieved if your ERP will be successful. All requirements above must be satisfied by your ERP selection. Mark another line showing needs that would be beneficial but cannot be considered requirements. When you choose an ERP, you should aim to get as many of these as possible.

Now start looking at available ERP systems and the providers.

Form your project team

These selection steps are not sequential. This team is the people who listed and ranked requirements above. What is important is the makeup of the team. Be sure to have an executive management member on the team. Without top management support, your efforts are likely doomed. Senior managers from several departments should be on the team. Include others from different departments and levels across your organization too. People on your shop floor will have a different perspective than those at senior level. Managers and workers will all use the ERP you select and should have a say in its selection.

Appoint your project leader. You want a person who will successfully lead your team to the implementation of ERP. They might already have success leading mission-critical teams or they could be a person you feel is now ready for the responsibility. Either way, they should be knowledgeable about ERP systems and how they can and should be used to help the enterprise meet its goals. Your project leader could be from in-house or could be chosen from outside as an expert consultant.

Your team members had jobs before selection to the team. Decide now how their previous work will be completed in the future.

Think about specialized roles such as data conversion where an outside consultant might be a better choice as the role is temporary. You can add team members later as needs become known.

Establish communication channels and appoint someone from the team to keep management and the rank and file members of your business informed about your intentions and progress.

Evaluate available ERP systems

This is the easy part now that you have a good team and an excellent list of requirements. The ERP fits – or it does not fit. Invite those systems and providers that seem to fit to visit and demonstrate their fit. Develop a system to objectively rank the ERP systems you look at and choose the one that is best for your business.

There are many other steps you can take to ensure your ERP selection is a success, but the most important is to make sure the ERP fits your business needs.