Ron Martin, Managing Partner of Enapps, a leading ERP supplier for SMEs gives seven tips for SMEs who may be considering an ERP business system.
Know exactly where you are and where you want to be from a business perspective
You need to know exactly where you are, before you can move forward. By this we mean making sure that your current business workflow is well documented and understood by your senior management team, you all know and agree on the things which need changing and all want to move forward with the changes. Full management team buy-in is essential, since the project can very easily be derailed at a later date without it.
Should I commission an ERP consultant?
From our experience as an ERP vendor, unless you know a lot about ERP systems, it is money well spent to use an Independent ERP consultant. They will guide you around many of the pit falls and make sure that you are not being 'ripped off' by sanity checking the ERP vendor proposals. They will also chair your vendor meetings, make sure you get answers to the right questions and generally steer you in the right direction. Our only caveat is that you make sure that your consultant is truly independent, since many go under the guise of being fully independent, but clearly favour a certain ERP vendor or a couple of vendor(s). The best ERP implementation for your business requires a level playing field for all ERP vendors.
Think about your future business requirements right now
It's fine to think about what you need right now for the initial ERP implementation, you most likely just need a fully integrated system which also automates the current manual system. Also try to think about what you may need from your ERP implementation 2-3 years down the line. Ask yourself if your ERP vendor of choice still 'ticks all the boxes'?
Always see an existing client from your 'ERP vendor of choice' before you sign up
Most prospective clients spend weeks or months making their ERP decision, but don't make the relatively short amount of time it takes to go and see an existing client from their prospective ERP provider. It may seem an obvious thing to do, but so many people do not do it. Also be wary of an ERP vendor that does not offer, or tries to deter you from seeing one of their existing clients. When you choose a client to see, make sure that you choose one that has 'grown with the system' so you are able to ask questions about the associated' growing pains'. This will give you a huge insight into the flexibility of the ERP before you make your choice.
How do I stick to my budget?
You should always start out with a budget in mind, along with some contingency budget (we recommend 20%). Once the ERP vendor has an idea of the required implementation, they should give you an indicative budgetary price. Once the project has been fully scoped and both the parties agree on the output of the project scope, the vendor should then deliver a 'firm price' and the system should be delivered for the agreed price. The contingency should only be used if there is either some unexpected extra work from the ERP vendor's point of view or some form of extra functionality which the client specifies, but was not originally known at the onset of the project. You should also make sure that you stage payments in line with the project milestones.
Have an internal 'project manager' for the ERP implementation
When you embark on a new ERP implementation, there is a lot of pressure on your organisation and by choosing an internal project manager you make sure that your company has a funnel which feeds in and out of the ERP vendor's project implementation team. This is key when implementing a new system and serves to keep the project on time.
As with any new system, you will expect to be trained. Make sure that training is covered in the proposal from your ERP vendor. Also make sure that your whole organisation has been trained and is ready on the 'Go Live' day. Training is crucial to a successful ERP implementation.