How to Choose the Right ERP Vendor
If your organization has taken the decision to adopt an ERP system to improve your business processes, then congratulations! You’ve already taken an important first step.
Now comes the work of sifting through hundreds of different ERP solutions on the market and determining which one will best benefit your business based on goals and needs. But beware, this can add a lot of pressure to choose correctly (after all, a new ERP system is an important investment!). Luckily, we’ve compiled this guide on how to find the right ERP vendor for your business.
Why finding the right ERP solution is important
A good ERP solution can help your business with the following:
- Help you become more competitive
- Provide real-time insights into food warehouse processes
- Improve day-to-day operations
Choosing an ERP vendor that will be the most helpful to your business is an important phase in the ERP implementation process and should be approached with care. You will find that many ERP vendors out there offer nearly identical solutions. This can make the selection process overwhelming. But on the other hand, it means that you have plenty of options to choose from!
How to find the solution you need
Choosing and implementing an ERP system is a large-scale undertaking. It’s vital that your business be prepared to dedicate a lot of time and resources to this project and that it not be treated as an afterthought if you truly want to reap all the possible benefits.
Time to find a vendor you trust
As the implementation process can be daunting, it’s very important to find an ERP vendor you can trust. Make sure you connect with a salesperson or account manager who is finely attuned to your exact needs and is available to answer any questions you may have.
Define your company goals, budget, and timeline
These days, there are ERP systems for nearly every type of industry, and the food supply chain business is no different.
When trying to identify the right ERP vendor, it’s important that you first have internal meetings to decide on company goals, budget, and timeline. What might also be helpful is tracking your products through their entire lifecycle, from manufacturing to offering customer service (end-to-end). During that process, identify all of the steps involved and where an ERP solution would be most useful.
Remember that ERP software may be used in several departments such as customer service, production, supply chain, and shipping. It’s imperative to think about not just the company’s goals, but the needs of different employees who will be using the software and the personal touch they will need from an ERP vendor.
Criteria for ERP vendor selection
Once you’ve identified all of your business needs and considered what you need from your new software, you can create a list of criteria that are important for you to have before finally choosing an ERP vendor. Remember, the vendor of the solution is just as important as the ERP system itself.
When you look at your goals and requirements, also think about what kinds of features and functionality would best serve those needs. You may even try to sort these criteria into categories such as essential, important, and nice-to-have. Then, you can measure the ERP vendors you investigate against those criteria.
To help you understand what some of these criteria may look like (and what we advise you add to your own list) here are some examples of what to look for in an ERP vendor:
Many organizations that adopt an ERP solution end up experiencing the issue of little ongoing support. Once implementation is done, what kind of support does the ERP vendor offer? Are they going to be available for ongoing communication so that you can maximize the benefits of the software?
Training and Documentation
Does the ERP vendor offer training both during the initial installation as well as an added service in the future? As ERP solutions get updated regularly, plus, with typical employee turnover in an organization, it’s important to ask your ERP vendor what kind of training services they offer. Or, if you decide to train employees in-house, what sort of documentation and other self-training materials can the vendor provide?
Perhaps before arranging a meeting with an ERP vendor, try searching for customer reviews online. This can provide you with a more honest look at what the vendor is like as well as give you an idea of whether there are any hidden costs that the vendor doesn’t readily advertise on their website.
Just remember that with most ERP vendors, there will be a mix of both good and bad reviews. You want to be sure to ask more questions and/or be cautious when the reviews are mostly negative online with customers detailing several bad experiences with a certain vendor
Once you know your criteria, you’ve set a standard for what kind of ERP vendor would be a good fit for your organization’s needs and how they can work with the rest of your business. Granted, you may not get every single item on your wishlist, but you can definitely come as close as possible when you know your requirements thoroughly. Even if something is missing, it’s always worth discussing with the vendor so that a potential solution can be found.
Now, you can begin exploring ERP vendors and compiling a shortlist based on your company’s criteria of what will work the best. Then, it’s time to begin reaching out to different vendors to get more intimate information from each of them and ask important questions.
Questions to ask an ERP vendor
While most of the information and questions you ask an ERP vendor during the “discovery” process will likely be related to your criteria list, it’s also important to ask about things like what companies the ERP vendor is already serving (and case studies), their customer satisfaction levels, and their reputation in the industry. Here are some key questions you should ask when finding the right ERP solution:
Can you offer a free demo and trial?
The best way to know whether an ERP solution is right for your business is to take it for a test drive. It’s important that an ERP vendor be able to show you a live version of the software and also let you play around with it yourself so you can come back with more in-depth questions.
How long will it take to implement this software?
The quicker the implementation can be completed, the quicker your business can begin seeing profitable results. Once you’ve discussed your business needs and requirements, inquire about how long implementation might take given the size of your company. Be wary of implementation timelines that almost too good to be true: while you want to be up and running as soon as possible, this should not come at the cost of thoroughness.
What do you offer in terms of support and training?
You want to know how hands-on the ERP vendor is both during the implementation process and afterward in regard to updates and ongoing support. The last thing you want is to invest in an ERP solution, only to find that it’s hard to get help after implementation is complete.
How does pricing work?
During the criteria process you will likely have settled on a budget that your organization wants to stick with. Don’t be afraid to communicate your budget with an ERP vendor so that together you can figure out how to get the best solution and features for the best price.
Can you provide references?
It’s one thing to take a company’s word for it, and it’s another to hear from other clients how satisfied they have been with the ERP solution. It can also help you get valuable information from a reference who’s had a lot of time with the software. So ask for those references!
How do upgrades work?
It’s often a good sign when an ERP vendor regularly makes upgrades to their software because it means they are continually finding ways to make the product better. This also speaks to how flexible the software is, so be sure to ask about how the vendor handles upgrades.
In addition to the above questions, here is a handy list of other questions you may consider asking during the research and discovery process:
- How many successful implementations have you performed?
- Have you worked with businesses similar to ours?
- Who is your ideal customer?
- How many full-time account managers do you have?
- Do you have a guarantee or warranty?
- How is the software licensed?
- How do you work to ensure customer satisfaction?
- How do you typically handle roadblocks with projects?
- How customizable is the software?
- How is your solution different from the competition?
- How is your solution specialized for my industry?
- How long will the implementation take in total?
- How quick is your response time to problems or questions?
- What are the future plans for the product?
- Is the solution scalable and to what degree?
Choosing an ERP vendor is no small task. It’s important that you are as prepared as possible and know fully what your business needs from an ERP vendor. Don’t be afraid of asking too many questions because an ERP solution is a big investment! You need to not only get the right type of software, but also the right representative who will bridge the divide between your business’ particular needs and the ERP solution.
We invite you to consider bcFood as the ERP vendor for your food supply chain business. We have ample industry experience and understand the specific needs of those in the food industry. We offer accurate and real-time data as well as flexibility and scalability. Contact us today to schedule a meeting and demo of the software.
We hope this article has proved insightful and provided you with the necessary tools to choose an ERP vendor.