iStock_000020614256MediumIn a world that is constantly changing, a strong ERP software upgrade strategy is no longer a “nice to have,” but a “must have.” However in the world of ERP, “upgrade” can be a downright frightening word. Historically, ERP upgrades have been expensive, challenging and a high risk for companies. If your company makes a major or minor customization to their ERP system, the upgrade path can be incredibly difficult and costly. Often, it takes a team of highly compensated consultants and programmers spending months, and tens of thousands of dollars, to make your previous customizations compatible with new software releases. Therefore, many companies stick to their old versions, trying to avoid a huge headache and the risk of potential failure.

I would counter your fear with this—you can expect an upgrade strategy that is easier, less expensive and risk-free. Twenty-four hour upgrade guarantees, annual review and optimization of software, and the ability to maintain customizations even after the upgrade are not just a dream in your CTO’s head, but a reality with certain ERP software vendors. Believe it or not, there are companies out there who are taking advantage of their ERP software provider’s latest functionality and technology while maintaining customizations made 10+ years ago.

Keep in mind, delaying an ERP upgrade poses its own set of risks since no features and functions are added, new regulations are ignored, and the company runs on outdated technology. An annual ERP software upgrade allows you to support future functionalities that will yield business benefits and provide new opportunities for integration with internal or external operations or applications. Upgrades can include the ability to meet compliance with value-chain standards, regulatory requirements and various local regulations.

So, when researching ERP providers, exercise due diligence by asking the following questions related to their upgrade strategy:

  • How often do you review and update your product, i.e. release a new version of your software? Your ERP software should change with you as your products, markets, strategies and competition changes. For example, a multi-tiered architecture allows you to write your business rules into the system easily and adapt easily to new demands. Your ERP vendor should have a plan for their software to be reviewed and optimized. That way you know that with every new version of your ERP software, you will get added functionality that will make your business more competitive.
  • What is the average version of your software that your current customers are using? Studies have shown that ERP software users who are using the most recent version of their ERP software are 80-percent more satisfied than those using older versions. That’s huge! So why do ERP software prospects almost never ask this question? Change that trend and ask the question!
  • How long does your typical upgrade take? Software upgrades are an everyday part of an ERP vendor’s business. Each vendor has their process for upgrades and will always share “best case scenario” outcomes with their prospective customers.  Take it one step further and ask about a guarantee.  “Can you guarantee an upgrade will be complete within XX days of starting?”
  • What happens to modifications or customizations when an upgrade is executed? Choosing an ERP software that is flexible with a multi-tiered architecture makes it possible to guarantee users the most updated technology year-over-year. Since the flexibility allows upgrades to be done step by step throughout various departments without touching the kernel or source code, a heavily customized system should not present risks for its users and modifications will stay in place during and after the upgrade is complete.

The point to be made is that you can embrace the idea of an ERP software upgrade path. Upgrades allow you to support future functionalities that will yield business benefits and provide new opportunities for integration with internal or external operations or applications. You will be better positioned to stay competitive and responsive, enabling rapid growth in fast-expanding industries.

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