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Mobile ERP is Gaining Popularity . . . But is it Right for Your Organization?

The advent of mobile devices is gaining significant momentum in the consumer space, as evidenced by statistics showing that shoppers are using iPhones, tablets, and other mobile devices to conduct their holiday shopping at a rapid accelerating pace. However, the business world is also beginning to show some signs of early adoption of mobile capabilities in their evaluation, selection, and implementation of enterprise software systems.

For example, a recent study by ERP vendor IFS reveals that 13-percent of executives identify mobile functionality as the most important feature in selecting enterprise software for their organizations, while another 68-percent feel that it is just as important as other features. The study of executives from nearly 300 North American manufacturing organizations underscores the significance that mobile functionality is playing in modern ERP systems.

 

And it’s not just the manufacturing sector leading the charge toward adopting mobile capabilities; the retail industry is also leveraging iPads and other mobile tablets to replace cash registers. An article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week reveals that approximately half of the retailers are considering replacing traditional cash registers with mobile devices, while another 6-percent have already adopted mobile point of sale (POS) systems. Nordstrom’s is one major retailer that is in the process of rolling out iPod Touches to serve as the chain’s POS sale system.

Since businesses in general are clearly still in the early phases of adopting mobile technologies, it begs the question of whether it is the right fit for all organizations. As with any new (or existing) wave of enterprise technology, it all depends on the needs of your organization. For example, just as security is a concern with cloud computing, it is also a concern with mobile technologies.

So how is an executive to make sense of what is or isn’t right for your organization when it comes to mobile ERP? Here are a few things to consider when weighing the options:

Potential Business Benefits and Return on Investment. What potential benefits will contribute to the return on investment you might expect from adopting mobile enterprise software? For example, Nordstrom estimates that each iPod Touch it uses costs just 20-percent of what is required to support a traditional POS system. Our manufacturing clients cite increased productivity, improved visibility to inventory and work in progress, and more transparency on the manufacturing floor as benefits of adopting mobile technology. Our utilities, energy, and telecommunications clients cited increased efficiency of routing mobile work crews and scheduling their service orders, as well as better tracking assets and maintenance in the field. So the key is to look at your specific needs, business processes, and pain points to identify the potential business benefits that your organization may realize from mobile ERP.

Security of the Data. On the flip side, many CIOs worry about the security of data, including transactions and customer and product information. Since mobile capabilities will inevitably store and transact information related to your inventory, bills of materials, and customers, it can be a bit disturbing to expose this information to the wireless world. However, as is the case with any risk, this potential downside can be mitigated with the right strategy. Encryption of data, tight security profiles, and closely-monitored asset tracking of devices are all strategies that can be used to diffuse the potential security risks.

Rapidly Changing Technology. When rolling out gadgets as highly adopted by consumers as iPads or iPhones, you are inevitably subjecting your organization to the rapidly changing world of consumer technology. Unlike ERP systems used by a relatively small number of organizations and business users, consumer technologies change and require upgrades at a much more rapid pace. In addition, the mobile software itself needs to not only provide a look and feel that consumers are used to, but it also needs to be updated regularly and integrated seamlessly with back-office operations, which can be difficult to navigate. For this reason, mobile ERP is often a better fit for organizations with more sophisticated IT support staff.

These are a just a few variables to consider when evaluating potential mobile ERP solutions. As with any enterprise software investment, you will want to ensure that the costs are justified via tangible and measurable business benefits that provide a decent return on the investment. At the same time, you want to ensure that you are aware of the risks and tradeoffs and have a plan to mitigate those risks should you decide to move forward.

Learn more about the new advances and hot trends in ERP systems at Thursday’s interactive webinar, Top Ten Predictions for ERP in 2012 (10 a.m. MT).

 

Giving Thanks for the Advances in ERP Software

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, it’s helpful to look at all the things that we are thankful for not only in our personal and family lives, but also in the ERP industry. Here are some of the things that strike me as major advancements and improvements in the enterprise software space over the last several years:

Deployment options have become more varied. It used to be that if a Fortune 500 company wanted to implement an ERP system, executives had to make a massive investment in the initiative and burden their organizations with huge amounts of risk. Today, not only are there more options to deploy ERP systems via software as a service (SaaS) ERP, cloud, and best-of-breed solutions, but there are plenty of options for non-Fortune 500 companies and small- and mid-sized organizations. ERP vendors such as Plex Systems, Kinaxis, Salesforce, Workday, and Netsuite all provide deployment alternatives to traditional ERP systems. In addition, solutions from traditional ERP vendors such as SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft Dynamics include SaaS and cloud options.

There are business ERP experts available to help. When I started in the industry more than 15 years ago, there were plenty of software consultants available for hire, but very few (if any) independent business consultants that had a broad understanding of the ERP market – including critical success factors surrounding project management, organizational change management, and business process re-engineering. While most consultants are still more myopically focused on a single ERP system or lacking independence and objectivity, companies such as Panorama provide more holistic, comprehensive, and independent advisory services to companies wanting to mitigate the risk of their ERP selections and implementations. In response to Panorama’s leading position in the independent ERP consulting space, a host of smaller firms have emerged across the globe as well.

Failure rates are still too high. While the industry is touting low-risk deployment options and tools such as SaaS, failure rates are still alarmingly high. Demand for Panorama’s ERP expert witness services – which companies and attorneys leverage when their failures are about to lead to lawsuits – are at an all-time high, suggesting that organizations are mismanaging their implementations more than ever. What’s more interesting is that our expert witness work, whereby we leverage best practices from our proprietary and proven ERP implementation framework, shows that companies are failing in key areas despite their use of more advances technologies and tools being touted by software vendors. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what kind of software or tools you are deploying – implementations will fail if you don’t effectively plan and execute some of the key factors required to make a project successful. Not enough organizations, consultants, or software vendors understand this key concept.However, while there are many things to be thankful for, there are still many areas where we still need to improve:

Companies still don’t treat ERP implementations as business, rather than technology, initiatives. Contributing to the high rate of ERP failures are the fact that too many executives are delegating their ERP projects to their CIOs or IT Directors and absolving themselves of business or operational responsibility for the success of the project. At the risk of offending our more technical clients or industry peers, CIOs and IT Directors are much more likely to underestimate the need for business involvement and potential outside expertise than their more operational or finance counterparts within the organization. Worse yet, most software vendors and ERP consultants focus far too much on software rather than business processes (not system transactions), organizational change management, and strong project management.

While there is always room for improvement, we are showing signs of advancement and for this I’m thankful. Happy Thanksgiving to our US-based clients and peers!

Is The Cost of Microsoft Dynamics GP Too Low?

I once had an IT manager at a large company tell me that he did not include Microsoft Dynamics GP in their ERP software selection short list because the cost was too low. Huh?! Since when is low cost a bad thing?

I am reading an excellent book right now called Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini; he gives some insight into this issue. Cialdini talks about the factors that cause one person to say yes to another person and focuses on six basic categories: consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity.

The first tactic – consistency – is what brought to mind the experience of the ERP software buyer. Cialdini tells the story of a jewelry store owner who could not sell certain products and planned to offer them at half price. But due to a miscommunication the jewelry was marked at double the original price. The result? The entire collection sold out immediately. Why?  The same reason the IT manager suggested the company buy the most expensive ERP software. Both buyers had the same mentality: “expensive = good.”

The cost of ERP software from Oracle and SAP is much more expensive than Microsoft Dynamics GP. Faced with a complicated decision, this IT manager felt that in order to get the best functionality, the more expensive the better. Why did he assume this?

The author explains that human behavior is trained to respond to certain triggers and act in a kind of mechanical way which he calls “click-whirr.” (The term has to do with a study done with female turkeys, pretty interesting, but you’ll have to read the book.) Price alone can become a trigger feature of quality. We are brought up on the rule, “You get what you pay for” and have no doubt seen that rule confirmed over and over again in our lives. In the case of the jewelry, buyers were making their purchases based on the assumption that “expensive = good” because this had worked for them in the past. Especially with complicated purchases, instead of painstakingly researching all the factors that would indicate the worth of the product, many times it is human nature to respond to the trigger we know to be usually associated with high quality, which is high price.

This may make the buyer seem a bit lazy, but the author points out that this type of behavior is becoming more and more necessary today. We exist in a world of information overload, easily the most rapidly moving and complex time in history. To deal with this, our brain needs shortcuts. We can’t be expected to recognize and analyze every aspect of every purchase and decision. We often must use our stereotypes, our rules of thumb, to classify things according to a few key features and then to respond automatically when a trigger feature is presented.

Choosing the right ERP software is a difficult decision that requires extensive research. Honestly, I think it is unfair to ask an IT manager to determine the “ERP software short list” alone. While he will no doubt choose products built on solid technology, he should not be expected to evaluate the financial functionality that is important to the business. So he has to rely on other ways to evaluate the hundreds of products. Reputation and price become key factors to make sure he is in the right ballpark. Also, since ERP software is always an expensive purchase, the person making the short list might want to “play it safe” assuming that if the company pays more, there is less risk of getting a “bad” product which would reflect negatively on the person making the recommendation.

But a lower price does not always mean an inferior product – you just need to do your homework or work with experts you trust who have a reputation for looking for the best deal. We work with a loan processing company that processes over 1 million transactions per year in Microsoft Dynamics GP, and several other large companies with complex requirements. Just because Microsoft Dynamics GP has a lower price does not mean it is not sophisticated enough to handle the job. It is just a question of clearly understanding your requirements and making thorough evaluations.

Many people have figured out how to influence buyers using this principle of “expensive = good” and applied it to software services as well as the software itself. I know a Dynamics reseller who quotes an extremely high hourly rate for his Dynamics implementations. However, after talking to him about many of his projects, I realized that he rarely if ever, actually charges that rate. It seems the rate is almost always discounted. While some buyers might be scared off at the initial price and not look further it is likely that other buyers will respond to the “expensive = good” trigger. He has planted the seed in the buyer’s mind that “if he can charge that much, he must be really good!” And when he follows that up with a discount, the buyer feels good that he has negotiated such a great deal. This scenario relates to another principle in the book called reciprocity, which I might talk about in a future post.

It takes research to get the right ERP software for your business at the lowest price. But buyers who are willing to compare, and ignore the “click-whirr” reaction, will often find that they can get a great product at a great price.

An easy way to know the cost of Microsoft Dynamics GP and compare it to other ERP Software packages is to request an automated Microsoft Dynamics quick quote – including licensing, maintenance, estimated implementation and deployment option.


Note: The inclusion of guest posts on the Panorama website does not imply endorsement of any specific product or service. Panorama is, and always will remain, completely independent and vendor-neutral.

If you are interested in guest blogging opportunities, click to read more about our submission guidelines.

ERP 2.0: Social Media and Enterprise Software

Enterprise 2.0, social ERP, and other buzzwords related to enterprise software combined with social media are quickly gaining momentum in the ERP software industry. Industry analysts and research firms regularly cover the potential convergence of social applications like Twitter, Facebook, and Yammer with traditional ERP systems like SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft Dynamics. For example, last year IFS North America and Affinity Research Solutions conducted a study of manufacturing executives to determine their interest and understanding of social ERP.

The study from IFS outlined several potential benefits of social ERP, including the ability to better capture the tacit knowledge of employees and ability to better streamline communications between employees and customers. In addition, executives also pointed to increased organizational flexibility and an ability to cater to a younger generation of employees more accustomed to Facebook and Twitter than they are to structured manufacturing ERP systems. Based on this and other research conducted in recent years, it is clear that this potentially inevitable convergence of enterprise- and consumer-based technologies is on the radar of most executives and industry analysts.

However, following these trends has led me to question how two very different types of technologies will really align themselves. One the one hand, you have informal and unstructured consumer-oriented social media tools like Facebook and Twitter where anyone can say about anything they want without any real controls or structure. On the other hand, you have large structured enterprise systems with controls surrounding master data, security profiles, and standard workflows. One is simple, flexible, and supportive of a flat organization, while the other is more conducive to a larger and more controlled organization.

To illustrate the contrast, look at the situations of many of our clients: they have outgrown their simplistic and uncontrolled systems and are looking for something more standardized and structured to help them scale for growth. Many have multi-national or multi-site operations that are misaligned with their current systems. As such, our client executives are often looking to ERP systems to help them standardize, control, and scale – not exactly terms one thinks of when describing social media tools. So the real question is: can both structured enterprise software like SAP or Oracle co-exist with unstructured social media tools like Twitter and Yammer?

I think the short answer is not yet, but companies will need to find a way to leverage the best of both worlds. Below are four considerations when examining the potential integration of social enterprise systems within your organization:

1. Make ERP systems more flexible and social interactions more structured. One of the frustrations most organizations and their employees have about their current ERP systems is the relative lack of flexibility. As companies grow, their enterprise software needs to remain aligned with evolving business processes and requirements, but this is often unachieved. Social media capabilities similar to Twitter and Yammer provide potential flexibility in how employees interact with customers, vendors, and internal colleagues. Social media tools and their flexibility can be powerful, but employees also need clarity and definition on how to use the tools. You obviously don’t want employees sharing too much information about customers, products, and financial information, so there needs to be a balance between flexibility and standardization.

2. Focus on the strengths of each technology. Enterprise software is good at providing back-office controls and standardization in areas such as finance and accounting, while social tools can be more beneficial when it comes to customer interactions and capturing undocumented knowledge in people’s heads. It is important to identify where the strengths of each fit within your organization and business processes and leverage each competency accordingly. Just as you want to avoid misalignments between traditional ERP and your business processes, you also want to make sure that social ERP systems are aligned with your operational needs.

3. Define your business blueprint. Just as with any ERP implementation, successful organizations should clearly define their business blueprint for social ERP. Clarity around business processes, organizational roles and responsibilities, and performance measures will ensure that the system is designed to support business processes and tested accordingly. Documented business processes and use cases should clearly define where standardization is required and where there is some latitude to deviate from standard business transactions. These components are critical to a successful social ERP implementation and should be addressed prior to rolling out the new technologies. In addition, this clarity and definition will help ensure that you select the right ERP system that addresses the various social and enterprise software needs of your organization.

4. Don’t forget organizational change management. It’s easy to forget about organizational change management and assume that social ERP is going to be much easier to adapt than traditional enterprise systems, but the reality is that it will entail significant operational and cultural changes for most organizations. Tenured employees will need to adapt to a less structured and different way of doing things, while newer or younger employees will need to adapt to balancing social tools that they’re more accustomed to with more structured ERP processes and systems that they may not be comfortable with. In both cases, organizational change management activities should be incorporated into the overall implementation plan to assure processes are understood, employees are trained, and that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.

At the end of the day, social ERP and CRM applications will be a reality for most organizations sooner rather than later. By incorporating the above four tips into your enterprise 2.0 initiatives, you will ensure you get the best of what the convergence of these two technologies has to offer.

What is your take on social media applications in the workplace? Do you think it’s advisable (or even viable) for organizations to pursue? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.

ERP for NGOs

While every organization considering an ERP implementation has compelling reasons why they want to spend wisely, increase efficiency and streamline business processes, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also have to contend with the simple fact that any misstep they make in these arenas could very well have a profoundly negative impact on the population they serve. I’m not implying that anyone takes an ERP system selection and implementation lightly but when lives actually are at stake, the risks can be very serious indeed.

At the same time, ERP systems can bring an enormous amount of benefit to NGOs. Faced with managing administrative systems, financial systems and personnel (both employees and volunteers) across different countries and cultures, NGOs depend on IT systems to keep their organization together and functioning. Add this need to a backdrop of stringent multinational regulations and transparency obligations (in both public audits and funding requests), and it’s clear that an ERP system might be just the thing to make the whole shebang run smoothly.

But how is an NGO to weigh the risks versus the rewards? A cobbled together system might be inefficient and unreliable, but an expensive new system might be impossible to utilize in the challenging terrain many NGOs operate in. It’s almost laughable to imagine a team in Afghanistan or Haiti or Niger being dependent on their computers and Internet service. On the other hand, teh simple truth is that NGOs that don’t think like businesses soon find themselves out of business. And businesses need technology to prosper.

It’s clear that there’s a lot to take into consideration. Following are a few components NGOs should mull over before making the leap into an ERP implementation:

  1. How are our operations and efficacy affected by our technological infrastructure?
  2. How are our compliance procedures (for accounting, tax and reporting) affected by our technological infrastructure?
  3. How do our people communicate and collaborate with each other? How do we communicate and collaborate with donors, volunteers, partners, government agencies and other key stakeholders?
  4. How are our donor database and constituent management systems streamlined with our other activities and data?
  5. How secure are our systems?
  6. How much do outdated administrative systems cost us (in time, money and missed opportunity)?
  7. How will our existing systems handle growth? An increase in need?
  8. How do our existing systems aid our accountability efforts?

The decision-making process is not an easy one, but the above is one place to start. It also would be wise to speak to other NGOs in your field or geographic area about their experiences with ERP systems and vendors, and how they thought the benefits of a new system stacked up against the risks and cost.

Back-to-School Spending Brings New Purchasing Patterns and Customer Demands

Tactics Wholesalers Must Adapt to Produce More For Less While Maintaining An Attractive Profit Margin

Americans plan to spend nearly 69 billion dollars this year on back-to-school necessities, including everything from apparel to footwear to electronics, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Four out of 10 college shoppers and three in 10 K-12th grade shoppers with smartphones and tablets plan to use their devices to purchase these products. While these numbers are impressive and a sign that people are willing to spend money in return for a good bargain, shoppers are not looking to burn a hole in their wallets. The NRF expects back-to-school sales to be flat as shoppers monitor their spending and, more than ever, look to take advantage of discounts.

What does all this mean to the wholesaler? Demand for inventory is up; however, due to our economic climate, wholesalers need to provide it at a lower cost to customers. Thus, wholesalers must be more efficient in servicing their customers and need to be prepared to operate in a radically different environment from previous years. They must streamline their operations to eliminate costly errors, monitor their finances more closely, and be strategic and smart about they way they operate their businesses.

So how do wholesalers produce more for less, while still maintaining an attractive profit margin? There are three key tactics that wholesalers should adopt and implement in effort to make their firms operate successfully and provide a level of service that will leave customers satisfied, especially during the busy shopping season.

#1:  Wholesalers Must Improve Decision-Making by Better Understanding Their Customers’ Needs

 

Changing economic times means new customer-buying habits. Rather than making buying decisions based on loyalty or long relationships with wholesalers, many customers are making their decisions based on the cash they have on-hand. This means they are much more likely to seek out the supplier with the lowest prices. They are also more likely to buy from suppliers that can handle the changes in their orders mentioned previously – fewer quantities ordered more frequently.

Why the emphasis on good customers? Because in the short-term, good customers are like good inventory. Their orders don’t put undue constraints on a wholesaler’s budget and they create revenue and profits for the wholesalers without leeching out expenses. However, there are some customers that drive up costs or are expensive to retain because of the nature of what they require. Analytics tools allow wholesalers to make those determinations and make smarter decisions, which has a positive effect on costs and expenses.

#2: Wholesalers Must Be Ready To Integrate New Technologies into Their Warehouses

It’s imperative that wholesalers use devices and solutions that eliminate waste, reduce risk and streamline processes. This includes solutions such as barcode scanning, voice picking, RFID, and of course, ERP software. These solutions are all being used by mid-sized wholesalers to take advantage of productivity gains and reduced costs. Additionally, wholesalers must be open to offering their goods to customers through applications that can be viewed on smartphones and tablets.

Voice picking systems are a good example of a technology growing in popularity due to a 99-percent accuracy rate. Some companies have changed their procedures for efficiencies by requiring personnel to accomplish more in the same time, such as performing different picking methods. Cross docking is another way wholesalers can save time and resources by utilizing scanning and new WMS software, eliminating the need to perform put-a-ways and picks.

Companies have incorporated an additional step in the process – verification of goods going on the shipment. While this seems to increase time and efficiencies, the reality is that it helps eliminate incorrect products going out the door and saves on material returns and processing. These types of steps will help with being more efficient overall and provides a better purchasing experience for customers.

Another key technology for warehouses is the RFID device, which enables real-time accounting of inventory. Using these devices optimizes the routes of forklifts, and can be used to trigger the replenishment of picking faces and even prevent waiting for inventory to become available. It decreases the amount of paperwork, ultimately helping decrease careless errors, which can become costly and largely effect wholesalers’ bottom line.

And finally, you’ll need a central management system that can integrate all your solutions and devices to effectively and efficiently streamline warehouse management processes. This is where an integrated ERP solution comes in – all the devices in the world won’t help improve the bottom line if you still rely on manual processes to manage inventory and gut instincts to predict customer purchasing behaviors.

#3: Wholesalers Must Focus on Efficiency

Inventory management is expensive. There are not only the costs of storing it, but there are also the costs of receiving it, picking and packing it and transporting it. With so many tasks involved in this process, inefficiencies are bound to occur. In the past, wholesalers could use strong sales to hide inefficiencies but that is not the case today. Inefficiencies must be eliminated. At the same time, wholesalers must be ready to make adjustments in logistics as customers place more orders more frequently yet in smaller quantities. By getting smarter about the warehouse environment and adapting to the new realities of the supply chain, wholesalers can act with new agility to take on today’s market demands and avoid past mistakes.

 

Note: The inclusion of guest posts on the Panorama website does not imply endorsement of any specific product or service. Panorama is, and always will remain, completely independent and vendor-neutral.

Back to School: When Will ERP Software Customers Learn to Avoid Failure?

As kids across the country begin heading their way back to school for the new academic year, CIOs and their respective organizations appear to still be getting schooled on the harsh realities of ERP implementations. In the last week, two fairly high-profile lawsuits made their way into the technology media: one involving a case against ERP software vendor Epicor and the other against Infor.

In the first case, Whaley Foodservice Repairs sued Epicor for an implementation that was delayed repeatedly, cost five times more than originally estimated, and failed to work “as advertised” after two years of use. In addition, the suit claims that Epicor’s implementation team suffered from high turnover, Whaley was forced to hire a third-party software developer to fix some of the defects, and the software was unable to provide visibility into inventory movements or handle transaction volumes.

In the second case, also publicized last week, Paragon Medical is suing Infor for a failed implementation of the company’s product lifecycle management software. Paragon was an existing user of Infor’s Visual ERP software and selected PLM8, also from Infor, to handle the document management aspects of its business. However, the suit claims that the software was not able to support the company’s business processes or requirements.

Although companies still seem to be learning the hard way, their mistakes provide some important lessons learned for the rest of us. Here are a few factors that we have often seen in our years of experience being called upon as expert witnesses during ERP lawsuits:

  • Fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of your enterprise software options. There is a dizzying array of options to choose from in the ERP software market. However, there is no perfect solution for most organizations. It is important to fully understand your business requirements in detail, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of various software options to meet those requirements. This can be accomplished through scripted demonstrations and other due diligence, but the first step is to clearly understand and articulate your requirements, as well as understand the important areas to focus on during and ERP software evaluation.
  • Have realistic expectations. It’s not realistic to expect that a software vendor is going to know as much about your business as you do, or even enough to provide an accurate estimate of the implementation duration and cost. Therefore, it is important to develop a realistic and detailed implementation project plan, resource allocations, and budget based on factors unique to your business. In the case of Whaley, the organization expected standard configuration of the software, but ended up customizing the software during implementation. We often fully blueprint a company’s future-state business processes prior to selecting a client’s software, for the simple reason that it helps uncover potential unknowns in the implementation process. This type of guidance is usually not going to be provided by a software sales rep, so you may need outside assistance from independent ERP experts such as Panorama.
  • Know what you don’t know. The above points are easier said than done, especially if you don’t have extensive ERP implementation expertise within your organization. In both lawsuits mentioned above, Whaley and Paragon appeared to have had blind spots and deficiencies in their knowledge of ERP systems. An outside opinion from independent and focused ERP consultants such as Panorama can provide the objectivity, knowledge transfer, and guidance to help identify and address your organization’s blind spots during the ERP evaluation, selection, and implementation process.

These are a few steps to help you avoid making the same mistakes that other organizations have made in their ERP failures. Learn more about ERP project success by attending our ERP Boot Camp in September. We’re holding a special Preview of our 2011 Boot Camp webinar tomorrow at 10 a.m. MT to give a taste of what to expect at the event. Attendees receive $500 off Boot Camp pricing.

Externalities Affecting Your ERP Purchase

With the markets in turmoil around the world and the fear of a double-dip recession here at home, the externalities of our world right now make it increasingly difficult to commit to any major purchase — either in our personal lives or our professional ones. But while we might put off buying that SUV or recommend that our company cancel its yearly planning trip in Bora Bora, the fact of the matter is that business keeps going. And to keep up with it, organizations need to understand and react to — not run from — both the general and specific externalities affecting them. Further they most weigh those externalities against the need to make strategic investments that bring long-term gains. An ERP system, when chosen and implemented correctly, is just such a strategic investment. Its purchase must be made in consideration not just of the organization’s internal world but of its external world as well for an ERP system affects all aspects of a business. The following are three questions to answer before diving into ERP software selection:

1. What’s the government up to? Keep your ear to the ground regarding government regulation of your industry. Whether there are changes coming — or just rumors of changes coming — it’s incredibly important to find an ERP system that can handle existing compliance measures and regulations and adapt to new ones. Consider how your business and your business processes will be affected if a new party is elected in 2012.

2. What do my key shareholders/stakeholders think? While an ERP system can bring unparalleled benefits to an organization, it is not selected or implemented in a vacuum and it won’t solve all your problems without some serious work on the back-end. If your shareholders and stockholders are skittish — listen to them. It means you haven’t justified the investment well. And that means you haven’t shown how implementing new ERP software will improve the way your organization functions. And that means you aren’t sure it will. Take a step back and start pulling together the metrics you need to prove to yourself and others that an ERP solution is truly what your organization needs.

3. What are my market leaders doing? How have your market leaders reacted to the economic uncertainty? Are they growing or are they retracting? What your leaders are doing and how they’re doing it can provide insight into what your customers, suppliers and distributors will expect from you in the future (or might even be expecting from you now). Keep an eye on the innovators; their triumphs and stumbles can be great learning opportunities.

If you’re in the market for a new ERP solution, talk to us before you start dancing with the vendors. Panorama’s highly experienced, independent team of ERP consultants can make sure that you choose an ERP system that not only benefits your organization but has the ability to keep pace with the ever-changing aspects of your industry and your world.

Tips for Managing ERP Software Vendors

In 2009, Panorama published our Tips for Managing ERP Software Vendors During the Software Selection Process white paper (it’s the fourth from the top if you click through that link). Reading through it recently, I was a bit surprised at both how little and how much has changed in the past two years — a time which, though short in the grand scheme, brought our economy and job market to new levels of despair. On one level, everything looks the same: ERP system implementations are still enormously complicated and prone to risk. ERP vendors are still promising the moon and ERP clients are still throwing bad money after good to get their software up and running. The difference is on an individual level. Today, more than ever, it’s not only important to cover your own hide but your organization’s as well. The era of cutting corporate check after corporate check to make a problem go away is over and shows no signs of returning. And the ones who are prospering in this brave new world are the ones showing their bosses and boards that they are making smart decisions with measurable returns. For better or worse, there is no better time to show your gumption, resolve and leadership skills than an ERP implementation.

So now, two years later, the advice we gave in that white paper still is worth repeating: don’t go into your ERP software selection process blind. Do your homework. Understand your own business inside and out before attempting to partner with an ERP software vendor. Don’t surrender the lead on the process; take it and make it yours. Don’t be reluctant to get help from a third-party.

The precise points we made are listed below, but I invite you to download the free white paper to get the full scoop as these are edited a bit for space:

1. Ensure time to prep with the software vendors so they have no reason not to understand your business.

2. Allow vendors limited access to your organization’s key employees.

3. Remember that you are the customer, not them.

4. Coach executives to deal with ERP vendors.

5. Let a vendor walk if necessary.

6. Remember you can often work with another value-add reseller (VAR).

7. Engage with an independent third-party to facilitate the evaluation.

8. Expect some turbulence and drama during the process.

If you are in the ERP software selection process or just getting started on implementation, additional white papers in our Resource Center that may be of interest include ERP Assessment and Selection: Getting it Right the First Time and Ten Tips for a Successful ERP Implementation. Registration is required for first-time visitors, but I assure you it’s a rather painless process.

Finance: The Hub of Your ERP System

The ERP finance module is at the core of many modern ERP software systems for one simple reason: finance and accounting transactions touch every area of business operations. Without a doubt, the state of an organization’s finances is essential to its well-being. Following are some truths about finance in business:

  • Aspects of finance can include general accounting, accounts receivable, accounts payable, expense reporting, payroll, cash management, cost accounting, budgeting and forecasting, fixed assets, pricing, costing, billing and project accounting.
  • Finance analyzes the profitability of particular products and markets and customers.
  • Finance is the basis for many important business decisions.
  • Finance records the pulse and vitality of your company.
  • Finance helps your company to stay coordinated and under control.

But What About Finance and ERP systems?

It’s clear that financial data is among the most important (and sensitive) data an organization inputs, maintains and analyzes. When selecting an ERP system, the robustness of functionality for finance must be carefully considered. An enterprise solution can offer an organization a number of flexible tools to help track (and better) financial performance, including:

  • Enhanced readiness for financial audits and compliance audits. With document management features in place, accounting entries can be backed up by information shown on document attachments. The back-up documents often provide great insight for analysis and audit.
  • Architecture to support accounting changes. ERP systems can be architected to support changes to an accounting chart of accounts (COA) structure even after go-live. Security of financial data is often managed around the structure of the COA segments. In larger organizations, ERP provides for central management of financial activity across multiple business entities.
  • Business intelligence modules. In many ERP systems, a business intelligence module now regularly provides additional insight. Data elements for sales, operations and finance are often linked together via the integrated ERP database and insights are provided via reports, analytics and dashboards. Again, better financial data supports better business decision-making.

ERP suites hold an advantage over best-of-breed approaches to enterprise systems because they provide out-of-the-box integration for financial information. The various modules of the ERP suite already work together. In cases where there are modules and applications outside of an ERP core, financial transactions are often a substantial part of the data that is shared among them.

Finance ties together your business processes and is a hub of your ERP system. Sooner or later, everything flows through finance.

Panorama Consulting has the expertise to get your financial processes and ERP system working well together. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your organization realize all of the business benefits possible from its ERP system.

Blog post written by Greg Griffith, a business analyst at Panorama Consulting Solutions.

Signs That You May be Suffering From ERP Systems Erosion

We often work with clients who are determined to replace their legacy ERP systems. More often than not, by the time a company engages Panorama to evaluate and select a new system, key players in the organization are determined to find something better than what they have now. The software doesn’t work, employees are frustrated, and executives don’t have visibility into business operations.

Sounds like a no brainer, so why would an organization want to consider keeping their current system? There is one key reason: application erosion. Even after 15 years in the ERP consulting industry, I am still amazed by how many companies have trouble with their business processes or suffer from organizational change management issues, but blame the software instead. It is not at all uncommon for us to find that their core issues can be addressed simply by upgrading the software to a more recent version, better aligning business processes with software functionality, or addressing common organizational change management issues.

Here are a few things to consider when determining whether or not you are suffering from ERP systems erosion:

  • Are your operating on an old version of the software or have you migrated off of maintenance? If so, there is a fairly high probability that a less risky and less costly upgrade to a newer version of the software will deliver a more positive return on investment than a full rip and replace of the system. In addition, your incumbent ERP vendor will often more aggressively price their software in an attempt to protect their maintenance revenue stream and keep you from opening up the field to competition.
  • How much is the software really to blame? I can confidently say that ERP systems get more than their unfair share of blame for business and operational issues. More often than not, business processes or broken, people aren’t properly trained, or the software was poorly implemented, yet the ERP software gets a bad name internally nevertheless.
  • Has your software kept up with your business? Most organizations evolve fairly rapidly, so there are going to be inevitable disconnects between evolving business processes and the software the way it was implemented. In addition, most modern ERP software is very flexible, yet end-users often assume that the software will only work the way it was originally configured and implemented. For these reasons, it is important to explore ways that your existing software can be reconfigured to meet the changing needs of your business.

At the end of the day, it is a safe bet to assume that a more incremental upgrade or adjustment to your current system is going to involve less cost and risk than a full replacement. Obviously, you don’t want to pursue this path if the software really is a bad fit, but it’s important to make certain you have explored all of your viable options as part of an effective ERP evaluation and selection process.

Learn more about ERP best practices by attending one of our upcoming ERP webinars.

Going Vertical With ERP Systems

ERP software systems combine horizontal and vertical attributes to meet the needs of specific companies in specific industries. Because an ERP system is similar to a central nervous system for companies, those who implement ERP will want is reach to extend wide and deep to fulfill needs in all areas.

The horizontal attributes of ERP systems are well known and have been in use since the beginning of ERP in the 1990’s.  Examples of horizontal attributes of ERP systems include the presence or absence of features for:

  • Finance
  • Sales and marketing
  • Human resources
  • Supply chain
  • Operations

On the other hand, vertical attributes of ERP systems are related to functionality for specific industries. At the most basic level, they define suitability for broad industry groupings like manufacturing, distribution, retail and professional services. At a more detailed level, vertical attributes of an ERP system may include industry-specific functionality for markets such as:

  • Manufacturing (specific types)
  • Distribution (specific types)
  • Retail (specific types)
  • Professional Services (specific types)
  • Aerospace and Defense
  • Government organizations
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Transportation
  • Utilities
  • Construction and Real Estate
  • Financial Services
  • Hospitality Industry
  • Mining
  • Agriculture

Many of the larger ERP vendors not only have great horizontal range but also have developed vertical feature packages for particular industries that often include custom enhancements, pre-configuration settings, industry best practices, industry KPI’s and more. Some of the smaller ERP vendors are more vertically-focused and provide niche offerings that specialize in a particular vertical industry market. These ERP vendors may sell only into those vertical industries where they are specialized. Industry examples would include ERP for insurance and healthcare.

A third option, enterprise software vendors (also known as value-added resellers or VAR’s), sell add-on modules to supplement the offerings of traditional ERP vendors. Many VAR’s provide implementation and technical services for broad ERP offerings. Adaptation to specific vertical market specializations is sometimes a significant part of the value-add that VAR’s bring to ERP implementations.

Extended Horizontal Functionality Enables Better Vertical Industry Fit

Extended horizontal extension functionality is sometimes implemented as an add-on or bolt-on module to a popular ERP packages. These extensions enable better system fit for specific industries. Common extensions include:

  • PLM (Product Lifecycle Management)
  • Forecasting (for sales and inventory)
  • Freight
  • CAD (computer-aided design)
  • Container space optimization
  • Time and expense entry (project-based)
  • Warehouse management systems (WMS)
  • Industry-specific modules to support very specific niches such as restaurant catering, bowling alleys, plumbing and heating and many others

Another form of vertical software attribute includes features for the currency, language, tax laws and regulatory requirements of specific countries.

Horizontally-defined ERP packages have been used in a variety of industries. However vertically-defined functionality often provides a better fit for specific situations in both companies and industries. When horizontal ERP packages are implemented without any vertical industry features, companies can expect to have to perform a significant amount of the customization work to develop vertical industry functionality.

Just as ERP implementation strategies should be custom-fit because each company and implementation situation is unique, ERP system configurations should be tailor-fit to meet the full set of horizontal and vertical needs specific to each company.

Please talk to the experts at Panorama Consulting for help in developing and implementing a tailor-fit system to best suit your organization’s needs.

Blog post written by Greg Griffith, a business analyst at Panorama Consulting Solutions.

Roles: The Next Progression in ERP

Over the years, ERP has evolved from being less engaged in resource planning to become more of a business operations management system. ERP has progressed past being used for reporting and today is used for defining business strategies. It is found in almost every corner of the enterprise, touching C-level types, directors, managers, supervisors and clerks. It is this touching of so many people within an organization that has made the latest progression in ERP so long overdue: role-based ERP.

What is Role-based ERP?

Role-based ERP delivers the specific information required for each person’s role in a company to execute the assigned business functions.

This includes:

  • Performance measures
  • Access to information
  • Process execution
  • Visibility

Before role-based ERP, people using an ERP system were required to know and understand many processes, many functional requirements, and many tasks beyond those required for their particular jobs. They had to know all of this to just get the information they needed. In addition, the reports these systems generated were very large and meant for meeting several information needs at once. They frequently required careful interpretation prior to making strategic decisions based on the data reported because there were so many versions of the truth. A single report might serve the needs of several people, several departments or several divisions.

Rather than packaged, ready-to-use information, these reports contained something closer to raw data. You really had to understand many hidden and sometimes highly esoteric factors to use the reports correctly.

It’s All About You and Your Business

When you go to the store to buy clothes, you don’t just grab some items off the first rack by the door and head to the cash register. The process involves some evaluation and consideration. What is your size? Where will you wear the clothes? What are you going to do when you wear them? What’s the climate like? You buy based on what your needs are.

Role-based ERP is the same. What you get is what you need. Systems are designed to match the things you actually do. The data supplied to you is directly relevant to the decisions you make. The system facilitates the execution of your job. Rather than adding complexity to the job, role-based ERP systems support the job.

A recent research study conducted by graduate students during 2010 at the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology of Webster University illustrates the potential of role-based ERP systems to transform enterprises. Based on interviews with members of ERP user groups, the results indicate that early adopters of role-based ERP systems are gaining the following competitive advantages:

  • 36-percent greater accuracy in inventory management as measured by error reductions
  • 59-percent increase in quote-to-order performance based on transaction accuracy and performance
  • Piloting of project-based ERP systems for supply chain management (SCM) show increased collaboration and greater cost per order reduction. The study found an 18-percent in SCM costs during the pilot programs now underway.

In addition to these benefits found from the Webster University study, the advantages of role-based architecture are numerous. Let’s look at a few.

Training – Learning to handle individual roles is vastly simplified if the role does not require learning beyond the requirements of the role itself. That receivables clerk just needs to learn about processing receivables rather than learning the ins and outs of the entire finance system. This means that new hires are productive sooner, implementations are delivering advantages sooner and more cross-training time is available to assure an adequate level of redundancy within a department.

Security – Let’s face it, whenever an employee leaves an organization, a lot of proprietary information goes with them. Most folks are honest and don’t go out of their way to divulge your trade secrets, but it does happen. Role-based limitations limit access to the “big picture” to those who really need it to do their jobs. This limits the unnecessary exposure of proprietary information.

Better Execution – Because actionable information is delivered to each employee/role based on their requirements and needs, they will spend less time sifting through data and more time planning and executing. Managers will reap the same benefits that clerks do in the area of reducing the chaff around their jobs and increasing access to actionable information.

Better Management – When you are able to define the parameters of a job effectively, the person in that job will more fully understand what is expected of them in terms of performance. This facilitates better measurement of employee output, quality of output and it isolates areas that need attention. You have tangible, measurable factors to evaluate rather than subjective feelings or gut impressions. Problems become evident sooner allowing fixes to be implemented, which minimizes the negative affects of the problem.

Economy – It only makes sense that roles utilizing less ERP resources would reflect lower fees and resource overhead expense. This is very good news in terms of the run rate associated with large ERP systems.

If you are looking at a role-based alternative, be sure to look for systems that don’t tie you into rigid, pre-defined roles. People change over time and so do the jobs they do. Tasks and responsibilities are added and taken away over time. In many cases, people have multiple roles and will require multiple views of data, processes and executable functionality.

The support system must be flexible enough to change with the changing needs of the user. An accounts receivable clerk position at one company may be vastly different from the accounts receivable position in another company. Their ERP needs will likely vary as well.

Correctly implemented, role-based ERP delivers flexibility, reduced complexity, enhanced responsiveness and increased effectiveness.

For more information on role-based ERP and how it can be beneficial to your organization, drop us a line at [email protected] or visit http://erp.cincom.com. We’ll put an expert in touch with you.

Note: The inclusion of guest posts on the Panorama website does not imply endorsement of any specific product or service. Panorama is, and always will remain, completely independent and vendor-neutral.

If you are interested in guest blogging opportunities, click to read more about our submission guidelines.

Leaning Towards Better ERP System Utilization

There are those that say that once a business goes lean it should eliminate its ERP system. That is not true. At most, the business’s ERP system can be simplified – but not eliminated. A company still has to run its business: take orders, plan, purchase and receive material, ship product and manage financials. To explain this we must first look at the difference between the ERP and lean:

ERP vs Lean1

Lean Transformations

The process of changing the way a business thinks and achieves goals is called a lean transformation. During a lean transformation, the methods used to run the business are transformed and become more efficient. Typically the lean transformation starts at the most basic level of services before being implemented in other functional areas. The benefits it offers are many:

Decrease in:

  • Waste/Non-value add
  • Lead times (all disciplines)
  • Process steps
  • Technical complexity
  • Suppliers
  • Missed order dates
  • Floor space/Facility requirements
  • Overhead
  • Work in progress (WIP)
  • Inventory and inventory costs
  • Reduced scrap

Increase in:

  • Value add
  • First pass yields
  • Throughput
  • Capacity
  • Productivity
  • Efficiency
  • Profitability
  • Market share
  • Flexibility
  • Response to customer
  • On-time delivery
  • Quality and reliability

The Effects of Lean on a Company’s Planning and Control System

Forecasting and Demand Planning

The lean transformation results in a reduction of lead times, elimination of waste and non-value-added steps, and the improvement of value-added steps within the value chain. Due to decreased lead times, forecasting and demand planning become easier and more accurate. Shorter cumulative lead times also give a business increased flexibility to respond to changes in customer demand over a shorter planning horizon.

Material Requirements Planning (MRP)

The use of MRP changes in a lean environment. With the flattening of the bills of material (BOMs), decrease in lead times, and increase in throughput time and capacity, traditional multilevel time phasing of material moves to bucket scheduling. Back-flushing material when the item is completed is desirable due to the shortened production lead times.

Production Scheduling

Scheduling is a process of deciding how to commit resources between a variety of possible tasks. Traditional production scheduling (back-scheduling from a projected future need date) transforms to a daily final production schedule based on actual customer orders.

Procurement

Supplier KANBANS are set up for material replenishment (replacing traditional purchase orders). Typically, blanket purchase orders are put in place with suppliers and a system-generated KANBAN signals replenishment in the exact quantity needed to support production. Commonly used items are changed to floor stock with vendor-managed resupply on a daily or weekly schedule.

Supply Chain Management

An immediate emphasis is put on procurement to reduce the supplier base and reduce cumulative lead times in support of the increased throughput and capacity of the production floor. A move is made to develop strategic relationships with suppliers and qualify local supplies to reduce logistical costs. Emphasis is focused on efforts to lean the total supply chain from supplier to end-user.

Production Activity Control

The greatest change takes place on the production floor. Visual work cells are set up utilizing TAKT Times and KANBANS to control the flow of material through the manufacturing process. This transformation eliminates the need for traditional capacity planning, operational scheduling and dispatching and input/output queue reporting. The increased throughput results in a faster consumption of backlog.

Sales and Marketing

With the reduction in lead-time and increased throughput and capacity, sales takes on new business and better serves the existing customer base. The increase in productivity and efficiencies gives added flexibility to respond to customer demand.

ERP and lean can work together. In fact many of the functions of ERP are simplified as a result of the lean transformation. If you are implementing a new ERP system, lean can make the implementation an easier task. The key to working ERP in a lean environment is to select the ERP features that work best with lean and discard those that don’t. If you are using an existing ERP system, the lean transformation can simplify the use of that software and reduce overall cost. Learn more about lean manufacturing and ERP by scheduling one of Panorama’s three-day “Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma and Supply Chain Management” workshops.

Blog post written by Harry C. McClintock, CPIM, CSCP, a project manager at Panorama Consulting Group.

From Magic Quadrant to Top 10 ERP Vendors

Each year, Gartner publishes its magic quadrant of ERP vendors.  This view of leading ERP software solutions is widely cited by software vendors when they are favorably represented in the quadrant, and it also makes for an appealing PowerPoint graphic.  However, software vendors pay Gartner for its research, so the magic quadrant analysis isn’t necessarily 100% independent.  While it may be a useful data point in an ERP selection process, the findings are subjective based on dimensions that may or may not indicate a ERP solution’s true position in the market.  For these reasons, it can be difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from the quadrant by itself.

On the flip side, our team at Panorama uses a number of quantitative analyses to compare leading ERP vendors.  According to our independent 2010 ERP Report published earlier this year, vendors vary fairly significantly in their positions in the marketplace, average implementation costs, benefits realized, and a variety of other metrics that measure true results and vendor viability.  One of many key findings from our report is that certain ERP systems have higher rates of being short-listed and selected than others.

In analyzing our data for 1,600 ERP selection and implementation projects across the globe, we found that SAP is the most commonly short-listed ERP system, short-listed by 20% of the companies in our study.  SAP is followed by Microsoft Dynamics (15%), Oracle eBusiness Suite (10%), and Epicor (8%).  The top 10 ERP vendors are outlined in the table below, ranked by their frequency of being short-listed by organizations in our study:

[table “30” not found /]

However, a slightly different pattern emerges when we look at the rate software packages are selected from short-lists.  As outlined in the table below, Peoplesoft is selected at a very high rate when the solution makes a short-list – 67% of the time it is on a company’s short-list.  Peoplesoft is followed by Oracle’s eBusiness Suite (54%), SAP (54%), Infor (39%), and JD Edwards (38%).

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Interpretation of the above data offers a couple of potential hypotheses.  First, the fact that SAP is short-listed so often suggests that it’s strong brand name and leading market position could provide ERP buyers with a strong reason to consider the software.  Second, the fact that Oracle products are selected at a higher rate suggests that the product may offer a stronger functional fit for companies represented in the study.

Although the frequency of short-list or selection may not be a good indicator of how well a particular software package fits an organization’s unique business requirements, it can be a useful quantitative and objective data point in assessing market trends among ERP vendors.

How would you evaluate your ERP vendor? Contribute to our research by participating in our 2010 ERP Benchmark Study or by rating your ERP vendor in our free online ERP database.

Which Factor had the Greatest Weight in Your ERP Selection Project?

The selection of the ERP vendor is a very important decision. The costs and benefits of your ERP project are strongly correlated with the vendor you selected, therefore there is intrinsic link between your business case and the software functionality provided by the vendor.

A company’s industry and/or unique business processes may result in dramatically different ERP considerations, so it is highly recommended that the ERP selection team fully understand the ERP vendor and their own business strategies and processes before making a final decision and awarding business to an ERP vendor.

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Take a moment to vote and then check back to review the poll’s overall results. Responses to this poll and other recent polls are available in our resource center.

ERP Software Selection Testimonial and Success Story: Lessons From the Front Lines

There’s no better way to learn how to manage an ERP selection and ERP implementation process than by hearing it from someone who has just been through the process. Hearing it from a consultant or software vendor is one thing, but hearing it from an actual implementing organization can often times make it seem more real.

One of our recent ERP podcasts featured an interview with a client of ours, the President of a mid-size field service provider that recently selected and implemented new ERP software for their organization. There were several helpful lessons from that interview. For example, the client highlighted some of this lessons and tips from his company’s software selection process:

  • The importance of an independent ERP consulting firm. One of their difficulties was finding a consulting firm that was truly independent and didn’t represent one or more specific software vendors. They looked long and hard before hiring Panorama Consulting to help them select and implement their chosen software.
  • Define business processes and requirements. One of the key aspects of their evaluation was to document the tribal knowledge throughout the organization. They defined new, more clearly defined and standardized business processes that would take their company to the next level. In addition, they used the evaluation as an opportunity to define their business requirements and priorities.
  • Focus on the important stuff. They understood that no ERP system would address each and every business requirement, but they knew which business needs they absolutely had to address.
  • Vendor negotiations are critical. They leveraged Panorama’s experienced team to act as the bad guy and establish their position with vendor, while at the same time protecting them from potential strains with the vendor as a result of the negotiations.
  • Address major challenges. One of their biggest challenges was getting everyone across the company on same page to define what was critical to the company as a whole. In the past, different departments and functions had focused on what was important to their area rather than to the entire company, so ERP was a challenge and opportunity to change that mindset.
  • Key pieces of advice. His comment to those about to select new ERP software is to set realistic expectations for implementation and to understand the total cost and ROI of the investment in the new solution. These are two pitfalls that they almost fell into before being advised by Panorama to set realistic expectations.

There are a host of challenges and lessons in any ERP system selection process. However, these are just a few pieces of advice provided by one of our clients. Listen to the full podcast interview to hear more ERP selection and ERP implementation lessons from the company.

[powerpress url=”/Documents/JOHN-GIBSON-INTERVIEW.mp3″]

Seven Process Steps for a Successful ERP Vendor Evaluation

We know process is the way to go for an ERP vendor evaluation project, but what would that process entail?

An earlier blog entry I discussed the benefits of following a process to embark on an ERP vendor evaluation project. I believe most organizations would agree a proven, well-defined process would bring significant benefits to their software selection project and unveil the vendor with the best fit for their organization. So what would a proven, well-defined process look like?

Glad you asked. The process would contain concise steps for a project team to follow to ensure the right solution was found in a timely fashion.

Seven Process Steps for an ERP Vendor Evaluation Project

  1. Planning
  2. Requirements
  3. Vendor Analysis
  4. Demonstrations
  5. Implementation Analysis
  6. Financial Analysis
  7. Recommendation

I consider each step to be important, so I will cover them individually in future blog postings.

Click to learn more about our Panorama’s PERFECT Fit software selection process and methodology.

What ERP Software is Right for Your Small Business?

With the expansion of enterprise resource planning software into the small and mid size market, more and more small businesses are opting to implement ERP software.  The ERP implementation process generally starts with human resources management software, accounting software, and financial management software modules, then continues further into the organization’s distribution and manufacturing operations.

Companies often select different functional specific solutions from different software vendors to solve their short-term problem.  Thus, they do not have one integrated solution to cover their full business needs.  As companies grow, the different systems, from different vendors, become inadequate to meet the business requirements and transform into “multiple versions of the truth”.   This produces informational inconsistencies and degrades the benefits the software packages provided at purchase.

Common Issues Produced by the Co-Existence of Multiple Software Systems

  • Inconsistent information across departments
  • Different versions of revenue from sales and financial department
  • Confusion by separate databases from accounting, contact centers or other departments
  • Redundant paper work and keying of information

In today’s dynamic and fully competitive marketplace, business software is designed to make business processes easier and operations much more efficient.  If this is truly the case, then why do companies still find that they are in operational pain after installing all of the software systems?  The original benefits that those systems bring tend to fade away after the company grows.  At the same time, the increasing number of software systems becomes a burden to the IT department and the company itself.  The lack of integration produces issues that begin to appear more and more prevalent and the need for a new system arises again.

The goal of ERP software is to operate multiple departments as a single, cohesive unit.  ERP software allows small businesses and growing company to achieve this goal by maintaining one comprehensive ERP system.  Panorama’s ERP consultants review an organization’s business needs and help location and implement an ERP software that fits the entire business’ requirements and helps provide a solid foundation for operational success and growth for years to come.

Blog entry written by Tiffany Chen, an ERP Consultant at Panorama Consulting Group.

Mock Enterprise Software Selection Process: Are You Ready For ERP Software?

Evaluating and selecting the right enterprise software for your organization can be an overwhelming task. Clearly defining your business requirements, managing the evaluation process, and ensuring an objective comparison between your many options are just some of the pitfalls of a thorough ERP software selection process.

So do you have what it takes to manage the software selection process for your organization? Our interactive mock selection process will help assess your readiness for an exciting but complex process.

Potential Challenges of an ERP Software Selection Process

  • Managing the ERP software vendors during your evaluation
  • Ensuring an equal and fair comparison of various options
  • Separating critical requirements from standard or generic functionality
  • Finding the right software selection consultant
  • Accurately defining costs of various software solutions
  • Benchmarking with industry peers

These are some of the challenges tested during our mock selection process. Click to take the 10-step mock selection project quiz.