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Searching for new ERP software can be an overwhelming experience. The rapid pace of technology change, the pure number of ERP vendors in the market and the complexities of your own business can be difficult variables to triangulate, especially if – like most organizations – it’s something you only do every 10 to 15 years.

One of the first steps of any ERP selection process is to determine which ERP vendors are the most suitable and worthy of further exploration. Once you understand your organization’s business requirements, you’ll want to find the handful of solutions that are the most likely to address your highest priority requirements and are differentiators for your organization and your industry. The problem, however, is that with over 150 different ERP systems in the market, this is much easier said than done.

So what can you do to best narrow your search to the most viable ERP software solutions? Below are three tips to help your organization cull your ERP vendor short-list:

Define your highest priority requirements. High-priority requirements for the purpose of narrowing your ERP vendor long-list should meet two criteria: they are important to the organization and they represent functionality that differentiates between different ERP systems. Most organizations have a decent sense of the first criteria but unless you help clients select and implement ERP systems for a living, you are not likely to have the internal knowledge base to address the second criteria. This is where independent ERP consultants such as Panorama can help jumpstart the process. Once you’ve defined the most important business requirements and evaluation criteria, you’ll want to narrow the field to the top five to eight vendors that are most likely to meet your needs.

Cut through the sales hype. When reaching out to potential software vendors, you are likely to hear “yes, our software can do that” types of responses to your questions, more so than any other comment. With the right expertise and guidance, you can cut through the sales hype and get to the heart of what business needs you are trying to address with the software. One way to do this is with requests for information (RFIs), scripted demos and leveraging other independent and neutral data points to help validate the sales messaging you may be hearing from your software sales reps. For example, when recently helping a mid-size manufacturing client through their ERP selection process, nearly 100% of vendor responses to our RFI indicated that they could address all of our highest priority requirements but deeper analysis from our past experience implementing these same products for clients revealed that the actual fits were much lower in many cases.

Leverage a number of data points to evaluate potential long-list ERP vendors. As mentioned above, RFIs and scripted demos are good starting points to help evaluate potential long-list vendors. However, you also have to keep in mind that this information is usually provided by biased sources that have a vested interest in nudging you toward selecting their software. In order to neutralize or validate any biases you may be hearing during the sales cycle, it is important to leverage other data points from independent and agnostic sources. For example, Panorama provides a number of free and unbiased data sources to help aid your ERP selection process, including our 2013 ERP Report, our upcoming ERP Vendor Showdown webinar series and our on-demand Clash of the Titans webinar, which compares SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics.

Narrowing the field of ERP vendors to a viable and manageable long-list need not be an overwhelming experience. With the right data sources, experience and guidance, you can quickly cull your list of options and focus your analysis on the vendors that are the best potential fits for your organization.

Learn more by registering for our upcoming webinar series, Panorama’s ERP Vendor Showdown: Overview of Leading Manufacturing and Distribution ERP Vendors.