In our previous article we looked at some no-brainer criteria you should be considering when evaluating whether your business is ready to undergo a business transformation and implement business management software.  When you arrive at the conclusion that your business is indeed ready to undertake such a project, you will need a checklist of ERP software selection criteria to apply to evaluate potential business management solutions and vendors fairly and consistently.  These ERP software selection criteria will help to guide you to the one that is right for your business now and in the future.

1. The Functional or Technical Fit for Your Organization

Seemingly obvious, but critical, and the most time-consuming part of your selection journey.

You should tap into the knowledge base at your fingertips from your peers, employees, customers, and suppliers.  Ask them for input on questions such as:

What are “must-have” essential requirements for your new solution, and what would be “nice to have”?

Are there industry specific regulatory or legislative requirements which need incorporating to ensure compliance?

What other tools or solutions are currently in use that will need to be integrated with the new software solution?

What features or processes are liked, disliked, or missing within your current system?

Are there any currently manual, duplicated, or labour-intensive processes which need to be eradicated or automated?

In which areas of the business are you lacking business insights, or need management information data for informed decision making?

Map your current and desired business processes to make sure you have everything covered.

The output of this exercise will be a prioritised and detailed list of requirements which should be vetted, validated, and approved by key stakeholders from each faculty of your organisation.  You can then share your statement of requirements with each of the vendors you engage with.

You should also consider what qualities and strengths you are looking for in your software vendor.  Some will have an expert industry-specific focus, whilst others may have size, presence, or experience on their side.  Do they provide a tailored demonstration that shows they have read and understood your requirements fully? Do they give you access to their best solution consultants? They should!

You probably will not find a solution to meet all your requirements out of the box, so the amount of customisation required should also be an evaluation consideration.

2. Competitor Experience

Find out which solutions your competitors are using and if they are happy. This will provide a starter-for-10 vendor list to investigate or to avoid.

3. Price

Price will have a big influence on your final choice.  Therefore, you should consider:

How much you are willing to spend?

Implementation, consultancy, or customisation costs?

Ongoing costs for licencing, maintenance, hardware, IT personnel and support

Does the vendor offer the choice of upfront costs, or allow you to spread the costs evenly over time with a monthly subscription pricing model? Which option would better suit your business?

Consider the price off-set against the estimated cost savings from improved efficiencies, reduced headcount, greater capacity, or new business potential.

What expectations will you set for achieving a return on your Investment?

4. Supplier Credibility

Carry out your due diligence on each of your potential vendors.  It is important to ascertain the following:

Is it a proven solution with a sizeable happy customer-base?

Does the vendor have experience and expertise within your industry?

Can the vendor provide referenceable customer use-case evidence in a similar businesses to yours?

Can the vendor present a committed product roadmap and talk about their future R&D investment plans to ensure the solution remains current and on-point with changing market or industry requirements?

Is the vendor in a stable financial position?

5. Software Implementation

It not all about finding the right solution for your business, you need to be comfortable with the implementation plan too.  

Does the vendor carry out the implementation themselves or do they use a 3rd party implementation partner?

Does the vendor include information on the implementation plan as part of their solution presentation?

When is the right time for the implementation to happen?  You do not want to be at the critical go-live stage of your project at your busiest time of year.

Can the vendor accommodate your timescale?

6. The Technology Stack

It is not just about the features and functionality.  If your users are to fully embrace the new solution, the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) needs to be right. 

If your production operates in sterile or refrigerated conditions, such as in the food or pharmaceutical industries, can the user operate wearing PPE or HAZMAT equipment or with gloved hands?

Is user training provided as part of the implementation?

Are mobile applications provided to facilitate remote data capture in field environments such as in the warehouse, production floor, or in a farming environment?

Are these specialised ruggedised mobile devices, or off the shelf?  Android or iOS devices? This will impact the cost.

Is there a reporting suite which will provide all the data insights and management information you need? These will have been identified in step #1.

Are adequate security protocols provided?

Can the solution integrate with other tools and devices required?  These will have been identified in step #1.

How easy and affordable is it to make additions or customisations to the solution once implemented?

Is the underlying technology platform proven and reliable?  Will you be able to readily recruit IT talent to support it?

8. Scalability

Think about your business plan and strategy for at least the next 10 years.  Your new solution must be able to flex and grow (or shrink) to accommodate both your current and future business requirements.

9. Support

It is important that you are comfortable that your chosen solution will be adequately supported by the vendor during the implementation, go-live and post go-live phases of your project.

What support Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are provided as standard, and will you need to pay additional support costs to get the SLA’s you require?  For example, if your production business operates 24/7 can you afford any significant down-time at all?

10. The Decision

After considering and documenting each of the above ERP software selection criteria, you should be in good shape to engage with potential suppliers and identify the right solution for your business.  Before making your final decision, you should re-evaluate your shortlist against your requirements to ensure that all the boxes are ticked.  If there are compromises to be made, can you live with them?

Affinitus has 100’s of customers in the fresh produce and food industry who are benefiting from implementing our industry specific business management solutions. Contact us today to find out more about how to start your business transformation journey.