Where to Start When Identifying ERP Solutions

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Mark Beckner, the founder of Inotek Consulting Group, a programmer and developer, and the author of technical books.

When you find yourself tasked with figuring out what ERP solution you are going to on-board for your organization, you do a quick search and find there are dozens of vendors offering a variety of ERP solutions. Where do you start in your process of determining which of these vendors and platforms would be best for you? You need to look at functionality, pricing and resourcing.

Starting with functionality — how do you decide which of these solutions will best fit your needs? How can you find the option that matches your current business model but also will allow long-term customizations to meet future demands?

The lines where ERP (enterprise resource planning) solutions are separated from CRM (customer service management) platforms is becoming murky.

Vendors today realize the customer experience is critical to the continued growth and expansion of an organization. Traditionally, CRM solutions allowed for tracking and communication with customers. Today, these solutions cross into ERP and financial territory where customers are able to perform direct ordering actions. When the gap between ERP and CRM is closed, platforms become much more flexible and allow fluidity across functionality. Finances and inventory should tie directly into customer-focused marketing and public portal-based views. Think beyond order processing and inventory management as you select your platform.

Next, looking at pricing, you’ll find that the costs are all over the board. While on-premise solutions are certainly still available, cloud-based services are where all of the R&D is going, and they will offer the best long-term options for most organizations.

These service-based offerings generally are priced on a monthly, per user basis. The costs can add up quickly, and pricing options can become complex to interpret. Your best bet is to work with a reseller or vendor to ensure you are getting the licensing model that best fits your need. For example, you may find a solution that retails for $50 a month per user. You have 50 users at your organization. You’ll find that within this model, only a percentage of your users will actually need to be licensed with the full $50, and that there are other reduced license options available — finding them often can only be done with someone who is familiar with these and has worked with them in the past. Don’t hesitate to reach out to several parties when working to determine what pricing model is best for your company.

Finally, resourcing — it is often tempting, especially for smaller organizations, to either go with the “vanilla” (out of the box) option that a platform provides, or to use an in-house resource to make basic customizations. Both of these models will do a disservice to you and your organization.

Platforms are increasingly complex in what they offer, but also increasingly easy to configure and modify. You’ll definitely want to bring an outside resource who has developed and configured the platform you select into your initial on-boarding project. Think of your ERP on-boarding like you would taxes or law. Few organizations will do all of their taxes themselves, usually outsourcing to an accountant who lives in the world of tax.

So, too, with law. Few organizations would try to work through processes and documents that are better done by legal counsel.

When on-boarding your new platform, work with professionals whose expertise will ensure the solution is configured properly for your organization.

As you begin to look at what ERP platform you want to use within your business, look to future thinking platforms that allow for both traditional ERP tasks as well as CRM functionality. Make sure you understand the various pricing models before you select your platform. And don’t hesitate to bring in outside professionals to help you deliver on your initial roll-out of your application.

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