ERP Evaluation Guide for SMEs

How to Select the Best ERP Solution for Your Growing Business

In the past, full-fledged ERP functionality was beyond the reach of small to mid-size businesses. Today, advanced capabilities that were once the domain of big business are now entirely possible for SMEs and can make a significant difference to your bottom line. For growing businesses, staying relevant in an increasingly competitive market is crucial to success, making a comprehensive ERP system a necessity, rather than an option.

Why do growing businesses choose ERP over point solutions? 

 

37%

Want increased collaboration across the organization

29%

Need a scalable solution to support their growth

24%

Need to replace dated technology infrastructure

Source: 2014 Aberdeen Group

Implementing a new ERP system is a big undertaking and the process can be daunting, especially if you’ve never been through it before. Our goal is to ease the uncertainty and help you select the best ERP solution for your business. 

Kick off Your ERP Project

As an ERP partner, here’s a situation we see often – a business owner or management team decides the company needs an ERP system. They task someone in the organization with leading the projectThat person heads straight to Google to compile a list of solutions and they proceed to evaluation. Companies that approach their ERP evaluation this way are more likely to either stall on the project or select the wrong solution for their needs, causing pain down the road. Why? Because they’ve skipped critical steps. It’s great to do a little research online, but before you start evaluating systems, you need to kick-off an ERP project internally within your organization. 

Assemble Your ERP Selection Team

We recommend creating a cross-functional team of five to eight people. An ERP system impacts each department in your company, so you’ll want input from each functional group to ensure all requirements are met. As you create your ERP project team, look for individuals who understand the processes within their department and can communicate well.

ERP Project Team Responsibilities

ERP Project Team

Gathering input from system users to define business requirements and set objectives for the ERP project

Researching, evaluating and selecting an ERP solution

Managing the transition to your new ERP system

Assess Your Organization's ERP Readiness

Operational Readiness – Identifying a Business Need for ERP

Here, you’ll evaluate your current business processes and systems to determine if you have a clear need for a new ERP solution. This is often easy to evaluate based on where your systems are falling short. To understand whether you’re ready for an ERP system, look at two areas of impact: 

Visibility & Performance – Do you have a good understanding of your performance? Can you answer key questions about various areas of the business, based on timely, accurate data? 

Efficiency – How much effort is involved to compile key performance metrics and reporting? Are your people operating efficiently, with minimal reliance on manual effort and duplication? 

Cultural Readiness – Understanding if Your People are Ready for ERP 

By nature, many people are resistant to change. And while an ERP implementation can be a key element of your company’s growth, it can be costly to proceed if you’re not truly ready. 

So, how do you know if your company is ready for an ERP project? Conduct an ERP readiness assessment to understand how prepared your organization is for a project of this scale. If your assessment reveals you aren’t ready yet, shift your energy into communicating the benefits throughout the organization. Helping your people understand why the change is needed and what the payoff is will help them get on board.

ERP Readiness Assessment

Define Your ERP Project Objectives

You need a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve before you can measure the success of your ERP project. For the best results, your ERP objectives should be driven by the objectives of your organization.  The more accurately you can define the areas you expect to see improvement, the better equipped you’ll be to select the best ERP solution for the job. 

To identify your ERP project objectives, ask yourself: 

What is the business objective for implementing ERP? 

Have we defined the strategy, including measurements of success? 

Outline Your ERP Requirements

Now that you have a clear picture of your objectives, you can start compiling your ERP requirements list – the features and functionality you need in your new system. You want to have a clear understanding of what the day-to-day processes look like for your team and what they need to execute efficiently. Be sure to consider the way individuals consume data and interact with the system, as this can influence your decision between public and private cloud ERP. 

ERP Requirements Considerations

ERP Requirements Checklist

Have we talked with employees about their daily activities? What’s their user role? What kind of processing power do they need to work effectively?

What are the roadblocks our employees face with our current systems?

Can we (or our employees) identify areas where we need to improve?

ERP Requirements Checklist for SMEs

Evaluate Your Top ERP Solutions

Identify Critical Success Factors 

While your ERP project team has no doubt compiled an extensive list of needs and wants, not all items will be critical to the success of the project. So, in this step, you’ll define critical success factors – the elements that are absolutely necessary to achieve your goals. 

It’s easy to identify things that have an immediate impact on your cash flow, like increasing revenue. Keep in mind that savings don’t necessarily have to translate into a cash value but should impact the bottom line in some way. 

With your selection team, take a second pass at the master list of objectives and requirements you identified earlier. Use a numbering system to prioritize the requirements and help you zero in on the true must haves. This will help you identify the deal breakers as you’re reviewing solutions. 

Create Your List of Preferred ERP Vendors

Now that you understand what you’re looking for in an ERP system, it’s time to research possible options. Before you start your search, consider what type of ERP makes the most sense for your company. Most of the leading ERP solutions are what we call off-the-shelf – they have a built-in feature set that can adapt to processes across industries. They offer maximum flexibility over time. You could also look at vertical ERP software designed for your industry or a custom-built ERP if you need heavy customization. Keep in mind that the ERP system you choose should support your needs now, but also 10 years from now – flexibility and scalability are key. 

While most small to mid-market ERP solutions are sold through a partner network, both the ERP vendor and ERP partner will play an important role in the success of your implementation. Choosing a stable ERP vendor with a strong customer base and a good reputation mitigates the risk that comes with lesser established software vendors. 

ERP Vendors vs ERP Partner - What's the difference

ERP Vendor – The software publisher that develops and maintains the software. 

ERP Partner  Also referred to as a Value Added Reseller (VAR), an ERP partner sells, implements, and supports the software.

Setup ERP Demos

At this point, you should have narrowed it down to one or two potential solutions (three max). The members of your ERP project team should clear their calendars to attend the demos. Prepare them for the demo with a recap of your business requirements and objectives, as well as guidelines for evaluating both the system and the partner. 

What to Look for in an ERP Demo

ERP Demo

The ERP partner should come prepared with a script to show you how the system will handle a few of your key business processes.

The demo should illustrate how the gaps in your current processes will be filled, how existing processes can be improved and how new processes or capabilities will impact your business.

Pay attention to what the user experience is like. The look and feel will capture your attention first. But also pay attention to simplicity, personalization and ease of use.

Let's Start Your ERP Selection

Select the Right ERP for Your Business

Choose a Strong ERP Implementation Partner

Throughout the sales cycle, implementation and ongoing support, your primary relationship will be with the ERP partner. Choosing the right ERP partner is just as important as choosing the right software.

You want a partner that has extensive knowledge of the system and a keen understanding of your business. A good ERP partner will spend time with your team doing a deep discovery to get to know your business inside and out. But you should also look for fit – how well their company culture aligns with yours. 

Here are a few considerations for choosing an ERP partner: 

  • Customize your ERP only when necessary. But don't be afraid to customize when it will deliver value.
  • Understand the timeline to be up and running with your new ERP system.
  • Look for ERP expertise and keen business insight.
  • Know all the costs of your ERP project.
  • Ask what customer support looks like after implementation.

What Canadian SMEs Say About ProjectLine

Working with ProjectLine has been amazing for us. They helped us bring all of our teams together quite quickly, kept things simple for us and helped us onboard the system so it’s actually felt manageable.

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Liam Ellis, Lumenix

Read the Lumenix Story

We need to keep evolving. We do that together with ProjectLine – it’s now a team. As we face new challenges in our business, they’re along with us to help us solve those challenges.

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Sean Lavin, Aircom Instrumentation

Read the Aircom Story

We need business partners to grow with our company and accommodate that growth. That was a big factor in selecting SAP Business One and ProjectLine.

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Cal Vandaele, Vandaele Seeds

Read the Vandaele Seeds Story

Final Tips to Select Your New ERP Solution

If you’ve followed along with this guide, you’re well equipped to choose the best fit ERP system for your business. As you make your final selection, be sure to check the box on each of these best practices for selecting your ERP system. 

  • Evaluate the technical fit of the ERP solution using the 80/20 rule. You want a system that naturally fits your requirements (this is 80%). The other 20% is what you’ll need to tweak or customize to fit your processes.
  • Be realistic with your ERP implementation plan. Your ERP partner should take the lead on developing a comprehensive plan based on their proven process.
  • Review your business requirements for the ERP project following the demo to ensure you’ve addressed each item.
  • Understand your total cost of ownership.
  • Track the success of your project. Go back to the objectives you identified earlier – have you achieved the improvements you wanted to see?

Navigate Your ERP Selection with Ease

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