If you’ve been following along with this series (see the last one here) you know that I was tasked with finding a replacement for our aging ERP system. It needed to be something that would set up the company for the foreseeable future. I wasn’t doing this alone, but it was my responsibility to build a credible list of vendors. Using many factors I built a list of six, what we felt were, strong contenders.
Even though we had received upper management’s approval to start the exploratory process it was decided to do a “check-in” with the board of directors. This provided the opportunity to highlight the list of ERP possibilities, ball park pricing, our criteria for making the selection, and the next steps. This is an important part of the ERP selection process as it has been shown that one of the main causes of ERP failures is a lack of top management commitment. It is important that the “top” understand key events and truly understand (appreciate) the size and scope of implementing ERP. They need to understand the commitment of time required, it is no small undertaking.
With management’s approval we kicked into high gear on the selection process. A small evaluation team was created. We decided to keep the group small… lean & mean… to keep focus. We’re a company of around 150 employees with only one location, so for us the group was five people. We had representation from finance, production, engineering, IT, and upper management. I was the team lead and overarching presence to keep the group focused and look at it from all angles.
The demo process started. Two of the vendors provided a “canned” style demo asking very little questions about our business first. The other four put us through various levels of “discovery” to better prepare for the demo, to get an understanding of our business and how ERP was going to help.
The “discovery” process is very important. The ERP vendor needs to understand the requirements so that they present the right combination of modules, processes, and workflows. As a potential customer of ERP you need to define a comprehensive list of requirements…. you need to know what you are looking for and you need to communicate this to the possible ERP suitors. Not that it can’t evolve as you see the solutions, but this list of requirements needs to be developed before the demo process begins. Another big cause of failed ERP implementations is picking the wrong solution, so make sure you, your team, and the vendor are working from the same page.
The demo process takes time, and for us involved multiple demos from each vendor. Think of it as the swimsuit portion of the pageant. Everyone is strutting the runway trying to look their best, but you’re really just evaluating what you can see..
You need commitment from your selection committee not only to “sit through” the demo, but ask follow-up questions and to provide feedback on what they saw and liked and what they did not like.
As mentioned earlier we had narrowed the selection to six possibilities. Three of these were scratched off the list very early. One was clearly optimized for high-volume production, not an engineered-to-order business like ours. One was very strong from a job management perspective, but we wanted more than just a “job shop” system. The last of the three scratched off the list had a poor team and did not give us the confidence that they could successfully aid us in implementing the solution successfully.
After the initial rounds of demos we were left with three serious contenders. To our surprise one of the vendors drifted, and although never admitted to anything, basically gave up trying to win our business. I’m not sure if they were too busy, we were too small, or they did not want to compete with the other two solutions. This left us with the final two.
Now it was time for the interview portion of the ERP pageant. With the two “finalists” we had onsite visits, extended “discoveries”, we contacted references, and we got very specific feature demos and walkthroughs. During this time each vendor supplied quotes and we started to detail what the implementation was going to take in time and money.
Now the hardest decision to make. We had done our due diligence and it resulted in two very strong contenders. We, as a selection committee, went back-and-forth on an almost daily occurrence. It was stressful actually, trying to weigh the pros and cons of each, trying to find the right solution.
[Looking back I wonder if there was really a bad choice. If we hummed and hahed between the two, they must have been very close in features, functions, and workflows.]
So how did we make the final decision? The two offerings were neck-and-neck, except one package (the one we chose) had a far superior scheduling offering than the other, and for us that was a big deal.
As the last test we had the selected ERP vendor (although they didn’t know it yet) demo the product to an extended group of our employees. We included every supervisor, planner, purchaser, financial person, HR, quality, Engineering management, and upper management. What we received was an overwhelming vote of confidence and actual excitement of the possibility. With this feedback we had made our choice.
Now it was time to make the final decision on making the jump to the new system, but that is a story for another time.
Feature Image – Deciding Which Door to Choose 2