Key Questions for Evaluating ERP and CRM Systems
Acquiring and implementing an ERP or CRM system for your organization is too complex and important a task to leave anything to chance. Evaluating ERP and CRM systems for your Minneapolis business is the first and most important step in making an intelligent decision. That evaluation begins with answering the following questions.
What are your Specific Needs?
Because every organization has specific needs it is important to craft a checklist of the key features required to meet the needs of your business. As you evaluate ERP or CRM systems for your business that checklist becomes your road map to choosing the right system. In creating this checklist:
- Don’t create a laundry list of every possible feature a system should have.
- Focus on the key processes that your business requires to produce its goods and services.
- Determine what your customers expect and how you want to meet those expectations.
- Concentrate on any specialized needs that set your business apart from competitors.
An ERP or CRM system will affect how you operate your business for years to come. If the system you choose doesn’t work because it cannot support your specific needs, the results can be financially devastating. Identifying your specific needs at the beginning of the process will ensure you get it right the first time.
This step is so critical you may want to consider seeking evaluation help from a third party consultant or outsource this part of implementation completely. Whether or not you need outside help can be determined from the answer to the next question.
Who will be on your Evaluation Team?
It is important to have the right team to evaluate potential systems. Who among your employees is most effective and resourceful in their job? An evaluation team should not be too narrowly focused. Ever section of the organization that will be using these systems should be represented on this team. These team members will become the key to ensuring a smooth transition during implementation.
When possible, include partners with your business in the evaluation. These can be both trusted suppliers and key customers who will be affected by the change. As this team comes into focus you may decide a consultant or other third party needs to be brought in to manage the evaluation and implementation. Take time to make this decision wisely.
How Much Customization will you Need?
To meet both your organization’s specific needs and your customer’s expectations a certain amount of customization will always be required. Take into consideration the scope of applications each vendor offers and how much those applications can be customized. Applications that may require customization for your specific needs can include:
- purchase management
- product design
- order management
- human resources
Negotiate for as many modules as you foresee your company may potentially need. You will get the best quote on these before implementation even if you don’t plan to employ some of them until later.
How Much Resources Can you Budget?
Implementing ERP and CRM systems can be quite expensive. Therefore, the evaluation team should focus on the ones that fit into your budget. The contract you sign with a vendor should include the cost of the initial software as well as implementation and support. Expect and budget for cost overruns. A 10-15% buffer is usually adequate. Functionality is important but you must also find a vendor who is willing to work within your budget.
How Flexible is the System?
The system you chose must be user-friendly. It is essential that it can be interfaced with existing systems and back-end platforms with as few steps as possible. Your system will be with you for at least ten years. Much can change in a business during that time. Inflexible systems produce multiple problems when those changes occur. Plan for this contingency before signing a contract! The best way to plan for change is to choose a system that has a flexible structure.