Discovery Questions to Ask Your ERP Software Vendor

Danielle Lobo

One of the key factors separating a successful ERP software implementation from an unsuccessful one is the level of information exchanged between vendor and prospect prior to the implementation.  As a company, you want to ensure that you’re fully engaged with the ERP vendor, and that you are asking all the right questions.  It can become overwhelming and difficult to remember to ask about all the details involved, however, it’s often the smaller details, not initially discussed, that can lead to the biggest problems during implementation.  In order to ensure this doesn’t happen to your company, you should be fully prepared before you even begin your search, with a list of detailed questions to ask each vendor.  This will help determine if the software is the right fit for your company, whether the vendor is a good fit with you in terms of corporate culture and mitigate the risk of an unsuccessful implementation.

5 questions to ask for a successful ERP software implementation

What activities are included in the implementation and how does it work?

When you decide on an ERP software solution the natural tendency is to think ahead to how to use it without getting enough information on the actual implementation process first.  But this step is very critical:  it clarifies how long the implementation will take and therefore how long before your company will be able to benefit from the software; what your employees can expect with regards to getting trained on the new software; and how much work will be involved in getting it up and running.

Supplementary Questions to Ask You Software Vendor

  • Who should be involved with the implementation on your side
  • Who will be the point of contact for the implementation on the vendors side
  • How much training will be provided?
  • Can extra training be provided?

After receiving a proposal from a prospective vendor, it is important to fully read it through and schedule a follow-up meeting to ask any additional questions that have come to mind.

Does the vendor currently have any customers in the same industry/sector as your company?

Even if an ERP vendor claims they can accommodate all of a company’s unique needs, it is important to determine if they currently have customers with similar needs, and then to go one step further and contact these customers. Speak to references from the ERP vendor to hear first-hand how the software has worked for them, and what benefits it has been able to provide.  Speaking with customers is the best way to get an honest answer regarding the software and will make it easier for you to compare different ERP vendors. You can also solicit tips on pitfalls and mistakes to avoid on your side of the implementation.

Supplementary Questions to Ask You Software Vendor

  • Does the vendor have the functionality to handle my industry’s regulations?
  • How long has the vendor served my industry?
  • Is the vendor planning on growing the software for future regulations?
  • Ask current customers about their implementation experience
  • Is there the ability to customize the software to my specific needs?

What happens if the vendor goes out of business? 

This question is a very important one to be asking when evaluating different software.  If your company is planning on investing large amounts of money and resources into ERP software, you want to be assured that it will be around and working far into the future. One option is something called a “source code escrow agreement".

This agreement dictates that if the software company does go out of business they have agreed to make their source code available meaning it can then be added or supported by anyone (of course this only helps if the software is written in a widely used programming language). A more popular option is ensuring that you have access to your data. This means that even if the software vendor goes out of business, you still have access to all of your data so that it can be exported and then imported into a new system.

Supplementary Questions to Ask You Software Vendor

  • Is any other company equipped to maintain the software?
  • Will I have full access to my data if you go out of business?
  • How long has the vendor been in business?

Has the vendor ever had any failed implementations?

As mentioned in a previous blog post, many ERP software implementations fail, and most industry experts believe that when an implementation fails it is both the vendor and customer’s fault. The stats may seem depressing but are typically representative of large ERP implementations that are often much more complex and prone to failure.

However, small and medium sized business should still prioritize the success rate of implementations of a vendor to find one who takes ownership of the success of your business.  An ERP vendor that is open and honest about failed implementations is more likely to have learnt and grown from such failures to ensure that they don’t happen again.

Supplementary Questions to Ask You Software Vendor

  • How often do these failed implementations happen?
  • Have you implemented processes to eliminate challenges?

How does customer support work during and after implementation?

With the implementation of new ERP software is it inevitable that your company will need support at some point or another – therefore it is extremely important to determine the specifics of how the vendor will deal with and charge for support.

Supplementary Questions to Ask You Software Vendor

  • Who will you be speaking with?
  • Will you be able to speak with the same person every time?
  • How many support hours are included in the implementation?
  • How much does it cost for extra support hours?
  • How many support hours does the average company use annually?

These five questions are a great start and should help you to examine all aspects of the implementation process to increase its success rate.  Of course, there are many other questions one could / should ask on top of these.