3 Smart (but Incredibly Obvious) Questions to ask Before an ERP Implementation

Matt Picariello

An ERP implementation is no walk in the park and there's really no sugar coating this fact. Despite this, you have still decided to purchase a new ERP software system because of the benefits and efficiencies it can provide your business. Unfortunately, there is a long road ahead from the time you shake hands with the vendor until you actually start realizing increased productivity. You will encounter software vendors who will make this transition as easy as they possibly can and you will meet other vendors who will leave you dreaming about simpler times with your old system. To avoid the latter of these two experiences, here are three important (but incredibly obvious) questions to ask software vendors prior to your ERP Implementation:

Does this software meet the specific needs of my business?

There is software that works, and there is software that works for your business. It is important to note this distinction to ensure that the system is not only functional, but that it also aligns with the needs and culture of your organization. For example, a pharmaceutical distribution company will have a plethora of government regulations that they legally need to address. In this instance, it is imperative to purchase a system that addresses these processes in the core of its product offering. In order to find the right system for your needs, you must also find a vendor who will take the time to learn about your business. Very often, sales representatives will immediately want to show you a demo without first taking the time to learn about your unique processes. This can become problematic down the road if you realize the system lacks certain functionality that you need, as such in our pharmaceutical distribution example. No two businesses are identical and each will vary in the way they operate, you need a vendor who understands this and doesn't take a 'cookie-cutter' approach to selling software.

Will our employees be fully trained on how to use the software?

As with any new system or process there will be a learning curve that users will have to deal with. There’s no avoiding this reality because every employee varies in how easily they can adapt to new technology. Most vendors will provide training documentation and videos explaining how to properly use their software; however, this should be used in conjunction with hands on training. No matter how user-friendly a system may be, there isn’t a replacement for the value of hands-on vendor conducted training. Training videos and documentation may help your employees get a feel for the system, but having a person training your team on new processes and explaining how different parts of the ERP are connected is invaluable to their understanding of the system as a whole. You will want to make sure that your vendor properly trains your staff on the system either in-person or remotely via webcast.

Will you leave us “high and dry” after go-live?

What happens following go-live is perhaps just as important as the implementation process itself. You can be trained on a system for weeks and still not be completely comfortable. That is more of a testament to the fact that ERP software is incredibly robust and to learn the "ins and outs" of any given system is a difficult task for anyone. Questions will arise that were not covered in the initial training and you want a vendor who is conscious of this and is timely in how they deal with these situations. An effective practice some vendors follow is having the person who conducted training and implemented the system be available for questions in the weeks following the go-live date. Because this individual already has a working relationship with your employees and understands your business from their time on your premises, they will be the ones best suited for any additional questions.

After reviewing the three questions outlined above, you can clearly see that they are incredibly obvious. Nonetheless, people often take shortcuts in their software search in order to get to the finish line the quickest. Take your time with your search, this is a major decision that will affect your business for years to come. As such, it is important to ensure that you're on the same page as your vendor and the software you choose aligns with the needs of your business and employees.