“ERP is such an important decision, I don’t want to half ass it. I’m not an expert at ERP – want someone who is completely unbiased to help me figure out what’s the best for the future of my business. I could easily spend 100 hours on it, but I don’t have time for that; I don’t want to make the decision by myself.”

Thoughts of the Day: Let’s start by defining what is ERP and what it can do for any business. There are lots of folks who can provide advice on what to choose. Start by defining what’s going to be right for your business. Go through a careful investigation process.

ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning.

That’s a fancy way to describe the various software systems that a company relies on to execute the work of the company. Every year small business owners add more technology: from 2010 to 2017 there was an 18% increase in tech among SMBs, a 30% increase in software spending, and a total tech spend approaching $700 billion in 2017.

Growth in tech spending is practical. Updates in technology create better ways for businesses to process and mine data. Measurable productivity and quality improvements stem from technology and translate into bottom line savings.

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There’s still plenty of room for improvement.

It’s estimated that ¼ of small businesses rely on less efficient, error prone manual solutions instead of implementing technology. 80% of SMBs report that some portion of their information processing is manual despite having solutions available that they could implement.

When picking someone to help with your IT investigation, interview candidates to find out what services they offer and how they price. Ask them to describe in detail how they take companies like yours through a search process; insist on talking with references who are just like you – same size, same industry, similar set of needs. Be sure to build a budget for the advisory services, and be upfront about that budget.

Software vendors may have advisors, but the advice will likely be biased.

Many of the accounting, legal and consulting firms you already work with may have an opinion, but make sure that they have carefully vetted those recommendations. There are technology firms, especially those that operate managed services businesses, that provide advice as part of their portfolio of services, some as part of a package they provide to their existing clients, others that offer a stand-alone service.

And then there’s your peers. Look for the most advanced companies in your industry; focus on firms that are twice your size. Find those companies that you don’t directly compete with and ask them to show you what they use and why.

Once you’ve picked an advisor, build a set of requirements.

What do you have now, what should you have in 3-5 years? What automation do you want to implement; which areas could benefit from upgrading existing tech? Get an advisor on board, right from the get-go, to help you define your goals. Evaluate how well you work with your chosen advisor. If it’s not working well for you, consider making a change. If things go smoothly, keep going.

Build a list of systems and companies to look at and set up interviews. Consider both systems that “do it all”, and multiple systems that can integrate into a complete solution. Your advisor should help set up these meetings, provide you with a decision-making checklist, and provide their recaps as well. They should help you debate the pros and cons of the various solutions. And if you wish, make sure they can follow through to help oversee the final selection and implementation of your chosen solution.

Looking for a good book?

Try “Modern ERP: Select, Implement and Use Today’s Advanced Business Systems“, by Marianne Bradford.

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