Guest blog: ERP requirements gathering: is it essential to the selection process?
November 14, 2017
This blog was written in collaboration with www.erpfocus.com
Do you want to pay a lot for an ERP that doesn’t do what you need?
Of course not, you want to keep your job and enjoy it by choosing software that’ll actually benefit you.
How do you make sure you’re picking the right ERP software and not just wasting time and money? You ensure that the ERP you’re considering meets your needs by gathering a precise set of requirements. Look at what your business needs right now and what you think you might need in the future, plus create a list of the tools and features you’re already using to know what you need to integrate with when the time comes.
Why ERP requirements gathering is so important
The ERP requirements list is designed to help you answer two vital questions:
1. What functionality do you need right now?
2. What else would you like to achieve with your budget?
Start off with a few open-ended questions to uncover the existing business processes that you want to automate or update with your ERP. This is one of the most common goals for companies, and it’ll be a good place to ask vendors for support because they’ve done it before.
However, it does get a little more involved and important.
ERP requirements gathering isn’t just a list of business processes that you want to improve. It is also an analysis of the different elements and stages involved in each business process. You’ll need to make sure you’ve accounted for each step that takes place and what software is required, or you’ll end up having gaps or expensive reconfigurations that don’t provide a benefit at the end of the day.
A benefit of a thorough ERP requirements gathering process is that you also have a chance to ask if the business processes you’ve got are functional as-is, or if you could change them. Automating a bad process just means you’re doing the wrong thing a whole lot more often.
Who to ask and involve in your ERP selection team
The best way to start gaining insight into your business processes and ensure that you’re automating solid techniques — or improving them with new automation pathways — is to have the right team reviewing your ERP requirements and selection process.
Get end-users from all departments involved in your decision-making efforts. Executive leadership and management will want a say, and it’s important to have them involved in the approval process. However, bring in the people who’ll interact with the system most often and see what they want and need out of an ERP.
Make sure you have representatives for each ERP requirement. Don’t stop at accounting and manufacturing. Bring in IT, warehouse, operations, and more so you know you’ve got everyone invested.
What to look at for today and tomorrow
Once you’ve got a solid team assembled and they’ve told you what their needs are for implementation, ask each group what they think their jobs will look like in three years. That’s a long enough time for them to feel like things will have changed, but not too long to make “drones will do everything” a reasonable response.
Answers here will help you plan for both current and future needs.
For example, if your warehouse team expects to expand across new locations in 2019, then you know your ERP needs to support that.
If IT wants to support industry-specific or custom functionality, then you may want to search for an on-premise solution that’s easy to customize. Or if your IT team is small and plans to stay that way, you may need a cloud system because you can’t support the on-premise requirements.
Your supply chain is likely going to become more complex and have greater integrations and software requirements. Ask your team, and potential vendors, what they see coming soon. Prepare for it, and you’ll likely be able to keep costs low and respond proactively instead of waiting to react to what’s next.
Geoff Whiting writes for ERP Focus. He is an experienced journalist, writer, and business development consultant with a focus on enterprise technology, e-commerce, and supply chain development.