Five questions to ask your ERP provider
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Five questions you need to ask your ERP provider, written by Orderwise.

ERP is a crucial software cornerstone for any business that takes itself seriously and wants to grow. The level of functionality and streamlining that a good ERP package provides is too good to pass up. Yet how can you really know if you are really getting the very best possible software for your situation?

To help you in your selection process, make sure you are asking these five key questions. With the answers to these, you’ll be well placed to know for sure that you are getting proper Enterprise Resource Planning rather than an extremely regrettable purchase.

Does it integrate?

Your ERP system might have the very best software and functionality portfolio in the world. It could be all-singing, all-dancing, with suite upon suite of features and capabilities. But if the system doesn’t cleanly integrate with existing systems or previous procedures, it is nothing but an expensive package of professionally produced programming.

You need to make sure that any ERP system you purchase can be fully integrated with the specific systems you need. That could be everything from marketing outreach, to credit control, or courier connections. While some systems come pre-built with integration options, the very best ones will be tailorable and adjustable. The company that built the software will re-arrange their code around what you need, and make it integrate for you.

When looking into possible ERP provision, it is always vital to ask “does it integrate?” and get the most detailed and in-depth answer you can find.

Is it customisable?

On one level, ERP systems are a category of software types. There are differences in provision, but they all fall into a grouping based on functionality and provision. This is what makes them comparable and what makes it important to select carefully between them.

On another level, all enterprises have some broad senses of comparison too. Business models change and company structures differ, but there are incomes, overheads, revenues, and profits in some form or other in most businesses.

Yet an ERP system that over-engages with this level of comparability and similarity across the sector is not going to be able to help your business as specifically as an ERP system that respects and understands how no two enterprises are exactly alike. You need an ERP system that focuses functionality where you need it, and can adjust and adapt to how you want your business to operate. The last thing you want from an ERP system is an “off the shelf” mentality.

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Is it scalable?

Very few businesses are looking for status quo maintenance. This is especially the case if you are looking for either a new ERP or your very first one. Your business wants to be able to scale and grow with new developments and new customers. For that, you will need to ensure scalability from your ERP system.

On the one hand this seems like a difficult question to ask. If asked directly, every ERP provider will naturally claim that their system is scalable. Thus instead you need to be a little more indirect and wide ranging with your questions. Asking things like “how long does it take to do X” where X is a task that would happen much more often if/when your business starts functioning at 5-10 times its normal level of activity.

Another good question about scalability is to inquire about licensing, and the number of different computers/smartphones/hand-held terminals your ERP provider will offer your system to work on, and what kind of charging system these licences will represent. Exactly how this works will shape a clear picture of whether the ERP you are offering is scalable or not.

Is it flexible?

One of the many things that the business world was taught by COVID-19 was the extreme importance of operational flexibility. All of a sudden the B2B market dried up completely, and companies were forced to radically re-evaluate their entire approach. Everything from marketing to maintenance and all the processes in between. The B2C market too found itself facing a whole host of different challenges. The ecommerce systems were put under renewed pressure, and businesses that thought of themselves as primarily bricks-and-mortar establishments had to realign almost everything about the way they worked.

While this is the single most extreme example, smaller scale versions of this happen more often than you might think. New technologies, changing market expectations, unorthodox business practices becoming mainstream, disruptive commercial models. All of these and more make business life something that cannot afford to be stagnant and simple. You need an ERP system that reflects this.

Your ERP system needs to have the capacity to adjust and adapt to any new business procedure you might encounter without having to fundamentally rework and rebuild everything from the ground up. A more modular and adaptive approach is valuable in these circumstances. Make sure whatever ERP system you use can keep pace with changes. Not just the ones you know about, but the ones you can imagine as current distant issues on the horizon, but which might have the potential to change things dramatically.

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Is it being enhanced?

ERP provision should not be a static and unchanging affair. Buying an ERP package should not be like buying new office furniture or a remodelling of the reception lobby. It should be something that is in an ongoing stage of change and development and growth. Something that moves and adapts as you, your business, your sector, and the world encapsulating them all changes.

When picking an ERP provider, a key deciding factor should be the extent to which that provider is regularly and consistently updating their product. This does not merely mean fixing bugs or responding to malware developments and exploits. Rather, you should be making sure that your ERP provider is continuously and rigorously adding in new developments and updated features. These will ensure that your package is up to date and growing all the time. Something you need from your ERP supplier much the same way you need it from your business.

The gold standard of ongoing ERP enhancement goes beyond fixing bugs, or even new development. It is responsive new development. You want an ERP provider who will actively listen to you when you say that there is a new piece of software support that your business needs. The very best kind of ERP provision is one that responds to you as you need it.

Ask the right questions

When you are looking into ERP possibilities, be sure that you know what you are looking for.
You want a system that integrates clearly in the way you need it to.
You want a package that can be tailored and customised to your needs.
You want software that scales simply as your business looks to grow.
You want tools that can adapt and adjust to changing situations.
You want a provider who is actively working to improve things, and listens to what you need.
Make sure you have all that you want when you get a new ERP software package. This is what your business deserves.

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