Vetting The Software

This is the second installment in a series about what to consider when looking for a new ERP system. In the last post, we discussed ERP benefits and capabilities for your shop. In this post, we’ll explore some of the key points in vetting the ERP software you’re considering. The software needs to be easy to use, implemented quickly and correctly, and focused on providing excellent service and support to you.

Easy to Learn, Easy to Earn

Above all else, the ERP system you choose needs to be easy to use. Employees will quickly stop using a system that’s a hindrance and not a help. Within a few minutes of the demo, you should be able to understand how the system would work in your shop. In addition, the more difficult a system is to master, the more training time will be required. This can be bad for two reasons. The longer your folks on the floor are learning the system, the longer it takes to see the rewards. Also, the longer it takes to learn the system, the greater chance there is that your employees will get frustrated with it and not use it. In short, if the product is not easy to use, it’s not the right fit. A few things to look for to make sure it’s easy to use are: consistency of screen layout, creating parts and orders and such with little data entry, and being able to access information quickly and easily. Once you’ve found a system that is easy to use, you need to see what the implementation process is like.

Up and Running in No Time

ERP software, no matter how great, has to be implemented correctly to be used to its full potential. Your shop shouldn’t be solely responsible for the implementation, but the vendor shouldn’t be completely responsible either. Ideally, the vendor will have an implementation consultant for your company, but you can hire an outside consultant if you need to. However, for the best implementation, a point person within your company would learn just about everything about the ERP software, and an implementation specialist from the vendor would guide your point person and your shop through the set-up. That way, someone who knows your company well would work with someone who knows the software inside and out to give your shop the best fit. There are a few important things to find out about implementation: how long it takes, if the vendor will assign you a dedicated account manager, and if that account manager’s compensation is tied into your shop’s success or failure. After you’ve researched the implementation process, you will want to see what the vendor’s service and support are like.

Services and Support

It’s easier to look into a vendor’s support and customer service before you buy their product and realize your average hold time is 30 minutes. The format of their phone support is important to know about. If you have to talk to multiple people and explain your problem every time, you could waste a lot of time before your problem gets resolved. A better approach is the “touch and hold” method where the first person you talk to takes responsibility for solving your problem, even if they do have to send it to someone else. However, support isn’t only about calling when you have a problem. It’s also about the training that the vendor offers. Ideally, they would have on-site, classroom, and web-based options to be able to fit what works best for your shop, even if that is a mix of the three options. A perk is if they have a video library for quick answers on how to use part of the system. Some ERP vendors will also have an online forum for their users to compare notes about problem solving and suggest upgrades to the software. In addition to these considerations, you will also want to see if the vendor has comprehensive data conversion tools, experts in functional areas, and a maintenance plan to suit the needs of your shop.

The categories outlined above will help you vet any ERP software you are considering. It’s important to know what product you are getting, and the support that goes with it, before you buy it. Our next installment in this series will be about vetting your vendor. If you want all of this advice in one document, download our buying guide.

Software as a Service

Many software providers are now transitioning to the web-based platforms, also known as Software as a Service (SaaS). SaaS is a software that’s hosted and managed at the vendor’s central data center. One advantage of a web-based system is the ability to log on to your system from any device at any location with an internet connection, giving you and your employees the freedom to travel and work outside the shop.

Your software provider should be able to give you peace of mind by offering a backup system to protect your server in the event of a crash. With a hosted software system, all accounts are hosted on the vendor’s server so they can identify security threats, take immediate action, and quickly deploy security upgrades. Cloud-based software is a great solution for your shop when looking to save on costs and time.

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