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What’s in your ERP toolbox?

01 Aug 2010

The most interesting thing about the enterprise resource planning (ERP) market is that the vendors who are stronger in the market today, are not necessarily the vendors who were the main players 10, or even fi ve years ago. My recommendation for anyone looking at procuring an ERP today would be to look to the main players in the market today – SAP, Oracle and Microsoft – as you know that your 10-20 year investment in your ERP is going to be put into the hands of a vendor that will be around tomorrow. The ERP solutions can all stack up to more or less functionality, especially around the base components such as fi nancials and distribution. If this is so, then the key component is understanding the following:

  • Is the core solution, or footprint, delivered from the ERP vendor? Or is it cobbled together with dealer and third party applications? What is the longterm cost of having a system that requires interfaces rather than a fully integrated ERP?
  • What scalability have I got within the application when businesses develop and change over time?
  • What modifications are required for me to have the application meet my business needs?
  • Is the vendor expecting me to change my business processes to meet the requirements of the application?
 When presented with an ERP estimate, consider the following: Is reporting included, or are you going to be trained in the tool and be expected to write all your reports yourself? Does the product come with pre-built reports?
  • Is the reporting tool an IT tool and an end user, ad-hoc query tool? How easy is it for my reports to be placed onto my dashboard/homepage?
  • Is data conversion included? Most often it would be expected that it is the responsibility of the customer to manage the data cleansing and migration with a tool, or template, provided for guidance.
  • What integration is included? All modern vendors are supporting service-oriented architecture (SOA) for integration architecture, which would enable futureproofing for the integration of applications instead of point-to-point interface development.
  • What training is included in the cost? Often the vendor will train the customer’s team involved in the project, but will cost enduser training separately.
There is a shift in the market from services providers moving towards a ‘shared’ implementation, where the customer is expected to have to do more of the heavy lifting. This is alright with more simple solutions such as NetSuite, but I do not think it is the right approach for ERP solutions such as Epicor and SAP. I believe that when too much responsibility gets put onto the customer’s plate, vendors are just trying to reduce or hide cost in their estimates, which they know they will collate later in change requests. Once the solution has gone live, customers should be enabled with the application so they do not need to pay the vendor for having to assist in writing reports at an expensive rate and to set up their own objects. They should be expected to deliver the application themselves. This is not an offthe- shelf PC package. That is our responsibility, and we need to be professional services advisers.

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