Part III: Start Your Vendor Search & Schedule Demos
Armed with your goals and some basic performance metrics on your business, you can now begin your search for an ERP vendor. A good place to start is using Internet search engines- search for ERP products by using keywords such as “ERP Systems” and “manufacturing business software.” Another place to look online is software evaluation websites such as www.technologyevaluation.com. Ideally, you should initially choose 5 to 10 vendors that you believe have an ERP Software System to address your needs.
The next step is to contact each ERP vendor on your list. Email is probably the best method of communication because it allows you to be most consistent in your message, and also allows the vendor recipient to pass all the information you provide to the appropriate person in the vendor organization. In your email, let them know that you are heading up a search for an ERP solution, then provide the information you have already defined:
- Your business model
- Approximate number of users
- The size of your business (revenue and number of employees)
- Desired Software platform
- Your budget for software and implementation services
- The top three to five goals that the software needs to address
Ask the vendor if they have a possible solution for you. If the response is negative, ask if they can recommended another vendor or solution. For any vendor claiming they have a solution that fits your company, require that vendor to provide 5 - 10 references. Now, use the vendor’s reference list to find out, in advance, the ERP experiences of some of their users.
You may want only 4 or 6 possible vendors before you start the next step, which involves spending time with each vendor. The main goal in each step of this process is to be thorough, so that your team can make educated decisions as you navigate through the selection process. To get an idea of the look and feel of each ERP System, you may start with online overview product demonstrations (demos). But the best results will come with two-step process. The first step: Invite the vendor to make a discovery visit prior to a demo presentation. This will give them an opportunity to learn about your business and understand your goals, so that they can focus the demo on your needs. Step 2: Schedule the demo within 2 weeks of the discovery visit.
It is important that you have your whole selection team at every demo. Make sure to designate a couple team members to be responsible for taking good notes. You’ll be getting a lot of information at each demo, and the different ERP Systems will likely all start to blend together - good notes will help you differentiate between the vendors. In addition to finding software that fits, you need to get to know the company that will help you implement.
Be sure to discuss each vendor’s solution as a group within 24 hours of the presentation. It is important to document everyone’s responses, and keep a running demo-to-date ranking of which solution is in first place, second place, etc. As a Reminder: The only criterion for the ranking is how well the vendor handled your top three to five business goals. After the first round of demos, it is time to reduce your list to the Top 3 (or less) vendors.
Did you miss Part I & Part II of the series?
View Part I: Get Executive Buy-In & Form an ERP Selection Committee
View Part II: Define Your Business Issues & Set Your Objectives