You’ve likely heard that something referred to as a three-legged stool—three parts of a larger entity, without one the entire thing falls apart. Used as a reference to retirement planning, in which individuals planning for retirement had three common sources of future income in Social Security, pensions, and personal savings, the term serves as a useful metaphor for many topics, one of which is Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.
With ERP software considered to be one of the most complex pieces of technology that any organization may consider, with a variety of modules and integrations that make an implementation complex and a product unique, it may come as a surprise that such a product could be distilled into only three factors. Further, with only a few dozen vendors building software large enough to handle a midmarket firm’s needs, one could think that every vendor has perfected these three concepts when building their product and business model.
Three ERP Qualities You Need to Suit Your Business Needs
However, every company that needs an ERP solution is unique, and two companies that are similar on paper may have vastly different needs that are tackled differently by each vendor. Throughout the decision process, you will be able to narrow down which vendor can offer the perfect solution for your business and select the partner with the unique skills to get you there, but knowing this, your decision will come down to how well they can satisfy your company’s needs for the following three qualities—Functionality, Ease of Use, and Support.
As discussed in a recent Acumatica guide titled Navigating ERP Selection and Implementation: A 5-Step Process, much of your ERP decision should be built on how well a vendor can build a product, design it for all users, and provide help when users need it. Each quality is equally important and if a system can’t match your needs in one of the three categories, your company won’t receive the expected value and the project may very well fail.
A product must match the specific functionality that you need today (per your requirements definition) with the ability to adapt the system to change when your needs change. It’s likely that a lack of functionality is why you’re looking to make the move to a new system in the first place, and whether you’ve outgrown your current solution or it’s become outdated, your current system isn’t meeting your business needs.
This is the most important factor in your decision making, because the product has to be tailored for your unique needs now and in the future. In this, the product needs to fit your processes and workflows, provide or specific features or seamlessly integrate with a solution that does, help your business run more smoothly, and be ready to handle your needs even if your company doubles in size or scales.
Any product can be easy to use while providing quality support (entry level software is a good example of this), but if it’s not able to handle your needs, your people are going to be spending more time developing workarounds or crunching the numbers in Excel than they will spend informing decisions and improving the business.
Ease of use
Evaluate the design of the user interface in how familiar and intuitive it is – it must be simple to learn and easy to use. While functionality may be number one factor in an ERP product, ease of use is a close second.
Aside from the large investment, one of the reasons that ERP projects happen infrequently is the steep learning curve that comes with learning a new product. Training every user of the new software takes time—no matter how intuitive and easy to use the software is. Combine this with the training that each new user will need to undergo, the process that goes into learning how to use new features added in an update, and more, and you learn that you can’t afford a product that’s bulky, challenging to learn, and painful to use.
Often is the case with legacy software that relies on outdated code or complex workarounds, the product may be functional and offer quality support, but if your users need to spend hours on the phone speaking with the support staff or your IT department to make a tiny change or generate a report, they aren’t making use of the functionality.
Finally, the system developer and/or implementation partner must be reliable, trustworthy, and compatible with your needs and company culture. This is its own factor for companies, who need to find both a vendor and implementation partner who can work alongside them throughout the product’s life. In this, you need to find a partner who aligns with your company’s values, is honest throughout the entire process, and who is sized right for your organization.
Even the most functional and user-friendly software has hiccups every once in a while, and at one point every end user has a question about how to accomplish some task. When this happens, they need to be able to access the help when they need it and how they need it. With this, your company needs to find a partner who can handle their needs during the implementation, training, and throughout the life of the product.
Without a single one of these three qualities, your implementation is not going to provide the value you expect and your software is bound to fail. At MIBAR, we understand that every company is different and that the right product fit for some is not the right one for others. We’ve been in this business long enough to know that and in the past three decades have refined our product offering to work only with vendors who we feel check all three boxes more often than not. We invite you to learn more about our implementation processes and the products we serve, and welcome you to contact us for a free consultation.