Your business is unique. No two companies will answer the following business requirement questions the same way. However, no matter what your industry, culture or size there are a common set of guidelines that can be applied to help you address and prioritize your needs. We have provided an overview and a list of questions for internal reflection in three different areas. This questionnaire will help you identify where there are needs, bringing to surface the vital technologies and process requirements for your business.
1. Technical & Platform Requirements
ERP systems are generally considered a platform so you can build on top of them. A lot of technologies available can be integrated with other third party systems or internal tools. For example, in a distribution area, this might be integrating real-time pick information on users’ scanners, which will then direct the employee where to go to find the item. A technical requirement, in this case, is that the ERP platform chosen must be able to extend to make this happen. The platform is a need highly driven by external integration within a system. Another example of a technical platform requirement might be a provisioning system, where you want to add users to your domain and set it up to automatically add the users to other systems internally.
Your secret sauce is the processes that have made your business unique. The software solution, or platform, you might be looking at is set up to handle it one way, but you might want to adjust the process slightly to accommodate your business needs. The option to do this is often overlooked. In some of the older ERP systems, making changes is extremely painful. In general, customizations get a bad rap because some platforms just don’t support it or a prior implementation partner made substantial changes that affected the upgradability of the system. Being able to adapt the ERP software, mapping a technical perspective to the business processes that are required is fairly imperative. You might need to display something in a slightly different way or need to use a 10-key to key something in or have some specific type of technical solution required for the particular business process.
How easily does the platform integrate with external systems? In many older systems, it is difficult to pull the information you need for reporting of data, whereas the newer systems integrate with tools such as Power BI, to easily create real-time reports.
For Technical & Platform Requirements, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you need to integrate with your systems externally or internally?
- Do you need to make changes to your system to support your business?
- Is the interface that people use something that they understand? Is it so old that new employees have never seen anything like it? Do they understand the presentation (look and feel) of the application?
- Do you want support from a company brand that is continuing to research and develop by adding and adapting technology into the ERP solution? If you are on an old open systems application or 10 years behind on upgrades, you’re not taking advantage of the new features and functions being added.
- Do you want to be able to do upgrades in less time with less cost? A lot of older ERP systems were not designed to be upgraded very easily.
- Are your business processes’ standard? If not, what are the reasons they’re not?
- Would you be adverse to changes within the ERP system?
- Is your “secret sauce” really unique or is it a new concept that was introduced that is standard inside the ERP system? The same outcome can be set up differently in different systems.
2. Functional or Business Process Requirements
Most often, this area is addressed because the current processes in your ERP system are slow, or encumbering. You need to speed up the process. This is usually a functional error, maybe a pain-point in a manufacturing or distribution process. You might want to leverage an advanced requisitioning system available in a new ERP platform. A word of caution – don’t redesign your previous system in your new system. You’ll spend a lot of time and money trying to recreate something that will more than likely never match the prior system. This is unnecessary. A new environment will introduce new concepts, created for efficiency and consistency. By trying to recreate your old system you’ll lose cross training capabilities and consistency. No matter how hard you try, your new system will never be exactly the same as the old. You’re much better off training on the new system and its new concepts than recreating the old.
For Business Process Requirements, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this really a business process that needs refinement in your environment? A lot of ERP systems allow for kitting as functionality, but it might take 10 steps to go through the process of creating a kit. Whereas in newer systems, this has been refined down to one transaction.
- Does the business process currently exist within the ERP system?
- Do you want to use the out-of-the-box functionality or do you want the ERP system to change to your business process? A lot of systems simply cannot change.
- Are your business processes going to change as you scale?
- Do you want a community to be able to assist you with problems you have within the environment? Can you easily find information and assistance for the product?
3. Internal Politics – Does this determine your requirements?
This happens more rarely. But, it is seen often enough. When internal politics are influencing business requirements for choosing ERP software, it is usually a case of low system adoption or users that aren’t educated on the system. In this case, they just don’t like it for more of an emotional reason. Even though it technically works, it doesn’t feel right.
Does your team want to replace your current system because they don’t like it? It isn’t common, but sometimes a company will decide they just don’t like the system.
To make sure you aren’t looking at a system change because of internal politics, and you are prepared to take on the task, ask yourself these questions:
- Have you gone through a business process review?
- Are you making a change because of a requirement that has bubbled up from a business process or technical requirement?
- Are you looking at a new system for all business units and not just one specific business unit?
- Do you have leadership support before you start engaging an implementation partner?
- Are you ready for an ERP implementation? The amount of internal time required by your business during an implementation can be up to three times or more the amount of hours quoted by the implementing partner.
- Ask yourself if you are adequately staffed for an ERP implementation?
An ERP solution is the circulatory system of your business. Take care of due diligence by honestly answering these questions to arm yourself with the most accurate information in making the right decision to preserve and protect your lifeline.