Four Keys to Choosing the Best ERP or CRM Solution – Part 1 and 2: Fit and Platform

By Eric Newell | September 22, 2021

Choosing the best ERP or CRM solution is a huge decision with major financial implications. Your solution will be the core of your system strategy and everything in your business will connect back to it. Though extremely rewarding and a way to gain a competitive advantage, implementation will be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive with a significant amount of change management involved. Do it right by considering all four keys: fit, platform, implementer, and cost, when choosing the best ERP or CRM solution.

Key 1: Does it Fit Your Needs?

Fit is how closely the solution meets your system needs. Document your needs to find a solution built for your industry and requirements. Make sure your system covers important integrations. Determine each option’s degree of fit, which is how many requirements the solution covers as a percentage. Target a solution that provides 80%+ fit.

Popular Solutions by Industry

Consider common solutions in your industry and any key industry-specific requirements you may need. For example, agriculture businesses need split billing functionality. Industry-focused ISVs, such as Levridge for agriculture, make Microsoft Dynamics more fit for certain industries.

popular solutions by industry

Fit/Gap Analysis

To perform a fit/gap analysis, identify your critical requirements and rank them by “need to have” versus “nice to have”. Calculate how well each solution fits “need to have” requirements as a percentage. If it works out of the box or is configurable, factor it as a fit. If it requires a customization or third-party product it is considered a gap. Determine how complex any customizations will be.

Key 2: Platform

Platform can have a big impact on how well the system works in your environment. Choose a modern platform that is consistent with your system strategy and has high supportability.

Cloud vs On-Premises

The cloud was brand new in 2011. CRM systems were just starting to turn cloud-based while ERPs weren’t typically in the cloud. Cloud-based software was far more expensive than hosting on-premises and there were concerns about potential security breaches.

In 2021, the cloud is everywhere. People use cloud services in nearly every aspect of life and computing. Incidents of cloud-hosted hacking are extremely rare whereas data breaches, such as ransomware, are happening more with on-premises software. If you do not have a security expert on staff, you probably should not have on-premises software. Cost comparisons show that the cloud is now cheaper.

It is best to look at cloud software in 2021. Security and the ubiquity of connecting to other services is superior in the cloud. ERP and CRM systems have developed to work in the cloud. Consider what the world will be like in 2031 and make the best long-term investment for your business.

Technology Platform

Picking a solution that fits the technology platform you have today will save you time and money.

Common platforms include Microsoft, Google / Slack / Salesforce, and Open Source (Linux / LibreOffice / Dropbox). Choosing a common platform has the benefits of an integrated solution, such as a single sign-on and increased security. Plus, your IT team may have more knowledge of common platforms than lesser-known alternatives.

Cost of Future Upgrades

Factor in the cost of future upgrades when deciding a platform. This is one of the biggest reasons why you should strongly consider a cloud solution.

Most on-premises software is updated every 2-3 years but requires an upgrade every 4-6 years. Upgrades often cost 25-75% of the initial implementation cost depending on the amount of customizations. Many companies do not uptake the latest code due to the cost of upgrading, which could be a security issue.

A key value proposition of being in the cloud is you never have to upgrade. Instead, regular updates, which are less extensive than upgrades, happen at least twice a year on cloud software. A testing process must be in place for updates.

Supportability of the Product

Ask these questions to understand long-term supportability:

  • Who provides support for the product?
  • How long will the version I buy be supported?
  • How many partners are there who specialize in this product?
  • How much information is available on the internet about this product?
  • How many internal staff are familiar with the product?

ERP Tiers

Tier 1 options are designed to work with enterprises. Large companies typically choose one of the following:

  • SAP
  • Oracle
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management
  • Infor

Tier 2 are good solutions for the mid-market:

  • NetSuite
  • Epicor
  • IFS
  • Deltex
  • Sage
  • And many more

Tier 3 includes hundreds of small or niche ERP software solutions, but this tier has a few drawbacks. These solutions are not highly extensible, your team will most likely not be familiar with them, and you probably won’t have many support options. If you’re considering a tier 3 system, it needs to be a great fit and you need to be comfortable with the support team and upgrade process.

Panorama Consulting’s ERP Vendor Database is a good resource to compare ERP tiers and vendors.

2021 ERP titans: SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Infor

CRM Software

The top enterprise options for CRM software are Salesforce and Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. CRM solutions can also be included with an ERP system, such as SAP CRM, Oracle CRM, and NetSuite CRM. These are generally not as highly rated as Salesforce or D365 CE, but they have the added benefit of being in the same data structure as the ERP.

Other CRM solutions are small business focused:

  • Zoho
  • Odoo
  • Act!
  • HubSpot
  • Agile CRM
  • Sugar CRM

CRM includes sales, marketing, customer service, field service, connected data, and third party applications

Consider which ERP or CRM solution will fit the size and scale of your company.

Check out additional blog posts in this series: Part 3: Implementer and Part 4: Cost.

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