How to Pick an ERP System that Benefits the Entire Company

ERP projects touch all aspects of a business. Small- and medium-sized companies can typically only afford to have one person do most of the research and that person usually ends up having the most influence over the selection.

Unfortunately, this scenario often results in missing opportunities to make other departments more efficient, as the person doing the research rarely knows the most pressing business problems in the other departments.

If you happen to find yourself in this situation, then read on as I’m going to share with you the questions that you should ask other departments that will help you solve their problems as well as yours. The business will get more value from the ERP project and you’ll be helping your co-workers rather than forcing changes on them that primarily benefit you.

Questions to ask Senior Management

Are you really committed to purchasing an ERP system and committing everyone’s time and effort to make it work?

What are the specific benefits you expect to get from an ERP system? How long do you expect it will take to realize the benefits? In other words, what are the goalposts of a successful implementation?

Are you aware of other companies that have gone through a similar project, and what have you learned from the experience that those business owners had?


Questions to ask Everyone

Has anyone ever successfully used or implemented an ERP system? What did you like and dislike about that system and the project?

Which features of your current system do you love? Are there any features that you can’t do without?

Which features of your current system do you hate or find annoying?

List all of the software systems you currently use in your job, e.g. ERP, Excel, CAD, etc. Briefly describe how the data passes from system to system. For example, where does the production schedule data come from?

What task takes the most time out of your day that really should be automated?

Which metrics do you wish for, but currently cannot get because the data doesn’t exist, or it’s too difficult (e.g. data is scattered across separate systems; takes too long to manually crunch data, close the month, etc.)?

Which pockets of data are scattered among multiple departments, such as customer information, that would benefit from being brought together into a single source available to everyone?

Questions to ask Finance

Which of the following are your biggest challenges?

  • Getting data on a timely basis to complete billing, payments: Are you continually chasing documentation and deadlines?
  • Inventory management and control: Are you experiencing write-offs consistently?
  • Asset management: Do you have a handle on everything the company owns, where it is and what is its condition?
  • Financial reporting: Is it timely enough? Are there big pushes every month to get basic reporting out?
  • Operations reporting: Is any daily or weekly financial reporting done? Would it help?

Questions to ask Production

Which of the following are your biggest challenges?

  • Knowing what to produce and when: Are you making a combination of educated guesses and reacting to what’s suddenly urgent to schedule production?
  • Inventory accuracy/managing materials: Are shortages causing havoc in production?
  • Managing capacity: Is a lack of visibility into the loading on work stations causing you to juggle jobs or run overtime?

Questions to ask Purchasing

Which of the following are your biggest challenges?

  • Knowing what to buy and when: Are you making a combination of educated guesses and reacting to what’s suddenly urgent?
  • Inventory accuracy: Do you order more just to be safe resulting in too much inventory? Or do you not order thinking you have enough inventory and then you run out?

Questions to ask IT

Do we need the ERP system to be on premise? In the cloud? Or is either option fine?

Do we need to integrate any internal or third-party systems with ERP? If so, what do the internal systems do and which systems need replacing?

Do we have an accurate inventory of systems that would be replaced and who owns them now?

Questions to ask Sales

What visibility or data do you need from other departments to help you satisfy your customers? Does any of this data need to be on mobile devices?

Do you have effective tools to create quotes and turn them into sales orders?

What process do you currently use to communicate customer demand to your company?

Questions to ask Trusted Customers and Suppliers

Ask some of your most trusted customers and suppliers to give you their honest opinions on what you could do better.

What pains do they usually experience when doing business with you vs. other companies?

What information do they need from you or want to exchange with you?

Using these questions

These questions aren’t exhaustive, for example, we have a much longer list of questions for CFOs. They will, however, help you have the right conversations before selecting a system and ensure that everyone affected has a chance at making their work easier and more efficient. And you will do it in a way that doesn’t add a huge amount of work for everyone involved. Before you begin, remember to read our tips for starting an ERP project.

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