Evaluating potential accounting and ERP solutions for your organization can be an overwhelming and time-consuming task. We have all heard the stories of uber-costly implementations that went awry, or even worse, software that was purchased and never utilized to its fullest potential.
Although much has been written on the ERP selection process, there are ultimately 10 things to consider when making a smart investment decision.
- Required Functionality. While the following nine factors are undoubtedly important in gauging a positive return on investment, the most critical factor in successfully selecting an accounting/ERP system is identifying the main requirements you need to efficiently run your business. Think of required functionality as the “meat and potatoes” of your ERP solution and the rest of the features as the “bells and whistles.” Narrow your search on the necessities and the rest should fall into place.
- Common Platform/Technology. A widely-accepted and supported platform will provide protection against low availability/high-cost software, as well as technical-support labor. The more common the platform and technology, the more choices you will have for add-on products for your industry. And greater competition equates to reasonably-priced products and services. (That is why ePartners chooses to work with familiar Microsoft technologies, such as Windows, SQL Server and SharePoint.)
- Readily-Available Resources to Support your Solution. Selecting an ERP solution that is broadly recognized and practiced means that you will readily find resources for implementation and support. Look for a solution that has a large number of certified partners from which to choose, as well as a wealth of options for call centers, support plans and teams that are cross-trained on accounting and related systems, such as server and connectivity products.
- Total Cost of Ownership. When you are evaluating a solution, consider that all dollars are created equal – including the software, implementation services, hardware and ongoing maintenance, internal FTEs to support the system, and the cost of upgrades. All of these functions are uniformly important to achieving a positive, rapid ROI. In an age of software discounts, you may think you are getting a great deal at the time, but years of implementation costs and pricey customizations can erode your return on investment, or eliminate it altogether.
- Protection Against Obsolescence. Software consolidations and buyouts are more prevalent than ever, so looking for a support guaranty on your ERP solution is essential. Without a support guaranty, you are at risk for the hidden costs of mandatory upgrades if the publisher decides to discontinue support for your current shipping product or sell the product to another company. (Microsoft guarantees support for its currently shipping products for a minimum of five years, and many are on track to be supported for over 10 years.)
- Cap on Annual Support Fees. Most software companies have an annual fee which often includes software updates and support, but can also incorporate research and development on future releases. Microsoft Dynamics Enhancement Fees are locked in and do not increase, unless you purchase additional components to your software.
- Powerful Business Intelligence/Decision Support. The payoff for any accounting/ERP system is the effective use of its data. Most systems do a fine job at efficiently processing transactions, but consider how data can ultimately be accessed and utilized to provide a competitive advantage to the organization’s decision-making, intelligence and growth capabilities.
- Software Publisher Expertise and Financial Stability. Ever purchased a system and the software publisher went out of business or got acquired by another company? Chances are your product support was dropped. It’s not as uncommon as you might think. Consider the software publisher’s expertise and staying power in the market before signing on the dotted line.
- Familiarity for Fast User Adoption. Your success depends on how comfortable your users are with learning the new ERP system and their willingness to embrace change. Microsoft Dynamics looks like (and often plugs into) Microsoft Office for unparalleled familiarity and fast user adoption.
- Safety in Numbers. Software stability is largely dependent on how many companies currently bug-proof it in actual production environments. Look for an ERP solution that is widely accepted and used by similar companies in your industry.