Before you pitch an ERP solution to your board, you have to do some serious preparation. It’s very simple: without the board’s approval, you won’t get the software package. The first step is to set out why you want to use a new tool.You could be in one of two situations. In the first textbook situation, you simply want your teams to be more productive. In the second, you need to react to more specific circumstances: external growth, going public, new partners or other seismic changes. In either case, just how do you convince your board to adopt management software?
1. The textbook situation: a new ERP solution as a productivity boon
Why storytelling matters
This situation calls for a very simple approach: you have to tell the board a story that makes members feel part of your plan, even though they won’t be the ERP solution’s main users. Base this story on the results of a cross-departmental internal audit. This way you’ll have all the evidence you need to back up your plan. Besides very clearly showing that your existing tools aren’t up to the job (they’re slow, unreliable, tricky to use and don’t work how you need them to), your aim is to make the board see things from the users’ perspective.
Here’s an example. Tell the board about how you process an order and how it progresses through the IT system. Outline the errors and time losses that the teams have to deal with from first contact to billing:
- Repetitive data entry (quote, order, invoice, planning, etc.)
- Expensive interfaces
- Human errors
- Time spent creating reports
- Communication problems between teams, etc.
Use hard facts and clear data from your audit to describe the current situation. How much time on average do staff spend on tasks that don’t add any value? How much money does the company lose on these time-consuming tasks? In short, hit ‘em where it hurts!
See also: 7 lessons to make your ERP project fail.
At the end of your pitch, the board will realise that the situation cannot go on. But how do you fix it? This is your chance to give a few recommendations.
From diagnosis to treatment
Show the board a fully developed plan: you already know how you want the package to work. List your recommendations and always provide hard facts to back up your case. Here’s your ideal action plan:
- Identify the main challenges for each department
- Evaluate how much time you could save and which reporting steps you could automate or even get rid off
- Suggest which tasks you need to prioritize to get the tool up and running based on the observations that you have drawn from the first two steps
- Propose a list of end users to recruit for the project
- Recommend dashboards that meet staff needs
Show the board that by optimising some parts of the process your company could stop wasting time (and money) on thankless tasks – and that you could redirect the time you save to high added-value (or even billable) tasks. In short, put ROI at the heart of your pitch.
Last, from the get-go make sure that you identify possible ERP software companies with expertise in your area. Your board will recognise how well thought through your plan is, right down to the choice of supplier. You've been to various tool demos, you know companies that use these solutions and all you need is a green light... that should be a formality after your pitch.
2. Specific circumstances: major changes in the company
An ERP solution isn’t just for optimising internal company management. External factors or significant changes can also prompt a company to adopt a new tool. How should you put your position to the board?
External growth and stand-alone operations
Acquisitions, mergers, strategic partnerships, stand-alone operations...: there are so many situations that can justify using an ERP solution. When a company grows outwards, you naturally have to give new entrants the same tool as the parent company uses. And conversely when companies go solo they may want to develop their own ERP solution. Then again, new partners, investors or shareholders will naturally question the company’s habits. These upheavals create new needs, so it’s wise to deal with them as quickly as possible. How can an ERP solution help you in this case?
Today’s investors aren’t just satisfied with looking at reports into the cost effectiveness of products, the margins on each sale, potential clients and R&D. They also want to know about the company’s structure and the tools it uses. The better equipped the company, the more smoothly it operates and the more productive it is. So, a tailored and fully implemented ERP solution can really help to highlight a company’s assets.
When a company is first listed on the stock exchange, it will have to produce quarterly reports as a minimum. The market and shareholders depend on this information. So, the tiniest inaccuracy would give them reason to distrust the company – or even bring it to its knees. How can an ERP solution help you in this case?
Once a company has been floated, it can no longer afford to spend a few days cobbling together a homespun report. It’s not only a waste of time: you leave yourself open to human error. Your forecasts and results must be watertight to keep shareholders happy. An ERP solution tailored to the company’s needs will help the company streamline how it produces reports and do so in a faster, easier and standardised way. The upshot? You can meet all of the requirements of going public and minimise the risk of making any mistakes.
So, what is the secret to convincing your board to use an ERP solution? Use an audit to support your position, highlight how unsuitable your current tools are, make the board see things from the teams’ perspective and demonstrate that adopting the new tool is a win-win for the company: it will save time and money, it will automate tasks that don’t add value and it will enhance the company’s assets. Pepper your pitch with facts, figures and examples, suggest specific solutions and then you’ll win the day!