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Rolling out an ERP software: don’t waste too much time on specifications

By Jean-Baptiste Sachot, 11:00 PM on September 19, 2017


ERP software is your company’s backbone and its features dictate how your staff work. So it’s only normal that you want to draw up a list of ERP specifications before any consultation with a vendor. But watch out! Your never-ending list, encompassing each department’s heart’s desire, could end up being useless. And here’s why.

The critical step: review how your company operates

Before drawing up the list of specifications for your future ERP, you should run a comprehensive review. This is your chance to pinpoint redundant tasks and any existing working practices that could be simplified. Run an in-depth examination of how you could improve your company’s operations. Only after this review can you step back and look at the tools you could use.

Rolling out an ERP solution is not an easy thing to do. Companies keen to get it right often invest heavily in drafting their specifications. The master list covering what various departments and users need, either managed in-house by specific teams or by a project manager, or externally by a project implementation consultant, can only come into being after a lengthy fact-finding period. Besides the list of requirements, you’ll also need to send the software publisher/integrator a short description of the company (market position, turnover, growth projections, etc.).

ERP specifications: a fool’s game?

So, users have told you their hearts’ desires. And you’ve sent off your wish list. But from the off, everyone knows that the software will be standard, not made to measure. In the end, you simply won’t get everything on this lovely, long wish list, so you will end up with some disappointed users.

The time you dedicate to reviewing what your company needs and drafting your list of specifications could, therefore, become the source of a lot of frustration. Everyone who expressed an idea (and whom you listened to) felt that their opinion mattered. After all, the vendor or integrator said that anything was possible and the tool could be tailored to any request. But you will have to choose from existing packages and this will inevitably cause some upset.

Read more: How to convince your board that your company needs an ERP solution.

The key to success: identify your must-haves

The classic mistake is to spend lots of time drawing up a long list of specifications, covering all (or nearly all) of the things your users want, without thinking about the software-specific or operational realities. You’ll end up with an ERP solution that’s a dubious and disappointing compromise and one that fails to live up to everyone’s expectations. You should, therefore, prioritise your needs from the get-go.

But how? Ask each department what they really need. What are their must-haves? What features can they not live without? That doesn’t mean that you can disregard any secondary needs, but you can just put them on a separate list: the “nice-to-haves”.

You can then spend the time you have saved on workshops with vendors or integrators, featuring practical and tailored tool demos, for example. Invite a mix of end-users to these workshops so that they can also find out whether their wishes can be granted. The users will then base their choices on tangible arguments. The motto is “show, don’t tell”. This process will minimise any potential upset when you roll out the tool.

Spending too much time listing internal procedures and departmental needs can have adverse effects: users may become frustrated and publishers/integrators keen to sign off on the contract may be tempted to say yes to your every wish, even the impossible ones. When a company considers choosing an existing solution, writing a wish list is a waste of time. Start off on the right foot: it’s better to make a list of your priorities and use the time you’ll save on additional specific demos and training sessions for users. Choose a solution that exists, not the one of your dreams!

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