Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Path to ERP for Small Businesses

When looking for business software, small companies might fall into the trap of being selected instead of selecting vendors. This usually happens because small companies do not allocate extensive time and resources to the process and do not have selection methodologies, which help decision makers select a product without further investigation.

Not every company takes advantage of a sound software selection methodology. The good news is that other companies have been through complex selection projects before, built sophisticated tools, and developed processes to make it solid, speedy, and successful. This article will broadly review the phases involved in a well-organized software selection methodology. Adhering to a sound methodology helps ensure that you select the right software rather than risk wasting money on all the problems that can arise down the road from a selection, which fails to meet the needs of your organization.

No matter which methodology you use, the process has three main phases: A) research, B) evaluation, and C) selection.

You know what your main activities are; therefore you should have a pretty good idea which processes the best ERP system for your organization should support. But, since there are several ways to do the same thing (e.g., picking and shipping), do you know which way is easier and more efficient for your organization? Remember, just because a process or workflow works well, it does not mean it’s the best way to do it. You should always find ways to improve a process or workflow.

To make sure you find the best ERP system for you company, you must first understand what processes are the most appropriate for your organization. Appropriate, in this case, means suitable for your industry, but also efficient for your company (sometimes processes are defined along the way by people who try to make their life easier, not always including the others) Defining workflows for the major activities of your company will help you better define what you should expect an ERP solution to do for your organization.

At the end of the research stage, you should have a pretty good idea of your company’s software requirements and also have a comprehensive list of sources of information where you can find what you need for the next stage—comparable vendors and products best suited for your organization.