Manufacturers have been moving to the cloud, looking for new and innovative ways to succeed in the global marketplace. But there are so many vendors offering cloud ERP software with seemingly similar features that is difficult to differentiate between them. The pressures of the business can cause an organization to rush into a solution without fully evaluating it, resulting in costly problems down the road.
Manufacturers can make the right choice by following these important steps when evaluating cloud ERP solutions:
1. Gather Business Requirements
Knowing your requirements is the most important step in the cloud ERP evaluation process. This step should not be rushed. Your organization has pain points – what are they? Your customers have changing needs – how have they and how will they change over the next several years? What functions does your business absolutely need that your current system cannot perform? During this step, management and IT should meet to identify your firm’s high-level goals, and then get opinions from all stakeholders, from vice presidents and managers to production workers and office staff.
Once you have gathered all of your business requirements, it is helpful to rank them as must-haves or nice-to-haves. When you start evaluating specific solutions from vendors, their software must be able to satisfy all of your must-have requirements.
2. Find Vendors with Manufacturing Industry Knowledge
There are vendors who claim to provide solutions for manufacturers. Upon closer inspection, however, some of these solutions are not based on real manufacturing industry experience and lack important features. The cloud ERP software for manufacturing that you ultimately choose should be backed by industry experience and must be able to solve challenges specific to your sector, according to Panama Consulting Solutions.
Create a shortlist of vendors with true manufacturing experience, such as Rootstock Software on Salesforce. Question each vendor carefully to gauge their knowledge of your industry and the challenges specific to manufacturing. The answers they provide should help you decide whether their cloud ERP solution can support your business.
3. Determine Costs
Of course, pricing is a critical part of choosing a cloud ERP vendor. Now that you’ve come up with a list of vendors who know your business, you can ask them for detailed price quotes and compare them.
More important in this step is the total cost of ownership. What are the up front expenses and what are the long-term costs? When evaluating costs, always think in terms of your return on investment.
4. Get References
The best manufacturing software vendors will always provide references. Always get references from cloud ERP vendors. Always contact the references. When you speak to a vendor’s references, be sure to ask tough questions. Be sure to get detailed answers about any issues these customers had with the software or the vendor. The challenges that references may have experienced can speak volumes about the vendor’s solution.
5. Get a Live Demo
The last important step in the software evaluation process is the demo. You want to see the software live in action. Come to the demo prepared with brief scripts that describe specific processes or workflows that you want to evaluate. When trying out the software, look for potential issues; such as navigation, usability issues and bugs; and check all of the functions that you have identified as critical to your business.
After each demonstration, pull your entire team together to review the demo and compare notes. Does the software do what it’s supposed to do? Can it handle your firm’s specific pain points?
The evaluation process cannot be rushed or skipped. Each of the steps described above can be further broken down into more detailed steps; the more careful you are evaluating cloud ERP for manufacturing solutions, the more informed choice you will be able to make. It’s also critical that management and all stakeholders participate in the evaluation process.