Buying ERP for your enterprise involves two separate but equally important considerations. First is the technology itself. Is it what will work for your company? Is it easily adapted to your needs? Does it align with your long-range IT strategic direction?
The second consideration is the relationship you will develop with your vendor. Vendors like to characterize this as a partnership, and in some cases, that is entirely accurate. What does this partnership look like? In some cases, this relationship is best left with some distance between the two companies; less like a partnership and more like a doctor/patient relationship.
Ultimately, both should be given careful consideration.
- What does your current IT operation look like?
- Are you a mainframe shop with a centralized IT department?
- Are you running servers that are distributed throughout your organization and structured as an extension of the departments or business functions they serve?
Should you limit your consideration to vendors supplying products for your existing environment or is it feasible or desirable for your organization to make a major shift in direction with the company’s IT strategy?
If you are a subsidiary organization, are you limited in your selections by corporate standards? How flexible are those standards?
Many larger organizations are finding value in localizing the IT operational preferences so that it better reflects the specific needs of the business at that location. Standardization for the sake of enterprise-wide consistency can be a goal with no particular reward.
How well the system might align with your employee capabilities and orientation is also important. What kind of learning curve will the new system require? Will your employees require a day, week or months to become productive in a new environment?
Finally consider the need for co-requisite software. What will you need to add or upgrade to accommodate the new system?
The other side of the buying equation is decidedly more subjective in nature. Here you have to look at vendors in the same way that potential roommates might consider one another. This gets into cultural compatibility.
If you are a smaller company and you have few resources to internally support, educate and maintain your systems, you may want to steer clear of larger vendors. Large vendors are devoted to large customers. Smaller vendors understand that relationship is the real differentiator in enterprise software. The big guy may try to care for you, but do they care about you?
This is the key—finding the right size vendor means a vendor that has the resources to take care of your needs, but also a vendor that truly values your contribution to their success.
Look at the release schedule associated with the product you are considering. Have they had a major release recently? Do they have regular periodic releases?
Let’s talk culture. Go out to dinner with some of their people. Visit their local office or even their Corporate headquarters. Do you feel comfortable with these people? Do you feel a sense of trust?
There is nothing wrong with interviewing the vendor in the same way you would interview a person. Get a feel for their values. Are they financially obsessed or do they look at their success in terms of the successes of their clients?
Your selection may well boil down to who you like the most. If you are thinking in terms of a partnership, you at least want to feel comfortable with your partner. Do you like them?
Finally, I would wrap this by saying that technology is important, but even great technology tied to a company with people who you don’t understand or like is dangerous.
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