Choosing the right software for your business is a key factor in getting things right – for your staff, your customers, and, most importantly, your bottom line. But how should SMEs go about choosing the best provider? Our resident expert, Statii Director Mark Thornhill gives his advice on the right questions SME leaders should ask when selecting ERP software.
Selecting ERP Software
An important area of successful business that is all too often overlooked is in the choosing of the best suppliers. We all know that to progress you need a great product which you market and sell – but to truly succeed, not only do you need to make and sell well, you also need to buy well. That means conducting proper research into the marketplace for the suppliers you can work with, who will reward your loyalty by offering you quality at a great price, and whose products won’t let you down.
Perhaps one of the most important things SMEs need to get right when sourcing suppliers is in their own software systems. The right model will have a positive knock-on effect on all parts of the business, from accounts management to customer invoices, and it’s a crucial thing properly to iron out. Selecting ERP software which is perfectly tailored to your needs sends out a message to employees and clients that you are committed to improving your business from the inside out, and that you aren’t cutting corners when it comes to something so necessary. That way you can also ensure that your staff are properly bought in to the company’s vision and advancement.
When researching the marketplace to find the perfect ERP software provider for you, it is important to keep an open-minded approach. If you can’t find quite the right solution out there, it may be that you need to think laterally and change your own business process systems in order to get the results you want. There is no ‘magic wand’ here, but hard work and patience in finding answers will always pay dividends.
There are many resources on the internet available for comparing software and making the selection process as easy as possible. One we come across often that is reliable and offers user reviews, is Capterra which is part of the Software Advice group.
Understanding your business
When you, the SME owner, are buying software, ask yourself: does this provider genuinely understand the ‘hands-on’ element of my business? This is a key question you need to satisfy yourself on before going any further. An all-singing, all-dancing system is all very well but you need to make sure that the provider is able to step outside the virtual world of the programmer and get to grips with what your company actually does. What functionality do you really need? Can it be tailored to fit your exact requirements? If your provider doesn’t ask you questions about the fundamental nature of your business, it could be a sign they’re not the right choice for you.
What are the risks?
Before selecting ERP software and signing on the dotted line, be prepared to ask some tough questions. Any SME owner must always be mindful of financial risk, so make sure you ask what will happen if the software system doesn’t work as it has been sold. What guarantees are you being offered in case things go wrong? Does your provider have a 24-hour helpdesk and engineers who will come in to fix things? Before making a decision, sit down and work out what the worst case scenarios would be for the business if the software went wrong – both financially and workflow wise – and make your decision based on that.
Do the financials stack up?
At Statii, the software company which I set up and run, we are passionate not only about promoting British manufacturing, but also in finding ways of improving both profitability and productivity of SMEs in the engineering sector. And that’s what you need to be looking for in any software system you are looking to install in your own business. It doesn’t just need to work well, it needs to be improving your profits into the bargain. So before you take the plunge and go with a provider, ask them this: “How soon would you envisage my getting a return on my investment in your system?” If the answer doesn’t include actual examples of clients who have seen an increase in profitability thanks to the software they have provided, alarm bells should start to ring. Have they got customer testimonials? How can you access them?
Check the small print
Last but not least, definitely do not fall into the trap of getting caught out by the small print in your software contract. When selecting ERP software check and double check practical details such as whether it will cost you extra to have your provider’s engineers come to your offices to install the system. What exactly is included in the aftercare package? Are there any hidden costs?
Once you are satisfied on all these points, go for it and good luck!