ERP Shortlist Evaluation
Once you have assembled your ERP vendor shortlist, pressure escalates rapidly. ERP evaluation is not an easy task; the ERP community suddenly gets very small and gossipy during the sales cycle.
The actual process of ERP evaluation is pretty thorough, and pretty exhausting, so go into it as well rested and mentally balanced as you can. After you have the ERP software shortlist, you should contact each sales rep and let them know they will be receiving an RFP (request for proposal) which is to be based on your ERP requirements (from your requirements gathering study). As with an RFI, get professional help to assemble the RFP, because the ultimate value will be in having written documentation that details each different vendor’s value proposition.
There will be at least two separate sets of long meetings with each ERP vendor during the ERP evaluation process. The first is for the ERP vendors to question you, making certain they understand fully your ERP requirements list, your hot button list, your business model, whatever strategic advantages today’s software has, and trying to uncover any critical criteria not covered by the RFP/requirements list.
Question Their Proposals
The second set of meetings is for the ERP vendors to present their proposal, and for you to question it. This is really the most critical step in the whole process of ERP evaluation, because it is during this step that you develop all of the intangible feelings about how well or poorly the software – and vendor partnership – would fit.
This is a tricky step, because ERP vendors are going to give a presentation –mostly in the form of software demos - that highlight all of their advantages, and hide or downplay all of their weaknesses. You do not want to start the ERP evaluation process by being cynical or distrustful, but you do have an obligation to your organization to probe beyond the surface discussion. “Trust but verify” is applicable to ERP evaluation as well as foreign policy. A good verification technique, if an ERP vendor knows he has a legitimate shot at the business, is to have him set you up with reference calls to existing customers. This gives you a chance to discuss - in private – the ERP software with a business peer who is using it. Even here, though, remember that the vendor will arrange a reference with a satisfied customer, and it will be up to you to probe.
It is not unusual to find that after the RFP response meeting, when you and your team regroup and begin talking, big areas of different understanding, and gaps in understanding emerge. If that is the case, do not hesitate to schedule yet a third meeting with the sales team, specifically to discuss these disconnect points. Ultimately, schedule as many ERP vendor meetings as it takes – making decisions regarding ERP is often difficult but you cannot afford to get these decisions wrong during ERP evaluation and ERP vendors cannot afford not to answer your questions.
After a point, though, there are no more questions, no more meetings; it’s time to ask for price quotes.
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