Four questions to ask before buying a public sector ERP

“The public sector” are words that describe a very wide variety of entities. These range from entire nations to tiny mosquito abatement districts. Here are some thought that might help you select the right one for your organization.

1. Will this public sector ERP fit my domain?

If an ERP seems to require an entire department of IT professionals to manage it and your public works department mainly fills potholes in the roads in your rural county this might not be a good fit. Beyond size, look at your mission. A hospital has medical requirements that are of no concern to a property tax assessor office. If your ERP requirement is for a national ministry of defense, your needs could suggest a completely custom ERP as no off-the-shelf product could ever satisfy your requirements. You want a solution that works. Remember, a public sector ERP is a tool you can use to help in your mission. Be sure you can work the tool too.

2. What is a realistic time for complete implementation?

Any quick internet search will yield examples of failed public sector ERP implementations and others that have been in process for years and still are not providing the promised value. Read about some of these failures and try to understand why, and what a good implementation process includes. If your prospective vendor says implementation can be done in six to nine weeks, you have some basis to understand that reply. Since you manage a police department with 8,000 officers you might suspect a problem.  

Use this 60-step ERP selection checklist to help nail down your requirements for public sector ERP

Beyond time for implementation, be careful to avoid assumptions. If that nine-week implementation can be done using only the vendors employees and contractors, will it really meet what you want? If it includes manpower from your resources, do you have that manpower available?

3. What skills and resources will we need to have to implement and then operate this ERP?

You have 8,000 police officers. They are pretty good at investigating and preventing crimes. Do they have the skills to implement and operate an ERP too? Of course not. The implementation phase is temporary.  You can add short-term people and use people provided by your vendor. Once implemented, there are other needs to continue a value-adding ERP system for the long term.  

Will you hire and maintain those people? Or can you run your ERP in the cloud with your vendor or another outside contractor providing the people? Neither answer is wrong but to use an ERP you need to keeping it running, which costs money. Using that public sector ERP also means people on staff now will need to change the way they work. Who will help with change management?  It must be done.

4. Will this ERP completely meet my requirements?

You and your team have that list of requirements and nice-to-have additions. Ideally the ERP can meet all these with no customization. Implementation should be faster and the ERP provider should be able to support the system over time. If customization is required, someone must write the code and be available to update it over time as needs evolve. The ERP provider might no longer be able to support the part of the system that was customized. Be sure to understand fully what happens after any customization. Double check whether  if your needs can be met using the basic ERP with some workarounds before committing to customization

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle. Contact Tom at customerteam@erpfocus.com.

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Tom Miller