No matter if you develop business software, cars or washing machines, companies face relentless pressure to enable new business opportunities and user experiences. But as important as it is to keep pace with the demands of a changing market, companies need to follow a safe and cost efficient path to innovation, writes Thabo Ndlela, non-executive director of IFS South Africa.
The right enterprise application suite can provide a robust platform for innovation, so that companies can benefit from new technologies, business models and user experiences over time with a low and competitive total cost of ownership (TCO). For most companies, enterprise resource planning (ERP) is the most important technology they will implement to run their business.
The trick is, knowing how to choose the right one and what will help you succeed.
When considering which ERP solution to choose, asking your prospective vendor these 10 questions as a helpful starting point:
* Does the software appeal to today’s workers? You need a user experience that is attractive, intuitive and efficient for any type of user within your company.
* Is the software easy and efficient to modify and maintain? Can you to tailor it to fit your specific needs over time in a way that doesn’t impede upgrading to the latest release to benefit from new features?
* Does the software enable modular implementation? Choose software built on components that allow you to choose only the ones you need, and add new ones as you need them.
* Can the software be implemented as a global, single-instance application? This will let you reduce complexity and cost while providing insights and analysis at a much faster speed.
* Is there a non-disruptive upgrade capability available? An ERP system shouldn’t be seen as a one-off software implementation, but as a platform – a technology strategy – for business innovation over time.
* Can the software be extended as business demands change? A modern ERP system should offer a layered application architecture that facilitates the development and management of different types of code changes such as localisations, customisations and configurations.
* Does the software provide different deployment options? Consider your need for a software solution that enables full-suite deployment or deployment as either the backbone or point-solution for key processes in a two-tier application strategy that embraces the cloud and on-premises solutions.
* Can you, as the customer, influence product development? Your preferred vendor should have an agile development approach where product requirements are collected and prioritised in close collaboration with industry specialists in the customer base.
* Does the vendor’s R&D organisation include a workspace to drive disruptive innovation? Conceptual products and prototypes will not always result in a launched product for various reasons, and that’s the purpose of prototyping. Ask the software vendor how they work with the innovation selection and development process.
* Are you offered references to customers using the evaluated software package? Ask for customer reference calls and site visits to learn from other customers’ experiences of implementing and using the software, including their experiences of collaborating with the vendor’s implementation staff, product development department and partners.
Selecting and deploying the right business software is an important and strategic decision for any company. A starting approach such as the one I’ve outlined works very well for our customers. It can work well for you, too.