Before committing to an ERP vendor, it is essential that you insist on receiving an ERP demo in advance. Since the goal of any ERP is for it to become an essential part of your daily operations and long-term growth strategy, you want to have every confidence you’re committing to the right vendor. An ERP demo is a way to look past the stock sales pitch and get a more honest understanding of what an ERP solution and the vendor who offers it can and cannot do for your company.
Here are the five things you should be sure to get:
1. Sense of Costs
Obviously, this is an essential consideration when evaluating any major new piece of IT. And while it may not be possible for a vendor to quote you an exact dollar amount before, during, or immediately after the ERP demo, they should be able to give you a sense of how the solution will fit into your finances.
Be sure to investigate both the upfront costs and the long-term costs. Find out how the pricing structure works if you decide to grow your capabilities. Finally, find out if the agreement you sign subjects you to any fines, fees, or penalties.
2. Explanation of Capabilities
You probably have a general understanding of how ERP works in practice. The ERP demo is a way to go beyond generalizations and really evaluate what a particular ERP solution can do and how it will integrate with your existing workflows and ongoing priorities. ERP applications come in many forms, and not all or even most will be ideally suited for the way you do things.
Consider the features, capabilities, and interfaces, as well as the impact the solution will have on your IT management requirements.
3. Timeline for Implementation
This is a major area of deviation between various ERP vendors. Some will offer the fastest implementation possible, while others will want to prolong the process so that you have the strongest possible solution starting on day one. Both speed and depth should be your priorities, but you can get a sense of the appropriate timeline for your needs by considering why you want to implement an ERP and when you need those capabilities to be up and running.
4. Options for Customization
A vendor will likely come to you with an ERP that gives a broad overview of its capabilities and requirements. Those are important to consider, but an out-of-the-box ERP solution is not ideal for any enterprise.
Get a sense of how the vendor you’re vetting can customize its ERP to the unique needs of your company, the qualities of the data you work with, and the flexibility of the system as a whole. A vendor may not be able to go deeply into specifics, but they should be able to make you feel confident that their solution is the best one for your requirements.
5. Extras from the Vendor
An ERP demo is a chance to evaluate not just the ERP product but the vendor as well. The quality of the vendor you work with has a huge impact on the value of your ERP over the long term. You will want to work with a company that is serious about the implementation, committed to providing a broad and deep level of customer service, and actively working to help clients optimize their ERP.
Focusing on the vendor is especially important if you are considering cloud ERP, because the vendor will be directly involved with the maintenance, monitoring, and security of the system you rely on.
If an ERP demo turns you off for any reason, keep in mind that there are lots of options on the market. And if you find yourself duly impressed, spend some time doing further research into the company and its competitors before making any final commitments. The goal of the ERP demo and the entire vetting process is to help you identify the vendor you can form a long-term partnership with.