What ERP Assessment Approach Should Your Food and Beverage Business Use?
Investing in an ERP system is the biggest IT investment your food and beverage business will ever make.
So understandably, as a financial leader in your business, you might be a little uneasy about how to select ERP software that’s right for your unique business.
That’s why you’re looking for a structured, low-risk roadmap to ERP assessment that will lead to successful ERP implementation.
The following discussion outlines the four key phases to go through in your ERP assessment. But this post, like a tasty appetizer to the main course, is only an overview of the whole ERP evaluation process.
For an in-depth exploration of the ERP assessment approach we recommend, download our guide, “The Ultimate ERP Selection Guide for Your Food and Beverage Business: With Checklists, Questions, and Tips for a Successful ERP Project.”
STEP 1 | Carefully prepare your ERP evaluation process
Because your ERP system will transform every single facet of the way your business operates, your president and executive team must be wholeheartedly committed to the ERP project.
So your first task is to build a business case for this transformative project. As you dig into your business’ data and talk to colleagues to research your case — which may take weeks or even months — you want to answer questions such as, how will the ERP system improve:
- The efficiency of your operations?
For example, how will the automation of processes and radically reduced data entry (and human error) make the company more efficient and nimble? As you grow, how many people will you not hire due to ERP efficiencies?
- Reduce operational setbacks?
For example, how will improved inventory management and more accurate forecasting of raw material needs save time and money? Consider the savings in reduced production stoppages/slowdowns, overtime pay, delivery penalties, customer dissatisfaction, and so on.
- Provide more accurate sales projections?
In other words, how will greater visibility into your sales process improve focus on the right prospects and customers to sustain growth?
- Improve our cost accounting?
How will real-time views into production costs and sales profitability impact your decisions about production and sales?
In your business case, include all the cost-savings the performance enhancements noted above will provide.
STEP 2 | Determine your goals and needs
This preparation stage is vital to the success of your project. The goal is to define exactly which challenges the ERP will have to solve, now and in the years ahead.
Working with the key players on your team, you need to arrive at a consensus on where the business is going, what you’ll need on the way, and how you’re going to get there.
So, you’ll be evaluating and documenting your business’s challenges, mapping work processes, and listing what each business function needs.
Remember, you want to grow into your ERP instead of outstripping its capabilities in a few years. After all, you certainly don’t want to repeat this ERP assessment process on a regular basis.
Following your analysis, create a generally agreed-on checklist of ERP functions you want, and categorize them as essential, or beneficial, or simply nice-to-have.
Creating these checklists will require considerable time and thought, but the resulting document (i.e., the project requirements) will act as your baseline for assessing the responses of your potential ERP vendors.
Now that you’ve documented your needs and gathered all the necessary information to choose a system in the project requirements, it’s time to send your request for proposals (RFP) and a list of questions to ERP vendors.
Update your employees regularly
While you may be in regular contact with your ERP selection team, it’s critical that, from day one, you maintain honest on-going dialogue with all your employees. Schedule regular meetings and newsletters, and provide responsive support and training. After all, they’re the ones that will work with the system every day.
STEP 3 | List possible solutions
After reviewing and sorting vendor responses to your RFP and questionnaire, you’ll arrive at a shortlist of promising vendors. It’s time to move on to general demos with two or three of these vendors. This phase will allow you to concretely see ERP features at work using data or work scenarios you’ve provided.
Integrator vs. developer
Your shortlist may include integrators and developers. That’s because, among the hundreds of ERP systems available, some are sold by authorized distributors/integrators on behalf of developers, and others are sold by the developers directly.
In a nutshell, a developer makes their own ERP software, like Fidelio, whereas an integrator is an intermediary with no control over the product.
An integrator will surely do good work but if you wish to work with a team that knows their ERP system like the back of their hand — as opposed to one system among several they may be selling — then select a developer.
If you wish to eliminate the cost of intermediaries, you should work directly with a developer.
If you wish to entrust the implementation of your ERP to a team that has a vital stake in the success of your project, then work with a developer.
Another developer benefit: easier communication. Once again, no intermediaries! They’re a real development partner with whom you can create a close relationship — they’ll be with you as your small business grows.
STEP 4 | Choosing your ERP software
At product demonstration time, it’s critical that the activity focuses on your buisness' needs. So don’t let the vendor set the agenda of test scenarios to be presented. Have these scenarios address the opportunities you foresaw in your ERP planning process.
Schedule brief general demos (90 - 120 min.) with your top three vendors. Invite your super-users to participate.
And don’t let yourself be wowed by attractive features or an appealing price. The question you have to keep in mind is, “Does the ERP meet my business goals?”
Use the time with your potential vendor to ask some key questions, such as:
- Can your solution evolve based on our future needs, growth, and business practices?
- How will development and integrations to other software be invoiced?
- Are you using cloud technologies?
Remember, most ERPs have a lifespan of more than ten years. So when choosing an ERP, you’re not only choosing the software but also the vendor, a partner that you will work with for years to come.
More questions to test the fit with your potential ERP vendor
As we’ve noted, your relationship with the ERP vendor and their involvement is essential to the success of your project. To continue your exploration of fit with this vendor, ask questions like these:
- Do you have a good understanding of the food and beverage industry?
- Do you have in-depth knowledge of operational processes specific to the food and beverage industry? For example, do you understand the operational requirements of traceability, compliance, quarantines, and product recalls?
- Are you able to adapt the ERP to our business and help us choose features that best help us meet our goals? In other words, are you aware of food and beverage best practices?
- Will you be able to provide jargon-free training in our language?
- What evidence can you offer of your financial stability? (They need to be around as your small business grows.)
Keys to ERP project success
The success of your project will depend on the fit of your ERP with your business, your relationship with your ERP partner, and employee adoption.
Although intimidating at first sight, the process of selecting an ERP does not have to be painful or even complicated.
For a more in-depth review of the ERP assessment process, download our guide, “The Ultimate ERP Selection Guide for Your Food and Beverage Business: With Checklists, Questions, and Tips for a Successful ERP Project.”