How to choose the right software partner
Choosing the right software partner is the foundation of successfully implementing a new ERP system. The supplier you choose is key to ensuring ROI on your investment because it’ll determine how smooth the migration process is, how well your employees are trained and the ongoing support you’ll receive to ensure you're maximising your investment.
Ultimately, the majority of business software solutions on the market appear to offer comparable core features and functionality because all ERP systems aim to streamline and connect your business processes, but you need to find a software partner that aims to maximise your business success to receive the ultimate return on your investment.
Your business requirements
The software and supplier you choose will be based on your business goals, aims and strategy. Your business plans will determine what you’re looking for in the software and so will your current situation. Are you investing in an ERP for the first time, are you moving suppliers or are you looking for a bigger, more sophisticated solution?
When creating your list of requirements look at both essential and wish list features. These will likely be based on the way you currently work and your expectations of your software against where you’d like to be in the future. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What functionality is business critical?
- How can the software improve the efficiency of your current processes?
- Where are the current pain points in your business processes?
- What niche or special requirements does your industry demand?
- How can the software help you achieve your future goals?
- What are the differing needs of the departments within your business?
Having a clear list of necessities and wish list features, based on your current and future business goals, will help you to make a clearer decision when choosing a software partner that’s a good fit to your business.
Choosing your software provider
Now you have your business requirements it’s time to start shortlisting the software providers that suit your needs. A lot of these considerations will need more than just simply looking at a web page and viewing a demo. Take the time out to meet your potential providers so you can see if a relationship is possible between both businesses. Outside of the software features and functionality, be sure to consider the following 6 key areas that make a quality software partner:
It’s important to make sure your investment is future proofed, and this means ensuring the technology and software you invest in has regular updates and ongoing development. Ask to look at the software road map plans with the providers so you can be sure that your software will be supported in the future, will continue to be refreshed and updated and also be developed in line with any future government schemes like Making Tax Digital.
Vendor or author
Are you dealing with a reseller or the author and creator of the software? Does this affect how the support is provided and whether you can implement additional development work post implementation? How big is the company? Are you looking for a personal experience and a responsive service or are you searching for a large, household name? Each option has its own pros and cons, but it’s important to choose what’s right for your business moving forward.
Support & training
Your software can only be as good as its users, so the quality and availability of training and support is key to the success of the software, right from implementation. Be sure to be clear on the migration process and how your employees will be trained and prepared for the new system. You should also consider: what levels of support do they provide? Is there access to training after go live? Do they offer a customer portal with help and advice? Are you assigned a personal Account Manager?
Industry requirements & suitability
You may have covered this within your initial business requirements phase but it’s important to know if the software is right for your industry and business type. Are you a wholesaler, distributor, manufacturer, retailer? Do you have specific needs within your vertical that require you to have specific stock, purchasing, warehouse or order processing functionality? Ask to see case studies of their customers within your industry and even ask to visit or speak to those customers so you can compare similarities to give you peace of mind.
Data security & hosting options
Future-proofing your business doesn’t get more important that protecting your data. When selecting your software partner first decide whether you want an on-premise or cloud hosting solution and be sure to find out if your supplier can accommodate your needs. Secondly, find out how they will protect your data. Do they have services or trusted providers to supply you with disaster recovery and back up solutions so ensure you never lose your customer, product or supplier data in an accident and do they have cyber security services that can assist and train your staff to be aware of phishing emails and as well as provide products to protect your data from cyber-attacks.
Business support, partnership & future success
To truly future proof your investment, consider factors beyond the software system itself and look at the provider and whether they can become the software partner you need to take your business to the next level. How will they support not only the product but also your business to help you meet your goals? Are they committed to their customers and their success and provide guidance and support to maximise your investment? This is always difficult to find out when in your research phase, but try to find reviews, speak to their existing customers, visit the providers at events and complete a business process review, if they offer one, so you can make the best decision.