ERP: Find a partner, not a product

How do you choose an ERP system? Once upon a time, the process was fairly straightforward. Start by working out your requirements; compare those requirements with ERP vendors' offerings; draw up a shortlist; review the shortlist in detail—and voilà!—make your choice.

It's a process that has worked well for many years. But that isn't to say that it can be relied upon to continue working quite so well in the future, warns Jonathan Orme, sales and marketing manager at Exel Computer Systems.

Why? Because it's no longer possible to wholly rely on the premise that manufacturers' requirements and vendors' offerings are dissimilar enough to make such an exercise worthwhile.

"These days, many ERP vendors' offerings are broadly very similar," points out Orme. "Over the years, vendors have extended their offerings to add more and more functionality, and develop industry-specific solutions for more and more industries."

What's more, he adds, manufacturers are these days taking a much more mature view of their business processes, increasingly building them around standard ERP processes such as procure-to-pay, and order-to-cash. As a result, the number of manufacturers erroneously convinced that their own business requirements are unique continues to shrink, with many now seeing that although their products might be different from those of other manufacturers, their underlying business processes are actually broadly very similar.

Put the two developments together, argues Orme, and the ERP industry has evolved to the point where most of the solutions on offer can meet the majority of the requirements of most manufacturers.

At which point, he observes, manufacturers face an awkward choice: do they retain the existing requirements-based approach to ERP system selection, thereby shortlisting on increasingly marginal and operationally unimportant differences between systems – or should they be bold, and regard the requirements-based process as no longer wholly fit for purpose?


John Waddington (left) and Chris Brown (centre) from President Engineering Group atop Mt. Snowdon with Darrell Fone (right) from Exel. The three of them competed the ‘National Three Peaks Challenge' in 23 hours and 20 minutes, raising over £1,000 for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. Click here or on image above to link to story.