The path to selecting a new business management solution is never an easy one. From realizing that your current product can’t deliver to convincing your team it’s time to make a switch to evaluating the dozens of potential vendors who could serve you, everything starts to blend together.
As we start to approach our final articles in our series on outgrowing QuickBooks, we would like to discuss today one of the most challenging parts of the process—making your decision.
Request proposals from the suppliers on your short list. Share your requirements definition and any other information they might need to prepare a proper proposal for you.
Make sure that they include all implementation costs including data migration, user training, consultation help, and on-going costs so you can develop a true TOTAL cost of ownership for the time period you designated in your ROI analysis.
Stack your vendors up: Criteria, hands-on demos, and references.
With your shortlist in place, now it’s time to dig in. In this phase, you want to know how the software works, stack up vendors against your expectations, and hear from users similar to you.
One of the best ways to get here is to evaluate your potential vendors by the priorities you’ve set earlier. You already know what you need, what you want, and what you may need in the future from your early-stage discussions with end users. You’ve likely cut vendors out because of these criteria.
Now it’s time to reevaluate and finalize your priorities and compare each vendor side by side on their ability to deliver. Looking for an easier way to do this?
Check out this helpful checklist that allows you to compare vendors on their ability to deliver productivity, functionality, technology, value, and minimized risk. Be sure to keep this list on hand—and print a few dozen copies—for the next step as well.
See what you’re getting.
As you evaluate your finalists (both vendors and implementation partners), you need to see what you’re getting. The demonstration process is built to help you understand this and will provide a lot of necessary information for your executives and end users.
Prepare a list that includes everything you need to see and be sure to include departments and user communities in the process so end users can get an introduction to the look-and-feel, process flow, and usability of each system.
A couple pieces of advice:
- Stick to the script. Don’t get wowed by features and functions that your company does not need.
- It’s a comparison of who’s best for you. Remember the demo is not a competition of what product is better than the other, it is a test to see if the product meets your needs.
Learn more about who you’ll be working with.
Perhaps the best way to understand each of the vendors on your shortlist is to hear from the people who already know how they work—the current customers. While case studies are great and vetted and verified reviews are even better, hearing directly from a current customer is a way to hear an unfiltered and honest analysis. Many reviews are written during the honeymoon phase, so it’s ideal to see if they still feel the same way a few years later.
Ask them about the software functionality and usability, the supplier’s support and responsiveness, and what they would do differently if they were just starting with this system. Ask about their successes and challenges during implementation and how well their chosen partners supported their needs during the implementation.
Take another look at ROI.
In our earlier blog on securing the initial go-ahead from the C-suite, we mentioned that “calculating ROI should be done at a couple points in the ERP decision.” The initial analysis was designed to prove that an ERP move would be worthwhile, that it’s more costly to do nothing, and that your executives should back the investment.
While your initial analysis was completed without a quote in hand, now that you are closing in on your final selection, you have real numbers in hand, and can complete a more accurate ROI analysis.
Another note on ROI? Plan your costs accordingly. Depending on licensing and whether you are choosing the cloud or on-premises, costs may be recognized at different points or you may have to factor in hardware replacements.
Make sure that you are getting what was promised.
In our last blog in out outgrowing QuickBooks series, we looked at two key concepts important to developing your shortlist. First, we discussed the three-legged stool of ERP—functionality, ease of use, and support—noting that without one of these three legs, the entire solution falters. Second, we explored five criteria for evaluating vendors.
This is always an important idea, but often, it’s not enough. Too often, vendors and their implementation partners will put out a deal that’s too good to be true.
Whether it’s discussing functionality that doesn’t exist, misrepresenting the risks, promising impossible implementation schedules, or undercutting costs, it’s easy to fall into a trap set by unscrupulous vendors.
How to get an honest answer.
Sometimes, getting an honest answer from your vendor isn’t as easy as you’d expect.
There’s a difference between companies who promise ‘easy implementations’ and competent implementers. The former glosses over details, the latter tells you it’s going to be hard and will walk your people through the pitfalls.
Learn more about some of the most common traps set, including the bait and switch, the unbelievably fast and easy implementation, the ‘unbeatable’ price (that fails to account for training), and the ‘sign and milk’ in the Acumatica blog, How to Protect Your Company Against Unscrupulous Cloud Business Application Vendor Practices & EULA Games.
Choose, negotiate, and finalize.
Getting from finalist to finalized is never an easy task, but with the right advice and partner, you can settle on a solution that matches your price, value, and risk expectations. You have the proposals, you’ve seen the products, and you’ve heard from customers—now it’s time to select.
If the proposal is within your budget and delivers everything you want and need, you are very fortunate. Negotiations can be done within reason, but remember that you can’t sacrifice needed functionality, support, or ease of use to save money. Remember, this is an investment in the future of your company, and a little bit of cost savings today could lead to years of lost revenue.
Whether you’re just starting out or are already on the cusp of a decision, we’re here to help. NexTec Group started out over a quarter-century ago because we saw that few companies were able to deliver successful software implementations.