Shopping for a manufacturing ERP software vendor is almost as difficult as shopping for the manufacturing ERP software itself – there are hundreds of them out there, but how can you tell which one is right fit for your business? Here are the three most important characteristics to look for in an ERP vendor to ensure that you are selecting the right partner for your business.
Integrity – These days, ERP vendors come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. A good first place to start for any vendor you are considering is to type their name and the word ‘lawsuit’ into a Google search, and see what turns up. Nothing cuts through vendor smooth talk like the black and white text of a Google search result.
Another thing to watch for is name changes. An ERP vendor that has changed names 4-5 times in the last 10-15 years isn’t going to be as structured and disciplined as one that has not. Changing names is often a result of getting bought out, merging with another solution, or some combination of the two. When a company is in a constant state of organizational change, you can bet that they won’t have as much time to devote to their software, as they will by nature have to invest more time overcoming all the product and staff integrations.
Another way to measure a vendor’s integrity, is what they demo verses what they sell. Most of the time vendors sell their solution piecemeal – meaning that there is a base of core functionality included in their ERP software, but there will also be modules that must be purchased separately that are not included. However, that won’t stop them from demoing everything to you. Make sure to ask what is included and what isn’t before the demo starts, so that you can avoid the dangerous hidden cost of ERP software modules.
Longevity – It goes without saying that a company that has been around for decades will naturally be more trustworthy than one that has only been around for 2-3 years. Ask how long the company has operated under its current name, and what the original name and purpose of the company/software was. Did it start out as financial software 15 years ago and morph into ERP 2 years ago, or has it always been ERP?
Equally important to how long the ERP vendor has been around, is how long the vendor’s clients have been around. A vendor that has numerous clients is one thing, a company that has numerous clients that have been using their product for 10-20 years is another. Clients staying with a company for long periods of time shows that the vendor is trustworthy, reliable, and continually improving their product to stay current with industry trends.
Industry Focus – Just because an ERP vendor has a great reputation as an manufacturing ERP software provider, that still does not guarantee that they will be a great fit for your business type. If you are an Engineer to Order (ETO) manufacturer, then it wouldn’t makes sense to purchase your ERP software from a highly recommended Distribution ERP software provider – it simply won’t match your business processes and manufacturing style.
Also, be wary of the one size fits all approach. Just because a solution can be used to match your business processes, doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. If you wanted to buy the best can opener possible for your home kitchen, you wouldn’t even think about buying a Swiss Army knife for the job.
Sure, Swiss Army is a great brand (they make great watches, backpacks, luggage, etc.), and yesthe Swiss Army knife does have a can opener. But, you need a good can opener to reliably open your cans quickly and easily, not something you’ll have to fiddle with every time you get it out – dodging 3 different kinds of screw drivers, the scissors, tweezers, and magnifying glass just to get to the can opener. Buy what fits, not what could fit.
Likewise, just because an ERP vendor is large, that doesn’t mean that they will have all of their resources dedicated to the specific ERP software (can opener) you want to buy. Look for an ERP vendor that is committed and invested in your business type. They will understand your mode of manufacturing and processes much quicker than a vendor who isn’t as specialized, which should save you both valuable time and money.