Let’s face it; ERP evaluations, if done correctly, are extremely time consuming and often quite tedious. Hopefully, you have narrowed your ERP vendor list to a manageable few before you engage in a full blown demo with your extended team. Experience has taught me the time required for an overview demo is typically one hour. However, to complete a robust ERP demo is typically going to take a minimum of 4 hours and can, depending on the particular situation, easily take another 2-3 hours. Given this, I recommend that your full demo schedule should be limited to no more than the 3 ERP systems that made your shortlist.
Given the time commitment and importance of having a solid demo, clearly communicating your objectives for the demo to the vendor and the company’s attendees, in order for you and your team to be focused and can evaluate each finalist consistently. While there may be other objectives to consider, the final list really needs to include all the below items.
There is an adage regarding the3 most important things to consider for successful real estate investing and opening a retail store or restaurant being location, location, and location. If the location is wrong, then the rest doesn’t matter. For ERP systems the 3 most important things for an ERP system selection are functionality, functionality and functionality. If the system cannot demo your required functionality in a manner that will work for your company, then the vendor needs to be eliminated from further consideration.
Therefore, the number one objective for any ERP demo is to determine if the functionality that you require to run your business exists can be demonstrated.
- Functionality matching your ERP requirements: There are many things you cannot determine from a demo, including the quality of the application, the quality of the vendor’s customer support organization, and the scalability of the ERP system. However, you can clearly determine if the functionality that you require exists. All you have to do is ask to see it.
The remaining objectives of the demo are all about understanding as much as you can about the company that will be supporting you during and after the go-live event. In some cases, it will be the ERP system company itself. Alternatively if might be an ERP system reseller that will be providing supporting. While the benefits of having direct support from the ERP system company itself are important, that topic is for another discussion as the remaining two objectives for the demo are almost the same.
- Understanding your business: Does the ERP system company understand your specific business requirements, business model and your industry? Can they provide insights into your known issues as well as insights into issues with which you are not even aware that you have or will encounter in the near future? In essence, the ERP system vendor should know enough about your business to provide a very relevant demo and act as a catalyst for thought provoking discussions. If the ERP system company doesn’t “get it” when they are in the sales cycle trying to win your business, how likely are they to spend the effort after they win your business? Without understanding your business, they will have a tough time fully grasping the issues that you &/or your industry encounter. This will severely limit their ability to be an effective business partner and recommend best practices. In addition, if the industry knowledge is lacking, the likelihood their R&D product roadmap covering features and functionality important to your company and your industry will be greatly reduced.
If you are considering using a reseller, the one difference to consider is that if the reseller does not understand your business well enough, will they be strong enough advocates to the ERP system company to champion roadmap features and functionality that are important to you?
- Problem Solving/Listening: During the demo it is important to try to see evidence that a problem solving culture exists in the ERP company presenting. Are they really listening and are willing and able to discuss unique functionality or processes that are, will or might become problematic in the near future? Can they provide answers during the demo or even after the demo (once they have had a chance to discuss the issue more back at the office)? Do they quickly respond to all follow-up questions? The discovery objective is to try to determine if the ERP company has the DNA to make your problems their problems; i.e.be a strong business partners that won’t disappear once the sale is made. This objective should be followed up by reference checking for validation, but first-hand evidence might be a good indicator as well.