What is ERP and How to Buy One …

ERP (Enterprise Resources Planning) software isn’t something new, it’s been around for quite some time.  An ERP solution encom-passes technology that manages all of a company’s business critical operations.  For a contractor, this functionality typically includes estimating, project management, accounting, service and scheduling, field operations, human resources, sales, inventory and more. That’s a lot to cover under one software umbrella!

A few ERP programs have all or most of the functionality required.  The other alternative – a point solution – handles only one aspect of the business, such as estimating. The number of choices can get confusing, and we talk to many people who just don’t know what the best solution is for them.

I recommend if you are looking for new business software, start with the following steps. I call it the DART process.

1. Define your business goals and current needs.  Seems obvious, right? However, you’d be surprised how many people miss this critical first step and jump right into shopping. In order to make a good decision on new software, what are your drivers and compelling events?  The more detailed and defined your answers are, the better your chances of finding the right system. As part of this step, define the current issues, bottlenecks, and problems you have with your current processes and systems.  Using this list will provide a great tool in mapping your existing needs to a new ERP system.

2. Assess your budget.  Systems vary in cost and functionality, so it’s important to realistically understand what you can spend.  We’ve been in the room when people fall in love with that perfect $50,000 solution, and share their disappointment when they can’t do it because they have a $10,000 budget. Keep in mind that with today’s cloud solutions you can reduce the upfront investment significantly allowing for more buying power, but that purchase will cost more over the long run.  When assessing your budget, look at not only the up-front investment for the new solution, but the cost savings by implementing the new system as well. Understanding your return on investment will help quantify the financial impact and may even justify a bigger budget.

3. Resources Required. Once you have determined your project and budget, you will need to understand the impact on internal resources required to implement a new system.  Who will be your internal project manager? Who will be using the software?  Who will be the stakeholders of this project? For the project to be successful, it is important to get agreement and buy in from the top down on what the goals are, and provide direction and assistance to those employees participating to make it a success.  It is also very important to understand how the new system will affect everyone and how much time the team needs to spend for the project to be successful.  If employees already have a heavy workload, they might resist spending more hours on a new system unless they fully understand the benefit to the company and to them individually as well.

4. Timeline. What are the compelling events driving your company’s go-live date?  There are many considerations on the best and worst times to implement a system such as peak season, holiday and summer hours, or month end or quarter end.  You don’t want to implement a new system during your busy season if you can avoid it.  Sometimes you can’t avoid scheduling is-sues, but planning for them in advance goes a long way to a stress-free implementation.

Now you are finally ready to start talking to vendors and shopping for a new system.  Armed with the information you have collect-ed in the above steps, comparing the features and functionality of software to meet your needs should be easier.  We know that making a decision on which software to choose to run your business is a critical one. If done correctly, the next system you buy should be the last system your company ever needs to buy.

If you start down the DART process and find you have a lot of questions, that’s okay – it’s complicated and not something you do on a regular basis.  But we do! For the last 25 years, we’ve helped businesses find and implement new software.  So if you’re thinking about new software to improve your business in 2019, give us a call.