The challenge for most organizations in upgrading or improving their accounting software or ERP platform is that they do this kind of thing so rarely that they don’t have the experience to ask themselves the right questions.

The purpose of this blog post is to help you if you are in this position and want to actively do things that will help ensure your success with this change.

1. Ask yourself “Should we change or simply upgrade?”  Currently there is a lot of good debate about moving to the cloud.  Some vendors that do not have true cloud solutions are defining the cloud as “hosting” the software at another site.  For many, what makes a change worthwhile are substantive changes such as better features that you can not get with the platform you are on.  We have talked organizations out of changing software when their main reason is that they did not stay current on their developer’s latest version.  Windows 7 computers and SQL 2008 databases for example do not always play nicely with a 10 year old version of a legacy product.  This can cause stability issues that sometimes are more your issues than the developers’ issues.  You need to keep your software current.

2. If you’ve decided, “yes, we should change”-then your next question should be whether or not your business’ leaders will support an ERP implementation project.  These projects can be disruptive and require time from existing staff.  For example, we have worked with clients that want their data converted but do not put enough time and attention into cleaning up the data they want converted because they are so busy.  This is something we can not do-if business leaders do not support giving the project people that can clean up this data, or perhaps give us the person that has been there long enough to know what vendors and customers are no longer used-then the client is not doing all they can to minimize cost overruns and project maximize project quality.  Anticipate this potential issue and make sure you will get the internal resource you need to be successful.

3. Can you get the employees that should benefit from the change to have their depart
ment leaders heavily involved in the deployment of the modules-rather than trying to get IT to lead?  Here in Minneapolis we have seen many of our clients elect to have business leaders step up and get involved rather than deferring configuration decisions to IT-with strong results.

4. Know what specific business problems you are planning to solve before starting your search.  For example, are you trying to improve utilization by understanding better which consultants are not busy each week or are you trying to improve your ability to provide clients invoices in the formats those clients would like.

5. What features would you like from your new ERP system that will help increase users’ access to the business data?  ERP systems have been moving more and more toward allowing more users to get access to the data that they need.  Microsoft has been providing this access with Light Users.  Light Users or their equivalent cut down on additional emails and phone calls internally as people can get to the data they need without having to request help from others.

6. ERP products in the middle market can be rolled out in phases typically.  What are your most dire needs?  It is often less disruptive to implement certain capabilities without trying to do everything at one time.  Fixed Assets, and Payroll for example are often components that can be added in a later phase.

7.  Will the ERP solution be able to adapt to your future needs?  If you are planning on merging or buying additional companies and can anticipate the need for sharing vendors, customers and even a chart of accounts-it may make sense to buy a product such as Dynamics SL, which has strong Multi-Company capabilities or even Dynamics GP which can add that capability with a strong ISV (Independent Software Vendor) such as Binary Stream’s offering.