The SoftSelect ERP Selection Process Details
Phase 1: Business Review/Develop ERP Long-List
As with any complex and important initiative, it’s crucial to be prepared and to have a realistic understanding of what resources, energy, and commitment will be needed. We’ve continuously enhanced our methods to help our team and clients better prepare for the enterprise software project, based on the experience of more than 900 projects. These few hours of meetings, presentations, and team discussion can significantly contribute to project continuity, momentum, and quality.
For the reasonably foreseeable future, the company is discussed in the context of enterprise strategy and how the company might change (e.g. new product lines, new locations, and outsourcing manufacturing). These findings in turn may influence the priorities that drive the selection of ERP software.
Determining key ERP selection functionality criteria is the first purpose of the business process area interviews. Other benefits of these interviews are (1) increased awareness (and confidence) about the ERP improvement project for those involved and (2) the development of valuable discovery (improvement ideas, current problems, and uncertainties) which is useful to prepare for and control the implementation. Before the interviews, we provide training to business process area representatives so they may better prepare for them.
It is important to have a good sense of the enterprise software application status and strategy to properly understand what company processes ERP should support. This question needs to be answered to enable a concise review of ERP and purchase appropriate ERP access. Often a buyer’s expectations of ERP do not align with what ERP should practically support for their company. If not corrected, this can result in the purchase of inappropriate software access, disappointment during the implementation or at some later point in time, and likely increases to initial and ongoing costs. In this step, we:
- Establish the Enterprise Software Strategy diagram which models all major applications and any minor applications which have some level of interaction with ERP related business processes or metrics.
- Establish the ERP boundary within the Enterprise Software Strategy diagram from (1) information gained during business process interviews and (2) EAI’s deep understanding of the appropriate functional ERP footprint for a company of the size and type as the company buying ERP. The diagram includes reasons why various boundary business processes are contemplated to be fully or partially in or out of the estimated ERP boundary.
- Develop an initial integration plan which can influence the boundary of the ERP, affect development decisions of boundary applications, and impact the approach for negotiating ERP access rights.
This process step uses (1) EAI-SoftSelect business software research and (2) the EAI team’s general knowledge and insight of specific business software, software vendors, and the current business software market. Key influencers for listing ERP are (1) the business application’s track record of use in companies similar to the company buying ERP, and (2) that the ERP offering has been substantially modernized. This includes providing our opinion on any ERP software not included on our suggested list in which your company has an interest. A thorough briefing and discussion of the long list is provided so members of your selection team and executives can build confidence in the list.
Based on the long-list ERP sales structure and attributes of the ERP buyer, some ERP candidates may be sold through resellers. These resellers nearly always are implementers of the ERP and the implementation is their main reason to seek new business. In these situations we orchestrate a screening process to locate one or more appropriate resellers based on screening factors related to geography, ERP buyer industry and company size experience, and apparent ability to be adaptive to the EAI-SoftSelect process to achieve superior ERP access and implementation services cost and terms.
Phase 2: ERP Software Long-List to Short-List
These are carefully chosen company objectives that are designed to differentiate long list candidate ERP applications. They are referred to as High-level Differentiators or HLDs. Specifically:
- Using the results from business process discussions in selection phase-1, develop functional HLDs, typically 15 to 25 HLDs.
- Review and tune standard SoftSelect HLDs which address standard ERP tools for developing functionality, workflows, metrics, and integrations that should be present in a modernized ERP, typically 5 to 7 HLDs.
- Combine all HLDs in an order more productive for reviewing candidate software.
- Work with your company's business process managers and operational executives to review and approve the HLDs.
This first review of the candidate ERP is called the ERP Introductory Event—which is an approximate 2.5 hour event to conduct a ‘first pass’ test of the candidate ERP’s ability to deliver on the HLDs. Specific steps are:
- Identify appropriate personnel at each candidate software vendor firm (or appropriately selected reseller firm) to discuss the EAI-SoftSelect selection process being conducted by the company seeking ERP.
- Work with ERP sellers to prepare for the ERP Introductory Event.
- The company’s ERP selection team conducts the ERP Introductory Event with each ERP seller, and selection team members score the events using standard scoring methods.
- Review results of the ERP Introductory Event, glean the more accurate opinions (from all team members), and develop a team-level ERP performance score for each candidate ERP. This is entered into the full ERP evaluation matrix that is presented to the team in a following step.
The EAI team has extensive experience in controlling the cost and commercial terms for purchasing access to ERP applications and other business software that augments ERP. This typically results in large improvements in cost and commercial terms for our clients over what is otherwise arranged when buyers are unaware of their options. Processing objectives for ERP access costs and commercial terms are combined as these two areas of activity are so intertwined. This process is composed of the following major steps and is the same whether one is accessing ERP via subscription or owned licenses:
- Develop ERP access cost and terms objectives: In this step, we will work with your team to:
- Define ERP for the company in terms of (1) different User Types, (2) business process areas to be supported, (3) Device access, and (4) geography of application users—for functional objectives within the ERP functionality boundary and other satellite business applications in project scope.
- Establish ERP access cost objectives for the license types and business process areas included from the prior step, leveraging EAI knowledge on highly favorable ERP subscription or owned licenses. These amounts are typically 40% to 50% lower than the normal discounted pricing, and are achievable and fair for the sellers. Ongoing ERP access cost objectives are also developed which is where the biggest cost savings can be realized.
- Discuss techniques to achieve better and faster results with the ERP sellers. This includes (1) discussing typical tactics or arguments you may hear and how to handle them, and (2) strategies for negotiating with an ERP vendor who presumes they have the deal won. This coaching intends to build resilience and confidence for the selection team and executive sponsors in this high-stakes game of ERP cost and terms control.
- Present ERP access cost objectives to the candidate ERP vendors: This step is only a presentation with a deliberate and important intent to not discuss actual pricing at this time. This step is comprised of:
- Establishing appropriate vendor points-of-contact (typically the Long-list). Then brief them on the ERP access cost and terms objectives. Further explain this approach is to orchestrate a competitive selection, and in this light all ERP sellers can react to these ERP access cost and terms objectives as they believe is in their self-interest. This does not put any specific demand on the sellers, but instead keeps them flexible to adapt at a point in the selection in which their self-interest and willingness to negotiate is typically the strongest.
- Gaining acknowledgement from ERP vendor points-of-contacts’ that they generally understand the ERP access cost objectives. Field any questions or concerns in the context of the prior paragraph.
- ERP vendor interaction toward reaching objective ERP cost and terms: This step is typically conducted on the final two candidate ERP vendors during phase-3. It’s an iterative process that requires varying amounts of calendar time and consulting time based on the culture and attitude of the finalist ERP vendors and to a lesser degree, factors to do with the company’s selection project. Based on these factors it’s not practical to accurately predict the time required to properly complete negotiations of immediate and ongoing ERP access costs and commercial terms. However, this proposal does include an amount of consulting time in which the EAI team should complete or materially complete this highly important work that is rich with opportunity to save money and gain useful commercial controls. If more time is needed for this activity, it can be identified and discussed when it’s detected. Usually at this time in negotiations the cost of additional consulting support is easy to tie to relatively large improvements to the ERP access purchase arrangement. Key aspects of this step are:
- ERP architecture: Work with finalist candidate ERP vendors to understand how they architect access rights to their ERP (user types, software modules/parts/add-ons, etc.).
- Alignment to the company’s ERP need: Once the ERP architecture is known for the finalist ERP, then the selection team can reasonably align the ERP needs of (company) to the particular seller’s offer. This is intended to result in confidence in knowing what ERP access rights (modules, user types, etc.) are needed, something which must be reasonably known before any ERP vendor pricing offer can be assessed.
- ERP pricing offers: Accept initial ERP vendor pricing in the context of (1) previously presented ERP access cost objectives (developed in step #1 above) and (2) clarity on the candidate ERP architecture and what ERP access rights are needed. This pricing should include proposed costs for initially estimated ERP access, contemplated future ERP access for a number of years, and cost escalation control objectives. These cost offers almost always need to be improved, and the process for doing so is described in a following step in this list.
- Commercial terms: Take possession of the finalist ERP sellers’ contracts for ERP access (various documents containing commercial terms for ERP access subscriptions or owned licenses/maintenance), then review and mark-up these documents with items needing to be fixed or added. The EAI-SoftSelect’s checklist of commercial terms to achieve is very important for this activity.
- Achieving the final terms and costs: After the prior steps in this list are complete, there is a period of discussions in which ERP access costs are improved and commercial terms are fixed. If in the final stages there is a presumed selection choice, the detailed cost and contract review may substantially be done on this favored ERP—but the specter of competition is still real as the other finalists can be brought back in if there are problems.
- ERP Hosting entity review including proposed commercial terms and costs: As needed if remote ERP hosting is required by the buyer and the ERP is offered in other arrangements besides just a pure multi-tenant subscription.
- Identify candidate hosting entities
- Conduct review of offering per the buying company’s ERP project's criteria
- Review initial costs plans and design cost escalation terms
- Review standard commercial terms and identify adjustments needed
- Finalize choice of hosting entity - including arranging objectives on cost and terms (typically phase-3)
Develop two finalist ERP from quantitative and qualitative results of the software vendor HLD reviews and other screening factors to do with (1) strength of ERP systemic tools, (2) projected software costs, (3) known or presumed status of ERP access contracts, (4) status of implementation offer to do with talent of team, terms and rates, and (5) ERP technical layer status, and other potential factors.
Phase 3: ERP Short-List to Software Selection
Develop an ERP application demonstration plan, coordinate with and prepare the candidate ERP vendors/representatives, and lead full-day ERP product demonstrations. Experienced leadership during the full-day demonstrations will help keep the event focused, consistent and relevant, improving the experience of your team and the confidence in the results.
Based on the bulk of functions needing to be demonstrated and the level of all participants interests in various functional areas, there may be additional focused demonstration events. These are usually done after the main demonstration event and are typically delivered remotely.
Typically at this point in the selection process, the finalist ERP offerings are from relatively strong software vendors that have mature implementation service options. Based on this, it has been our experience that the most relevant differentiating factors for a candidate implementation service provider are (1) the talent of the proposed key business process analyst who also should serve as the operational project manager (in our terms, the Anchor Consultant), (2) the hourly rates for various team members and (3) the willingness to provide solid commercial relationship terms to the buyer. With regard to commercial terms, EAI has a checklist of objectives to achieve and uses this list in the review and mark-up of the ERP implementer services agreement and other documents containing commercial terms.
The total cost estimate for services and statements about methodology are usually not that relevant in selecting an implementer. The implementers simply do not know with any precision what a prospect needs and project obstacles they may encounter. Therefore, service proposals are developed to win business and not scare off prospects—in other words full of wishful thinking. For the leading vendors, methodology is nearly the same despite the marketing language and bold statements used to suggest otherwise.
Develop the ERP selection recommendation based on results of the (1) ERP application functionality demonstrations, (2) strength of ERP tools for development, workflows, metrics, and integrations, (3) ERP software access costs (initial and ongoing), (4) status of commercial terms for ERP access and services, (5) status of implementation offer having to do with talent of team, terms and rates, and (6) ERP technical layer status, and other potential factors.
The company’s selection team makes a final ERP recommendation to executives/owners and other appropriate company members. As in the phase-2 debriefing and discussion, this process step is designed to build high confidence in the ERP application and implementer, and contribute to overall project confidence in the pending implementation.