ERP has mostly been associated with large-scale organizations where multiple departments, hundreds of employees, dozens of decisions and millions of dollars are involved.

However, with ERP now having proven it’s usefulness and success in the industry, SMEs are taking notice of it and the ERP solution providers are scaling down their products to suit these potential clients.

This scaled down version of a product previously considered too large and expensive for smaller organizations means its functionality is now suiting SMEs and a whole new target audience has opened up for the solution providers.

However, just because it has become affordable and manageable doesn’t mean an organization should jump onto the ERP bandwagon and invest in it without some serious thought about what is required of the solution, who the vendor is and what the end aim of deploying an ERP solution is.

To this end, we have some handy tips for a SME looking to invest in ERP.

Determine the total cost of ownership.

This will involve software purchase, as well as added costs like training, hardware, technical support, updates, implementation, and maintenance. Will the software work on your current OS or will it need extensions, or even a whole new solution? This could potentially add on to your total cost.

What level of functionality do you need?

Will you be using the software you have purchased to its full functionality? If not, then maybe you could talk to the vendor about a customized solution that will provide only the features you need currently with the option of adding on more features according to need.

Assess vendor qualifications.

How long has a vendor been providing its ERP solution? Older, more experienced solution providers might have a more established system in place when it comes to deployment and maintenance of their product but they may also be more inflexible in accommodating a smaller client’s requirements.

What is the employee turn-over for a particular solution provider? Employees having a longer history with the vendor would mean having a team that has in-depth knowledge of the product.

What is the vendor’s experience in your industry? If they have clients who are in the same industry as you, you can rest assured that the software they’ll provide will have major glitches removed and you’ll only have to deal with minor modifications for your specific requirements.

Training and on-going support. What is the type and level of training offered? From on-site to online to full-on courses, there are different types of training offered by vendors, many depending on the depth of modules purchased by a client. How available will the vendor’s support team be for any help needed?

Request multiple demonstrations of the product.

Get a feel of the solution and solution providers by asking for multiple demonstrations. Features missed out in one demo might surface in another, and the attitude of the solution providers during these demonstrations will help you judge what sort of service they will provide once they have sold the product to you.

Question, question and question again.

Purchasing an ERP solution is not a decision to be taken lightly. It is a big investment in terms of money, time and resources. Take as long as you need to make this decisions and keep asking questions, sometimes the same one repeatedly, to make sure you know what you are getting into and what you will be provided with by the vendor.

Cross-check references.

There is no better referral than a satisfied client, and you should not hesitate to reach out to current and former clients of an ERP solution provider to get a feel of the product they offer and the after-sales relationship they have with their clients.

Make a decision with eyes wide open.

It’s that simple. Know what you are getting into with the purchase of an ERP solution, be absolutely clear about what the vendor is providing and also be prepared to go back and forth with the vendor until you have a solution that fully meets your requirements.