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The Scripted Software Demonstration: Making an Enterprise Software Decision on More than Gut Feel

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 by admin

The great majority of companies with whom we work perform their own software evaluations without the assistance of an independent consultant. While independent consultants bring a variety of benefits to the table during the ERP selection process, a key element that strong consultants offer which is commonly missing when companies perform their own enterprise software evaluations is an onsite scripted software demonstration.

So, what is meant by a “scripted” software demonstration? A scripted software demonstration is one in which the company has documented a series of its key business processes that it wants to see all potential ERP vendors demonstrate in a consistent manner. While the scripted demo would generally touch all functional areas of the business, the most important areas of focus would fall into three main areas:

  • Customer-facing (i.e., quote to cash, customer service, customer self-service)
  • Operational (i.e., demand to pay on the procurement side, inventory management and warehouse operations, manufacturing planning and execution)
  • Compliance and control (i.e., financial management and reporting, lot traceability, quality management, industry compliance)

In addition to the script which describes the specific processes, good scripted software demonstrations will also include select sample data and instructions that tie this data to specific processes reviewed during the demo. The sample data should be sufficient while not excessive – 2-3 customers, 2-3 suppliers, 2-3 purchased items, 2-3 manufactured items with associated bills of material or formulations and routings, and sample customer pricing scenarios.

Some companies with whom we’ve worked performing evaluations have merely dumped complete sets of data from their existing legacy database of products, customers, vendors, pricing, etc. In these cases, vendors will cherry pick the data yielding inconsistencies as to which processes show which data or even how much of the data is used, if any.

The script should also have an accompanying scorecard which will be used by company personnel to score each of the processes on two scales – one that defines whether or not the vendor showed the specific process performed by the software, and the second defining how easily the process accomplished the desired task. There should also be an explicit scoring scale (i.e., 1, 3, or 5), where exact wording is associated with each of the scores and communicated to all participants during the scripted demo process. That way, there is an attempt to make the scoring processes as homogeneous as possible, and allows for a true “apples to apples” comparison.

The facilitator of the demonstration needs to constantly nudge the participants to score the process. To use a sports analogy, there are a lot of people who keep score of the top of the first inning of a baseball game, become distracted or bored, and stop. There are very few who keep score of the entire game. Make sure your participants score each process of the demonstration as it occurs.

Once a given section of the demo is completed, the finalized scorecards should be collected immediately to help minimize the risk of a misplaced scorecard. When the demonstration as a whole is completed, the scores should be compiled for each software vendor and added to a summary for all of the demonstrations.

Without a scripted demo, many software evaluations become a “beauty contest” where people make decisions strictly on which solution looked the best. Don’t be fooled by glitz without substance. Dig under the covers and make software vendors show you real transactions being performed in their systems with your data rather than just showing you sample screens with pre-populated data which may or may not work in a production environment.

By following these practices, a scripted software demonstration should yield a quantitative measure as to which software solution would best align with the key business processes and would be easiest to use by a given company. This will help you narrow down the field to your preferred solution so you can move into a final due diligence process with that vendor.

For additional information about the overall ERP software evaluation process including more detail about scripted software demonstrations and a sample scripted software demonstration template, please review TGI’s free ERP Software Selection Tool Kit.

Justifying a Software Selection Project in Our Current Economic State

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by Alex Smith

As 2009 arrives, companies of various sizes contemplate the year ahead and consider their options for remaining both profitable and viable in a world of relative economic uncertainty. As such, business leaders are adjusting to the new economic challenges and market conditions. While all of this uncertainty will eventually stabilize, organizations must question what is next for them as a company and for their upcoming projects and applicable expenditures.

As has occurred throughout history, human nature evolves and the strong survive. Businesses are no different. Virtually every industry or sector has evolved in some manner over the last few months. The world of information technology has experienced its own transformation. Technology-based purchases are still occurring and companies are initiating new projects. The difference is the nature of the project and the decision making process surrounding the acquisition of the products or services purchased.

ERP software is, without question, a major endeavor for any organization. While a significant amount of work goes into both the selection and implementation of a new business software system, it does so with the ultimate promise of providing significant tangible and intangible benefits to the organization. ERP software can help transform an organization by eliminating internal weaknesses and by producing a roadmap for leaner, more efficient, and more profitable operations. It can be the saving grace for a struggling company, and it can help provide a solid foundation for a profitable tomorrow.

To achieve the project success and the promises ERP software offers, the ERP selection process needs to be tightly managed and executed in a very systematic manner. Now more than ever, the purchase needs to be based on known pain points or organizational weaknesses. The purchase needs to help solidify the organization’s future. The resulting purchase needs to allow for tangible benefits and a measurable return on investment. The purchase needs to be justifiable for both the selection team and the organization’s leadership.

While this may seem like a pipe dream to some, concrete return on investment is completely feasible when the right ERP software is purchased and implemented. From inventory reductions and improved order fill rates to more efficient back-office processing, ERP software can significantly improve an organization’s bottom line and overall profitability. ERP software can provide a genuine return on investment through lower inventory carrying costs, reductions in overtime hours, and more efficient production lines.

While these are only a few areas of ROI, they are realistic expectations when implementing a solid ERP solution. These benefits can provide a relatively fast payback, and they represent the means to justify the purchase that brings along with it a number of additional intangible benefits such as visibility to data, improved customer service, and an increase in overall customer satisfaction. Intangible benefits aside, in uncertain times, any major expenditure needs to be backed by measurable results.

If 2009 brings the promise of change, an ERP software purchase can help provide the catalyst for that transformation. It can provide the backbone for an organization’s future by offering a path to a more efficient operational flow and a more productive workforce in the months and years to come. It can be a justifiable purchase with solid return and measurable payback.