1. Choose an ERP selection project manager The first step to selecting an ERP system is to select a project manager to manage the selection process. In addition to coordinating the internal needs assessment and vendor evaluation process, the selection project manager will serve as the liaison with vendors. The project manager will also create a selection team representing every area of the company (finance, sales, manufacturing, human resources, etc.). If your company decides to hire an ERP consulting firm to manage the selection project, the role of the in-house project manager will shift toward overseeing the firm's work, co-ordinating interviews and meetings with key users and managers, and ensuring that each department's needs are adequately addressed. 2. Assess users' needs When replacing an old system, it is important to identify features and functions that are desired in the prospective new ERP system that will increase productivity and provide quick and meaningful access to data. It can be very difficult and time consuming to identify desired new functionality without help from a tool that includes a database of possible features. The ON-LINE CONSULTANT for ERP Systems is a leading software tool that provides the framework to select the most desirable system features. The pre-loaded question set can be modified with additions or deletions specific to your organization. Surveys for the ON-LINE CONSULTANT for ERP Systems include: Inventory, Bill of Material, Material Requirements Planning, Master Production Scheduling, Forecasting, Shop Floor Control, Purchasing and Receiving, Customer Order Processing, Customer Service, Project Management, Budgeting, Royalty Tracking, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Payroll, Human Resources, General Ledger, and Fixed Assets. A key advantage of the software is that each requirement can be weighted based on its importance to your company. Each survey or area can also be weighted relative to their priority. For instance, if finance is more important to your company's profitability than order processing or human resources, questions within the finance survey can be weighted more heavily. This would help you tag vendors with strong financial modules. 3. Develop a customized RFP for your organization Based on the specific features and priorities assigned by the selection team, you will be able to create a Request for Proposal (RFP). Companies that use the ON-LINE CONSULTANT will benefit by having a customized RFP created automatically, ready for quick electronic delivery to vendors. 4. Distribute your RFP to the software vendors The ON-LINE CONSULTANT will automatically create an electronic RFP formatted for automated response. This customized RFP can be emailed to the vendors of your choice (you can even include your current vendor for comparative purposes, if you wish). When returned, the vendors’ responses will be uploaded into the ON-LINE CONSULTANT database, ready to be evaluated. To help identify potential vendors, see the Enterprise IT Yellow Pages, a helpful resource guide that categorizes vendors by application and industry. 5. Rank vendor responses Once all vendor responses have been uploaded into the ON-LINE CONSULTANT, the selection project manager can run numerous analytical reports that will rank the vendors and provide standardized cost comparisons. Since the automated tool requires no data entry, evaluation reports can be produced and analyzed the same day vendor responses are returned. 6. Plan vendor demos After vendors are narrowed down to a short list based on their responses to the RFP, you can schedule an on-site demo with the top scoring two or three vendors. Unless you have some input into the vendor demo format, you could become dazzled and confused by the vendors' demonstrations. To help gain control of the process, see How to Make the Most of Vendor Demos. 7. Schedule site visits Aside from demos, it is a good idea to visit the sites of non-competitive companies who are using the prospective ERP system. Site visits allow you to see systems implemented in a real world environment with live data and actual users vs. the vendor's marketing staff. Members of your selection team will have the opportunity to speak frankly with their counterparts and gain insights into the benefits and drawbacks of each system. For site visit planning and evaluation strategies, see How to Plan the Perfect Site Visit. 8. Consider other factors Your final decision on which ERP company to select will be based on many factors besides functionality. Financial stability, reputation within the industry, and ability to keep up with new technology are among other considerations. Many of these questions can be answered in the RFP and then corroborated by your own research using business publications, trade journals, seminars and communication with others in your industry.