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Well Begun is Half Done -- Select the right ERP package

Organizations world over have the constant urge to graduate from managing their business processes using multiple / disparate systems or with no system at all to ERP package-based business systems to reap benefits accruing out of better standardization, streamlined processes, improved productivity and controls. The need of the hour is ERP Package Evaluation that culminates in the right choice of ERP package for the organization

What is ERP Package Evaluation? It is a process that typically involves the following stages

·         Evaluation of available ERP packages on different parameters

o   Will it help meet the immediate, medium term and long-term business and IT objectives of the organization?

·         Make the right choice of ERP package

The next obvious question is Why carry out the ERP Package Evaluation exercise? Reasons are many, following is a partial list

  • ·         There are numerous ERP packages available in the market and there is a need to make an informed choice
  • ·         Constantly changing/evolving technologies, business/IT paradigms
  • ·         Need to align information technology solution choice with business vision
  • ·         Enable better preparedness to negotiate with package vendors
  • ·         Complexity of integrating disparate systems - post consolidation / merger / acquisition

The following methodology can be used for the ERP package evaluation process

Understanding Business Landscape & Requirements

This is the first step and involves internalizing the organization's vision and mission, getting a firm grip over the organization's company-level and industry-level critical success factors, key value drivers, current and future economic climate, important issues & considerations and competitive landscape. This should be followed by discussions with the organization's top management and A-team to get several key questions answered. A detailed questionnaire could prove useful. Following is a partial set of questions. The objective of the discovery should be to get a clear list of expectations from the ERP package-based transformation

  • ·         Organization Structure, operation locations, departments and functions in each location
  • ·         Details of product and service lines, R&D effort & spend
  • ·         Turnover information - overall and product/service line wise breakup
  • ·         Business processes/ functions proposed to be mapped to the ERP package
  • ·         List of mission critical processes
  • ·         Growth expectations (turnover, employees, geographies, product/ service lines)
  • ·         Master data elements and expected data volumes
  • ·         Reporting requirements (statutory, compliance, operational)
  • ·         Detailed understanding of existing IT system landscape
  • ·         Details of systems in-place, functionalities supported, process flows

o   Server specifications and locations, networking landscape

o   Interaction between current systems, details of systems approaching sunset

o   Security features around systems/ infrastructure

o   Disaster Recovery/ Business Continuity plans

Developing Business Scenarios

The objective of this step is to arrive at the list of business scenarios (based on information gathered in the previous step) whose fitment will become a key success factor for the ERP package in the fray. Failure of the package to address the identified scenarios could result in disqualification. A structured approach is necessary to develop the scenarios, with scenario description, data input, expected output, actual output, data considerations/variations, user interface requirements. Scenarios possible in the future could also be conceptualized. Process flows of the various identified scenarios need to be documented along with known variations/ twists

The fitment assessment could be based on extent of fitment, available options to address gaps. To assess satisfaction levels, the dimensions could be overall comfort level, UI effectiveness / ease of navigation / look & feel, ease of data manipulation, control and security

Tailor Evaluation Criteria & Scoring Matrix

With business scenarios clearly listed, the next step in the package evaluation process is to list the evaluation criteria and scoring matrix

The evaluation framework should comprise the following

  • ·         Criteria category (e.g. technical assessment)
  • ·         Detailed criteria per category
  • ·         Weightage for each criterion/ category
  • ·         Scoring key for each criterion
  • ·         Method to arrive at final composite score

Decision on weightages for identified criterion is critical. Following is a sample

  • ·         Product Functionality: 40-45%
  • ·         Technical Evaluation: 20-25%
  • ·         Costs Involved: 20%
  • ·         Vendor Credentials/expertise: 15%

For the criteria category of technical assessment, the following criteria could be applicable

Criteria

Details

Platform Support

 

         Operating System

         Database

         Web Server

         Application Server

         Portal

Architecture

 

         Application architecture

         Architecture characteristics (openness, accessibility, configurability, integrability)

         Development environment

Interface and Integration Support

 

         Out of the box integration

         Built-in web services integration

         Data loading and migration

         Process oriented integration

Reporting Support

 

         Facility for end users to create and run ad-hoc queries

         Create/customize web-based point & click reports

Security Features

 

         HTTPS and SSL support for secure content delivery to browser

         Authentication and authorization security (including single sign-on)

         Organizational security (role, dept etc.)

         Data Security features

         Audit Trail feature

Support for DW and BI

 

         Nature of multi-dimensional reporting

         Integration with external data warehouse

Flexibility

 

         Flexibility in deployment options (application and database servers on same physical box versus multiple boxes, support for distributed databases etc.)

         Flexibility in customization

         Scalability

Messaging

 

         Integration with standard/ widely used email applications

         Integration with standard fax servers

Maintenance, Support & Upgrade

 

         Diagnostic and technical support

         Remote Support

         Patch Management

         Upgrade Management

         Performance testing

         Data Archiving

Usability

 

         Intuitive navigation

         Configurability

         Task oriented dashboards

         Web client enablement


Recommendation on package selection

After careful analysis and study of the capabilities of the package and its score on identified criteria/aspects, a recommendation is arrived at


The following aspects are considered before arriving at the recommendation

Evaluation Framework Dimensions

       Score from Functionality Assessment

       Score from Technology Assessment

Other Key Considerations

       Market's assessment of the package (perception in the market)

       Ease of Implementation, Operations & Maintenance

       Infrastructure hosting and maintenance

       TCO

o   Licensing cost

o   Hardware cost

o   Consulting, Implementation & training costs

o   Recurring annual costs


Infosys Experience

Infosys has vast experience in carrying out ERP package evaluation exercises for organizations in various industries across the globe. Following are key takeaways based on experience

       Stakeholder Buy-in à It is vital to seek and obtain the blessings of all key organizational stakeholders

       Clarity in evaluation approach à It is advisable to develop the criteria before looking at the application

       Go past the hype à The key is to focus on the effectiveness of the business scenarios & the scoring model

       Focus on essential features à Prudently differentiating the Must have's and the Good-to-have's

       The package vendor's financial viability needs to be factored in

       It will be important to work with realistic projections - on customizations, training, ongoing support etc.


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