Do not use a Request For Information in your ERP selection

09/03/2018 - Philip van Kemenade

When selecting a new ERP system, a Request For Information (RFI) is often sent to a number of software vendors. This is a list of requirements and wishes regarding the functionalities of the ERP system that will be selected. After all, it is an important decision for your organization so you want to ensure that the system meets the most important needs in the best way possible. That makes sense... but it’s not the approach you should take.

You ask for what you already have...

...and not for what you need. When writing the RFI for your organization, it is inevitable that you think from the perspective of the current situation. As a result, you ask for a copy of what you have now, but then a modern version with a few extra features that come to your mind. Is that worth all the time and energy gathering the needs of all departments? If you have asked an external advisor to do the job for you, it will also cost you a lot of money. It is much more effective to formulate a clear vision of where you want to move to as an organization in the upcoming years. It is then up to the specialists of the software partners to explain to you how their ERP system will support you in achieving this. That way you get what you need!

How reliable are the answers to an RFI?

It seems so easy; a list of requirements and the supplier fills in whether this is part of the standard solution, customizations are required, a work-around is possible, a third-party system offers the solution or that it is simply not possible to meet the requirement. Then you know exactly where you stand, right? Unfortunately, reality turns out to be different. Many software vendors will tend to fill in your RFI slightly too positively. After all, they want to be in the race for the next step in the selection process. So, at the stage of the RFI, almost everything is part of the standard software and every party on your list seems to have an outstanding solution for you.

Other problems that can occur, which is why you should question the reliability and the value of filled in RFIs:

-   Your questions/requirements can be misinterpreted or misunderstood.
-   Or you ask something that cannot be answered directly, because more information is required.
-   Or you ask for something you don’t need because it is, for example, based on outdated technology or because there is an alternative (better) method.

ERP is not about functionalities

Creating a long list of requirements and wishes assumes that ERP software is about functionalities. Make sure you have enough buttons to push and options to select, and you will be fine. But an ERP selection is a strategic choice; you want to realize your long-term goals as an organization, such as expansion to other markets, revenue growth, profit maximization and professionalization, and the ERP software should help you to achieve this. Therefore, do not write an RFI, but make sure you have a clear vision of ??where you stand as an organization now and what you want to achieve in the future.

Then how do you deal with it?

-   Define your strategic objectives: make sure you have a clear picture of how you want to grow as an organization, that is the basis for your ERP selection.
-   Explore the possibilities: search for what the market has to offer, what differences there are between the software vendors, what advantages you can achieve with the software, etc. You can do this easily on your laptop in your own time.
-   Consult industry peers: nobody can tell you better which software is good than similar companies in your industry. Get in touch with them and get informed.

Philip van Kemenade is marketing manager at Dysel and is in contact with software end users every day.

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