ERP RFP shortcut time saver guide, no template required

An ERP RFP is an inefficient method to select a reliable ERP solution and expeditiously reach a successful outcome to the process. Here is a better, faster way to get the answers you need.

ERP RFP activities require substantial effort from yourself and each vendor. The more ERP vendors you have, the more work you create for yourself. Similarly, the more ERP vendors the faster the complexity of the information you need increases.

The classic ERP process, is to find or devize a ERP RFP template containing a list of endless questions for ERP vendors. You then send the ERP RFP to vendors, who start calling with queries about your ERP RFP questions and detail. 

Some questions sow seeds of doubt in your mind about your prescription for the ERP RFP process. Did you miss something? Do you need to modify your ERP RFP? 

Finally the proposals arrive. Now you have the unenviable task of collating, comparing and measuring ERP vendors answers. I can guarantee you’ll have to cut through sales and marketing nonsense, and often find your self trying to decipher the ERP vendors parlance.

It’s all very hard and tedious.

You just need an answer “what would work for us”? Here are seven simple rules to help make your life easier, avoid overthinking ERP RFP process, and make a pragmatic ERP selection.

1. Start with your customer and work backwards

Begin NOWHERE ELSE but with the customer journey.  

Amazon’s guiding philosophy is “start with the customer and work backward”. They’ve nailed it, you cannot argue with this. 

If you’re looking to select the right cloud based ERP order management system, start with the strategic thought of creating a great experience for your best customers. 

I specifically mean a customer experience you can repeat time and time again. An experience underpinned by a cloud based ERP solution that will adapt and scale.

Systematically walk through every detail of every step of your customer’s journey.  What works, what doesn’t, what’s needed, what can be improved, you get the idea. 

If when you are doing this, check how you personally feel about the journey. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Is it frictionless, is it remarkable? 

If it’s neither of these, then study how other players do it. This can be any business you have dealt with commercially or personally, where you have come away thinking “that was great”.

Dig deep. Your priority must be to craft a remarkable and as frictionless as possible customer experience.

Your new ERP platform should serve to help deliver this aspiration. Your ERP RFP if it has to happen, should ask each vendor to present a detailed vision of their version of how they would deliver a remarkable experience for your customers.

Don’t get confused, a remarkable customer experience is not solely about online interaction. Although this is part of it, I’m talking about every aspect from first contact, every order and issue, invoicing, payments and even returns.

Everything touched or seen by the customer should be forensically examined. 

2. Create an MVP (minimal viable product), not an ERP RFP

At the end of this section, you’ll know what the smartest way forward is.

To be clear you need to choose one vendor, right now, and use their platform to create your minimal viable product (MVP)which illustrates all or in part the customer experience you want to offer.

This MVP is a sandbox or laboratory if you will. You can look at other vendors if the one you choose falls short.

Choose a cloud ERP vendor who can offer you immediate access to their Sass ERP. Salesorder.com can do this for you in minutes. 

The business has a core activity, sell and fulfill a product to customers and make money. You need to focus on this core activity and discover a way to model this as soon as possible. You don’t know what don’t know, and really need to know until you’ve done this.

The faster you can do this, the quicker you’ll simplify the questions and reduce the complexity and effort of the selection task.

Your time is money. We are in the 2020s. We live in the age of fast answers. Amazon is very aware of this and exploits this expectation every second of every day.

All around us we see technology solutions we can pick up and start using. We often don’t need to figure out how they work, we just need to find out fast what they can do for us. This should be the guiding principle of your journey of discovery.

As is the case in most products, and at the risk of repeating myself we start with the core problem we are trying to solve and work outward from there. 

In the case of a cloud based ERP order management systems, the quote or order to cash process is at the core of operations. 

You need to try this immediately if the platform doesn’t make this easy to do, or do it well, you are in deep trouble. And it’s a sure sign there are other similar issues in the rest of the platform.

3. B2B ecommerce out of the box, and customizable?

The outcome has to limit the friction your customer encounters when buying from you. Apply Pareto’s law to this analysis. 80% of your revenues probably come from 20% of your customers. So focus on reducing friction for these folks.
In other words, whatever you decide to do make sure you validate it with your customer.

Assume every person involved in buying from you has used Amazon. So the answer has to be based upon digital self-service. Just accept this, don’t argue. You are in for a really hard time if you do.

Digital self-service predominantly comes in two forms, EDI and b2b portals. Because it’s expensive to implement, it is only used by selective denominations of customers. However b2b portals address the news of the wider market. Users basically login, gather, or review the information and buy, then track the status of their orders.

The number of companies deploying self-service is still proportionally low to the size of the market. Here is a note of wisdom and to your immediate advantage. The reason is your competitors are using systems that do not have or cannot be extended to safely or cost-effectively deliver digital self-service. Think about this…

  1. They are using systems you should avoid at all costs.
  2. Their margin becomes your opportunity if you implement digital self-service (another of Amazon’s guiding principles)

The bottom line here is, don’t even consider proceeding with a vendor who cannot show you an easy way to do digital self-service well. Make sure whatever they show you can be easily adapted – please don’t be persuaded this latter point is not relevant. It really is.

As b2b self-service emerges and evolves, you’ll need to make continuous changes to your self-service playbooks to differentiate yourself.

4. An ERP RFP will not tell you if the vendor system is easy to use

Everyone makes this mistake on their ERP RFPs. Ease of use is strategic.

You have a large and diverse community of individuals with different skills and requirements. It will honestly feel like herding cats if the users cannot try out the solution without too much training.

Also if because of peaks and troughs in demand you use temporary workers, then there is an obvious advantage choosing a system which is easy to learn and use. 

Adoption will be a really hard struggle, and the project will cost so much more than you anticipated. It just will!
Put user’s workflows through their paces as soon as possible. Unless you are using each one of these workflows every day, don’t even begin to imagine you know what is really needed. Get your users engaged now!

5. It has to be very straightforward and cost-effective to customize

There is no such thing as a day 1 perfect design. Good design evolves.
You’ve heard of kaizen, right? It means a business philosophy of continuously improving working practices. Toyota made it famous, it’s effect is plain as day for us all to see. They make really reliable cars, and they are still a world leader.
Investing in more technology instead of headcount is a guiding principle for high growth businesses. Financial markets are the best example of this. The transition of pit based trading in securities and currencies to acres of trading floors with oceans of screens skyrocketed the fortunes of international banks.
Layers and layers of costly and time-consuming administration and paper were removed. Look around you, how much paper do you see? This is a sign you are not optimized.
Banks made money faster, new methods of making money were discovered and built into the technology. This was not previously possible. You need customizable apps to do this.
Customizable software and automation are joined at the hip. You need both to streamline the lead to cash cycle. These capabilities in the software lead directly to the avoidance or decrease of fixed costs. Targeted carefully they also lead to tangible and significant ROI. You want this right?

6. The cost, effort, time required for the MVP has to be super low

If it’s an order management system, as long as it complies with 1, 2, and 3 above then this exercise should take less than a day (it really should). After it’s ‘built’ then you are ready to engage each of the key users. The key users will tell you what they care about and need.
Get them onto the system, get them to try their top three workflows. Gather their questions and concerns, get the software vendor to address these in a show and tell session.
From this will emerge two lists, the first will be confirmations of what is there and will work, the second will be a list of gaps. It’s at this point you can calibrate the final shape or blueprint of what is actually required day 1, and you’ll be able to accurately figure out the real costs and timescales.

7. Keep it simple

Products come in all shapes and sizes. Don’t let their complexity get in the way of modeling the basic sales, fulfillment, and accounting process. Start with the simplest of products. If your products are assemblies or kits, we’ve got you covered. But stick to single simple products until you have completed an end to end workflow.

Conclusion

The fastest way to decide if you like a car is to test drive it. The experience will inform you of what you need to know. As well as identifying the risks, it will increase your comfort level and decrease the amount of effort, time, and money you will spend to reach a successful outcome.
The MVP is both a prototype and a sandbox. It will raise questions, it will highlight the real problems, it will help you determine the priorities and biggest areas of risk. Best of all it will help you nail down in detail your requirements.

Start with the customer, and think backward.

All the best

Nick

Questions?

Email me at solutions@salesorder.com

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