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I'm currently on a project to narrow down the choices out there for distributor ERP's for a small business. While getting quotes, I was given very, very little information about the programs themselves, and working with third party partners is making my head spin (I'd love to actually demo these myself without reseller influence).

So far, I've seen Dynamics AX, SAP Business One, and BlueCherry. All of these programs seem pretty dated for the premium that they command, but again, its pretty difficult to see these programs in action. And where are all the cloud-based solutions from major devs?

Anyone have tips for someone going through the process?

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closed as off topic by Chopper3, Zypher, tomjedrz, Dennis Williamson, Sam Jul 6 '10 at 18:54

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Sorry .. I voted to close, as this is pretty clearly not a sysadmin issue. But I will give you some help before the vote count gets to 5!

Having been a small company IT Manager, I can feel your pain. There is a lot of FUD around ERP. There are lots of consultants out there offering to help for exorbitant rates (including me!).

ERP is not about technology, it is about business processes. The fact that an ERP looks dated, or doesn't use AJAX, or might (gasp!) be text-based is not relevant. What is relevant is how well an ERP supports the processes that give your company competitive advantage.

Forget the demos. Start with process. Go to each department, and ask them to identify the critical processes, how they are done now, and what about the process makes it critical or gives the company competitive advantage. For instance, the inventory/procurement group might place component orders every day, and their process allows them to know exactly how much to order each day. Then go to the ERP vendors and ask them how they will support doing that process in a way which keeps the advantage or superiority. Have the vendors craft a specific demo of your critical processes.

Some ERP elements are interchangeable. For instance, there are many ways to manage Accounts Payable, and it likely will not matter to your company which one is used as long as the bills are paid. On the other hand, the processes around managing customer orders and inventory might be critical, if the company gets advantage by shipping on time, every time. In that case, you would want to make sure the ERP can support the things that make your order process work.

Finally .. make sure that the operational departments are involved in the process. Over communicate with all involved. If you can't get help and compliance, recommend that the project be cancelled. A new ERP cannot simply be imposed by IT.

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Ack! Sorry for the misplaced question. I've taken the time to assess current policies, and the need is definitely there. Software will help immensely. At the same time, TCO is very important, and something cloud-based would be cheaper and easier to customize, wouldn't it? And thanks for the tip about the demo - I'll try and make them work for it. –  Nic Jul 6 '10 at 18:20
    
+1. Hence the name: Enterprise Resource Planning. Probably one of the most difficult and time consuming IT projects to pull off is implementing an ERP system. It's about mapping technology to the business process and if you get it wrong it can have dire consequences for the ongoing success of the business. –  joeqwerty Jul 6 '10 at 18:42
    
I have a pretty good understanding of the consequences, scope, and cost.. and I'm kind of excited about the whole thing. Am I weird? :) –  Nic Jul 6 '10 at 18:44
    
@melee, re: TCO and cloud ... You are putting the cart before the horse. Find the best 2 or 3 systems for your company, then worry about getting the most cost-effective of those. The companies will negotiate. And the process evaluation is important, because customization and configuration are usually a HUGE (> 50%) part of the startup cost. –  tomjedrz Jul 6 '10 at 18:45
    
Point(s) taken. Thanks a lot for the expertise, tomjedrz! –  Nic Jul 6 '10 at 18:47

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