You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it first. You wouldn’t buy a pair of jeans without trying them on. So, would you want to buy ERP software without testing it first?
Probably not, but getting the opportunity to test ERP software is a lot more complicated than you might think. Here are some things to consider when you’re planning to test ERP suites before purchase:
Testing the ERP software can be a costly and time-consuming process, eating up IT staff time for both customers and vendors that could be devoted to other projects. Many companies want to get their new ERP solution online quickly and are tempted to skip the testing phase. However, in general the customers who have the best outcomes are the ones who run a test environment beforehand.
Think of it as the IT version of “measure twice, cut once.” It’s a lot easier to spot potential problems, bugs, incompatibilities, etc. when you’re in a test environment. Once you’re working in a live environment with real data, it’s much harder to fix problems; you’re more likely to have to start over because you are basically using your entire company as a guinea pig. In addition, it’s easier to show users how the software will work in a test environment than in a live environment. Also, the test environment provides you with a platform to help you visualize your existing systems and how you will integrate the ERP solution into them.
Keep in mind that testing ERP software isn’t like testing other types of software. Because ERP systems are so integrated into every aspect of your company, if one aspect isn’t functionally optimal it can have repercussions throughout the business. And, as much as everyone would like to be optimistic, there are going to be unanticipated problems with any ERP implementation. The solutions are simply too complicated and too far-reaching throughout your company to slide unobtrusively into your existing IT set up. Setting up tests can help you anticipate and address those problems.
However, doing a test before you purchase your ERP solution can be difficult. If your business has a lot of complex processes and requirements, doing a proper ERP software trial run is no easy task. Don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort it would take to properly scope and test an ERP solution in a potential customer’s environment.
It’s not just the vendor that needs to dedicate a lot of staff time. The customer will need to dedicate employees who can describe existing IT systems and procedures and help the vendor understand how the new ERP solution can be integrated. After all of these consultations has taken place (which can take weeks), the vendor can then set up a test environment and do a trial run. Then you can determine whether the ERP solution fits your needs.
However, some prospective customers have less complex business processes and requirements. So why aren’t vendors creating tests for these companies?
It isn’t so much a matter of investing the resources to develop a proper test. The problem is that ERP solutions can be so complicated that vendors haven’t yet figured out how to demonstrate the best features of their systems without getting bogged down in all of the details by setting up an actual test environment.
Since ERP solutions can get complex quickly, the challenge for vendors is to create a test ERP mode that shows sufficient functionality to demonstrate what the product can do – without going so deeply into the weeds that the complications hurt adoption and ease of use.
When you find a vendor and a solution that you like, you should invest the time and resources to test it. It’s simply the best way to ensure that the solution will meet your company’s needs. But be prepared to give the vendor the help they need to set up an adequate test environment. Remember that the time you invest now will pay off in the long run.
Looking for more information on ERP software? Check out our side-by-side comparison of leading platforms in the Top 20 ERP Software report. You can also browse exclusive Business-Software.com resources on enterprise resource management software by visiting the ERP research page.