1. Cloud by design
In this day and age, it should almost go without saying that a solution built for the cloud is a pretty good starting point. However, there is more to it than that. While ‘built for the cloud’ implies all the advantages of an on-demand solution which is rapidly deployed and flexible to meet diverse (and changing) business requirements, you also want to be sure that the chosen solution operates just as well on an on-premise or hosted model. Flexibility is the name of the game.
Beware of older systems with a cloud front-end (known as cloud-washing); when these systems are updated, enhancements or new applications are added, it can result in havoc.
2. Scalability and granularity
If your business is only just moving to an ERP solution from an accounting package, the chances are you’re not going to require thousands of licenses and hundreds of modules. But that doesn’t mean that day won’t come. Choose a system that can scale all the way from two or three users, to many hundreds as well as a system that has a full suite of modules, from finance, to warehousing and logistics, manufacturing and distribution, retail, human resources and payroll, and more. You only want to have to implement an ERP solution once.
Granularity is a tricky one; many solutions that claim to be ‘cloud’ have only some of the advantages of a truly cloud-based system. One of the giveaways is inflexibility in your choice of services. Look for systems that allow you to select (and pay for) only the licenses and even the features within any given module that is needed.
3. Online and offline
Particularly in Africa, where always-on connectivity isn’t assured (or cost-effective), your ERP solution should behave in precisely the same way whether it’s connected to the internet or not (some cloud solutions will only work online). This is of particular importance for front-of-shop applications, such as point-of-sale terminals; if the internet is compromised in any way, work shouldn’t stop.
4. Look for ‘modern maturity’
The world today is a very different place to the one ‘traditional’ ERP vendors grew up in. Smartphones, iPads, Apple Macs and Linux, the cloud and (almost) universal connectivity are a reality. People expect choice and flexibility in how they work and your ERP system has to cater for this. ‘Modern maturity’ is reflected in a system which works across devices, offers apps for all major platforms, and operates securely and seamlessly regardless of the device from which it is being accessed. That extends to the apps which are available with the system – these should be easily accessible from the App store, Google Play store or Windows marketplace.
5. Rapid deployment
Implementing an ERP solution is no picnic; depending on how it’s done, implementations can make or break companies. Those solutions which can be rapidly deployed – in timeframes measured in weeks or months – carry a lower risk than those which take years to get up and running. Talk is cheap, so look for a track record of successful implementations in businesses similar to yours.