How to Avoid a Bad Enterprise Software Purchase

Choosing enterprise software for your business isn’t something you can do in a day or a week. It’s a big step. It takes a lot of research and time spent in demos and requirements gathering.

Just the thought of it is pretty exhausting.

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back.

We’ve seen a lot of software systems over the years, both from leading providers and from custom options. Some of them are great—and some are lousy.

So before you start viewing demos, take a few minutes to read through our list of must-have software capabilities.

Before We Get Started…

We love talking about software features, but we know that having a bunch of really great features isn’t enough to make your software successful. It’s not the features that make you love your ERP. It’s how those features benefit your business.

That’s why we recommend a thorough requirements analysis before you even think about submitting a request for information. Requirements document how the software should serve your business. If you don’t do thorough requirements gathering, you may end up buying the wrong tool for the job and losing money in the process. CIO warns that if you fail to define your business needs up front, you’ll end up with unclear objectives, poorly defined scope, and mediocre (or worse) ROI.

Take it from us, you’ll be much happier with your final product if you learn what you need before you buy—not after.

With that in mind, let’s dig into the nuts and bolts of enterprise software features.

What to Look for In Your Enterprise Software

Your enterprise software is the glue that holds your organization together and keeps it running efficiently as a unified whole. That’s why it’s essential to know what to look for before you get stuck with a product that doesn’t do its job.

As you consider your options, look for a system that knocks it out of the park in these critical areas:

1. Scalability

Your business won’t always look exactly the way it does today. As you experience growth, you need an ERP that can grow with you. You want a platform that can keep functioning even when your usage needs increase.

Questions to ask:
* Can you add additional users and increase load as needed?
* Can the system handle new functions?
* Will it maintain speed as your database volume increases?
* Can you upgrade modules to handle new requirements?
* What costs will you incur when adding additional users?

2. Flexibility

You also need software that can adapt. You don’t want a system where knowledge or functions are trapped in silos. As the needs of your business change, the software should be able to meet your new requirements.

Questions to ask:
* Does the software integrate with other systems efficiently?
* What API are available, and are there any barriers to using them?
* How long does it take to make modifications?

3. Usability

Usability involves both consistency and ease of use. Because the solution will be used across all the departments of your business, it will be handling information for employees doing many different tasks. Look for a system that can manage all those different functions efficiently while still maintaining a unified look and feel.

Questions to ask:
* Does the software have a consistent user interface across all modules?
* Are common operations handled the same in all modules?
* Can new users learn the system quickly?
* Can users customize their experience so they can find what they need quickly?
* Are processes streamlined to prevent redundancies?

4. Security

If you think preventing hacks, leaks, and data breaches should be a given, just ask the CIA about their breach earlier this year. Enterprise software should keep your data secure using built-in protections and firewalls. Security features should provide uncomplicated access for users while preventing unauthorized use.

Questions to ask:
* Does the software provide role-based security layers?
* Do you need two-factor authorization?
* How will users receive the security access they need?
* Does the system maintain accuracy and consistency of data as well as security?
* Can you extend security measures to remote devices?
* Do you need any special security provisions to comply with industry or government regulations?

5. Mobile Support

Forbes reports that 91% of remote workers feel more productive when they work from home. And if you have employees who routinely collect data in the field, you’ll improve data accuracy by giving them the ability to enter data immediately rather than waiting till they return to the office. Whether you provide company devices for your employees or embrace a bring-your-own-device culture, your employees often need to access their workflows and data on the go. An ERP that provides full functionality across multiple mobile devices and platforms will boost productivity and efficiency across your organization.

Questions to ask:
* Can the application run on multiple platforms?
* Does the web app support different browsers and operating systems?
* Can employees enter and store data on mobile devices?
* Can they access key workflows from phones or tablets?
* What security and access and provisions do you need in place particularly for mobile devices?

6. Customizable Reporting

In today’s workplace, it’s data—not love—that makes the world go round. Business intelligence and analytics depend on effective reporting to tap into key metrics, KPIs, and business trends. Your ERP should handle complex data reports and requests while maintaining data integrity across modules.

Questions to ask:
* Are BI tools fully integrated across the enterprise?
* Can you restrict data access based on role or security level?
* Does the system allow collaborative information sharing?
* Can users customize reports based on their needs?
* Is data housed in a shared database to prevent information silos?

7. Contextualization

By contextualization, we mean the ability to apply standards based on differing needs. For example, if you maintain offices in different regions or different countries, legal standards and compliance regulations may vary. The same goes for user permissions in the system by different roles—you want to make sure people have the data they need without seeing things they shouldn’t see. Your ERP should be able to automate these decisions and work smoothly for everyone.

Questions to ask:
* Can the system change data presentation based on contextual needs (for example, units of measurement or time changes)?
* Can it render data in different languages as needed?
* Can it tie into different regulatory compliance requirements based on industry or locale?
* Does it allow you to easily customize and change user permissions by individuals and/or groups?

8. Customer Service

One of the ERP’s jobs is to make it easier to provide good service to your customers. Access to data and effective reporting helps your employees find the information they need quickly and efficiently so they can keep customers satisfied. Your ERP can also improve customer experiences by streamlining back-end processes and coordinating supply with demand.

Questions to ask:
* Can employees access customer data in real time?
* Does the ERP integrate with your CRM?
* Will the software maintain or improve your competitive advantage?

Conclusion: Don’t Forget About Implementation

While implementation isn’t a software feature per se, it is an important consideration as you’re deciding which software to purchase. Consider the efficiency and speed of implementation as well as the expertise of the company you’ll be working with. Find out how much support they offer and whether they’ll be willing to work with you as you train your staff and work through any problems or bugs.

And there’s one more thing you should look for: recommendations from other customers. Talk to people who have worked with the vendor or development team and find out what their implementation experience was like. That will tell you a lot about what you can expect in terms of customer service and support.

We know buying enterprise software is a big deal. And we want you to get a product that keeps your company efficient and productive. So make sure to consider these eight things on the front end to ensure your business gets what it needs.

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We'll never tell you a lie, but we might tell you a success story that protects the intellectual property of our clients and partners. Our Worthwhile Storyteller is an amalgamation of all of our thoughts, experience, and expertise brought together to give you the facts about our relentless improvement in the software development space.