Selecting the right enterprise resource planning (ERP) software (sometimes referred to as a financial management system) can be a painful and time-consuming process. If your organization has historically relied on QuickBooks or another legacy, on-premise ERP platform you may be reluctant to re-evaluate your current ERP system. The prospect of investing in and training employees on unfamiliar software may seem like a daunting (and costly) task.
However, if you are finding yourself increasingly unsatisfied with your current ERP platform, implementing a new system may be the best course of action. And as a modern controller, you have more decision-making input than ever before — including decisions on your company’s ERP. You can be proactive in keeping your organization on the forefront of digital transformation and avoid getting left behind by your industry peers.
Taking control of the ERP evaluation and selection process is an important, high-visibility role that will optimize your organization’s financial processes and modernize the strategic direction of your company. But, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Here are five tips to get you headed in the right direction as you seek buy-in from your executives and stakeholders.
1. Assess Your Current ERP System
According to a 2021 Controllers Council survey, a significant majority of controllers are currently participating in or supervising aspects of digital transformation for their organizations, and 33% of controllers are currently planning or evaluating new systems for their accounting, bookkeeping or ERP services.
To determine whether moving to a new ERP system is the best course of action for your organization, first ensure that you have a full picture of your current ERP software and the problems at hand. Ask yourself these questions about your current platform:
- Is my company’s growth outpacing the capabilities of our ERP platform?
- Are my employees growing frustrated with manual processes and redundant, one-off data entry?
- Is our data spread across different systems and Excel spreadsheet versions? As a result, do we lack a single source of truth?
- Is it taking too long to close the books — so much so that financial reports are already stale by the time they are completed?
- Are there missed opportunities for system automation and streamlining?
- Am I doing what the controllers of tomorrow are doing — or am I risking getting left behind?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, your current ERP system is likely no longer a good fit.
Conduct a thorough, honest assessment of your existing ERP platform so you know what you’re up against. Pinpoint problem areas in your current system and determine who is affected most, the impacts those problems have on your business and what it would take to resolve them. Benchmark your current ERP platform against your competitors and present the results to your leadership team.
And, if it becomes clear that your current ERP is no longer tenable for your organization, but you are unsure whether you can afford to move to a new system, ask yourself the question: Can we afford not to?
2. Prioritize the Capabilities That Are Most Important to Your Company
To kickstart your ERP system search, determine the top selection criteria to focus on as you begin to browse platforms. This will take out the guesswork as you begin to consider new ERP software systems and will provide your leaders and stakeholders with a plan of action.
Perhaps your most urgent focus is to accelerate the time it currently takes to close the books, or to streamline a jumble of Excel spreadsheets and create a single source of truth. Maybe your most vital priority is to connect the finance and operations teams by integrating ERP to CRM such as Salesforce and Sage Intacct. Or maybe it’s to free up valuable employee time or your own — so that you can minimize the hours spent on manual, back-office tasks and devote more energy to critical company strategy.
Regardless, identifying your organization’s most crucial ERP needs will help you banish background noise and narrow your system search to focus on platforms that address your most pressing issues — and will instill your leadership team with clarity and confidence in your search.
3. Identify Opportunities for Automation and Streamlining
Enabling your employees to do their jobs effectively and efficiently is a central factor of any successful ERP system. For companies that have outgrown their current ERP systems, this has likely become a struggle.
As you begin to consider new ERP platforms, map your critical business processes and look for opportunities for system automation and streamlining. Determine where employee resources can be used more effectively, and where the streamlining of data can minimize misaligned numbers and potential errors.
Automating tedious, manual processes gives your people the freedom to be more strategic in their day-to-day operations and allows you to optimize their skillsets far beyond redundant and error-prone data input.
4. Consider the ERP Features That Attract and Retain Talent
Current and prospective employees alike may be disheartened by and unimpressed with your legacy, on-premise system. Top talent follows top platforms, and you don’t want to risk losing premier people to your competitors.
Rather, attract prospective employees with a modern cloud platform that gives them the tools to eliminate redundancies and produce accurate data for board members and stakeholders on a timely basis, and enable them to succeed in their roles.
Current employees, too, may be revitalized by an updated system. Many are likely stretched too thin, or their skills may be overlooked or under-utilized. Proactively prevent them from becoming disengaged with their jobs and looking elsewhere by moving to a modern platform that banishes the manual data entry and frees them up to focus on more valuable areas of their job.
5. Factor in Your Plans for Growth
As your business evolves and complexity increases, investing in modern, scalable technology is an invaluable way to prepare for future growth. Understanding your company’s current ERP software needs is crucial to beginning your ERP vendor selection process. However, it’s just as important to know where your company is headed.
Where does your business plan need to be in five years? What kind of growth are you projecting? Do you anticipate adding more personnel, or is there a merger or acquisition in the pipeline? Being cognizant of both where your company stands now and where you are headed is critical to selecting the right ERP. You need a system that scales with your organization, not one that you’ll just outgrow again in the next few years.
Choosing the best ERP software is an important, high-stakes decision for controllers. Although owning the ERP selection process, finding a system that meets your growing needs, and getting leadership and stakeholder buy-in can seem like an overwhelming challenge, it doesn’t have to be. If you begin with the tips given above, you can take control of the ERP evaluation process.
And you don’t have to do it all on your own. Armanino’s comprehensive guide takes you step-by-step through the ERP selection process, helping you avoid pitfalls and make your selection as simple and straightforward as possible.
Free Download: A 21 Step-by-Step Guide to Selecting Your Next ERP Solution here.
Lindy Antonelli is a Partner at Armanino, LLC, a Top 20 Accounting Firm where she leads the cloud technology practice. With over 25 years of experience in technology consulting, she began her career with the audit practice at Deloitte. Lindy is a frequent speaker for industry events, podcasts and webinars including the AICPA, Financial Executives International (FEI), Proformative, multiple state CPA Societies, Moore Stephens, Illinois Technology Association (ITA), and the annual Sage Intacct Advantage conference. Lindy is a graduate of the University of Missouri, a past member of the California CPA Society, and an AICPA Certified IT Professional. Lindy is Board Chair of the Controllers Council, and most recently served on the Armanino Women’s Advancement Network Board, the Naper Settlement/Naperville Historical Society Board of Directors, and founded the Cloud Accounting Institute.