One...Two..Three Strikes against the RFP process for selecting ERP software

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The Colorado Rockies have clinched a spot in the coveted postseason baseball playoffs with the initial round of division games set to begin later this week.  Baseball progresses through 2 elimination rounds, a divisional and conference series, progressively weeding out the losers until the two remaining teams go at it in the World Series.  The teams that survive this grueling playoff process, in theory anyway, represent the two most talented ballclubs in any given year. The reality though is often times luck, and not just skill, plays a huge role in who advances to the final games. 

In the midst of all this excitement, I find myself distracted by being the finalist in an RFP process to provide software and services for a new Dynamics GP ERP implementation.  This Colorado based prospect is evaluating business software solutions from six different accounting software vendors, all who have had to go through a rigorous 2 round elimination process before the final two business software solutions are selected. This week I will found out if the Microsft Dynamics GP solution makes the cut as one of two finalists. 

Many of the blog posts on this site explain what factors to consider when evaluating a new ERP solution. I consider the RFP process the LEAST effective strategy for identifying the appropirate accounting software and business intelligence solution for your business. Here are my three strikes against the RFP process: 

  • Business software should be selected based on business benefits, not features.  Often times an RFP contains dozens of pages listing every feature imaginable, whereas the response is typically a “yes” or “no” or (my personal favorite) “some customization required”  You should not compare and evaluate alternate solutions strictly on features.  The key are the benefits achieved from implementing the ERP solution, not the features offered. 
  • Diagnostic Analysis (Discovery) is mistimed.  As mentioned in my prior blogs, upfront discovery is necessary for a successful ERP software implementation.  But it is just as important to undergo business process review prior to initiating the accounting software evaluation process. How else do you know what questions to even ask the vendors?  Most often, a fault of the RFP process is that it precedes the opportunity for the software vendor to do significant discovery. As a result, answers to the RFP questions are often rote and lack substance.  Even in those cases where the vendor is provided an upfront question and answer session, it usually does not provide the deep dive necessary to get a really good handle on the business problems and pain that the new ERP solution needs to solve.
  • I am sure this statement will come as a surprise to some, but not all ERP vendors provide completely honest responses to the RFP queries.  Some inflate the features of their proposed business solution, just to get past the first round. Then during the next stages of discovery and demonstration they hope to make a business case for their product.  So proof of concept (a fancy name for a demonstration) is still ultimately necessary to ensure that the business software solution can do what the vendor states.  So why go through all the prerequisites, if you will end up needing visual proof anyway. 

So if your business is considering a new ERP solution like Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains) I would suggest these alternatives before considering issuing an RFP.  First, talk to the business peers in your industry; find out what accounting software packages they use.  Second, question your accounting firm and other business advisors for what solutions they recommend.  And last, do your own research.  There are numerous sources of great information with wonderful information, akin to the Microsoft web site and this ERP Software Blog. Not only will you save the considerable expense and effort of committing to the RFP process, but the information gained most likely will be more valuable and relevant; assuring you of a picking the right winner based on merit and not chance.

 By The Knaster Technology Group, Denver based Microsoft Gold Certified Dynamics GP Partner

3 thoughts on “One...Two..Three Strikes against the RFP process for selecting ERP software”

  1. RFP - and the customer often doesn't get what they really need, which is a business partner versus the cheapest quick-fix. The question I often ask - would you choose an doctor with this methodology?

    Several of the better VAR's that I have worked with don't respond many of these unless they have one of two items in their back pocket. It is an existing prospect and they get to help write the RFP or they really see an undisclosed opportunity to create additional value in such a partnership.

    ERP systems are not commodities, labor jobs or widgets which RFP's are good for. Instead, I compare implementing ERP Systems to open heart surgery and the patient is required to assist during the operation. If you needed surgery, how would you find the best solution?

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