7 insider tips from digitalization expert Tobias Hertfelder
Sooner or later, every company will wonder: Does our ERP system still meet our requirements? Does it promote the digital transformation? And what if the answer to these questions is "No"? Experienced ERP consultant Tobias Hertfelder knows what to do.
From his days as a successful motocross rider, Tobias Hertfelder knows how to cope with difficult terrain and that it's crucial to focus on the essential. Today, he uses this expertise for his second career as a digitalization expert and entrepreneur. He has shared some tips with us for small and mid-sized enterprises about what to bear in mind when selecting an ERP system.
- Clear focus
An astonishing number of companies start a project without setting a clear goal. According to Hertfelder, however, essential aspects are often not clear then. This already starts with basics like the purpose of a digitalization initiative. Many companies are not able to answer the question "What am I even doing this for?". Along with the strategic orientation, it is also important to involve the relevant decision-makers at an early stage. Otherwise, you run the risk of having important preparations and changes blocked.
- Processes as starting point
At the same time, the ERP expert recommends to not put "too much emphasis on the ERP system" at the beginning. After all, the software only maps the defined processes. It's better to first define clear processes and then challenge the ERP system with them.
- Size matters – in the ERP project as well
Dimensioning poses another risk. Hertfelder recommends not to make too big leaps from facts to vision. Since the daily business already takes up a lot of space and resources, SMEs in particular should "rather stick to small components in terms of efficiency". Companies that strictly follow through with this, will successfully implement their ERP project.
- Select the optimal references
Renowned ERP providers that have been on the market for 25 years or longer usually have many reference customers to show. Prospects then talk to one to three companies that are similar to their own. That's a good start according to Hertfelder, but it would be even better to also visit one or two companies from other industries. From these additional insights, mid-market companies can derive ideas for their own business.
- Properly assess functionality
With regard to the functional scope, all leading ERP providers cover the whole range and offer extensive automation options for every department, says Hertfelder. Therefore, he recommends to pay attention to how easy or complicated it is to automate processes, that is, "when you want to turn a manual process into an automated process". Furthermore, he advises to check providers for open and easy-to-operate interfaces with other systems. As even small companies operate on an international level now, a solution for internationalization is a must.
- Usability, usability, usability
Not every new employee can participate in several days of training. New staff must be able to integrate quickly and to work with the software intuitively. Therefore, SMEs looking for a new ERP system should pay attention to an intuitive graphical user interface. And that the provider helps the users to help themselves, for example, by establishing a user community whose members support each other with advice and sparring. Tobias Hertfelder's advice for all SMEs: "Pay more attention to the environment and the usability ... and not only to the software's functions."
- Not bad is not good enough
Hertfelder also warns against only considering the current functional scope: "If you look at an ERP system at the current stage of development, it is only a snapshot and ultimately a reference to the past." It's more important to keep an eye on the future in the form of a roadmap. It shows how a manufacturer develops their system and how a company could benefit from it. Last but not least, the key to a company's success is not the status quo but the sustainability of an ERP system.