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As every business manager knows, change happens all the time, continuously presenting new business risks, opportunities and challenges. While some businesses will merely cope – and many just won’t survive – successful businesses will see change coming and turn it into an advantage.

For any product company, no matter if you develop business software, cars, washing machines or smart watches, the market is constantly asking for new innovations built on new technologies to enable new business opportunities and user experiences. But, a critical business aspect is a safe and cost efficient path to new innovations and I know, after twenty years with IFS, that we differentiate against our competition in that matter. Why?

We provide a platform for innovation – IFS Applications, so our customers and partners can benefit from new technologies, business models and user experiences over time with a low and competitive total cost of ownership (TCO). With the latest version, IFS Applications 9, it is for instance, much easier and more cost efficient for our customers and partners to configure and modify the system thanks to a new, layered application architecture. The result is quicker and cheaper upgrades – and staying on the latest release means access to the latest and greatest innovations. To put it simply, I believe technology should facilitate rather than frustrate.

One of the Most Important Technologies a Business will Implement

I’ve written a new white paper that discusses the topic of change from an important perspective – choosing the most effective business tools to help you make the most of change. One of the principal tools you can use to manage and leverage change to maintain or improve your competitive standing is enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, like the product we make.

For most companies, it is the most important technology they will implement to run their business. The trick is knowing how to choose the right one and what will help you succeed.

Gartner – the inventor of the term ‘ERP’ – now defines ERP in a broader sense as a technology strategy that integrates a set of business functions, such as finance, HR and purchasing, with operational aspects, such as manufacturing or distribution, through tight linkages from operational business transactions to financial records.

10 Questions You Should Ask a Vendor

When considering which ERP solution to choose, the starting point is a set of ten specific questions you should ask of an ERP vendor when considering them as a provider of, arguably, your most strategic business tool:

  1. Is the software appealing to today’s generation of workers? You need a user experience that is attractive, intuitive and efficient for any type of user within your company.
  2. Is the software easy and cost efficient to modify and maintain? Does it enable you to tailor it to fit your specific needs over time in a way that doesn’t impede upgrading to the latest release to benefit from new innovations available in the core product?
  3. Does the software enable stepwise implementation? Choose software built on components that allow you to choose only the ones you need, and add new ones as you need them.
  4. Can the software be implemented as a global, single-instance application? This will let you reduce complexity and cost while providing insights and analysis at much faster speed.
  5. Is there a non-disruptive upgrade capability available? An ERP system shouldn’t be seen as a one-off software implementation, but as a platform – a technology strategy – for business innovation over time.
  6. Can the software be extended as business demands change? A modern ERP system should offer a layered application architecture that facilitates the development and management of different types of code changes such as localizations, customizations and configurations.
  7. Does the software provide different deployment options? Consider your need for a software solution that enables full-suite deployment or deployment as either the backbone or point-solution for key processes in a two-tier application strategy that embraces the cloud and on-premise solutions.
  8. Can you, as the customer, influence product development? Your preferred vendor should have an agile development approach where product requirements are collected and prioritized in close collaboration with industry specialists in the customer base.
  9. Does the vendor’s R&D organization include a workspace to drive disruptive innovation? Conceptual products and prototypes will not always result in a launched product for various reasons, and that’s the purpose of prototyping. Ask the software vendor how they work with the innovation selection and development process.
  10. Are you offered references to customers using the evaluated software package? Ask for customer reference calls and site visits to learn from other customers’ experiences of implementing and using the software, including their experiences of collaborating with the vendor’s implementation staff, product development department and partners.

It’s not hard to see that selecting and deploying the right business software is an important and strategic decision for any company. A starting approach such as the one I’ve outlined works very well for our customers. It can work well for you, too.

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