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This is an online forum to share experiences, lessons and learning about the selection, implementation and return on investment for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems. We also like to discuss Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) systems, Social CRM (SCRM) & social media, Manufacturing Systems, Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems and Payroll & HR Applications.




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ERP Software Round Up & Shoot Out Peaks Interest But Fails to Deliver

A One Stop Location for Side by Side ERP Comparisons is Desired but Elusive

Deciding on an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software application is never simple, whether you're starting from scratch or looking to replace an outdated legacy application your company has been using for years. So the idea of attending a two day ERP comparison event where ERP applications from multiple vendors are showcased in a "shoot-out" comparison and where you can see how each one works while running the same scripted, simulated workloads sounds pretty good.

At least that's what I thought when I received the e-mail press release, announcing the 7th annual "ERP Vendor Shoot-Out," to be held in San Diego and moderated by Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC) Inc. The concept of comparing ERP software in a side by side manner using actual production systems and real world business process test scripts sounds like nirvana during an ERP software selection project. However, before making my airline reservation and after digging a bit further, the other shoe dropped.

It turns out that only six vendors were invited to the party. Six vendors out of dozens of credible ERP software vendors. Sorry, but if only six products are being compared, it hardly seems like a valid "shoot-out."

So I called the folks at the Montreal-based Technology Evaluation Centers and asked them what they had in mind. Why only six vendors? How could that possibly give ERP software buyers a real market comparison if there are only a sampling of suppliers from a field of dozens of vendors in the marketplace?

The reason for the limit of six, they said, is because that's how many time slots there are for each day's daily presentations. That's unfortunate, as I think that the concept of this type of software comparison is weakened by arbitrary time slots.

Imagine if you could go to a conference where all the top ERP software vendors that you'd like to evaluate are on the floor and running the same demonstration scripts so you can can see the pros and cons of each in real time. Now that would be helpful.

Roy Semple, head of Internet marketing at TEC, said the six vendors that will participate this year bring their wares, but that TEC acts as an impartial moderator for the software presentations. "Our role is to make sure everyone plays fair," Semple said. "We set up rules based on criteria created by TEC."

The event is actually organized by a group of Value Added Resellers (VARs), and I subsequently discovered that only ERP systems sold through VARs would be included in the elite six. According to TEC, when the scripted demonstrations are run at the event by the six vendors, TEC tries to make the simulations difficult so they push the performance and capabilities of each ERP system on display. "We try to find things that will stretch vendors so they have to show things that they may not otherwise show to end users,"said Semple. Semple also advised the six vendor limit is like anything else, such as a luxury performance car comparison test where BMW, Jaguar and other expensive marques are included, while leaving out economy cars.

An issue with the whole arrangement is that the ERP software vendors from the prior year's event get the first rights of refusal to come back the next year. That means that as a customer, you'll likely see the same companies year after year, with maybe a bit of turn-over. That's a "competitors by the highest bidder" scenario in my estimation, and for customers, that means that the event may not be as worthwhile as it could be. Potentially, this kind of ERP software shoot-out could be a huge boon to software buyers if more vendors were invited to participate.

Most companies looking at ERP replacement or introduction start out by considering 10 to 20 vendors at the outset before culling that down to a short list of 6 to 10. From there they get to a finalist list of the top 3 to 4 for on site demonstrations and reviews. Only then are they in a position to make a truly informed purchase decision. That's what I call a real ERP shoot-out, with lots of contenders and one final victor.

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