An inside look at an online tool to source ERP and other enterprise applications

A Montreal company is looking to help organizations choose enterprise software, but users had best be ready to do some serious thinking about their requirements.

Technology Evaluation Centers’ TEC Advisor is an online tool that allows organizations to evaluate and select enterprise software such as ERP and CRM using information collected from vendor and validated by the company’s analysts.

The company’s CTO, Mehdi Aftahi, gave ITWorld Canada a walk-through of the online service as if we were an enterprise looking for ERP software, and it’s not for the faint of heart. You should be ready to have deep understanding of your organization’s requirements and business processes. “ERP is not just software, but it alters the way you do business, and affects the way to you interact with clients and suppliers and how you manage resources,” he said.

TEC Advisor provides a structured environment for defining and prioritizing requirements by presenting the user with an extensive list of enterprise software features. For our tour, we compared five different ERP offerings, including three flavors of Oracle, SAP and Microsoft for an organization in discrete manufacturing.

One the left there is a knowledge tree with common modules at the high level: financials, HR, manufacturing management, inventory management, purchasing management, quality management, and sales management. Finally, there is product technology, which is featured regardless of software being explored.

Users can prioritize these, said Aftahi, and prioritize needs within those areas. Car manufacturers, for example, would prioritize different factors. All users usually flag financials as important, but while he doesn’t disagree, Aftahi said in the current ERP market, financials are dictated by government and regulatory bodies, so the majority of ERP works the same way in that regard. “We tend to recommend that users reduce the importance of financials,” he said. “You don’t want to decide on that.”

Going back to the car manufacturing example, manufacturing management and inventory management are considered critical, so those should be prioritized. Within each one of these modules, users can keep drilling down several levels and assign a percentage as to their importance. “You can set priorities at any level,” said Aftahi.

Users can even drill down into a module to see where the weakest point is for a product; one missing feature could take a vendor out of the running. It could be payroll, for example, but if payroll at the organization is outsourced, its influence can be eliminated from the buying decision. In addition, the best solution technology-wise may get trumped by deployment and implementation costs, said Aftahi.

Each sub-modules offers additional information, both from the vendor and TEC analysts. In all, there are 4,600 criteria in the TEC Advisor’s discrete ERP model. “What makes our methodology appealing to users is it helps them identify and go through their own processes so they know what’s important to them,” he said. “If you don’t know your business, you shouldn’t really get an ERP system.”
Aftahi said it’s easy to get distracted by sexy features you don’t need when vendor demos its software. He said enterprises need to be able to identify critical functionalities specific to their business, otherwise ERP deployments are likely to fail.

Technology Evaluation Centers was founded in 1993 under a different name offering decision support software. and through the late 90s it developed a consultancy with tools and analysts as the first ERP and CRM packages began to get deployed in North America. At the time, only large organizations were installing ERP, noted Aftahi.
As the market evolved, more companies tried to implement large software installations and there were huge failures; not everyone was able to get right apps into their organization. Some of those failures were high profile and even led to lawsuits. For example, in 2008, trash-disposal giant Waste Management sued SAP, saying top SAP executives participated in a fraudulent sales scheme that resulted in a failed ERP implementation.

Aftahi said ultimately the context of a customer’s particular situation should drive decision making. “There’s no absolute best ERP.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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