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Selecting an ERP System for State and Local Government Doesn’t Need to Be a “Scary Movie”: 3 Simple Steps to Help You Decide

Petra Eimiller

In thinking about HSO's past participation in the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) annual conference, a particular topic and its related session comes up.

The topic? There are many, many state and local governments looking for a new ERP system and need help. And the session? Well, we found it was as difficult to get into the “Scary Movie: Your Next ERP Project” session at the conference as it is to get into a sold-out Broadway show.

So, was it the funny name that attracted people to the session? Or did the idea that choosing an ERP is indeed a scary task resonate with them? Either way, it’s important to understand that choosing an ERP doesn’t have to be an intimidating process for any state or local government; you simply need to follow some simple but important steps.

Step 1: Define your goals

The first step is really a rather natural one, but it cannot be underestimated. Ask key stakeholders what they hope to gain from implementing a new ERP solution. State and local governments often have similar goals, such as:

  • Making data more readily available internally. Governments need a better way to access, analyze, and present/report on data than they currently can with outdated, often disparate systems or spreadsheets. This can hurt, particularly financially, when governments are required to stick to tight budgets and report to constituents and entities providing funding or other support.
  • Improving processes and management within the organization using tools and technology like mobile access.
  • Improving the ability to provide a more positive experience to those you serve. This can be through easier access to information, but it also comes through in answering questions or resolving issues faster

The right ERP platform not only accomplishes these goals, but it also saves time and money because they take these burdens off the accounting or IT staff, allowing them to focus on other areas.

You’ll undoubtedly have other goals on your list, but the takeaway from this is that it is absolutely necessary to identify and prioritize goals you hope to address with your ERP; otherwise, you will have nothing to use as a benchmark for evaluating various ERPs.

Step 2: Look for flexibility and adaptability

As an implementer of ERP systems, with over 20 years of experience working with state and local governments, we’ve seen plenty of RFPs. We understand that most governments have a specific process they must follow, but we also have seen the value in comparing ERP solutions in a holistic sense rather than engaging in a feature/function battle.

Your focus should be on flexibility and adaptability, which most ERPs struggle with at some level. Most ERPs today can handle standard processes, but no system can do everything—certainly not processes that are unique to your organization. In addition, there is no way to predict what you will need in the future.

In government, this is a problem. Systems are customized over the course of a long period of time in an attempt to keep up with changes, but these changes are constant. What government doesn’t deal with outside forces like the economy and legislation, which require you to change processes (even if they sometimes don’t make sense)?

That’s why analyzing the flexibility and adaptability of ERP solutions is critical in your comparison of them. Look for an ERP that is ready for today and the future:

  1. Is the ERP backed by a complete, reliable cloud platform? Even if you’re not yet ready to move to the cloud, it won’t be long before the cloud is the norm—and you don’t want to have to throw out your ERP and replace it again in a few years.
  2. Is the ERP built for true business intelligence? Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning aren’t science fiction; they are real and being used every day in business. Again, you might not be using AI now, but you will very soon, so your ERP needs to have these capabilities.
  3. Does the ERP create a uniform, connected system? You might find the “perfect” ERP, but will it work smoothly with other business-critical systems, like Microsoft Office? It is important that your ERP is flexible in its ability to work with other technology, including third-party systems.
  4. Can the ERP handle compliance and regulatory requirement...and does it have the flexibility to adapt as those requirements change? No government is exempt from regulations, and we all know that those regulations can change significantly and often. You cannot afford an ERP that can’t manage those needs now and in the future.
  5. Does the ERP have the flexibility to meet your unique needs? As we said before, no ERP has it all, so you need to select one that is easy and cost-effective to customize.

There are, of course, other factors to consider when analyzing the completeness of an ERP platform, but the focus should be on whether the system can grow with the evolving needs of your government. Buying a new ERP not something you want to be doing again soon!

Step 3: Decide if the ERP fits your future

The last step is to take the criteria you’ve developed from the first two steps and compare them with the various ERP systems you’re considering. Determine which systems can address your goals—not only now, but in the future—and rule out those that cannot. Then identify which systems can address your specific, unique functions.

Not only is Microsoft Dynamics 365 designed for easy customization, but HSO adds even more value. We offer specific solutions built on Dynamics 365 that add to the inherent ability of the system to meet the unique requirements of state and local governments. Our solutions for SLG, built on a solid Microsoft Dynamics platform, can take care of the majority of your needs, leaving little to customize—saving you money and reducing the time to value.

With these three steps, you can be well on your way to identifying the ERP that will meet your needs now and help you reach your goals. It might seem like a daunting task at first, but the process doesn’t have to be.

Hear why McHenry County, Illinois Chose Microsoft Dynamics 365 as their ERP solution and HSO as their partner

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