There is a strong similarity these days in the reaction of a hypochondriac with a new symptom and a business leader who has been tasked with selecting new ERP software.

They both run to the internet. They are both overwhelmed by what they find and they both become increasingly focused on diving deeper when they think they find something relevant to their own situation. They also both potentially suffer needlessly by not engaging an expert soon enough.

In the case of a hypochondriac, most people recommend at least talking to a doctor before going too far into self-diagnosis. Fortunately for hypochondriacs, stronger medications are managed by the FDA.

While ERP systems are not regulated in the same manner, choosing the wrong one based on internet research can certainly cause a lot of pain. If you are currently or planning to research the top ERP systems on your own, keep a few things in mind:

1) The internet is biased: For the same reason I didn’t use the big “Google” name when referring to internet searching, everything that is typed into a browser is tracked and manipulated. Simply put, what you see is not necessarily what you get. ERP vendors that are trying to win your business pump millions of dollars into online marketing and SEO programs to make sure that the message you receive about their products is positive.

Additionally, if you are looking at system reviews, quadrants, etc., the majority of these are manipulated, as well. ERP systems are not just “reviewed” in depth, someone has to pay for this. Likewise, negative reviews on unmonitored sites can be placed there by anyone, literally anyone, whether they use a specific software or not. Like searching for your favorite restaurant on Yelp, just notice the variations of reviews. Tier 1 ERP systems have an advantage here simply because of the size of their marketing budgets.

2) The internet doesn’t provide all the answers: Keep in mind the information you will find online is primarily promoted by the OEM’s themselves and tends to focus on generalities. A statement such as “SAP is great for process manufacturing companies” – even from a credible agnostic consulting firm – does not give you enough information to purchase SAP even if you are a “process manufacturing” company.

Another example: let’s say you are using the internet to determine a short list of vendors to send out an RFI. You will likely find plenty of vendors that claim they have the functionality you are looking for, and some might even show logos of competitors. What you will struggle to find are specifics on the success of implementations, costs, user feedback, benefits realized, etc. You may also miss a near perfect fit software that could be ideal in a best-of-breed scenario. This is becoming more and more common where the best “ERP” system is a form of best-of-breed, and internet searches won’t reveal these for you.

3) Every situation is unique: Following the previous point, when you combine your specific functional needs, integration requirements, culture and readiness, growth targets, etc., there is no company that has been in the exact same scenario, and therefore you will not find your scenario online. Even more risky is searching for an ERP when you don’t know your specific requirements. We have found that most companies who begin the ERP selection process don’t actually have a complete sense of what is needed in a new ERP system.

In case you couldn’t guess where this is going, we do strongly recommend asking for help from an independent ERP expert besides Google when looking for new ERP software. There can be significant value in beginning the process online and doing your own research to get your feet wet, but know when you have reached the point of online paralysis.

Likewise, if you are bleeding from your ears or your foot is green, go to the ER.

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