The IT Director’s ERP Wish List

Major business software projects, as we are all aware, are not to be undertaken lightly and, indeed, they rarely are. From the IT director’s perspective, a clear sense of your overall objective, combined with the knowledge you are leading a project that is going to deliver success to the bottom line of the organisation, is very important and can go a very long way in terms of providing you with motivation.

But from the suppliers’ point of view, trying to get inside the mind of the IT director is critical and could mean the difference between winning a project or missing out. To assess what it is that actually makes the IT director tick, so to speak, we conducted an international survey to try to find out once and for all what the IT director’s ERP wish list might be.

Most technology providers will go to great lengths to tell you they are not just a supplier, and stress they are a strategic business partner, but to what extent are they speaking the same language as the IT directors they are trying to impress?

The five most important characteristics that IT directors want on their wish list, according to the research were as follows:

  • Flexible and scalable systems
  • Innovative and proactive software vendor
  • Good understanding of how the company works
  • Committed contact persons
  • User-centric systems

The two that made it to the top of the wish list – getting flexible and scalable systems, and working with an innovative and proactive software vendor – were the same for IT directors and decision makers from other business functions. But what does that mean and what can a software company learn from it?

The IT director is concerned with both the company as well as his/her own requirements. A business system is a long-term commitment, making it crucial to choose a system that can be adapted to foreseeable and unforeseeable changes.

To the IT director, the perfect business software supplier would be someone that can guide the company through future changes. The ideal supplier should be able to anticipate changes both within the industry as well as in the company.

There is an art to walking the line between just giving the client what they think they want on one hand, and forcing upon them what you think they want on the other. But while you are demonstrating your knowledge and expertise to your clients and prospects, don’t forget to listen to what they are saying. Furthermore, while listening to them don’t just nod politely – apply your market knowledge and use the insight you are gaining from your client to everyone’s advantage.

There are two obvious outcomes here, the first of which may seem superficial to some – it will help you look like a supplier that can be trusted to guide them through the constantly evolving landscape of business, the global economy and the IT project. The second outcome is that the project is likely to benefit as a result of your ability to think quickly and collaborate effectively.

If you can help your client identify a new approach to a problem, a process or a procedure that also works seamlessly with the technology you are implementing there can be significant additional longer-term benefits.

It is worth noting that even though specialist knowledge of industry and strategic functions is not rated among the top five factors we found with our wish list research, it is an important area that most likely has become a mandatory characteristic among the suppliers of business systems from the decision maker’s point of view. Maybe by now it is almost so taken for granted that reliance upon it as your USP is as likely to cast a shadow of doubt over your offering.

Never lose sight of the human aspects of technology projects though. The IT Director’s wish list defines the perfect business software supplier as a business partner that can guide the company through future changes. But because business systems don’t only involve technology, IT suppliers must be able to create business value throughout the project and to focus on the user of the system. The human factors are important when it comes to working in large, complex projects that stretch over long time periods.

Paul’s early career was in industry as a management accountant with Lucas Industries, Dunlop & Thorn EMI, before he became increasingly specialised in the implementation of accounting systems and subsequently made a move in to the software industry. After further experience with Pansophic Systems, and Marcam Paul joined Avalon Software and was then a key player in the team that established IFS in the UK in 1997. Paul spent 8 years as UK Consulting Services Director – building and growing the services and support operation to a turnover of £14M - before becoming Managing Director for the newly formed IFS region of Europe West in March 2006.