Why a specification sheet is indispensable in an ERP project Find out why a detailed specification sheet is so important and how to design the structure. Creating a specification is one of the most basic components of an ERP project. For this reason, we want to take a closer look at the exact role of the spec sheet and give companies to use best practices for creating it. However, it must first be defined what exactly is meant by ERP software.
ERP software: a definition
The abbreviation ERP refers to enterprise resource planning. This is a fundamental task that all types of businesses must tackle. After all, every company works with resources. In a business context, resources are raw materials, business resources, personal resources, (work) time, land, energy and must be used as efficiently as possible in the context of corporate resource planning.
The central task of the ERP is to make all company-relevant resources available at the right time in the desired quality and quantity in the right place in the company. Depending on the industry, company size or internal structures, this central task requires a large number of complex business processes that build on each other.
Business resource planning using ERP software
For this reason, more and more companies today rely on technical support in the form of ERP software. Modern ERP systems are able to map out all own processes centrally. This creates a kind of digital image of the entire company with all its processes.
Manage and optimize processes digitally
These can then be managed, controlled, streamlined, optimized and automated within the ERP software. This saves valuable resources, which in turn can be used more profitably elsewhere in the company. Using appropriate enterprise ERP software can thus become a decisive competitive advantage. Because in highly competitive markets characterized by high customer expectations, continuous efficiency optimization and improvement has already become the norm in many areas.
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What is a specification sheet?
But the introduction of ERP software alone does not mean that all potential benefits are automatically captured. Above all, it must be ensured that the ERP software is suitable for use in your own company. To identify such systems, companies must first become aware of their own requirements for adequate ERP software. These are then recorded in the form of a specification sheet.
It is important that a highly structured approach is required to create such a specification. Under no circumstances should companies start “blindly” by listing specific requirements, but opt for a more strategic and targeted approach. Otherwise, there is a risk of neglecting important functions, which can later become a problem.
It’s worth it
Ultimately, the specifications in the ERP project form the basis for a successful selection of providers. In principle, there is nothing against keeping the effort involved in the creation as low as possible. However, it is important to choose a level of detail that takes all important factors into account.
Basic considerations for creating a specification sheet
At the beginning of a specification, companies should first ask themselves some basic questions, such as:
- What should the ERP software be used for?
- Which processes should be optimized with ERP software?
- What fundamental business goals must be achieved by the ERP implementation?
When answering this question, companies should always consider long-term goals and potential changes. What should the future direction of the company look like and how should the ERP software specifically support the objectives and processes of the company.
Requirements specification fulfills several functions
In addition, companies should keep in mind that the requirement specification is not only intended for submission to potential ERP providers. It will also be used later in the ERP project as a basis for tests and evaluations. For this reason, it should be worded in such a way that it is understandable for both providers and users.
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Components of a specification sheet
In the following, we would like to give an example of a suitable structure for detailed requirements specification. First, however, important criteria must be addressed that any specification should meet.
The focus is on the processes
So when drawing up a specification, the focus should always be on the processes. A mere description of all required functions is usually insufficient and does not provide a clear overall picture of the company. For this reason, a good specification sheet should always contain complete descriptions of business processes. Making these process descriptions also provides the ideal opportunity to rethink existing processes. For example, weak points in existing processes can, in theory, already be removed by describing the desired target processes.
Requirements instead of solutions
In addition, when creating a specification, companies should ensure that they only describe their requirements and not their implementation. The specification sheet must always be solution neutral. The simple reason for this is that non-solution neutral formulations may be able to exclude qualified providers if they pursue a different implementation of a requirement.
Involve all departments and disciplines
After carefully considering the strategic perspective, it is advisable to include all departments and disciplines in the project. Ultimately, this is where the future users of the ERP software are. It is important to be aware of the positive effects of ERP software on the whole company. This increases the chance that the new system will be accepted by future users.
It is important to involve critics as well as gather input on possible process optimization. The project team must then evaluate all information collected and develop a holistic approach for the entire company. Ultimately not just individuals. Departments are optimized in isolation from each other, but cross-departmental processes are organized more efficiently.
The ideal structure of a specification sheet
A highly structured structure is required when drawing up the specification sheet. So you should start with a basic description of the business. This includes, for example, the size of the company and its industry. The following points must then be addressed in sequential order:
- Products, services and market environment
- Strengths and unique selling points
- Current IT landscape including number of users
- Description of functional requirements (process oriented) including necessary interfaces and connections
- Contacts in the company
The order of individual sub-items may differ from company to company. It is important that companies work systematically and lead the reader from the general to a more detailed description of the requirements.
Conclusion: The specification sheet forms the basis for a successful supplier selection
It becomes clear that creating a requirement specification is a fundamental part of any software project. It serves as the basis for a successful and well-founded selection of providers. ERP suppliers get a quick overview of the company’s needs through the “from global to detail” structure of the specifications and can quickly assess whether they are a suitable business partner for the planned project.
Companies should also use solution neutral formulation when creating an appropriate specification sheet. Instead, it should only include the requirements to avoid hastily excluding potentially qualified providers.
Since the specification sheet is also used as a basis for testing and evaluation, it should be understandable for both ERP vendors and users. When all these criteria are met, the specification sheet provides a solid foundation for a successful ERP software selection.
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