How to build relevant ERP specifications? The 5 key steps.

Integrating ERP software is a complex project and the specification stage often acts as a mountain to climb. Here is an article to put the odds on your side.


Feedback from our customers proves it. An ERP has a much better chance of generating a return on investment when the specifications meet the crucial points of the project.


  • The job and the organization
  • The context of the project
  • Constraints
  • The scope of the current information system
  • The major issues

Above all, the specifications remain essential to the ERP project

Before going further in reading, it is important to make a preamble.


Yes, drawing up specifications is a key step for any ERP project, well before thinking about the price or comparing software.


The specifications for an integrated management tool are essential to be sure to take the right direction and to be a winner all along the line.


There is therefore no question of questioning it. It is inseparable from project management.


This article is intended to complement our advice for writing ERP specifications. We want to guide you more to gain efficiency, relevance and time.


So much for the preamble, let's get down to business!


The specifications remain a perilous exercise

When a company decides to write its specifications, it will often be considered, and rightly so, as the "bible" for managing an ERP project.


For an integrator, following the specifications does not only depend on the success of a project. Staying on the positions and the perimeter set by this document could prove to be a mistake.


And we have some arguments to support our position.


By the nature of the project

Bis repeated. The different steps for implementing an ERP in a company are part of a long strategic project. Added to this a context, a market and innovations, it then becomes difficult to put down on paper, at a specific time, its priorities.


The question of who?

Specifications for an ERP solution are often written by the client company unless a consulting firm accompanies it. Project management is your responsibility.


Does the person or the project team in charge of this mission have all the skills, data and hindsight necessary to define the real need? The question deserves to be asked.


An execution-oriented document

The specifications define what must or must not be … done. Many companies embark on a list of features they want to complement their current management tools.


We quickly fall into an execution plan to finish a project. That is to say where the errors and pitfalls are the most numerous.


The method, always the method

How are the specifications written? Unless we have the right skills but above all experience in the process of integrating an ERP, we all have the same reflex when faced with this situation: we search on the web.


In this way, you will most likely find relevant information. In fact, we are the first to offer it to you. You can find advice and criteria for choosing an ERP or a methodology for carrying out a comparison of management solutions. However, this information is intended to be very general.


From our point of view, the ERP specifications are the result of specific analyzes and studies. This document is based on your company profile, your organization, your processes. It must be unique.


ERP integrator and specifications: The 3 scenarios

As an ERP integrator, it is important to fully understand our role. We intervene downstream of the specifications. This document is our main tool for project management.


After 20 years of projects as an ERP but also CRM integrator, we have carried out a number of projects and read a quantity of associated documentation. Here is an example of CDC ERP to adopt.


Here are the 3 classic scenarios for soliciting the integrator.


Scenario 1: You have already written a specification

The best possible scenario! The company approached the integrator with specifications that had already been drawn up.


As a potential service provider responsible for implementing the software, the integrator will be able to provide extensive advice on the development and choice of settings for the chosen ERP solution.


This is where all of his added value lies as project manager.


Scenario 2: You have mandated a third-party company

Many companies decide to call on the skills of a consulting firm. He takes on the role of project manager.


Among these missions are the construction of the cah ier charges as well as the call for tenders. In this case, the integrator will receive from him the material and the documents to build his response.


Scenario 3: You do not yet have specifications

Please note, this is not the worst-case scenario on the list. Far from there !


For what ? Because you have already identified the need to integrate a new ERP for your development and initiated the process. This is a first step taken.


But before moving forward in the relationship with the integrator, it is necessary to go through that of the specifications. That is to say, retrace your steps a little.


How to write relevant specifications?

A specification does not need to be exhaustive on everything you need. This is all the more true when you want to move towards a standard solution.


It is therefore necessary to focus on the essentials in order to provide the various service providers to whom you are sending your call for tenders, a clear vision of the solution you wish to put in place.


Here are 5 points to focus on for relevant specifications:


Key points 1: Precisely describe the organization and the profession

By reading your document, the integrator will seek to understand your information system in place in relation to your activity. You must therefore present the organization and structure of your entity:


  • Organization of services
  • Mapping of business flows
  • Structuring of the entity including the companies, the relations between the companies with in particular the commercial exchanges, the production sites and the storage sites

Key points 2: Explain precisely the project context

The project context is also a crucial element. It is necessary to give a view of the current system as close as possible to reality:


  • How long have you had a specific custom-built one?
  • Do you want to replace your generalist ERP?
  • Do you have business software?
  • What are your office tools in parallel with the software package?

The integrator must also be able to understand the reasons and objectives of the project:


  • Is there a questioning of existing processes?
  • Do you want to use a pre-configured or ready-to-use system?
  • Do you have a desire to build a system adapted to your problems?

nally, the integrator must understand the importance of the enterprise-wide project:


  • Is this a strategic project for the company?
  • How involved is management? Does it decide on the choice of ERP?
  • Have you defined the project team? How much time will he be allocated to this file?

Key points 3: Detail all types of constraints

The scope of a project necessarily depends on the constraints present. It is therefore essential to identify them and include them in the specifications.


What types of constraints can it be:


  • Delay constraint(s)
  • Budget constraint(s)
  • Team availability constraint(s)
  • International constraint(s)
  • Constraint(s) related to the deployment of the solution
  • Need to host servers
  • Regulatory constraint(s): ISO, FDA, GMP etc.


Key points 4: Framing the scope and current information system

The definition of the project scope as well as the interactions with the applications that you want to keep are also on the list of essential elements.


Do not forget to mention with accuracy if possible, the number of users by functional area.


Simple but telling example, a CRM need for one or two salespeople is not the same as that for a fleet management of ten salespeople.


Key points 5: List the major issues

All generalist ERPs cover the same functional areas.


What will distinguish the Sage X3 solution from that of Microsoft, for example? It is the ability of the ERP X3 to:


  • Manage specific management methods
  • Integrating verticalisations proposed by an integrator: pharmaceutical sector, service company, etc.
  • Apply an optimized level of configuration of management rules
  • Assess the adaptability of the solution
  • The sustainability of the technological platform

Examples of Specification Writing Approaches

To give you concrete clarifications, here are some angles of approach to observe the coverage of the solution and the capacity that the ERP will have to answer your problems:


  • Traceability management: batch tracking, serial number, parts traceability
  • Management of versions or indices on your products
  • Multiple order picking strategy
  • Scheduling of your production with constraints of tools or change of series
  • List of distribution channels
  • The mode of management on stock, on order, small series, large series, management by project
  • Discrete or continuous production
  • Management of major import flows and/or international shipments
  • Storage or transport constraints
  • Calculation of needs on order or on a case basis, replenishment rules between sites
  • Multiple and complex pricing, management of free end-of-year discounts, etc.

Conclusion to make its ERP specifications relevant

As a member in charge of writing this central document for any project, you are surely obsessed with identifying and listing all the features that you would like to have in addition.


If you produce a specification in "cheklist" format, you will get what you asked for. But is it really what you need? Is this really what your users need?


If you have started writing a specification, do not throw it away. You have already spent time on it and initiated axes of analysis.


Based on your first thoughts, the first feedback from your teams and users, you now have to dust off the classic document format and put the question of ERP investment aside. Place your elements according to the points listed above: organizational and business descriptions, project context, constraints, scope and major issues.


Once this project management work has been completed, it will be time for the integrator to show its full value by offering an ERP that is best configured and optimized for your business profile.




What is the purpose of a specification?

The specifications are the document formalizing the issues, objectives, needs and constraints of a company in a global way. A real guide in the customer-supplier relationship, it allows you to design an integration project from A to Z without forgetting anything while responding to technical, budgetary or even implementation deadlines. The exercise is perilous but essential.


When to write a specification?

The sooner you write your specifications, the better. This document will be the working basis of the project to communicate with your potential service providers, keep track of the initial request to develop it and move the process forward. Carry out your audit, define your needs and go to the stage of writing the specifications.


How to establish specifications?

The more relevant the specifications, the more likely you will be to successfully integrate them, but above all to generate benefits. Spend time on the descriptions of your processes, be precise about the context of the project, expose all the possible constraints and highlight your major problems.

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