While not yet widely adopted by ERP system users, software reviews are starting to make a difference when it comes to software selection.
According to a recentstudywe conducted with Heinz Marketing, 92.4 percent of B2B buyers are influenced by trusted reviews. -G2's customer review statistics.
Percentage of B2B buyers who are more likely to purchase a product or service if they are able to read a trusted review about it (based on 548 respondents).
No company can afford to waste money on an ERP solution that doesn’t cover their needs, not to mention that implementing an ERP and replacing it can negatively impact business operations, productivity, or profitability. Since choosing the wrong ERP system can be costly and disruptive, we estimate that ERP buyers will increasingly use software reviews to ensure the success of their selection initiatives.
Benefits of reviews when buying an ERP solution
As opposed to other sources of information, software reviews provide clear benefits (and a few challenges) when considering options for ERP solutions. Let’s take a look at the benefits:
The objectivity of the feedback provided by reviewers is critical for ERP software selection. Unfortunately, most other types of content (such as case studies or testimonials) aren’t 100 percent objective.
The high number of respondents means the user feedback is more relevant from a statistical perspective. A large sample of reviewers who used software indicates that the results are representative of the target population (in this case, software users).
Good review portals provide analytics and reports that can give a business an overview of user feedback per product or software category.
All vendors have equal chances to be represented and rated based on feedback from real users, not subjective evaluation. It's also good for buyers, who won't be influenced by sponsored content or promotional campaigns.
Buyers can discover and compare many products and are not limited to the ones included in reports or all kinds of rankings. There are hundreds of ERP products on the market, and I don’t think I have ever found a report covering them all.
The challenges can be very intimidating for ERP buyers, but there are solutions for each of the challenges described below:
The number of reviews is a benefit but also a problem because it makes the data difficult to analyze. To complicate matters further, most of the data is in text format, therefore unstructured. It is crucial that review platforms provide analytics, graphs and options to filter reviews. This allows users to analyze hundreds or thousands of reviews without reading them all.
Taxonomy and categorization can be confusing when not managed properly. Most review sites list thousands (and tens of thousands) of products, which are grouped (more or less) loosely based on not-so-obvious criteria. One issue that I’ve seen quite a lot on many review platforms is that ERP can get mixed with manufacturing execution systems or quality management software. While these types of products have common features, they serve different purposes, so listing them together can be confusing for ERP buyers.
Now that you understand the benefits and the challenges of software reviews, let’s take a look at how you can use them at various stages of the ERP selection process. Each selection process can be different, but our research shows that B2B buyers use reviews at all stages of the purchasing process.
Percentage of B2B buyers who look at reviews at each stage of the buying journey (based on 548 respondents).
Are you having a hard time convincing your management that you need a new ERP solution? You can use reviews for that. Here’s how:
Search for the product you’re using and see what users think about it. If it has negative reviews, that means that you’re not the only one who isn’t happy with it. If it has mostly positive reviews, maybe you should reconsider changing it.
Remember to filter reviews by company size, industry and category. An ERP solution may have great reviews for accounting from small businesses, but that isn’t relevant when you’re looking for manufacturing ERP for a large company.
Now that you have a green light from management, you need to start the research stage of the selection process.
If you’re not sure where to start, you’ll probably think about using Google, However, that is not the best option when researching software options with the goal of purchasing a solution. I searched for “enterprise resource planning” and the first page of results provided links to ERP definitions. I hope you already know what ERP is when you’re in charge of buying one. (If you need more details on ERP, here’s a what is ERP guide.)
Instead, it’s best to start by looking at lists of products. The more products that are included, the better, because you get a more detailed overview of the market. Top 10, 50, or even 100 types of lists are usually generic and may exclude products that could be a good fit for your company.
Our Grids® are a good place to start since they show how products are positioned based on user satisfaction and market presence. Users also have the option to see the Grid® for all products or sorted by company size (as shown below).
Long list for ERP platforms
To make the selection process manageable, you’ll need to create a long list of potential products, ideally not more than 10. But how do you review 200 products and then eliminate 190?
First, you can start by filtering products by star rating. In our ERP Systems category, only seven products have five stars, but that doesn’t mean that your long list is ready. Since there are 33 products with four stars, those may be good alternatives for your company as well.
Second, you can rank products based on four criteria: ROI, implementation, usability, and ease of doing business with vendors.
Now it’s time to compare products to identify the ones that are more likely to cover your business needs. The first thing you’ll see when comparing products is an overview of the criteria mentioned above: Ease of Use, etc. You can choose the products you want to compare in the ERP list of products or from any solution profile.
The comparison will allow you to eliminate a few products from the long list. As shown above, it is quite difficult to choose two of the three products, so you should have the vendors demo their software to see not only what features they provide, but also how robust they really are.
Demo an ERP
The challenge with demos is that they should neither be too vague nor too detailed. A vague demo will not allow you to understand the capabilities of an ERP product, and you’ll probably end up comparing apples to tomatoes (which are considered fruit, from a botanical perspective). At the other extreme, a very detailed demo may make it impossible for you to find the perfect product. To continue the fruit analogy, if you look for local, organic, sustainable, crunchy, sweet, not very expensive apples, that will last six months, you’ll probably not find them.
There are two types of features that you should include in a good software demo:
Too good to be true features refers to functionality that seems to be much more advanced than any other similar solution on the market. For instance, if a product has the maximum score for fixed assets and everyone else only received low ratings, that’s definitely something you want to see demonstrated.
Weaknesses are features that haven’t received high scores, meaning they are problematic. Here’s an example: The comparison below clearly shows the product in the middle hasn’t received the best ratings for accounts payable. If you want to invite the vendor for a demo, it will make sense to take a closer look at the AP module to understand if the shortcoming of the product may be an essential issue for your company.
By using lists of features, you will be able to identify exceptions, as shown below. In this case, you may want to see why the product in the middle has the best scores for general ledger and accounts receivable, but not for accounts payable.
To further differentiate between vendors and their products, you’ll need to get feedback from their users.
It is critical to ask for references so you can get feedback from real users. But wait, reviews are from real users. Also, there are more than any vendor will ever provide, not to mention vendors tend to provide positive references.
As I mentioned above, it’s best to filter reviews so you can find users from the same industry and company size. You can also look at the business problems solved portion of their reviews and see which users had challenges similar to your own.
Furthermore, our user contact request form allows you to contact reviewers directly. An informal conversation may reveal details that reviewers did not include in their online feedback.
At this stage, you will probably have two or three products with similar features and demo scores, which will make it difficult to choose between them. It is therefore likely that pricing will become an essential factor to differentiate between the finalists and select a winner.
While not all vendors provide pricing information, our reviewers provide feedback on the costs of the products they used, as well as on the discounts they received. The graphs below show how reviewers rated a product for its price and discounts.
This will allow you to see which product is more affordable and to negotiate discounts with the finalists. Being knowledgeable about pricing puts you in a better position to get a good deal.
A word of caution
I’m not suggesting that you should ONLY use reviews for ERP software selection. ERP is too vital for your company to take the selection process lightly. You need to make sure that you use other sources of information for selection, such as:
Gabriel’s background includes more than 15 years of experience in all aspects of business software selection and implementation. His research work has involved detailed functional analyses of software vendors from various areas such as ERP, CRM, and HCM.
Gheorghiu holds a Bachelor of Arts in business administration from the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest (Romania), and a master's degree in territorial project management from Université Paris XII Val de Marne (France).