selecting the right system for your agency

Selecting the right system for your agency

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Selecting the right agency management system might be a challenging process. We’ve seen it in many of our clients and are here to help. We’ve created this series of articles to help you navigate through the 7 steps to selecting the right ERP for your business. 

Many of our clients come to us because they are in the middle of implementing a new agency management system. In the middle of the process, they have discovered that the system is not fit for purpose. For example:

  • The supplier does not understand their business
  • The supplier has spent all their money on sales and marketing, so the implementation and support services are not what the agency expected
  • The system does not have all the key functionality that the agency needs
  • And the list goes om

Does that sound familiar in your agency?  If so, then you are not alone because according to Gartner somewhere between 55% and 75% of all ERP projects fail to meet their objectives.

In nearly 100% of the cases, the problem is that the agency has not done a proper system selection process. 

Selecting the right agency management system is very important to get the implementation to work perfectly for what you need.

Normally, the agency has requirements that the system (or the system supplier) does not support, and the agency staff is unwilling to change their processes to maximize their significant investment in the software.

It surprises me that any business (this is not just limited to agencies) will spend little or no effort on ensuring that they are selecting the right system, given that implementing a new system is a significant investment of time and money. Implementing an ERP should be a long-term commitment so it’s very important that you select the right software from the right supplier.

Agencies miss several steps when selecting a new management system


Typically, what happens is that there is a pain point (a catalyst) that forces the management team to recognize that they need to implement a new  agency management system. This is either:

  • Some disastrous projects and/or overworked staff
  • Lack of visibility as to the business performance
  • Growth in revenue but not in profitability
  • A recognition that they have outgrown their system

I have even seen cases they sign a “blue chip” client who wants to know what systems they have.

The agency then goes out to the market and starts to look for a new software solution.  

Worse still, the agency is contacted by a supplier who has a generic tool and convinces them to go and look at their product.

In either case, this is a mistake because the agency has missed some fundamental steps.

Inevitably, the system software supplier then controls the agenda and presents all the great features and functionality that their system has, not necessarily what the agency needs. It all looks great during the sales process, but the implementation is painful, to say the least.

I once read a quote that 90% of project success is on the preparation and it stuck with me because it’s true of all projects, whether it’s the agency’s client projects (where scope and expectations are clearly agreed) or a back-office system implantation projects.

So, what are the missing steps?

Over the next couple of articles, I will explain the 7 steps to selecting the right ERP for your business. In this article, I will explain the preparation steps and in the next, I will talk about the selection process.

The preparation steps are as follows:

  1. Audit your processes

I am a firm believer that trying to implement an ERP into an agency that has broken (or non-existent) processes is like trying to build a house without good foundations.

You must have a proper look at the agency’s processes & procedures to ensure they are working before looking at any software solutions. This will also help you to define your key requirements which you can then include in your RFI/RFP. I will talk about them later.

  1. Define your requirements

This should be a natural next step from your process audit and, in many organizations, is done at the same time. I strongly recommend that this is done with the involvement of the whole agency. The management team will make the final decisions but involving the rest of the business has the 4 benefits:

  • It ensures that all parts of the agency processes are covered
  • It provides a broad spectrum of points of view that can be collected. Most agency staff will have worked at several agencies so will be able to give great input on what worked at those agencies and what did not.
  • It communicates to the agency that a change of systems is on the horizon so starts to prepare them for the change
  • Most importantly, by making them part of the decision-making process, it means that they are engaged and invested in the new system so it will be more likely to be accepted.

At the end of the requirements gathering process, you should have a long list of these. The next step is to prioritize them. There are many ways to do this, but I like the MoSCoW primarily because most software suppliers understand it. The name is an acronym for (Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won’t have) and the idea is that you run through each of the requirements and assign them one of the categories.

  1. Assess your current system

Yes, that’s right. All too often agencies will go to the market to buy a new system because they assume that their current system is outdated and obsolete. In many cases the truth is that they are using an old version of the software or, worse, using only a small proportion of the software’s capabilities because it was implemented years ago and the staff lacks up-to-date training.

I always recommend that you share your requirements with your current supplier so that they can pitch their product to you. The chances are that it will be a lot cheaper to reimplement your current software than buying something new as you should save on the license costs at a minimum.  

This is also a great negotiation technique when it comes to renewals as it puts your system supplier on notice that you’re looking for a new system so they are likely to do a lot more to keep you as a client.

Only now, that you know what you want from your business system and have confirmed that your current systems supplier does not meet them, is the time to go to market.

In the next article, we will look at the steps your agency will need to take to select the right ERP.

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