Developing your ERP product features

ERP is a business management software – usually suite of integrated applications – that company can use to store and manage data from every stage of business, including: product planning and development, manufacturing, marketing and sales, inventory management, shipping and payment. (wikipedia)

With the ERP software a company can steer its processes, collect data and optimize needed functions. The ERP usually is platform where other IT systems are integrated.

As well as other products ERP applications needs a continuous improving during its lifetime. The need for the improvement is different than for example consumer product. Need for new features comes usually from:

Why new features

The same needs applies to many other industry software as well.

Where to get ideas for development

I have found it rather easy to gather ideas for development. You can get ideas from

  • Customers
  • Your team
  • Competitors
  • Platform vendors
  • Sub-contractors

Working with all of these groups gives to you a long list of things to do. After you have the list then it’s still good idea to mix things and getting even better ideas. This means getting customer needs to the same table where your team ideas are and so on.

When collecting ideas remember ruthlessly seek customer needs and match those with solutions. And, of course, check that you are able to do profitable business with ideas. You can use a Vision Board as a template to capture ideas.

How to know what to develop?

As the ERP software is quite large by its nature you will need to do difficult business decision about improvement priorities. Which ideas to select for development? I have found useful to use a Kano model to group needs and try to predict what would be the most valuable thing to build next. It also gives for you a nice context to analyze current market trends.

Kano_Model

This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons

Basic needs: You need to have these. With ERP applications this can mean for example mature core without bugs or possibility to integrate 3rd party systems. In time things which use to be delighters starts to be basic features. Without basic needs implemented you will be out of the business.

Delighters: With this group you can differentiate your product in markets. It can be based on some technological innovation or creating tools which gives to your customer in their business competitive advantage. In time competitors will reach you with your deligthers so you need to have continuous innovation. Currently there is going though competition to delight users with smart phone and tablet applications. After some time this kind of mobility will be basic need for ERP applications. Without delighters your sales will have difficult times.

My advice is to look closely to two things: how do you differentiate your product in markets and which features become standard needs for customers.

(Check also my newer blog post Thinking the whole when making decision about your ERP development projects to find out wider angle to prioritizing.)

Conclusion

ERP development has its own specialties. It’s clear that there is need to develop software during it’s lifetime and needs are not the same as for example consumer products.

It’s rather easy to get ideas but more difficult to know to what to build. You can use Kano –model to analyze to which direction you should develop application. Remember to be consistent with the direction.

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