I was presenting a seminar regarding Microsoft NAV 2013 to a group of people today.  As a part of my introduction, I talked about the reasons we chose Microsoft NAV (formerly Navision) as the product our company would sell and support.  This discussion is central to all of our discussions with companies who are considering changing their accounting/ERP systems, but it had an extra degree of criticality as we were deciding the future of our business.

We began to question the longevity of our then current ERP product in about 2007.  That ERP product was written in Visual FoxPro and Microsoft had just announced that it would not be supported after January 15, 2014.  Now eight years seems like a long time, but when you are recommending ERP software, eight years goes by in the blink of an eye.

We had multiple conversations with the developer about the future plans for the product.  After these conversations, it became apparent that their plans or lack thereof weren’t going to coincide with our needs.  Thus began our search for a new product.  It was a difficult time.  We realized that our sales and marketing efforts to new customers were going to be ineffectual at this point in time; because we don’t sell anything we don’t believe in.

Consider the effect on your cash flow and profitability if you determined that you weren’t going to be selling to any new customers for the next few years.  Not a pretty picture.  You can understand the urgency of the need.  You have a similar risk for your business when you consider replacing your ERP system.  While it will not affect the products you sell, it is still significant risk.

As we began our research we analyzed our requirements (what did our clients need?) and made a long list.  We determined what was important, what was critical, what was nice to have and what would make us happy.  You need to do the same thing when you make a decision about your ERP system.  There were many technical features we might have used as go/no-go decision – but unless it had a valid business criterion, we ignored it.

We knew, based on our customer’s requirements, our understanding of the technical business environment and market conditions, that Microsoft SQL database was critical.  We knew that the functionality to support distributors and manufacturers was a given.  Without that, our clients wouldn’t buy the software.  We knew that ease of use was nice, a big name developer would help sell, and Windows was essential.  But what could we use as the determinant?  There are lots of distribution and manufacturing products that fit these criteria.  So what could we do if so many products had feature sets that could support our requirements?

For us, the first two major determining factors were the partner and the plan.  If our current software product was in danger of extinction, what would prevent our next product from the same fate?  We needed a product that had a written plan and commitment to the future; something that showed us that the developer was looking ahead to more than one release.  Most developers gave us a feature list of the next release.  Only one developer gave us a 40 page document with four releases covering the next ten years.

Then, the product needed to have a solid, large base of installations and resellers who supported the product.   Why?  Without revenue and profitability the product would be sold or discontinued.  Longevity assurance comes only from lots of clients who are invested in the product.  Without a solid, committed reseller or partner channel, the product wouldn’t be sold or supported.  Additionally, the product needed a committed group of independent software vendors who develop supporting applications for requirements like EDI, freight integration, Web stores and more.  We weren’t interested in a developer who thought they could do it all.  Although it sounds like a great deal – we already sold a product that made that promise, yet failed to continue to support all the components.  Supporting all these areas is really hard because it requires so much industry specific knowledge and experience.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on our blog next week to learn how we came to the final decision to sell and support Microsoft NAV.

To learn more about Microsoft NAV, download our Microsoft NAV Capabilities Guide.