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9 questions to ask the vendor during an ERP software demo

ERP implementation team members should ask certain questions during a software demo to ensure they receive the information they need. Learn what team members should ask vendors.

An ERP software demo is an important step in the purchase process and is often key for the implementation team, as they are able to learn more about how the software works, its main features, and any functionality that distinguishes the software from the vendor's competitors. However, ERP implementation team members must ask the right questions during the demo to make sure they're getting a full and accurate picture of the software.

Implementation team members should ask about topics including the frequency of software updates and downstream costs. Doing so can lower the chances of encountering unexpected problems after purchasing ERP software.

Here are some questions ERP implementation team members should ask during the demo to confirm that the vendor can meet their organization's needs.

1.     What features do your customers like the most and least?

By asking about the software's most popular features, ERP implementation team members will gain insight into features they may not have considered.

While a vendor may not be as keen to focus on weaker features, they should be willing to discuss them, as well as what the vendor is doing to close the gap. Getting this insight during the demo can help the implementation team decide whether to incorporate third-party software or change the implementation schedule if the team is planning multiple phases.

2.     Can you clarify how this feature meets my requirements?

One of the implementation team's main demo goals should be evaluating whether the ERP software meets the company's needs. Team members should be prepared to ask for clarification on any software feature that will be critical for the organization.

Vendors may sometimes demo functionality quickly because of lack of time, but team members should ask for more details if the functionality is important, because the demo is the best time to receive that additional information.

3.     How often do you release updates?

Implementation team members should ask how often the vendor releases minor and major patches for their software.

Long intervals between major releases can mean potentially important features will be unavailable for a year or more. Multiple small releases can be beneficial if a company wants to receive new features quickly, but frequent small releases can also require more testing once the upgrade has arrived.

4.     Is it easy to incorporate developing technologies with this software?

The organization will likely need to integrate other applications with its ERP software if the ERP software doesn't offer a needed feature or the company wants to use other software for particular functionality.

In either case, implementation team members should know what the vendor provides for current and future integrations.

5.     What are the downstream costs and the cost of long-term maintenance?

Implementation team members must understand the long-term costs of ERP software and other associated costs before selecting a vendor. Team members should ideally discuss costs before the demo to ensure the vendor's costs will work for the organization's budget.

These costs may be related to the ERP software or originate with the vendor's partner.

6.     Can you offer some specifics about support?

Before signing a contract, the implementation team members should understand how the vendor supports their product. Vendors can provide a service-level agreement and highlight options. For example, some vendors offer a dedicated support resource so the organization interacts with a specific staff member when logging a support ticket.

Also, if the vendor will use third-party software or hardware to complete the software, the project team should understand who will resolve the issue when the source of the problem isn't clear.

7.     What is your product roadmap?

The vendor should provide some insight into their plans for the next two to three years. They may be able to discuss some features that are currently in development.

However, implementation team members should keep in mind that vendors will rarely commit to a feature until they release it. Any information they provide about new features will depend on the development schedule.

8.     Can you share some more details about the implementation?

An employee who will be involved in the implementation, either from the vendor or a third party, may participate in the demo and may be able to answer questions about the implementation itself.

The implementation team can ask about the length of the implementation, the vendor or third-party organization's experience with implementations, and the time and resources that the buying organization will need to contribute.

9.     Can you share some details about your company?

An ERP software implementation is a major undertaking, so the implementation team should learn more details about the software vendor. Questions to ask include how long the vendor has been in business, who is on the executive team, the company's ownership structure, recent acquisitions and anything else that will help the implementation team decide if the vendor can support the organization over the long term.

Some organizations may also want to confirm that the vendor's values align with the company's values. For example, implementation team members could ask about the vendor's commitment to diversity and inclusion or their sustainability goals.

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