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Do’s and Don’ts: Choosing an ERP System for Emerging Biopharma

Your emerging organization is getting ready to launch your first product and is eagerly anticipating recognizing revenue for that product. You understand you will soon have a need for more sophisticated financial information to deliver to the board, investors, and other stakeholders. In addition, there will soon be a greater level of scrutiny around compliance, including a need for stronger internal controls. You may also have colleagues from supply chain, commercial, HR, and other departments with experience leveraging their ERP system at their last company to support their own departmental needs. You are fundamentally changing from an R&D, project-focused company to a revenue producing enterprise, and are considering what system(s) you need to support it.

You may be searching for solutions without a lot of input or requirements from the other departments, having concerns about the expense of big box solutions, and lacking clarity around what will be outsourced vs in house. There are many ways to go about selecting and implementing an ERP but there are considerations and strategic planning that should be completed beforehand.

We’ve put together a list of tips –things we recommend you do, and things you should avoid – in selecting an ERP solution as a first-time launcher.



First, identify the core business processes that you will perform in-house, then identify what tier of ERP system will meet those needs

Try to compare bells and whistles of every available solution, from Quickbooks to SAP

For the business processes you have chosen to outsource, consider how you will gain the necessary visibility into those business activities

Automatically assume all business processes need to be replicated into your ERP system

Choose a solution that will be fit-for-purpose through at least the first 12 months of launch

Change your ERP “in the red zone” – during the 12 months leading up to launch and then 12 months post-launch

Consider your current audience (finance) and anticipated/likely future needs of the broader organization. Consciously identify anticipated requirements as in scope, out of scope, or nice-to-have using a core team with appropriate business representation.

Forget about the evolving needs of other impacted areas of the business (supply chain, procurement, FP&A, HR, Quality, etc.). Don’t be short-sighted when selecting a system that only enables you today, but cannot be scaled to meet the future needs of the commercial company.

Thoroughly assess requirements, timelines, and budget

Overbuy and over-implement out of a lack of understanding or “what if”

As the company evolves, be aware of needs to improve procure-to-pay process to mitigate risk and complexity

Use outdated (emails and paper) procure-to-pay processes to manage contracts, partners and 3rd parties when you’ve outgrown them

Consider the volume of transactions when selecting to implement specific modules

Automate a process that may only occur a few times a year

Consider a roadmap or phased approach to implementation. Your business is evolving and so should your systems.

Try to implement everything at once, “just in case”

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Authored by: Jenny Herritz

Jenny is a Principal with SVA Consulting, a member of the SVA family of companies. In her role as a business and technology advisor, Jenny specializes in helping companies achieve their goals by effectively leveraging their business systems and information.