Running a large organization requires managing a lot of moving parts and people, which is why finding stellar enterprise resource planning (ERP) analysts is essential.
ERP analysts implement ERP systems, which provide a one-stop, 360-degree view of a large company, including core business processes such as design, material, production, delivery, logistics, human resources and finance.
ERP systems can smooth information flow, ensure accuracy, cut down on delays and speed deliveries to customers. Gone is the need to check with a slew of departments to find a bottleneck, such as where an order might be mired. When implemented properly, ERP systems make this information available with a keystroke.
Maximizing these systems requires hiring ERP analysts who have both coding expertise and project management skills. To help you identify these candidates, here are 12 targeted interview questions to ask.
1. What are the core components of the average ERP?
Every ERP system has a transactional database, management view, analytics and reporting tools, and workflow management. There are also additional components, such as human resources and logistics functions.
The answer to this straightforward question provides insight into how candidates see the structure and purpose of ERP. You’ll also gain insight into their aptitude for breaking down complicated topics for non-technical audiences.
2. Tell me about a successful ERP implementation you were involved with.
Listen for key details such as how candidates analyzed a problem or need their company was experiencing, designed a solution and communicated with stakeholders.
3. Tell me about the most difficult interface challenge you faced and how you dealt with it.
You also want to be mindful of the ways candidates reacted to challenges they faced during the rollout.
4. Explain how an ERP project you worked on addressed the integration among discrete ERP modules and other software platforms within the organization.
ERP analysts tackle these issues by using interfaces. This is an extremely technical task that can involve configuring third-party APIs (application programming interfaces) or creating unique interfaces from scratch. This question will provide insight into candidates’ technical abilities.
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5. Tell me about your programming background.
Building and configuring an ERP requires a range of programming skills. The core of an ERP is usually built with Java or C++, though PHP or Ruby may also play a role in the setup. All ERPs will have a relational database that can be queried with SQL.
Some systems also have their own high-level proprietary language. If you’re working with an SAP setup, for example, your analyst will need to know ABAP (Advanced Business Application Programming), while for Oracle, they may need EnterpriseOne.
6. What are data dictionaries, and why do we need them?
Data dictionaries contain definitions for the types of data used in a relational database. For instance, if your ERP was storing job candidate details, each record might contain names and addresses as text strings and phone numbers as numerical values.
Data dictionaries are especially important for cross-function projects. They tell users exactly how to input data, even if they’re not familiar with the system. They also help development teams to agree on data requirements with business units.
7. What’s the difference between SAP and NetSuite?
Ask candidates to explain the difference between any two systems, and you’ll learn more about their understanding of both. Some key contrasts between these two major ERP platforms include:
- SAP is on-premises with cloud functionality. NetSuite is cloud only.
- NetSuite is automatically updated. SAP is manually updated.
- NetSuite’s analytics tools are user-friendly. SAP is more powerful but can be harder to use.
- NetSuite employs open architecture that makes integration significantly easier than when you’re working with SAP.
- SAP uses customizable modules such as Financial Accounting, Enterprise Controlling, Inventory Management, Human Resource and Production Planning.
8. How have you dealt with conflicting requests from different functional areas?
From an ERP standpoint, an organization has up to five main functional areas: finance, management accounting, manufacturing, logistics and human resources. Soft skills are a must because functional areas often disagree, catching ERP analysts in the middle. Outstanding ERP analysts are excellent communicators with experience in project management and change management. Look for candidates who can provide real-world examples of times when they’ve balanced conflicting requests to find compromise.
9. How can an ERP analyst improve the speed of an implementation?
SAP ASAP (Accelerated SAP) is common industry best practice for bringing ERP projects live. While ASAP was developed by SAP, the methodology is platform agnostic and will run on any operating system.
There are five key steps:
- Project preparation
- Business blueprint
- Final preparation
- Go-live and support
Most ERP analysts will have used some version of this methodology in the past and should be able to provide examples of that.
Some candidates will also have experience using Agile methodology to create a more dynamic implementation process. Still others have worked in DevOps and may focus on the continuous deployment approach.
10. Tell me about your experience with ERP training programs.
Training is one of the most important aspects of change management projects such as ERP implementations. Users need to know how to do their jobs using new systems and also understand the ways updated functions can make life easier.
Ask candidates to describe their past experiences with training company employees. As in the question above, look for evidence that they have strong soft skills, especially in areas involving communication, empathy and teamwork.
11. Have you ever had trouble bringing a project in, at or under budget?
ERP deployments and upgrades can be expensive, with costs that easily surpass initial estimates. For example, the project manager may need to invest in additional modules, develop bespoke interfaces or scale up their usage of cloud services.
This question helps establish whether candidates understand how technical decisions can have financial consequences. Awareness of these matters is especially germane if new hires will have project management duties.
12. How will technological advancements impact ERP?
Transformative technologies — such as those identified in our Jobs and AI Anxiety report — will impact ERP in myriad ways. For example, robotic process automation (RPA) is becoming highly sophisticated, removing a lot of manual intervention from workflow processes. Likewise, Internet of Things (IoT) systems are creating huge volumes of data related to areas like logistics and manufacturing.
As much of this information passes through the ERP, sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) will be required to analyze and react to the incoming data. ERP analysts will need to become experts in AI and machine learning, and will require understanding of the big data structures that make it all possible. Top candidates will know and mention this need.
A closing tip for hiring managers: In-demand ERP professionals know they have multiple opportunities and won’t wait around for a company that drags its feet in making a hiring decision. Consult the 2019 Robert Half Technology Salary Guide to ensure you’re offering a competitive ERP analyst salary that will entice top talent, then move quickly when you find your ideal candidate.