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Taking on an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) project is always exciting (if a little nerve-wracking), but the road to getting started is often paved with obstacles.
One big hurdle? Setting a budget aside for ERP software, particularly for smaller SMEs.
Fret not – there’s plenty of help available. We chatted with two Capability Development Grant (CDG) experts, and asked them to share their top tips on scoring a government grant for your next ERP implementation.
“People tend to think of grants as “free cash” – when applying for a grant, they focus more on how to get a slice of the pie rather than on implementing something truly useful for their business. The mentality is: there’s free cash to take, we’d be silly not to grab it!
In fact, they’re short changing themselves. This is a very short-term view, and limits the benefits that can actually be obtained by having the right intentions from the get-go.
Instead, they should perform proper business planning first, and focus on how their desired solution can change their business. That way, the “free cash” obtained will multiply itself many times over.”
“There are 3 main questions that need be answered: Can you do things Faster? Better? Cheaper? Will the solution you’re taking on make you less reliant on manpower?
There's often the fear that automation will result in job losses – but that really isn’t the intention. What employees may not realise is that the government isn’t saying they don’t want to rely on people any longer. Rather, they want to free manpower up to pursue higher value-added activities instead of being tied up in manual work all the time.
Take cues from government agencies’ Technology Roadmaps, which push digitisation, and the use of technology such as Big Data and analytics to automate as much as possible.
A good application should explain not why you want the solution, but why you need it to improve your business, and the positive impact it will have on your workforce.”
“Business owners often, if not always, undervalue the role of a consultant – they often think, “why pay for a middleman when I can do it myself for free?”. They’re not wrong. Of course, you can submit claims on your own. But having a consultant to guide you along will shorten the process drastically.
Bigger projects are naturally more complex, and obtaining grants for them is therefore also more difficult to do.
For example, an F&B business we helped had multiple outlets and required a centralised ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, a POS (Point of Sale system), and a rewards program to top it all off. Another business wanted to acquire technology from another country and have it built into their business in Singapore, to transform their internal workflows.
Submitting a claim for projects like these go far beyond a claim for more simple equipment or out-of-the-box accounting software.
A consultant with many years of experience will know what productivity indicators need to be calculated and presented to justify the current state of your company, and the desired, improved state of your company after implementing your chosen solution.
The right consultant will frame your application with an emphasis on desired benefits, rather than going into the nitty gritty, technical aspects.
A well-written business plan requires minimum clarification from the government agency. Every clarification made takes you about 10 days to finetune your submission, and upon resubmission, will take about 3 to 4 weeks to hear back from SPRING again. Multiple cycles of this can be avoided by engaging an expert.
Plus, a consultancy in good standing with government agencies will find it easier to arrange meetings or access department heads directly to make bigger, quicker decisions.”
"SMEs are often deterred from applying for grants because they think the entire process is too complicated. This might have been the case in the past, but there’s plenty of information available online now to make things easier.
That said, consultants continue to play an important role in ensuring businesses improve their chances.
There's the impression that a hired consultant does everything from A to Z and is fully responsible for scoring you a grant. Rather, the entire company needs to take ownership and understand the objectives and procedures behind their application. For example, a consultant cannot create a future plan for your company - it has to come from you.
This is crucial, and needs to come across to the government agencies involved - if they feel that the company's heart isn't in it, or they're not in it for the right reasons, their application has a higher chance of being rejected.
There may be consultants who claim to do "everything" for you, or "guarantee" a successful application, but you should be wary of these empty promises.
Instead of helping you fill in a number of forms, your consultant should advise you on the application process, and provide value by doing the final checks and editing on your application."
"There are three main things to look at when preparing an application: the basic criteria (and whether your business meets it), your business' current financial situation, and your upcoming plans.
From the government's perspective, they're interested to know how genuine you are.
Plenty of people call the agencies up, ask a lot of questions, get a consultant to make preparations, but drop the project entirely after gathering ideas from all sides.
It's ok to ask questions and clarify doubts, but to go through the motions is just a waste of time for everyone involved - and this happens when a company is preparing an application with the wrong intentions, like obtaining a short term gain, or just to take advantage of any grant available.
A good application must indicate your company is prepared to assign a portion of your taskforce - to prepare a qualified and relevant team to the project's implementation. You will have to submit the names of those involved, their roles, and responsibilities.
Your company should also show effort in the preparation of paperwork - look through the available online resources to figure out what needs to be prepared. Applications are often delayed due to incomplete paperwork."
"You must be very clear with your company's goals and objectives - i.e., the reason you want to embark on your project. These goals and objectives become much clearer once you pen it down after going through a brainstorming process with your team.
Show some due diligence - there's a lot of information available on the respective government websites. Spend time reading them, and if you're confused or overwhelmed by the amount of information available (or due to a language barrier), a consultant will send you the direct links to information most relevant to you, or explain any jargon you may encounter.
Take initiative to understand the process, and show accountability - there are even model answers and pointers available online to help you succeed.
When you eventually get the chance to meet with a government officer, have your key people present. They should already be briefed and well aware of the project details, including their roles in the project.
If possible, do up a simple company profile presentation, including your current situation, and objective of the project, or how this project will help you. All this can be extracted from your proposal, and depending on your project, broad overall goals or quantitative goals are both acceptable.
Of course, some housekeeping to give a good impression never hurts - prepare a neat conference room, tidy up your work areas, and get everything ready before the visit!"
All in all, make sure you have the right intentions before you apply for a grant - treat it as a long term investment, not a one time red packet. Show your sincerity and be proactive by referring to the various self-help resources online. When all this comes through, you'll have a much easier time getting your application approved.
Need advice on your upcoming ERP software project? Consult a member of the AFON team to get started! Alternatively, check out The Ultimate SME Guide to ERP Systems below -- it's free!