Choosing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution for your business, like all strategic investments, involves a degree of risk. Your goal is to minimize this risk, so you need to be deliberate and methodical as you move through the selection process. We've created a 10-point evaluation checklist to assist you, and we're focusing on one item from the list each week for 10 weeks. Here's the ground we've covered so far (click the links to read the full discussions): Goes beyond traditional ERP Offers deployment flexibility and choice Features strong customer-vendor relationships Integrates easily with other LOB applications Delivers ease of use In this week's post, we urge you to challenge whether the business management solutions you're evaluating offer cost predictability that you can count on. Predictable costs help you reduce business risk When fixed or unpredictable costs are paid with variable revenue, business risk is amplified. Many organizations' revenues dip when the economy hits a soft patch. But what if your revenue fluctuates seasonally? What if you're a start-up or you're still building your revenue base in a new market? In situations like this, unpredictable costs add risk. The same is true for costs that escalate even if revenues don't. The right business management solution will help you manage or avoid fixed or unpredictable IT-related costs for deployment, operation, scaling, maintenance, and upgrading. A carefully chosen business management solution provides you options for achieving cost predictability through flexible licensing arrangements and stable, use-based subscription rates. If you negotiate carefully, you can ensure that upgrades, software fixes, service packs, and updates will be included in your subscription, giving you even greater cost predictability. And you may be able to negotiate service level agreements for security or high availability. Just watch out for first-year discounts that lure you in, but then increase in year two and beyond, especially with public-cloud vendors that control your data. A business solution from Microsoft offers cost predictability you can count on Contending with fewer surprises helps you budget ongoing expenses more accurately and confidently, and shields your business from disruptive, even dangerous, cost fluctuations. A business solution from Microsoft helps you do this with a protected list price that serves as the basis for your future renewals. Microsoft also guarantees support for your business management solution for up to 10 years (visit http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle for more information). This is cost predictability in another form: no worries about paying premium prices for increasingly scarce support. Purchase or licensing costs are just one part of business solution costs. It's critical for you to learn what the costs will be for implementation services, maintenance fees, training, and upgrades. Many Microsoft Dynamics partners support cost predictability by offering fixed-scope rapid implementations that include initial licenses, deployment, and training to help you get up and running quickly, at predictable costs. A business solution from Microsoft creates other opportunities to trim costs, too. It's easy to configure, reducing the need for in-house IT staff and external technical support resources, especially since it can integrate smoothly with other line-of-business software and productivity tools that your people also use. Customer Success Story: SpectrumArt Corporation Small and midsize organizations around the world trust business solutions from Microsoft to help them predict and manage costs in all kinds of situations, both today and in the future. Read how SpectrumArt improved its bottom line by bringing cost predictability back into the picture. "As soon as I realized there was a small business financial solution from Microsoft, I stopped looking at the alternatives." - Maureen Hosey, Vice President SpectrumArt Needs Benefits Avoid subscription costs that rise even if sales decline. Reduce fixed costs to improve the bottom line. Enhance business processes and strengthen business management capabilities. Achieve cost predictability. Cost of hosted solution relates to business activity. $10,000 savings adds 2 percent to bottom line or frees cash for other uses. Improved processes/tools for order management, invoicing, commission calculation, inventory management, and reporting. Hosted solution offers greater cost predictability. Confidence in Microsoft adds confidence in future cost predictability. Join us next week for part 7 of our blog series, when we'll focus on choosing a business management solution that enables forward-looking insight. Learn more about a business solution from Microsoft, take a product test drive, or register for an upcoming webcast.