Almost nobody tries to implement ERP software relying just on internal resources. There’s a very good reason for this. Just about no company has the skills and expertise in-house to deliver a successful ERP implementation on time and within budget. Choosing the right consulting partner to work with you and help guide you through the technical and organizational maze entailed in making ERP a success is an important part of a successful ERP implementation.
Fortunately, there are a lot of choices available for partners to help you. ERP software vendors provide implementation services. So do resellers. And there are a lot of independent consultants available.
The source of your help is less important than the characteristics and capabilities of that help. Choosing the right consulting partner is one of the most critical factors in the ultimate success of your ERP implementation and payback from your software investment. Whether from a vendor, a reseller or a consultant, there are certain characteristics your partner should have to help you succeed.
- Experience — The first pre-requisite is thorough experience implementing ERP systems. Certifications and study are nice but they don’t substitute for actual deployment experience. You want a partner with a solid track record of successful ERP implementations, preferably in your industry and preferably in businesses about the same size as yours. You should carefully check your potential partners’ references. Contact these references and find out how satisfied they are with the results of their ERP installation and whether they got the benefits and payback they expected. Also, check to see exactly what roles your potential partners played in their implementations.
- Proven Tools and Methodology — Over time every successful consulting partner will have developed a methodology for implementing ERP software, and a set of tools to back it up. Your partner will bring these to bear on your company to help expedite the process of implementation. You should find out what the methodology and tools are as part of the software selection process. Ask to see samples, templates and other materials that will be used, or are representative of what the potential partner uses. This is proprietary information, of course, so don’t expect anyone to completely open the kimono. But they should be willing to show you enough so you can understand what they propose to do in some detail.
- Knowledge Of Your Industry — Knowledge of your business is another very important consideration. While each business is unique, companies in the same line of work are more alike and a company in a very different line of work – say manufacturing versus financial services – can be utterly alien. That is why most partners specialize in a particular vertical market or a closely related group of industries. If your partner doesn’t speak the language of your business fluently, you’re going to run into unexpected problems and bottlenecks while your partner learns on the job. This is not a good situation and will stretch schedules and raise costs. With all the choices out there, there is simply no reason to settle for someone who doesn’t have experience in your industry. Company size is also a related consideration that can produce similar problems. You want someone who has worked with companies about your size.
- Knowledge Of Your ERP System — You potential consulting partner should be thoroughly experienced with the software you plan to use. Ideally a partner should be a proven expert on your chosen ERP system with a number of implementations under his or her belt. Although ERP systems aim to do the same thing, they tend to do it very differently. You want someone who can hit the ground running with your software and bring many lessons learned based on software nuances and prior experience.
- Fit With Your Company — This is an intangible, but a vital one. Your consultant must be able to work effectively with your company culture. That means he or she should share the same general approach and outlook that you do towards ERP. That includes offering the right amount of help and training, having the right approach to smoothing out conflicts and generally be able to play well with your company.
The only way to make sure your consulting partner has these qualities is by in-depth interviews, including asking lots of questions about how the partner will handle various situations. Because this can be subjective, it’s important to keep your antenna all the way out when conducting these interviews.
Finally, there is one thing you don’t want from a partner. You don’t want someone who will try to run the entire implementation. This is a collaborative process, so allowing an outsider take over the entire process of implementing ERP simply doesn’t work. It won’t produce a high level ERP solution and it certainly won’t transfer the practical knowledge needed to make ERP succeed in the long run. Your partner is hired to help you, provide unbiased advice, demonstrate expertise that saves time and helps smooth out the inevitable bumps and conflicts that will arise. That is very different from taking over the entire project.
(Rick Cook, Socialerp)