August 22, 2012 5:00 AM
Choosing an ERP consultant to help select and implement your ERP system can be one of the most significant decisions that a CIO or CFO makes in their careers. However, since executives only conduct this type of search a handful of times at the most (if they’re doing their job right), they are typically flying blind when making this important decision.
As a result, most executives reach for the things that make the most sense on paper – certifications, number of installations with a particular package, industry experience and a number of other boilerplate criteria that do little to ascertain a consultant’s real fit with the organization and its needs.
While certifications and amount of installations performed may be tangible measures of a consultant’s ability, they are fairly superficial in the grand scheme of things. For instance, certifications typically measure a consultant’s level of training. College graduates at many consulting firms can and do attain these certifications in their first weeks or months in the world of consulting, so — if they knew — organizations probably wouldn’t be too excited about not only paying these “newbies” a hefty hourly rate but entrusting them with the success of their ERP implementations.
Instead of relying on such superficial measures when choosing third-party support, it can be helpful to gauge the cultural fit of your potential ERP consultants. In addition to simply liking and feeling comfortable with your ERP consultant, here are three cultural considerations to weave into your evaluation process:
Team and collaboration approach. As much as we would all like to think that we’re going to find that one sharp-shooting consultant that can walk on water and single-handedly make our ERP implementations successful, the reality is that the most successful projects are ones that employ a team-based approach. Good consultants work well with client team members and other consultants to draw on the strengths of each, but most hiring organizations focus too myopically on the bios and resumes of the individuals involved. It is important to be comfortable with your chosen ERP consultant’s collaboration approach. For example, we would much rather staff two half-time consultants rather than a single full-time resource for that exact reason. If we assume the total effort is the same, we and our clients typically find more value in splitting that effort among multiple people rather than limiting the eyes and brains focused on the project.
Methodology and process fit. First, it is extremely important to hire an ERP consultant with well-defined methodologies and processes. Even the most skilled ERP experts have weaknesses, blind spots and varying levels of competency, so it is critical that your chosen ERP consulting firm has very clearly defined, documented and repeatable methodologies to ensure consistency, quality and results. Even though the most skilled ERP consultants need and appreciate good methodologies, most consulting firms rely on individual talents and certifications, which produce unpredictable and inconsistent results. You should be comfortable that your consultant is going to leverage the success of its previous implementations rather than leaving it up to chance. For example, Panorama has extensive processes, templates and training to support its PERFECT Fit ERP selection and PERFECT Path ERP implementation methodologies.
Business model fit. Finally, a consultant’s business model is an important cultural consideration. Is your chosen consulting firm aligned with one or more specific ERP vendors? If so, it will likely influence their objectivity. Is the firm trying to be everything to everyone by offering diverse service offerings unrelated to ERP consulting? Are they too focused on one ERP system to effectively and objectively select and implement in a way that best helps your business? These are all important questions to ask and dig into. For example, our clients typically hire us because we are the world’s premiere ERP thought leaders, so we have built unparalleled processes and intellectual property to ensure the success of our client base. In addition, we are independent so our clients find comfort in the fact that we will always recommend and implement in a way that will help their businesses rather than generate more software or maintenance revenue for ourselves.
Most C-level executives don’t like to think about the “softer” aspects of choosing ERP consultants, but these three criteria are more likely to help you find the best consultant than most other factors. Consultants with certain SAP certifications or x-number of Oracle E-Business Suite implementations, for example, are a dime a dozen. However, consultants with these types of qualifications and the softer cultural fits mentioned above are much more difficult to find . . . and much more valuable in the long-run.
Originally posted on 360º ERP Blog
With over fifteen years of consulting experience, Eric Kimberling has a wide range of professional expertise in companies ranging from the SMB market to large corporations. Eric’s background includes extensive ERP software selection, ERP organizational change, and ERP implementation project management experience.
Posted by Sue Ansell at August 22, 2012 5:00 AM
Categories: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)