How to Evaluate an ERP Implementation Partner

On average, companies replace or make large changes to their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system roughly every 10 years.

In addition to selecting the actual technology to implement (such as Dynamics 365 Business Central, Sage Intacct, or NetSuite), buyers must also select a consulting partner to help them implement the technology. The consulting partner you choose is arguably a more important decision than selecting the actual ERP, especially when you are expecting the technology you are implementing to support an industry-specific process.

For example, professional services firms need to keep an eye on resource utilization and manage complex billing agreements while healthcare providers may be managing a staggering number of leases, legal entities, and material requisitions to clinics. Food and beverage manufacturers need to manage recipes and batches. Any of those name-brand systems mentioned above can be configured or customized to handle such requirements, but not every consulting vendor selling the software has the skills to properly configure the system and help your organization through a successful go-live.

Here are the top 5 things you should focus on when selecting a consulting partner to assist with your ERP implementation.

  1. Do not go it alone. We have yet to meet a business owner who completed an ERP implementation with internal resources – and we’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies, 500-person companies, and 5-person companies. Consultants draw from a depth of experience and resources to make sure things are set up correctly. It’s a situation of “you don’t know what you don’t know”.
  2. See a demo tailored to your business. Seeing the demo tailored to your business does three things. First, you get a peek at the consulting vendor’s technical capabilities and their ability to “talk the talk” within your industry. Second, it’s an opportunity for you to vet any assumptions that you’ve made about the system and ensure that all the research you’ve done to this point is accurate. Third, it provides you with an opportunity to ensure the solution delivers meaningful value to your business (don’t fall in love with the technology, fall in love with the outcomes the technology produces).  
  3. Meet a member of the delivery team. If you can’t meet a member of the delivery team during the sales process, that should be a big red flag. Often there is a disconnect between the sales team and the consultants and project managers who will work on your project. It is important to meet with them and ensure compatibility. At the end of the day, we’re just people. If your team’s personality clashes with the delivery manager’s personality or you sense a misalignment between your culture and consulting vendor’s culture, the change will be very difficult to manage.
  4. Ask about how your project will be staffed. Will the consulting vendor outsource some of the work to a 3rd party? How many years of experience on the specific product you are purchasing does the implementation team have? This may be the most critical questions to ask. Even with the best project management controls, polished sales pitches, and personable delivery team, if your partner lacks experience with the product that you are paying them to implement you are introducing an unprecedented level of risk to the project. You should also ask any vendor you are considering about turnover on their implementation teams because staffing changes mid-project can negatively impact the project budget.
  5. Ask about how the vendor delivers post-go-live support. Typically, in the first three months after a project goes live you are going to have to go back to the vendor for support while your users build up their confidence in the system. Some vendors have different teams who deliver support, and it’s important to know when the support will transition so that you know how to initiate support requests. This generally happens with larger vendors. Smaller vendors generally have the same teams delivering projects and support. There is no right or wrong support model, but it’s important that you understand how the vendor will support you after going live and that you are comfortable with that arrangement.

With the recent proliferation of SaaS–based ERP systems and new technology, it is important to fully vet your implementation partner. 

About the Author

Mike Scalamogna is a Technology Advisory Manager with Schneider Downs Consulting Practice, who specializes in ERP Advisory services. If you are interested in speaking with him about your cloud strategy, please contact him at [email protected].

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