Selecting Your ERP Consultant
Implementing an ERP system is a very complex project and not one that any organization, regardless of size, should undertake without outside help. Some organizations chose to use a Vendor directly, but most have moved away from going that direction, favoring instead a specialized Consultant. ERP Consultants usually specialize in only 1 or 2 specific ERP systems, and the reason they keep the quantity low is so that they can become experts at them. If you are shopping around for an ERP Consultant and come across ones that have an extensive line card, you may want to start running the other direction as fast as you can! One mistake organizations make is they spend so much time selecting an ERP software and then don’t spend the same amount of due diligence in selecting an ERP Consultant. An ERP Consultant can be a very helpful, and an extremely critical resource during an ERP Implementation, so you need to make sure you are selecting the best option possible. It is not enough for them to be able to talk intelligently, understand your business, and be available as soon as you need them. Here are some other questions you need to ensure they can answer:
- What experience do you have with my industry/vertical market? The answer to this question should be critical when determining if this Consultant is a fit for you or not. It’s critical that your Consultant has in-depth experience and understanding of the industry you work in. There is a general framework of departments and tasks that need to carried out and checked off within every industry, regardless of the individual business tasks that also need completed. In manufacturing some of these processes include shop floor management, quality assessment, inventory, accounting, and sales. You need to make sure your Consultant understands the best practices in your specific industry, and how to align those with your ERP software. It is not enough to have knowledge of the software, they have to understand your business processes and how these get integrated together.
- How long will the implementation process take? This was probably one of the questions you asked early on in the Software selection process, but it is important to have this discussion with your Consultant as well. The Consultant will have other clients, so you need to get an accurate timeframe for when they can start the implementation and what their schedule of time looks like for your specific project. The go-live date is not the end of your implementation, as ERP software requires extensive training for all users. You will also need to budget time for any additional snags and issues that may occur even after your system goes live. One of the other areas you need to discuss with your Consultant, is the time your employees will need to dedicate to the project in order to get the system launched. Your staff will need to be realistic on if they can dedicate the hours needed in the time table the Consultant lays out for them. If you know that too much is being demanded from them given they still have a day job to do, you need to work with your Consultant to determine a more realistic schedule of time. Another major time consumer is with software customizations. Depending on your business processes, your Consultant will need to make specific customizations to your software. Once you and the Consultant have your business processes layed out, they need to be able to talk you through the customizations that need to be made in order for the software to work the way you will need it to. They then need to tack on the time it will take for them to complete the customizations into the time table for the implementation.
- Can you tell me about an implementation you completed that failed and how you handled it? No one likes to talk about their failures, as most see failure as a sign of weakness. When in reality, failing at something and then learning from it can only make you stronger. You aren’t likely to make the same mistake again and you are typically in a better position after the mistake is corrected. ERP implementation is a long and complex process and no 2 implementations are the same. Therefore, every Consultant has experienced setbacks during an implementation. If they tell you differently, run as fast as you can in the other direction (THEY ARE LYING)! Some may consider it a failure if the system goes live after the intended go-live date, others may consider it a failure if the ROI on the project took longer to obtain than what was promised to the client upfront. These failures happen and they become valuable resources for those Consultants who recognize them, communicate them, and then work quickly to solve them. The strongest Consultants are the one who can own up to their mistakes and then demonstrate what they learned from it to make sure they never make that same mistake again.
- How will the ERP software and my business processes integrate? There are 2 very important things that need to happen: 1. your Consultant needs to integrate every aspect of your business into the ERP software and 2. your Consultant needs to ensure the software is supporting all your business processes. By the end of your ERP project, the software needs be functioning as if it was made specifically for your business. This includes integration with the other systems you are running and need to run in order to do business. There needs to be a conversation early on with your Consultant about what programs you are already running and if you will need to continue to run these even after your ERP system goes live. If you are eliminating any programs, you need to ensure that your ERP software is going to be able to pick up all those functions and nothing will be lost along the way.
Your ERP software is going play a vital role in your organization, just as your business processes do. You need to make sure you choose a Consultant that understands your business processes as well as you do. They need to become an expert on the processes, just as you are going to have to become an expert on your ERP software. There are other questions you may want/need to ask when selecting a Consultant, but hopefully these give you a starting point. Keep in mind good communication between you and your Consultant is a must, so make sure you choose someone where you think achieving this is not only possible, but guaranteed. 2W Tech is a certified Epicor Consultant and would be happy to discuss your ERP implementation or upgrade with you.