The Secret ERP Project Manager: ERP Consultants
If you are an ERP consultant joining an ERP team for a six to nine month implementation cycle, be prepared for a wide spectrum of possible working relationships, ranging from forming lifetime friendships, to working in an atmosphere of daily hostility.
The first – and perhaps most misperceived – variable in the working relationship is around the area of pay. Because ERP consultants typically make between $120 and $240 per hour, clients equate that to a $240,000 to $480,000 per year personal income. Clients do not typically make mental allowances for forty percent of that figure going to federal, state, and local income taxes, social security, and Medicare. Clients do not factor in health insurance, dental insurance, and other typical corporate benefits. If the consultants work as part of a larger consulting firm, then the consulting firm is also taking 15% - 25% off the top.
Clients also see the ERP consultant lifestyle as “glamorous”: flying around the country, staying in hotels, living off expense account. Only when you have experienced that life style is it evident how “un-glamorous” it is; being away from home four nights out of seven, and eating restaurant food every day gets old quickly. However, from a distance, the idea of being important enough to be paid to fly a thousand miles to a job every week can create an atmosphere of “show me”.
Another area of contention is the knowledge and experience level of the individual ERP consultants. A finance consultant who has only previously worked with service industry ERP implementations is probably not going to be a thought leader in manufacturing. An expert in discrete manufacturing processes will find that process manufacturing is a whole new ball game. When gaps in knowledge such as this are uncovered, back hallway whispering starts, and trust can plummet.
Yet another dynamic that can influence the working relationship is cultural background. Not all cultures are as aggressive, confrontational, “in-your-face” and “get it done” as Americans tend to be. A consultant who is quieter, more sensitive to feelings, or simply respectful to his or her employer may be perceived as under confident, unengaged, and not pulling his or her own weight. What thick-skinned Americans take in stride as assertive business behavior can come across as bullying to people who are not used to it.
If ERP consultants can overlook, or overcome these pitfalls, the subsequent working relationship can be strong, long lasting, and based on mutual respect. A good ERP consultant can bring enormous value to a company implementing ERP not only in the role of technologist, but also as a teacher, a coach, and a cheerleader. Knowing how to configure an ERP system to do something is important, but so is understanding why you choose one solution path over another.
A client who can engage in a project without beginning with an attitude of “first, prove you are worthy” can accelerate the synergies which are possible. It takes effort on the part of both parties.
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