How to Choose an ERP Implementation Consultant
Depending on the size and scope of your ERP implementation, you may be faced with choosing a vendor to provide a consulting team for your implementation. Not every ERP project requires a full time consultant team. Whether or not you need ERP implementation consultants depends on how much in house knowledge you have about your ERP software (and to what extent that software can be self-taught); how much time you have to complete the project; and how many modules and end users you are trying to implement at one time. If you do determine that you need some ERP implementation consultants to guide you through the unfamiliar process of an implementation, then selecting the right implementation partner becomes as crucial to your success as selecting the right ERP software vendor.
Like software vendors, ERP implementation consultants need to be evaluated both in terms of product and culture. The concept of “product” may seem less tangible for a consulting group, but if you listen to multiple sales presentations, you will begin to recognize differences in process that create product differentiation. Some consultants will stress project management skills; some will focus on their ability to create an atmosphere of collaboration and consensus building; others may define themselves as being the most technically competent. The problem you face is in defining what product you are really looking for. If you are looking for consultants as teachers, you may choose a different vendor than if you are looking for consultants as technicians.
A Marriage Made In Heaven Or...
Before working with ERP consultants it is perhaps more critical to evaluate their culture than it is their product. An implementation consulting team is the business equivalent of a shotgun wedding; one day a bunch of people show up, sit in your area with you, and start making suggestions on how to do things. There will be growing pains around who should lead, and who should follow; awkwardness around when to accept an answer at face value, and when to require background reasoning; uncomfortable personality clashes; and some amount of inevitable friction. There is no absolute science on what makes an ERP consulting group the right fit for your organization; you just look for clues. If you are seeking a partnership, and the consulting group seems rather arrogant and dismissive of your naïve questions, you cross them off the list and move on.
There is a third option, and that is to subcontract and manage independent ERP consultants by yourself. This is not for the faint of heart, however, and in general the risks outweigh the rewards, unless you have previous ERP project management experience.
If you pick a good ERP consulting vendor, and the partnership builds smoothly, it is a thing of beauty and an enormous boost for the success of your project. In these cases, the relative strengths of each group combine to create a whole which is greater than the sum of the parts. There is comfort and strength, in traveling the ERP implementation path with someone who has traveled it before.