Are Independent ERP, HCM, or CRM Consultants Worth It?

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: September 28, 2020

Some organizations view independent ERP, HCM, and CRM consultants as a nice to have. Others don’t even know they exist, while others don’t understand the role these experts can play.

When beginning their digital transformation journeys, most project teams think that they simply choose their technology, hire the technical implementation partner, and head off to the races. This flawed approach is a fundamental reason why so many digital transformations fail.

Unlike software vendors, systems integrators, technical implementers, and resellers, independent consultants are not myopically focused on designing, building, and deploying the technology. These technical resources are certainly important to any transformation, but it is just one of many pieces that need to be included in the quest for digital transformation success.

So are independent digital transformation consultants necessary to your digital transformation or ERP, HCM, or CRM implementation? If your goal is to succeed and avoid the common pitfalls of ERP failures, then yes. If you are comfortable fumbling through your digital transformation or aren’t particularly concerned with cost and risk, then this may be an optional means of support.

The effects of vendor bias on digital transformations

It is first important to recognize how biased most digital transformations are. Enterprise technology vendors have done a brilliant job of creating a machine-like ecosystem that delivers powerful sales and marketing messages. Software vendors are at the heart of this machine, investing significant money in ensuring that their marketing messages dominate any ideas that end customers may have regarding their transformations.

For example, software vendors pay systems integrators and consultants significant sums of money to recommend their software. These are paid in the form of commission, so most consultants in the ERP and enterprise software industry are driven by getting customers to purchase and implement as much technology as possible.

In addition, software vendors pay industry analysts and influencers such as Gartner and Forrester to commission various studies and quadrants illustrating the strengths of their software. They also pay media and blog outlets sponsorship fees for positive media coverage and reviews – essentially providing another one-sided conduit for vendor messaging.

This video explains how Amazon gift cards serve as the gateway of vendor bias and influence driving the vendor sales machines:

YouTube player

The right independent consultants can provide real value by mitigating the risks of these vendor biases and sources of misinformation. They can help cut through the bias and noise created by this machine to help clients make more clear-headed decisions along the way.

Independent consultants can define the most appropriate digital transformation strategy

The value of independent consultants is first felt when defining your digital transformation strategy, roadmap, and technology evaluation. Given the fast pace of technological change and the fragmented vendor landscape, you need an objective voice to help you determine what the best path forward might be. Whether it is choosing among the top ERP systems, CRM software, or HCM systems, or other enterprise technology.

This applies not only to things like ERP evaluation and selection, but also implementation planning, how systems will tie together, and even non-technology solutions that will best enable your transformation. Perhaps most importantly, independent advice ensures that you are able to effectively define a unique strategy and roadmap that is best aligned with your organization’s strategy, culture, and objectives. Software vendors and their system integrator counterparts are not equipped or incentivized to offer such an unbiased path forward.

ERP vendor negotiations

Chances are that your digital transformation will entail one of the most – if not the single most – capital and operating expenditures that your organization will ever invest in. The financial stakes are high, so it is important to negotiate a fair deal that minimizes your costs and protects you from future problems.

Truly independent consultants should have nothing to gain or lose by an effective negotiation process. Biased vendors, systems integrators, and consultants, on the other hand, are essentially negotiating against themselves. This is hardly the partner you want in your corner to help protect you from common contractual and financial pitfalls.

The advent of subscription cloud technology has further fueled the importance of this activity. Recurring costs into perpetuity cost escalators, and other hidden contract costs are even more significant today than they were in the days of on-premise enterprise technology contracts. This is an area where good independent consultants can save exponentially more money than the cost of their services.

This video provides some ideas on how to best negotiate with your software vendor or systems integrator:

YouTube player

The role of independent consultants during the implementation

With the countless decisions and activities required to be effective during the entire transformation, the role of independent consultants also applies beyond the technology evaluation phase. This outside skill set is even more important during the actual implementation.

First and foremost, this is important because of the tendency of vendors and their systems integrators to rush implementation. This is because the sooner you have deployed a maximum number of modules and users of their systems, the more money they make. This economic incentive creates a bias that is not in your best interests.

Just as importantly, software vendors, technical consultants, and systems integrators focus on one thing: technology. However, a transformation’s level of success has approximately 20% to do with technology – the other 80% has to do with things other than technology.

For example, here are a few of the more important components of transformation, which most vendors and systems integrators do very poorly – or not at all:

  • Organizational design
  • Definition of your future target operating model (aka business process management)
  • Enterprise and solution architecture
  • Data migration
  • Program management and risk mitigation
  • User acceptance testing and conference room pilots
  • Any organizational change management beyond basic systems training

These are all areas that qualified and independent ERP experts and should provide to your digital transformation project team.

An insurance policy for your digital transformation

Think of independent ERP, HCM, and CRM consultants as an insurance policy against digital transformation failure. They help provide objective guidance, take your best interests to heart, fill the gaps that your other vendors can’t (or shouldn’t) provide, and help bridge the gap between technology and your business.

Independent consultants also provide an independent mechanism to identify and mitigate risks. Vendors and systems integrators are very adept at hiding risks since they have so much to lose by undermining your perception of their value. In other words, they keep the money train rolling by spinning, hiding, or ignoring the various risks that inevitably creep up during any transformation.

Independent consultants, on the other hand, have nothing to lose by providing honest, objective, and transparent guidance throughout your transformation.

The bottom line: Independent ERP, HCM, and CRM consultants provide a very high ROI

When evaluating the costs of an independent consultant, it is important to also evaluate the benefits they bring. Consider the following benefits that our clients have seen by partnering with our team throughout their transformations:

  • Lower costs because they chose the best technology fit for their organization
  • Lower costs through better vendor negotiation results
  • More efficient use of resources throughout the transformation
  • Reduced lost sales and other operational impacts of failed implementations
  • Better optimization, use of, and benefits from the transformation
  • Less turmoil, employee attrition, and general chaos following implementation

These are just a few of the many benefits of hiring independent and unbiased consultants during your transformation.

Please contact me if you have questions about your digital transformation, ERP, HCM, or CRM implementation. My team and I are happy to arrange an introductory Zoom call to be an informal sounding board for you as you continue your journey!

Kimberling Eric Blue Backgroundv2
Eric Kimberling

Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
Subscribe for updates
We never share data. We respect your privacy
Stratosphere 2024
Register Here
Additional Blog Categories



International Office Locations

Follow us on:

Third Stage Consulting

Third Stage Consulting Group is a global thought leader in business transformation, ERP software systems, operational change management, and business advisory. Let us take your organization’s digital transformation to the Third Stage.
2022 - Copyright Third Stage Consulting Group LLC  |  All Rights Reserved  |  Website developed and maintained by Denver Web Design.
Privacy Notice  |  Terms of Use  |  Sitemap