How to Choose the Best ERP Consultants and Software Experts

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: February 3, 2022


To be successful in any ERP implementation journey, it's critical to find the best ERP experts that are out on the market today. To help find the answer, it’s important to answer these 2 key questions:

  • Who are those best ERP experts?
  • How do you identify them?

When embarking on a digital transformation and the process of selecting and implementing ERP software, it's critical to find the right partner and find the best ERP experts to help through the process. The criteria provided below should be used to identify the best experts, and how to identify the most effective ERP consultants for the organization.

Skillsets

The first thing to consider, which is probably the most obvious, is the ERP consulting firm that has the best skillsets for the organization’s needs. Before taking a deep dive into what these skillsets are, there's several factors that come into play here. Having the right technical abilities, depending on which technology that is being deployed, will be a factor in how the organization succeeds going forward.

It’s important to also want to look at the functional skills and people that can understand the technology that is being deployed. The strategic and operational competencies that will be important for the ERP implementation is a key thing to consider.

In addition to the more obvious software specific skillsets, it’s important to look for expertise in business process re-engineering, organizational change management, and solution architecture. They're more critical to the digital transformation or ERP project then it is perceived.

When evaluating ERP experts, it's key to look beyond just the technology itself. Take the time to look at those outlying and expansive areas that are going to be critical to a successful ERP implementation. It's going to take a team of expert consultants that have the right skill set and competency to help a business through the process.

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Methodologies

In addition to ensuring individual consultants and experts are competent in the functional and technical aspects of the software implementation, the next factor is to understand the right methodologies are in place.

I wanted to bring up a word of warning as it relates to this whole concept. The fact that most system integrators and software vendors have their own methodologies and toolsets that they use that's specific to that software. These processes are typically are very focused on deploying technology. When going through an ERP implementation or any sort of digital transformation, it's not about just deploying technology,

It's also about…

There are many different components that go into any sort of digital transformation or ERP project and methodologies should include those additional areas. If the methodologies that are being leveraged from the consulting partners don't have the competencies listed above, then they’re likely not the best choice.

Just as an example, if the deployment of SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, or any other leading software vendors that are out there, they each have their own branded methodology that's focused solely on deploying technologies. System integrators that support those products will typically use those same methodologies. The key here is to figure out how can those methodologies best be implemented and infused with some other methodologies that focus on the business and organizational aspects of digital transformation. ERP / digital transformation consultants should be helping create a holistic approach to ensuring project success.

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Experience

The next thing to look at is how much experience does this consulting partner or this expert team has with going through a transformation? It's easy to identify the resources that have experience with that specific technology that is being deployed. That's certainly an important consideration, but it’s important to know if they have experience with the client’s specific industry.

It is critical to make sure that the expert consulting team has experience with these key terms:

  • Organizational Change
  • Business Process Improvement
  • Data Migration
  • System Architecture
  • Program Management and Governance
  • Risk Mitigation

All these different components of ERP implementations are often are not included in the typical ERP implementation methodologies. When evaluating ERP experts, make sure to not only evaluate competencies and expertise but also, methodologies and skillsets mentioned earlier.

Business Value

The next thing to consider is how much does the ERP expert cost? It's not just a matter of understanding how much they cost, but what kind of business value they are delivering. Now, there's two components in this process. There's the cost side and the business benefits which equates to an ROI (return on investment.) When evaluating potential ERP experts, make sure to identify consulting firms that aren't going to take too much time and money to go through the process.

For example, a large system integrator like an Accenture, Deloitte, or Capgemini, their model is to staff young, new consultants on any project. Arguably, a lot more than is probably needed if the right consultants are on the project. It’s key to make sure that the there is a right-sizing approach when considering the cost of the consulting team. All in all, consider the true business value that these partners are providing to the project. Question the process and work to understand the “why” behind the structure.

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Thought Leadership and Innovation

One of the biggest problems in the ERP implementation space is that consulting firms and software vendors have been following the same broken implementation processes now for decades. This is proven by the fact that so many ERP implementations fail, and an overwhelming majority do not deliver the desired business value, and in turn, are not on time or on budget.

It is important when going through the hiring process, to have a plan. What is the approach to innovation and improving processes? Those are the kinds of questions that need to be asked at the leadership stage. Make sure that the consulting firm and ERP experts are thought leaders in their respective space, innovative, and constant investigating ways to improve implementation processes.

An organization such as Third Stage would be good example of this. Looking at what types of thought leadership and innovation we provide in our consulting offering versus maybe other consulting firms that you might evaluate as well.

Look for a partner that will think outside the traditional box and transcend these stale approaches that ultimately lead to more failures than successes.

Technology Agnostic

Another very underrated and aspect of ERP implementation success is ensuring these advisors and experts are technology-agnostic. This is especially true when evaluating potential software solutions or defining the digital strategy and roadmap. It's also equally important when going through that implementation process. There should be no basis or affiliations that will push a certain agenda. Consultants should be independent advocates for the business they serve.

It’s important to remember, they're not there to sell the software or to force-fit a square peg into a round hole. These resources are hired to figure out where / how technology might enable process improvement. To identify how the operations, organization, and overall strategy might evolve and progress because of the transformation. That technology-agnostic view is extremely significant because failure stems from off-the-shelf technology that doesn’t align with the enterprise's needs or goals.

The objective is an overall business solution and strategy that might include technology, but also incorporates organizational change, process improvement, and strategic alignment.

Understanding Your Business

Another subtle but important consideration is how well potential ERP experts understand the business and industry that is being presented at the organization.

  • Who are you as an organization?
  • How are you different?
  • What are you trying to become when you grow up?
  • What's your culture like?
  • How are you trying to bend your culture?
  • How are you trying to improve your business operations?
  • How are you trying to execute your three-to-five-year strategic plan?

Being able to react or respond to whatever that situation may be. One problem with the ERP implementation space is that most vendors and system integrators take more of a cookie-cutter or a one-size-fits-all approach to deploying and implementing technologies.

The reality is every organization is different. There are different risk profiles and cultures. Every organization has a distinctive operating model even within the same industry. A consulting partner should recognize and understand the unique goals of the business and respond accordingly with a tailor-made plan and recommendations.

Culture Fit

Finally, it is central to consider how the consulting partner’s culture fits within the organization.

  • How well do the ERP consulting team and experts fit all together?
  • How well do they get along with people?
  • Are they arrogant and look down on the people within the company?
  • Can they understand and communicate within the team?

Those are the sorts of questions that to be addressed. Quite frankly, the understanding from the ERP consulting expert is the most important aspect to have when looking at the culture fit. Choose to work with a partner that is known in the industry and likable. People within the organization are going to have to be motivated to engage with these partners, so be sure they’re easy to get along with.

Finding the right consulting partner means finding a challenge. Someone that will challenge the business to force the organization to do better and work to achieve the goals of the company. In the end, look for someone that can do so in a way that fits the culture, personality, and organization.

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Why Not to Choose an ERP Expert

I talked a lot about the reasons why i

Oftentimes organizations think that if they hire one of the big, well-known brands or names in consulting, they're guaranteed success. What is actually more likely, and proven, is these Big Box consultants can cause more problems than solutions. Especially in regards to a mid-market organization and a big pond, small fish scenario. I say that as someone that used to work for one of those firms, and that's part of why I started Third Stage Consulting. It was to provide a different alternative for organizations.

Another aspect I didn't mention is deliverables. A lot of consulting firms take pride in their spectacular PowerPoint presentations. They put together magical, magnificent presentations that look great, pieces of art really, but the reality is it’s likely not even relevant to the business. Don’t get me wrong, the deliverables need to look professional, it is important to show people the execution and delivery side, but fancy PowerPoint presentations are not the answer. It’s the content that creates the most business value.

Finally, and probably the most overrated aspect in the whole evaluation of potential ERP partner is expertise in the technology that is being deployed. It may feel that to find an expert in the software is a surefire way to succeed. Well, that's actually not true.

In fact, that's another glorified component of evaluating ERP experts. The technology needs to be easily understood of course, but it’s better to have a good culture match and innovated partner than the #1 expert on the software.

Resources

For more information and best practices on how to make your digital transformation successful, I encourage you to download our annual 2021 Digital Transformation Report. This is a report that includes industry benchmarks and lessons from our client experiences.

I hope you found this information useful, if you have any questions regarding how to choose the best ERP consultants and software experts, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly. I am happy to be an informal sounding board as you move through your digital transformation journey.

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Author:
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.
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