How to Choose the Best SAP Systems Integrator for Your Digital Transformation

So, you’ve selected your ERP software. Your digital transformation project should be smooth sailing now, right?

Many organizations underestimate the importance of choosing a systems integrator. These firms help implement much of the important groundwork when it comes to digital transformation projects. Some systems integrators have a global presence and nationwide name recognition, like Deloitte or Accenture. Others bring niche offerings that benefit a select audience.

Choosing the right systems integrator is a make-or-break task — it could mean the difference between success and failure. In this blog, I’m going to walk you through the advice that I give to my clients who are looking to choose the right SAP SI for their business.

Evaluate Competency and Scale

First and foremost, you need to evaluate whether or not the SI you choose will be able to support your project at your required scale. This means that if you’re a global organization with multinational operations, you need to take a look at the global footprint of various systems integrators. Due diligence is key here. Go through their clientele list with a fine-tooth comb and see if any organizations match your size and industry.

You can also take a look at the individual competencies of the firm’s employees. Taking the time to browse through a few of their resumes, you can get a good idea of their background, industry experience, and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

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The last thing to consider is how a given systems integrator will fit culturally within your organization. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of choosing the right SI. If they can't relate to your front-line employees, your executive team, and everyone in between - it's going to be a rough journey with that systems integrator. It is all about examining your work culture and processes is an important step to finding an SAP SI that will work well within your organization.

Consider All of Your Options

Many of the companies that I work with think their only SI options are the big-name system integrators like Deloitte, Capgemini, Accenture, etc. This innate trust often stems from name recognition or other anecdotal evidence in regard to performance or global presence. However, there are a few good reasons why you should consider other options as well. One reason is the expanding market and the availability of several very good mid-tier SAP specialists.

These companies have similar types of scale and reach, and in some cases, a better success rate, better culture, and deeper industry experience than the big guys. In my opinion, it’s best to not discount niche SI offerings, especially if you're a mid-market organization. In the end, you may not need that army of Accenture, Deloitte, or Capgemini consultants in order to achieve your SAP implementation goals.

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Maintain Ownership

The thing I advise clients to do when choosing an SI is to ensure that they understand who's in charge of the implementation. All too often, companies hire a big system integrator and think of it as a way to outsource their entire digital transformation project. This is a clear path to failure because it creates a system without accountability.

The most important thing to understand is that you, as an organization are in the driver’s seat - at the end of the day, this is YOUR project. The consequences your project’s success or failure will only impact your bottom line, not the SI company you hire. That’s why you should think of your systems integrator as a resource that will help you enable the project.

Whatever SI you partner with will certainly give advice about methodology and tools that you can leverage, but in the end, you need to make decisions around how they're going to fit within your overall project management and project governance structure.

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Avoid Cost Overruns

Oftentimes, SI consultants want to jump right in and start deploying software. However, one of the best ways to avoid running up unnecessary SI costs is to slow down and get some of the initial legwork out of the way before the consultants start billing. That way, you can clarify your overarching strategy and get your ducks in a row.

This can look like defining your processes, hatching out your B2B requirements, onboarding internal teams, etc. The important thing is to get some of the major decisions out of the way before you start making major changes to software and infrastructure.

Once you've had time to build internal competencies around SAP, you can then bring in your SI team and give them a nice head start while avoiding running up the meter with billable hours.

Identify Risks

Often, when a system integrator is hired, they become so embedded in a project that they won’t see what risks are percolating on the side. And those risks tend to grow until they spiral out of control. With the right guidance, you can identify those risks before they become a problem. Ensuring that you have a strong quality assurance PMO structure in place is a great way to identify future threats to your project.

When you start to invest in a strong QA system, you can oversee your chosen system integrator and identify potential risks along the way. Understanding the gaps when choosing one SI over another. I usually recommend that my clients do some sort of strength and weakness identification when choosing their SAP system integrator. That way, they can anticipate where gaps may exist in an SI’s knowledge base and amend their strategy to overcome those potential pitfalls.

In Conclusion

Choosing your SAP system integrator is one of the biggest decisions you will make regarding your transformation. No matter who you contract with, my team and I are available to be your impartial sounding board and digital transformation guide. If you’d like to discuss SAP implementation or other topics in more detail, please reach out to me directly. My inbox is always open.

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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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