Runnin’ with the Devil: Uncovering the Truth About ERP Consultants

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: April 28, 2018

I was at a crossroads when I left the company I founded in 2005 to start Third Stage Consulting. I had a vision for what I wanted that company to be and to stand for, but those good intentions became watered down by a new ownership structure with a different set of values. It was clear that my career as an independent ERP consultant and industry thought leader needed to head in a different direction.

Over time, I decided it was time to get back to that original vision and values. I wanted to create something that was truly independent, possessed high ethical standards, created very satisfied clients, and hired only the best consultants in the industry.

While creating this vision for the new company, I had an epiphany about what clients should look for when evaluating ERP consultants – whether that be Third Stage, or any other consulting firm for that matter. Here are the things I’ve found to be valuable when evaluating potential ERP consulting firms:

Independence and technology agnosticism

. Whether you are looking for help defining a digital strategy for your organization, conducting an ERP software selection, or implementing technology as part of your digital transformation, you need a consultant that is truly independent – not one that just claims to be. Watch out for consulting firms that assert independence despite their backroom deals with vendors, or sister companies that blatantly take money and kickbacks from vendors and resellers.

Ethics and Integrity

. Finding a consulting firm with integrity is extremely important. Steer clear of those with a poor track record of client success, disgruntled current and former employees, and high turnover – especially in the executive ranks. Those are all typically signs of deeper underlying ethical issues.

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Leadership with Industry Experience

. The top ranks of your preferred consulting firm should be well-versed in digital transformation and ERP implementations. Beware of firms with top executives with no prior industry experience; chances are that they are not able to lead consultants and clients as well as a firm with strong leadership. And, find out how active executive leadership is with its existing and past clients. This will provide a good sign of how you will be treated as a client.

High-Caliber and Experienced ERP Consultants

. Third Stage only hires the best people. These are some of the best consultants that I’ve worked with over my 20-year career. Challenge the background and relevant experience of your potential consulting team. Ask for references specific to those consultants. Are these strong players that can help take your organization to the next level, or are they just nice people without much experience or substance behind them? Are these committed team members, or just contractors they hire off the streets?

Flexibility and Client Focus

. Perhaps most importantly, you want to know that your consulting firm is focused on you, the client. You don’t want a solution that is rigid or a force-fit methodology, but rather a solution based on best-practices yet tailored for your specific needs. I’ve found that too much emphasis on methodology and templates – along with an unwillingness to deviate from those processes – can be a symptom of inexperience. The best consultants know which tools in their toolset are the best for a specific client situation. And, the good ones understand the need to spend time with you onsite rather than back at their corporate office.

Industry Reputation

. The industry itself is often a good source of background on your potential ERP consultants. Ask software vendors, thought leaders, and even competitors what they have heard about the consulting firm. What kind of ratings does the firm have on Glassdoor, Indeed, and other job seeking sites? Current and former employees can provide the “real story” about who a consulting firm is, regardless of how good their marketing might be.

Hands-on Implementation Experience

. I’m a strong believer in the need to hire a consulting team that has a very strong track record of diverse and successful ERP implementations. If your consultants are the academic, theoretical, or hands-off types, you want to go a different direction. Instead, look for those that have implemented large, complex, and difficult digital transformations – not just those that can create nice PowerPoint presentations.

These are just a few important criteria to consider when seeking potential consulting firms. They also align with the values and philosophy of Third Stage Consulting. Although choosing the wrong consulting team can expose your project to unnecessary risk, choosing the right one will help you achieve project and implementation success where so few do.

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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