One of the topics that we get asked questions about quite frequently is, how to pick the right system integrator for an SAP implementation.

A lot of clients we work with have already selected their software and have already decided that they’re going down the path of SAP. But, they still need help figuring out who the right system integrator is, how to develop the right implementation strategy, and how to help ensure that the project stays on track throughout the transformation.

In this blog, I will share my knowledge and experience with comparing different system integrators in the marketplace as it relates to SAP. Oftentimes, midsize and larger organizations that we work with within our client base are looking at some of the big system integrators like Capgemini, Accenture, Deloitte, Ernst and Young, PwC KPMG, whatever the case may be.

It can be difficult to figure out what is the right system integrator for your company. I want to share some valuable tips on how to get to a decision among the big system integrators and among an SAP system integrator in general, regardless of what size client you might be or what system integrator you are looking at.

Before I dive in, I wanted to remind you that Third Stage and myself are 100% agnostic. No third party paid for or influenced this content.

The Evaluation Process

The first step in the evaluation process is to evaluate system integrators based on competencies and scale. We need to understand what the global footprint is. If you’re a global organization with multinational operations, you want to know that your system integrator can support your project throughout the world.

You then want to look at the individual competencies of team members. It is important to start reviewing resumes and understanding their backgrounds, strengths/weaknesses, and industry experience that’s relevant to your organization.

Most importantly, and I think this is something that most organizations tend to overlook, is that cultural fit. Someone can look great on paper, have the right skill set, look like the best SAP implementers out there – but if they don’t fit within your organization it’s not going to end well. If they can’t relate to your people, executive team, frontline employees, and everyone in between, it’s going to be a rough journey and a long ride with that system integrator. Securing the right cultural fit is really important and understanding how they might fit with your organization.

Research All Options

The second piece of advice, or step that we often give to clients, is ensuring that we are looking at all systems and greater options. It is not only the companies I mentioned earlier that you are allowed to choose from. A lot of times, companies think those are the only options, or you need one of those really big guys because of the name brand recognition.

The fact that they have that global footprint is an important consideration, but you also want to make sure you look at other options as well. There’s some very good mid-market, mid-tier types of SAP specialists and system integrators as well that have similar types of scale, reach, and in some cases, a better cultural fit and industry experience.

At the very least, understand that you’ve got the big guys as one option and these middle-tier organizations as well. If you’re a mid-market organization, it may be that you don’t need an army of Accenture, Deloitte, Capgemini, type of consultants. A mid-market type of system integrator will work better for you. Do your due diligence in researching and do not just assume that you need to go down the path of one of the big system integrators.

Own Your Project

The third piece of advice we give companies that are going through this process is to ensure that they understand who’s in charge of the implementation. A lot of times, companies hire a big system integrator and think we’re just going to outsource this entire thing to Accenture, Deloitte, Capgemini, or whoever. But, without really taking on much responsibility ourselves, it is your project and your business.

Whoever you hire to be your system integrator is another resource that will help enable the project but you need to make sure you own it. You’re controlling the project. You’ve set up the project governance controls. And you decide how you’re going to use those resources. Certainly, whatever system integrator or integrator you might use, they’re going to have advice, methodology, and tools that you can leverage when necessary. In the end, you need to make decisions around how they’re going to fit within your overall project management and project governance structure. This is an important thing to note when picking the right system integrator.

One of the other things that we recommend clients to do is to recognize not just the strengths of the system integrator, but also their weaknesses and any gaps in their knowledge base. Regardless of the system integrator you choose for your digital transformation, they’re likely to have some things that they don’t do well. You really have to dig under the covers to understand their full capabilities – good, bad, and ugly- in order to make the best decision for your company.

Potential Failure Points

When evaluating, you may need to find ways to augment some of the weaknesses or the areas that they’re not as strong in. Some examples that we commonly see is implementation readiness. This is a big gap that a lot of organizations don’t think about when they are about to start their SAP implementation.

Oftentimes, they want to jump right in and just start deploying the software with a small army of consultants. When in fact, if you can create some distance between the time you choose SAP and decide to move forward until a legion of consultants arrive on-site at your location.

There’s an opening during this period that you can be using to slow down the tempo a little bit, not in a bad way, but in a way that just allows you to control the tempo of the transformation. You have to make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row, processes defined, b2b requirements defined, you’ve made some major decisions around how the projects going to be deployed, and what your overall strategy is going to look like.

By now, you have had plenty of time to get your resources aligned internally and started to build internal competencies around the SAP knowledge that will be required to enable an effective deployment. Those are all things that if you can set that foundation early on, it may seem like you’re slowing down the project but in reality, when you get to the implementation, this could be that much more effective.

One thing I always convey to clients is, if you look at what happens when the consultants come on board, you’ve got dozens of consultants that might be supporting your project. All of whom are billing by the hour. The meter is running – every hour, day, week that goes by you’re paying them to make decisions you could’ve made either.

The way to avoid all of the cost overruns is to ensure that you take the time to set a strong foundation early on. That’s implementation readiness. This is one of the weaknesses that we commonly see with some of the big system integrators. Throughout your evaluation process be sure to really dig into and validate that your integrator has deep competencies in these areas.

Organizational change management is often overlooked by big system integrators. In the end they’re more focused on the software. There’s so much work to be done just on the software side that it distracts them from doing organizational change well, which is why a lot of clients hire us to do the organizational change in parallel with a big system integrator doing the SAP functional and technical type of stuff.

Don’t forget to keep looking at data migration, establishing your center of excellence, and ensuring that you’ve established the internal IT organization the way you need it and all that transfer.

Quality Assurance

To wrap up evaluating your top SAP system integrators, one of the most important things you can do is to ensure that you have a strong quality assurance PMO structure in place to oversee that system integrator and to identify risks along the way. Typically, when a system integrator is so embedded in a project, they oftentimes don’t see what risks are percolating on the side.

These risks tend to grow, and the smoke starts to become more intense until there’s a full-blown fire. A lot of times, with the right outside guidance, you can identify those risks before they become a problem and put out those fires out before they spread.

If you can’t already tell, this is a topic I feel pretty passionately about. I hope you found this information useful and if you have any questions or would like to brainstorm ideas related the top SAP systems integrators in the marketplace today, please reach out to me directly. I’m always happy to be an informal sounding board for you and your team.

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