Whether your current system is approaching end of life, your business has grown beyond the capabilities of your current ERP, or your users are complaining that the “green screen” era is dead, nearly every company faces the need for a new ERP software every decade or so. Many organizations still try to select and implement themselves, but more and more companies are utilizing independent ERP software selection consultants to help through the process.
What exactly is a software selection consultant and what makes a good one? Do selection consultants actually add value? Do selection consultants ultimately recommend what’s best for their clients? What does “independent” mean?
We hear these questions daily and the concerns around finding a good consultant are endless. There are tens of thousands of articles surrounding the concept of ERP software selection, key steps in a methodology, how the space is changing, how methodologies are evolving and best practices to follow. But as for a behind the scenes view of the inner workings of an “independent” selection firm, that has been off-topic. Until now.
I will keep this list short and sweet and hit what most companies considering a software selection firm really want to know. As for disclaimer, I have been in the space well over a decade, have worked directly for several firms, have seen the workings of several others and have spoken to consultants, owners and customers of many. In other words, what I am sharing is more than hearsay.
Here is what you are likely getting when you hire an “independent” consultant:
We have stressed this time and time again, but “independent” on paper or promises does not mean your selection firm is truly independent. There are vast mechanisms for vendors, implementation partners and other influencers to create bias within an “independent” firm. The most common is financial, but there are also firms who are simply too lazy to keep up with the changing enterprise technology market and rest on the few vendors they have worked with in the past. This is also very common for smaller shops that were formed by consultants that have moved from the Big 5 consulting space.
Most selection firms tout the splatter of logos on their websites, flagging companies that may have similarities as you. This looks good in theory, but what most people fail to realize is that the experience and lessons learned from these past engagements are rarely transferred. First off, selection firms don’t organize massive databases on past experience with clients or vendors (even if they claim this in their marketing), and second, if any of the knowledge from previous projects exists, only pieces of it rests with the specific consultant(s) who worked on the project. With the turnover in the industry, best of luck getting the individual you are looking for.
A common request of selection firms is to evaluate all software options in the marketplace, but this simply doesn’t happen. Most consultants simply draw from previous understanding of software to create an ERP software short-list that fit in a particular vertical market. Lower cost and less experienced consultants won’t even look at alternate solutions, instead they will pick a couple and run to RFP and demonstration. The “list” provided is nothing more than one or two consultants’ memories of software they have evaluated in the past. If you are looking for a niche-fit solution, be wary of who you contract as your consultant.
There is a growing trend around supporting or sub-system (i.e. best-of-breed ERP systems) networks in the enterprise technology space. Traditional consultants simply consider and evaluate the core ERP backbone when doing an evaluation and assume everything else will just fall into place. Most ERP vendors have preferred partner networks and APIs built so they can perceivably fit all needed functionality. However, the solution design, data ownership and support structure can become complex. Additionally, mixing all your requirements in one pot can dissolution key requirements as they are parsed out to supporting systems. Care should be taken on hoe these requirements are mapped over to systems.
Third Stage Consulting was founded with the above factors well in mind and finding ways to provide levels of service that rise above and beyond what has been considered “industry norm” for years. As always, please feel free to contact us - we would welcome the opportunity to talk and share an alternative approach to software evaluation.