Assuming you’ve been hooked up with our latest ERP related posts and you actually want to implement one in your business, you may start to wonder, “OK, so how do I actually do it?”
Broadly speaking, there are two ways to go about doing it.
The first is to bite the bullet, do the research, google it, read fora, speak with friends and associates and eventually pick a solution. Then you should start the real work of migrating your existing system to the new way of doing things – and that includes changing your software -possibly some of your other infrastructure as well- and of course training your colleagues or your employees. And once most of this work has been done, hopefully you’ll be seeing the first signs of improvement.
you could hire specialized experts or consulting companies to handle the entire process for you. Although this may seem to involve an additional overhead (in terms of extra cost, time and administration), given a consultant’s experience and the best practices they follow, a business is most likely to benefit in the long run from employing one.
So, how would you choose a consultant or a consulting company? We collect here a number of questions you should ask yourself or them:
1. Define the scope of the collaboration. Basic parameters of their work will obviously be set from the beginning such as whether they will be helping you select a solution or implement it (or both), whether they will provide training to your staff, whether they will be handling the transition period and offering support during and after the change.
2. Obviously, find out as much about the consultants as possible. Things like the type of clients they’ve worked with in the past, their general experience and their high points so far all paint a picture you want to know a lot of detail about. Contacting the manager of a company the consultant has worked with, is always a good idea.
3. Make sure you know of any affiliations they have with certain ERP software and whether they offer only that. Certain consultants specialize in offering services related to particular business software choices. Although that’s not a bad thing in itself it’s important to know you’ll be adopting a solution based on your needs and not just because that’s the only thing a consultant knows about – or, even worse, benefits from.
4. Do the consultants specialize in a particular part of the total spectrum of ERP functionality? Some consultants may not be as knowledgeable in certain aspects of a business – they are quite a few after all: CRM, inventory, manufacturing, distribution, financial, project management etc.). Consider the possibility of employing more than one or simply hire someone who has experience in all aspects you need.
5. Which tools and/or approaches they will be using when working with you. In practical terms how will you be collaborating? What software, what methodology, how will progress be measured and how will the entire project be managed? These are questions that should be addressed before starting.
6. Do the consultants focus on particular industries? If they have a proven track record e.g. in apparel or food and beverages, they might actually be a poor match for you if your industry is hardware. Despite if the other indications are favorable it might be good to go with someone with experience in the industry who’ll speak the same language as you.
7. Make sure you are offered a cloud solution too. Rather obvious these days, but we should mention it as certain consulting companies still only offer on-premises solutions only for a number of reasons (mostly associated with their profit margins). Make sure they know of (and are willing to use) the latest technology; it is going go get you further along the road.
8. Size matters. Take a look at the consulting company’s portfolio. If they’ve worked only with large companies and you’re a small business, they’ll probably be applying approaches that will not work as well in your case. Cost will also be prohibitive most likely and will not correspond to quality. Stick to similar scale consultants as you.
9. Don’t get your expectations too high. Or you will be disappointed. About 50% of ERP change projects go off budget and a similar ratio goes off schedule. Be prepared for this but also for the fact that there should be improvements in the way you do business but not miracles…
These are a few of the things you should keep in mind – others can probably be added on the list too, so feel free to add them in the comments.
Overall, choosing a consultant is not a commitment to be taken lightly (as with any other collaboration). Of course, as with any business decision, there’s always the danger of ‘paralysis by analysis’, so once you’ve crossed at least some of the above items with a candidate, take the plunge and start!
Dimitris Athanasiadis oversees Operations and Customer Relations in Megaventory.