Making the decision to either purchase your first or replace your current ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software solution is an immense undertaking. That process, along with handling the evaluation, making the final decision, implementing the solution, and performing maintenance, can be too much to handle, especially if resources are limited due to time, company funds, or hardware and software infrastructure.
There are many things that can go wrong. The budget you established could go through the roof, leaving you clueless as to what to do next. Or you could discover your hardware is too dated and/or limited to support a new ERP. Or the evaluation process could come to a standstill because there is no one person who knows all the areas of the business well enough to evaluate any given solution, or no one has enough free time to dedicate to a thorough investigation of each potential option.
Perhaps if you are a larger company that has been through multiple ERP evaluations before, with a dedicated staff that is prepared to handle a detailed ERP project, you will not come across any major issues. However, most companies find hiring an ERP consultant is a huge relief on many levels.
However, hiring the right consultant can be tricky. When looking for consultants, watch out for consultants who are biased or “in the pocket” of certain ERP vendors. In some cases, they may get bonuses from specific vendors to sell only their product (in which case, you will be charged more for the software and they will pocket those extra costs directly from the vendors).
For more on this topic, please read our blog post on the topic: Is Your ERP Consultant Biased?
When you do find a consultant who is unbiased, affordable, and meets your criteria, you are ready to go. Do not rush this process or just talk to one or two. Three to five is a better way to go.
Let’s take a look at some of the primary benefits hiring a consultant can bring to your evaluation.
1: A consultant can get a big picture, unbiased view of your company, its processes, and employees.
The consultant can take a look at all aspects of your business and see where your strengths and weaknesses are, with an unbiased eye. It can be hard to find someone internally to do this because of their ties to the current system/processes, the people working in each area, and their overall feel for the new ERP situation. It is important to trust the consultant’s word, since you selected him/her to have your best interests in mind.
Once they find areas for improvement, fixing any issues internally regarding hardware, processes, and procedures now will save a lot of time later and help find a more efficient ERP solution. This should be done well before evaluating different vendors, as you want to have everything set and in place so you know exactly what you have, what you need, and what else might be of interest.
The consultant should be able to help address issues with people, not just technology and processes. After all, the ones selecting, implementing, and using the ERP solution are employees. Finding strengths and weaknesses of the staff can also be of benefit to help increase people’s efficiency and improve company time and profits. Also, in talking with people, they can determine who would be best suited to handle different parts of the implementation and get various insights across the board on the company’s situation.
2: An ERP consultant can protect your interests and offer insight you might not have.
When looking for potential vendors, a consultant may have insight into industry specific solutions that would be the best fit. Generally, systems like these require less customizations and fewer add-ons since they are already set up for companies like yours. This saves on costs, time, and maintenance of the system, which pays big dividends. With a generic ERP, costs add up fast because you need to tailor it to your business; the industry specific ones are already tailored.
When dealing directly with ERP software vendors, the consultant can help keep your best interests in mind when asking questions about the software, implementation, and any other communication. It can be easy to be swayed with bells and whistles from a vendor, but it is more important to get the base modules that best match your needs, as this will be the bread and butter of the solution. Considering how much money a new system costs, this is a critical component.
In general, a consultant can also fill a void in the company regarding ERP terms, how the buying and implementation processes work, and the long term time and costs needed. On average, a company gets a new ERP every 10 to 20 years. Ideally, you would want it to last forever, but this is not realistic based on how fast companies and software change.
3: Hiring a consultant will help smooth and speed up the implementation.
When choosing an ERP solution, the process of implementation, including time, cost, and ease of, should be a significant factor. Many purchases fail, and one of the main causes is a failed implementation. Your consultant should be able to anticipate problematic ERP vendor implementations and help avoid unreliable vendors.
Once a decision is made and you start the implementation process, it is important that you operate on facts, deadlines, and realistic expectations. There is no room for hypotheticals and promises because of the high cost, time needed, and overall importance of the implementation. If you have never done this before or lack a lot of experience, this is where a consultant can help make or break the process. A consultant will know industry standards and what to expect, and they can help negotiate various items with the vendor on your behalf, knowing what is a good deal and what is realistic.
4: A consultant will help improve the overall ROI for the ERP.
Overall, the goal is to have the money you spend on the consultant save significantly more than the ERP costs in the long term. There are many ways this is achieved, even something so high level as picking the right solution that will lead to success. Other ways are realizing important needs or benefits you would not have otherwise, leading the decision making and implementation process, and anything tangible to processes or finances.
For more on how to measure the success of your ERP implementation, read our blog post on the topic: Measuring the Success of Your ERP Initiative.