As you plan to implement your first ERP solution or migrate to a new platform, the partner you select to assist with the project is just as critical a decision as the software you choose. Even the best ERP software simply won’t work well without the right planning, design, integrations, training, go live and post-implementation support.
Given the investment you’re about to make, finding that right partner is critical to your success!
To help guide you in determining which partner will best meet your needs, here are seven key questions to ask as you go through the planning process:
#1 – Is your potential partner an ERP software publisher or a technology partner?
Software publishers typically rely on corporate sales teams with polished presentations and then hand off projects they win to an implementation team from another business unit or to a third-party service provider. This causes a disconnect between the sales team and the implementation team. You may discover sales simply sold you a “bill of goods” just to win the business—only to find out major changes are needed once the implementation team gets under the hood.
Conversely, a technology partner brings solution design and deployment team members into the sales process. With these team members conducting an in-depth analysis of your scenario, they can develop a more accurate proposal and plan. These team members are also there when the implementation takes place so there are fewer surprises—and changes to the budget.
#2 - What will the software licensing costs be after the initial contract expires?
Asking this question gives you a good view into the transparency and the knowledge of your prospective ERP partner. Some may bundle the cost of the software with the cost of the implementation, giving you a false sense of low licensing costs.
Some publishers lure you in with low costs for the initial term and then double, or even triple, the cost of the software at the end of the term knowing it may be impractical for you to migrate at that point to another ERP platform. However, reputable partners will educate you on the pricing history of the ERP platform you’re considering. They can also advise you on which solutions historically keep their pricing steady with reasonable increases over time.
#3 - Can the partner provide customer references in your industry?
Ideally, you want to work with a partner who has solved challenges similar to yours for other companies in your industry. That tells you they understand how your business operates and what you will need and require from your ERP platform.
If you’re interacting with a publisher for references, check to be sure there are customers who worked with the implementation services provider. In some cases, a publisher will refer you to a corporate customer who is not connected to the service company that will deploy the solution. When you receive a strong reference, you want to know the implementation partner knows that particular customer.
#4 - Who will you interact with throughout the solution lifecycle?
Following the sales process, the lifecycle of your project includes the discovery phase, planning, design, deployment, the cutover from your previous system, post-implementation support, and potential future phased in solutions and upgrades. While some team members will change from phase to phase, it’s best if the prospective partner commits to keeping two or three resources intact that you can always rely on throughout the lifecycle.
Just as important, verify their hand-off process as new teams come into play. Do they have efficient knowledge transfer to you and their team members? The big thing to avoid is a completely new team as you go from sales to implementation to support. You could find yourself in the middle of the implementation team not being able to deliver what sales promised. Or to do so, they may need more time which will ultimately increase the cost.
#5 – Is the solution pre-configured or customized?
To keep initial costs low and win the project, the partner may try to sell you a pre-configured solution, trying to convince you that it will likely need minimal changes to work in sync with your business processes. Often, however, pre-configured solutions result in multiple change orders that delay the project and greatly increase the cost.
Every business has its own unique way of running daily operations—even those in the same industry. The better route to take is to work with a partner who conducts an up-front analysis to discover your requirements and then configures the ERP solution to meet your needs and documents gaps giving the opportunity for the customer to change a process or customize the software. The resulting proposal will likely come in higher than the pre-configured solution, but it will also be more accurate in the long run, more likely to be completed on time with the end result being a system that fits your business.
#6 – What additional software expertise does the partner provide?
Your new ERP solution may need to integrate with other enterprise applications such as CRM, e-commerce, and perhaps warehousing and manufacturing. It’s best to work with a partner who can also connect ERP with those applications and ensure real-time data flows.
There may also be solutions from an independent software vendor (ISV) you want to add to your ERP platform that requires application interfaces. It will be much easier on you if your ERP partner can handle these connections—you won’t have the headache of dealing with multiple vendors.
#7 – How far into the future will this ERP solution take your company?
This is another question that gives you insights into the expertise of the partner. If you’re deploying a cloud solution, you won’t have to worry about upgrades as those come automatically as part of your licensing agreement. But you do want a clear understanding of how the licensing costs might change (see question #2).
More importantly, you want to get an idea of whether the partner can configure your solution to grow as your company grows. Can they set up the application and the supporting infrastructure to scale as you process more transactions? Can they keep your application secure from cyber threats? Will they make sure you stay compliant with relevant regulations?
Assessing Your Partner’s Core Competencies
In addition to asking these key questions, it’s vital to assess the core competencies of your potential ERP partner. Key attributes to look for include the ability to engage, collaborate, and build relationships with your internal team that’s handling the project. Can they help you facilitate the change your business will need to go through by providing training and coaching on the new ERP system?
Also see how well the potential partner understands how the components of your ERP platform connect to the business outcomes you are driving towards. It’s not just a matter of knowing how to deploy the software. The partner also needs to know how to configure the solution to work within the context of your business operations and your corporate goals.
If you need help planning your company’s selection and deployment of a new ERP platform, Western Computer has delivered more than 1,100 successful implementations over the past 35 years by relying on our customer-centric, consultative approach. Contact us today to learn more about our Microsoft ERP solutions and how they can help you improve your business processes to efficiently meet the needs of your customers.
About the AuthorMore Content by Cady Jackson