When our mid- to large-size clients ask us to help them choose an ERP vendor, they often also ask us to help them find the best system integrator or partner to help with their ERP implementation. In some cases, our clients will choose their ERP software at least partially based on the competencies of the implementation partner that they are considering. For example, if we assume that functional fit are roughly equivalent, choosing SAP All-in-One or ECC 6.0 with a great implementation partner can be the deciding factor when compared against a mediocre Oracle E-Business Suite consulting firm, or vice versa. The same can be said when considering Microsoft Dynamics, Epicor, Infor or any other ERP system for that matter.

The bigger question is: what exactly constitutes a “good” system integrator or implementation partner? For some of our clients, it equates to local presence. To others, it has to do with the number of certifications that the average consultant has or perhaps just a general comfort level or feel they get when meeting with the company. However, we have found that many organizations choose their system integrator for the wrong reasons. While the number of installations, certifications, and referenceable customers are all important factors, they are just a handful of the many variables that should be considered. It gets down to one simple question: do you want to hire a systems integrator to help you implement software, or do you want a higher-value ERP consultant that will help you translate the implementation in a way that improves your business? Those are two very different approaches to implementing ERP systems and can be the difference between ERP success and failure.

For example, in all of our ERP expert witness and project recovery experience, ERP challenges, failures and lawsuits are rarely (if ever) caused by lack of software knowledge. While understanding the software is the price of admission in any large-scale implementation, it is hardly a differentiator and is certainly not difficult to find in the market. Instead, it is the other things that make or break a system integrator or ERP consultant’s level of success.

Below are what we consider to generally be the most important criteria when selecting an ERP system integrator, implementation partner or consulting firm:

1. Knowledge of the selected ERP system. While it may seem fairly obvious, choosing a firm that has a good understanding of the most recent version of the software is critical. The firm and/or team you are considering should have strong implementation experience and certifications related to the specific product and version that you are implementing. For example, there is a big difference between understanding how to implement Oracle E-Business Suite and having experience implementing JD Edwards, even though they are both part of the Oracle portfolio of products. Similarly, you will want to find a firm that understands how to integrate your ERP system with any third-party bolt-ons you may be considering, such as Demantra advanced planning or Business Objects business intelligence.

2. Consulting methodology and tool-set. Although the team and system integrator’s track record and experience is important, it is not nearly as important as the toolset and methodology used to implement the software. Too many system integrators focus on staffing hired guns who are gurus in their respective products, but couldn’t follow or replicate a process to save their lives. System integrators or consulting firms without methodologies typically equate to inconsistency and risk, regardless of how “experienced” the individuals are. We’ve seen some of the most talented and knowledgeable ERP consultants fail because they didn’t have a proven process that equates implementation success and benefits realization.

3. Focus on the non-technical (and more important) ERP implementation success factors. When evaluating a system integrator or consultant’s methodology, it is important to look for not only tools that pertain to how to configure the software and train the core team, but also the non-technical aspects of the implementation. It is rarely the technical activities that lead to ERP failures. Instead, failures are typically attributed to deficiencies in project management, organizational change, business process management, and organizational change management. If you see an ERP consulting or system integrator methodology that relies too much on “best practices,” “pre-configuration” and “business blueprint checklists” – and not enough on organizational change management, job design, project governance and business process management – then your system integrator is probably focused on the wrong things. Again, all the software and technical knowledge in the world won’t make a successful implementation without these more important non-technical factors.

The differences between traditional ERP system integrators and more business-focused consultants are subtle, but extremely important. Focusing too much evaluation time and importance on the former will expose your ERP implementation to significant risk, while focusing on the latter will ensure that you find a firm that will help you implement your chosen ERP system in a way that results in better user adoption, more efficient business processes and higher realized business benefits.

As part of our 360-degree service offering, Panorama can either help you find a system integrator as part of our ERP selection process, or act as your technology-agnostic implementation partner if you have already selected an ERP system. Contact us today to learn more.

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