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The decision to hire an ERP consultant is not an easy one to make. Not only can it be expensive but it often requires, at least on some level, admitting that your internal resources maybe aren’t quite up to snuff. For a C-level executive or project manager, it can be difficult to come to terms with the idea that an external team might be able to provide an opinion or expertise that can’t be mustered from within. After all, these are your hires, these are your processes, this is your business . . . who could know them better?

Unfortunately, many ERP implementations are plagued by just this sort of logic. It often takes a calamity to convince leaders that their project is at risk of running over-budget, over the time allotted or simply not performing as anticipated — and that’s why consulting firms are used to being called in just as the project teeters on disaster. It doesn’t have to be this way. Consulting firms like Panorama provide business insight, techniques and management from the beginning of the process through the switchover. And the fact of the matter is, most executives who do make that tough call end up more than justifying the expense through money saved during ERP software negotiations and time and resources saved during implementation. But how do you tell when a consulting firm is needed? Following are some signs that it might be time to pick up the phone and make the plunge:

1. You are not quite sure how to talk to ERP vendors — or make them truly understand your needs. Sure, they’re smooth and full of confidence, but if the vendors are leading the discussion then they’re charting the course for how your business is going to operate going forward. Is that really something that should be decided by the software you use? And what if there already are key problems in operations . . . are those really methods you’d like to be locked into by your software? Consulting firms take your as-is business processes, funnel them through your needs and expectations, develop a new business blueprint and then (and only then) find a software that fits. Vendors? Not so much.

2. You simply don’t have the people to devote to the project. We’ve all cut back in the past few years. Is a new ERP system really what you want your top people concentrating on? Of course, it’s important to the business moving forward but what about the business right now? To retain your competitive advantage, shouldn’t the people who got you there be functioning in the roles you hired them for and not moonlighting as technical wizards or in-house training coaches? Every good general knows that there are times when reinforcement is needed — and an ERP implementation is one of them.

3. Your employees are frightened, angry and anxious about the prospect of having to relearn their jobs. Much of your ERP project’s success (or failure) hinges on its acceptance by your staff. It can be tempting to think, “These are my employees and they’re going to learn this ERP system or they can pack up their desks and get out,” but that’s simply not reasonable (even if you are Jack Welch). Your employees were hired to perform specific job functions and now those functions are being changed without their approval or input. So if you don’t present the changes in the most positive, transparent and empathetic way possible — they will walk. Or even worse, they’ll stay and consistently undermine and work around the entire system you just worked so hard to build. Third-party consultants know how to manage organizational change and they know how to create the right internal communications needed to keep the tide from turning mutinous. Org. change is not a line item to be stricken when dollars are tight; indeed, it’s fundamental to business success. Your people are watching, waiting and listening for your leadership . . . when will it show itself and what will it look like?

Knowing it’s time to call in a consulting firm is not always pointed out in giant red letters on a progress report. It requires coming to terms with some subtle (or maybe not so subtle) truths about your company, including how to protect its strengths and service its needs. And, if you’re the one making the decision, it might actually come down to what your individual comfort level is in terms of asking for help. In times like this, its wise to remember what William Faulkner said, “Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”

If any of this looks familiar, call Panorama. We can help. And we promise we won’t quote any more Faulkner.