Beginning the process of selecting a new (or your first) ERP system can be a daunting task; there are a lot of decisions that need to be carefully weighed. The largest choice, naturally, will be deciding on the ERP system itself. However, that is not the only critical decision to make.
The ERP partner you select to work with will be instrumental in achieving the productivity gains, cost controls (or reductions) and efficiencies, greater analytic capabilities, etc., that you expect from the new ERP system you are purchasing. The software is the tool set you will be using to build your new ERP system, but it is the partner who will function as the General Contractor to assist in the building.
With this in mind, the next task is then to determine which ERP partner you should work with, and there are many ways to choose that partner of choice : local partner vs national chain, referrals from colleagues, hired ERP consultant agencies, your own prior experience or the most common and time consuming: researching the web. Having put together a list of your potential partners I would consider the following criteria to help you decide the correct ERP partner:
Experience Counts – Implementing ERP software is a learned behavior, and the depth and breadth of the experience of your partner makes a great difference. There is a process to be followed, with careful alterations necessary to fit your specific needs and requirements. Working with deeply experienced, senior-grade consultants will smooth the process, forestall issues before they become problems, and leverage their know-how. Don’t be afraid to ask the partner about the size of their consulting team too. If it’s a small partner and you have a large project, they might not be able to handle the bandwidth. So find a partner that fits your needs.
Industry Knowledge – For ERP partners, it is very hard to be the “Master of Every Industry”. Most ERP partners will specialize in a few key strengths or industry verticals. That concentrated knowledge and experience is key to a successful implementation Find a specialist in your industry.
Check references – Successful, established ERP partners will readily provide you with references. If they are not offered to you, be certain to ask for them. And don’t just ask for them, but actually contact them, visit them if possible. Ask about the performance and “fit” of the ERP package, naturally, but also ask them for the highs, and lows, of working with the partner.
Certifications and Accreditations – ERP partners work hard to earn, and maintain, their status with the ERP provider. This is a key differentiator for the ERP partner, and is a direct view of how the Software provider views this partner. Are they a partner, or a Silver partner? Gold Partner? Managed Partner? Earning the highest recognitions available speaks to the level of commitment put forth by the partner organization.
Compatibility – The selection of the ERP system itself will include a long-term relationship with the provider, but it is essentially a long-distance relationship. They produce new versions of the ERP system and you will upgrade (at the proper time). The ERP partner that you work with, however, will be a real, physical presence in your organization, throughout the implementation and go-live phases, but also ongoing. It is important, then, that the 2 companies will work well together. We will be working side by side for a significant period of time, and having a corporate culture that meshes well will go a long way to ensure a smooth working relationship.
Keep these 5 keys in mind as you begin and work thru the ERP selection process. Your choice for which ERP partner to work with is almost as important as the choice of which ERP package will best fit your business.
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