Recently I was talking to a potential customer about its failed ERP implementation. A few years our paths crossed when we bid for that same project, but our proposal was dismissed in favor of the now failed system.
During our conversation many of the same original pains were brought up: Many operations done in worksheets or by hand, disconnected systems that require manual ledger entries be done in accounting, lack of discipline for users to follow day-to-day procedures, promised integrations that were never delivered, and terrifying customizations, among others.
I allowed myself to remind the customer how honest and “raw” we were during that initial proposal, about their expectations of the ERP solution they wanted to implement. This honesty meant that we had to tell the customer many things they probably did not want to hear:
- There is no perfect ERP solution, at any cost.
- A RFP will not give you the real answers to your questions (see “ERP Functionality: When less is more.”)
- It is more important to establish solid procedures and good discipline for executing them, than the actual system to be acquired.
- The success of an ERP implementation project lies at least as much on the customer as on the consultants helping with the implementation (see “How to Achieve Success in an ERP Implementation Project: A Matter of Expectations.”)
- It is better to have an integrated solution covering a reasonable percentage of your operations “out of the box” than having the best “islands” of solutions that don’t talk to each other.
- It is better to adapt to a system—therefore making functionality compromises—than embark on a customization process that converts the system is more of a problem than a solution. Customization has its place (see our series on this topic “Customization Options for Your ERP”), and is best used sparingly.
- A project such as desired can last anywhere from six months to two years.
I may be wrong, but my honest comments to this customer were probably a factor in the decision of originally dismissing our solution because they tend to be interpreted as limitations or inability to perform. There is always the risk of losing the deal if you are truly honest, particularly because all the while the other vendors are telling the customer everything they want to hear.
There are several factors in today’s business environment that make the honest ERP consultant an endangered species. On one hand, there is a lot of pressure being applied by the vendors we represent, who all too often place their priorities in reaching particular sales or client capture goals, instead of achieving and maintaining a high satisfaction level and betting for the long run. On the other hand, customers want consultants to tell them what they want to hear, and not necessarily the truth.
Good products and business experience undoubtedly help ERP consultants tell the customer more of the things they want to hear. However, it is more important for the customer to know that—like in a lasting marriage—the right expectations, excellent communication and total honesty are essential elements for success in your ERP implementation project.
Like the song says: “…But if you look for truthfulness you might just as well be blind…” (Honesty, Billy Joel).
ICON is in business since 1987, making good on our promise to make our customers more efficient and profitable. If you are looking for an honest opinion, and you are willing to listen, you should know that there are still companies out there that are capable of giving you honest advice, with no strings attached. Contact us, and you will see this is true.