We understand why it happens — why companies feel they need to hire an ERP consultant to help them select their next-generation financial management solution to drive their digital transformations. There’s a lot of confusing information to wade through and competing claims about which product is best. Plus, there’s the reality that implementing a new ERP application can be expensive and disruptive, so there’s enormous pressure to make the “right” choice. If we hire a consultant, companies say, someone else shares the responsibility for the decision. Some consultants are great at what they do and we’re not here to bash software selection consultants – some of our best friends are consultants! In our experience, though, they can also over-complicate the selection process and steer your focus away from what really matters to your company. So, should you hire an ERP consultant or not?
Information overload blurs the process
Hiring an ERP consultant costs money. Consultants tend to create lots of lists and analyses to help ensure you feel they’re earning that money. They schedule lots of meetings and ask you to fill in lots of forms. They create lengthy RFPs and send them out to multiple ERP vendors. All of these activities add to the cost and timeline of selecting your next business solution. How much value do they add though?
While we encourage companies to review competing products, 30-page RFPs are so yesterday. In our experience, some of the best ERP vendors no longer take the time to respond to these “one call for all” RFPs — they’re meeting directly with prospects and explaining their value-add propositions. Why? Read on.
The product shouldn’t be your main focus
You read that right. In the ERP selection process, the product shouldn’t be your main focus. We know that may sound odd, but it’s true. Most of the modern, cloud-based ERP systems on the market provide similar capabilities. Run down a comparison list of features and functionality and you’ll be checking all the columns. An excellent ERP consultant might help you focus on the few meaningful differentiators, but unless those differentiators represent functionality that’s critical to your operations, they don’t matter much.
Just to be clear, there are assuredly very competent ERP consultants out there who are helpful hand-holders and ensure their clients make informed decisions. The best of the bunch acknowledge the realities of how similar most of the applications are. The most important differentiator is the partner who implements the solution and helps you leverage its capabilities as your business grows and processes evolve over time.
Instead, concentrate on the end game
Every leading cloud-based ERP includes many (substantially similar) features and functions. Ultimately, you aren’t investing in a new ERP application so you can have cool features. You’re investing to solve real-world business challenges. Your goals may be to streamline manual processes, eliminate productivity-zapping data silos, and deliver deep operational insights that fuel decision-making. In short, you’re investing in a solution, not a product.
To that end, we recommend asking yourself, “What do I expect my work life to be like when I flip the switch?” Then, write down those expectations and take them to a select few ERP vendors and ask them to show you if and how they can make your expectations a reality. Ask them for references and testimonials from happy customers. Ask them about their implementation methodology. Ask them if they honestly believe the ERP they represent is the best option for your company. You won’t need a pricey consultant for this.
The right partner is worth the search
The search for your company’s next financial management solution involves more than a feature-rich product and a completed checklist. It takes a partner that understands how to apply product features to your industry, your organizational structure, and your business. It takes a partner who is committed to helping you achieve your organizational goals, not to tick boxes. 87% of companies seek guidance for ERP implementation, and 67% seek guidance for ERP planning. That guidance doesn’t need to be a consultant though, the right partner can (and should) provide that guidance. The bottom line is that in our view, the partner matters more than the product, so find an experienced partner you can trust.
If it seems we’re being a little harsh on ERP consultants, we do think there are circumstances where they add value. If your organization has unique and complex workflows — process manufacturing, for example, where features and functions really are paramount — then an ERP consultant can help you sift through the contenders and zero in on the best options. Most companies, though, can eliminate the overhead and complexity of engaging an ERP consultant by performing their own due diligence and focusing their search efforts on finding the right ERP partner. If you’ve got questions surrounding your company’s next-generation financial management solution, we’re here to help.