Partner, publisher, or product — which is most important?
Those of us who’ve been part of the ERP VAR community for more than a minute have seen a seismic shift in the way ERP applications are marketed and sold. Businesses have gone from thinking about ERP as the behemoth installed on the backroom server, to thinking of it as just another cloud application accessible on one’s desktop, laptop, or phone. Inadvertently, that shift also changed the perceived role — and value — of business partners. Back then, partners did it all. They installed software, developed customizations, and performed annual (or less frequent) updates. Multi-tenant cloud applications eliminate some of that heavy lifting, which (incorrectly) diminishes the value of a partner in the eyes of some clients and many software vendors.
Clouds in our eyes
When cloud computing and SaaS applications became the norm, every ERP publisher rushed to market with their subscription solution, touting it “easy to use” and “quick to implement.” It was just what customers wanted to hear, and they believed the promises. After all, we’re all used to simply downloading phone apps and getting right to work (or fun).
Somewhere in that shift from a fully managed implementation and a do-it-yourself approach, the value of a partner became overlooked. If all you have to do is sign up and pay – why would you need a full implementation?
Can’t the publisher do it?
Some publishers offer basic implementation services as part of the sale. You’re a distribution company — here’s the distribution implementation. The trouble with this approach is that it doesn’t accommodate the unique circumstances that define each company. A distributor with plans to expand into eCommerce and direct sales, for example, will have very different needs than one who is considering bringing some manufacturing assembly in-house. A one-size-fits-all implementation would fit neither of these companies and as a result, will end up locking away much of the value in the application.
What holds true across the companies we work with and hear about is that the only companies that won’t benefit from involving a skilled partner in the mix are those that don’t really need a robust financial management application — they’d be O.K. on QuickBooks.
The strategic partner
In reality, while a partner’s role has changed — moving from mechanic to strategic — the importance of the right partner has only grown with the cloud migration. Today’s partner isn’t charged with keeping the software running, they are charged with ensuring their clients get maximum value from it.
Publishers didn’t dumb down their applications (most of them, anyway) when they migrated them to the cloud. These applications continue to offer robust and comprehensive capabilities, only now those capabilities are encased in a pretty wrapper that doesn’t require you to close out of every other app to use them. These applications still require skilled implementation to unlock the product’s value.
The implementation disconnect
We often hear from companies that purchased a cloud-based ERP based on promises made by the publisher and/or the reselling partner. We hear from them when those promises failed to translate into outcomes. Some of these companies were over-sold, talked into investing in modules with capabilities they will never need. Some were promised “implementation services” by the publisher but found that includes basic configuration and training and a little more.
ERP partners are a varied bunch as you’ll find anywhere. Each firm has its own approach to sales, implementation, and support — and often there’s a disconnect between those roles.
The sales team stretches the truth just a bit and makes some promises to win the sale. Often, those promises never make it to the implementation, training, and support teams. Sure, sometimes these are small disconnects that the partner can correct. But often, the partner simply cannot keep the pre-sales promises without asking the customer to buy another module or additional implementation time.
What’s a company to do?
In actuality, most modern ERP applications offer very similar capabilities. The differences lie in the way these tools are applied to your business. And that’s the job of a partner — using the software as a tool to streamline and automate workflows, unlock business insights, and lay the foundation for a company to scale profitably. At BT Partners, we believe that successful implementations are a partnership between the ERP consulting firm and the client, where clear objectives and roles have been defined, and communication and collaboration abound.