How to Avoid a Costly Mistake Selecting an ERP/CRM Partner

This article is relevant if you are thinking about selecting a partner to help you implement or care for your ERP/CRM system.

Reference Article: Are Some ERP Software Consulting Firms Crooks?

Steve Phillips just published an article about ways that software consulting act like thieves (here is a PDF version).  His article prompted me to outline what you can do to surface if an unsavory tactic is being used so you can avoid being caught in a bad situation.   Assuming you have read his article, I will reference each of his tactics to  present thinking to help you during your partner evaluation.

The Old “Bait and Switch” Routine


The best way to circumvent this situation is to get to know the consultants that will be assigned to your project team. See if the project lead can walk you through the implementation narrative. Be prepared to ask questions about the data migration, the cut-over approach, and where they see project risks.  Name these professionals in your agreement with penalties if they switch out team members during the implementation.

Resumes: Lies and Half-Truths

While meeting your prospective consultants, ask questions about projects you see on on the submitted resumes. Listen for information reliability. Ask the consultant to outline previous employment to confirm chronology and facts.  Do what you would normally do to hire permanent employees.

Intentionally “Low-balling” the Quote

Ask the partner to walk you through the estimates using a detailed project plan. Ask the solution provider to illustrate how they have tracked actual work against their estimates. Determine the practices they use to control the project earned run rate. For example, we update projects plans with actual time each week so we can make assessments on our projects’ progress. Finally, ask the partner if they will fix the project bid based on that estimate. If they won’t, why not? ¬†Basically, ERP / CRM projects are generally risky and you want to find a way to balance your total investment outlay, demands to complete and your need for cost control.

The “Best” Implementation Methods and Tools

Determine what the basic practices are for successful implementations. Here is the basic pattern: Design, Configure, Develop, Migrate Data, Test, Training, Cutover, and Support. The order sometimes can change. But you basically need to plan, produce, test, educate, assess, refine, and activate. ¬† Notice I can say it differently. ¬†Because I know how to make it happen in any situation. ¬†Really, at the end of the day, I suggest you look for leaders that can adapt to your culture and specific requirements and who will respect your organization’s existing commitments and objectives. ¬†Hence, can the partner’s senior consultant who will lead the implementation produce confidence in your team that he or she should be followed?

The Less You Know – The More Money They Make

Look for a partner that will take time to help you understand the project details. The more you are willing to invest in your understanding, the more you mitigate the risk that something is being hidden. Work to understand where the consultants assess the project has the highest risk. Keep asking questions with the intent to ensure the project runs trouble free. Talk with other peers to find out how they handled moving into a risky project with their lack of knowledge of the new practices and tools. Finally, recognize that if you don’t invest, you are likely going to end up paying more — because if you and your team don’t pickup the ball, someone (the consultants) will have to.

Pushing Marquee Accounts for Reference Checks

Seek to get references from clients that are recent and in similar situations. Ask to speak to clients that the assigned consultants last worked with. If your prospective partner will not grant you that request, then this should reveal other areas for concern.

Not Enough Time and Talent?

If you and your team are too busy to work on the implementation, you are likely going to have significant implementation issues. When we develop project plans, if we don’t see serious commitment by our clients investing in the day-to-day implementation work, we know there is a high risk for trouble. We demand knowing who the major project actors will be and what they will contribute. ¬†The major actors should be managers who will design the going forward practices and who will then in turn train their own staff. Also, remember, software does nothing. Only people do. A software system is not a mechanical machine. Your people must learn to operate the software effectively. If you don’t invest upfront, you will be sure to pay much later in your organization’s lack of practices and competency.

Add-on Services


All good firms will be looking to make offers to help you achieve more in your business.  Sincerely, the posture is about help.  The best firms learn about your business strategy and sequence their offers to make sense in connection to your ambitions. Look to develop internal competency to minimize your dependence on outside consultant firms. Instead, move to using your ERP partner to take on major initiatives and to act as insurance in case there are internal staff challenges.

The Promise of Software Knowledge Transfer

Get involved from the beginning. Have your major actors involved in the implementation design and related workflows. These actors should train their staff. The more you engage early, and stay engaged, there is no “transfer” required. Your team will own the implementation.

Consultants are Driven to “Keep Busy”

Don’t sign up for a project that devotes resources according to a schedule. Instead, find a firm that will be flexible with your need to speed up or slow down the work according to the situations in your business. This means that you want to work with consultants that have other engagements going on at the the same time. The rule of thumb we use for each consultant is no more than 3 simultaneous implementations at one time. Preferably two. This allows you to balance your need to modify the pace while it allows the consultant to balance his or her need to stay utilized.

Summary

If  this outline makes sense to you, especially if you are considering a new partner to help you implement or support NetSuite, contact us for a conversation.

 

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Marty Zigman

Holding all three official certifications, Marty is Southern California's NetSuite expert and leads a team of senior professionals at Prolecto Resources, Inc. He is a former Deloitte & Touche CPA and has held CTO roles. For over 25 years, Marty has produced leadership in ERP, CRM and eCommerce business systems. Contact Marty to setup a conversation.

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| Tags: , , , , , , | Category: CRM, ERP, Management, Strategy | 9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Posted March 6, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Marty – I really liked this article – rather than just identifying problems like Steve Phillips did, you provide concrete, practical suggestions regarding what to do about it. Well summarized.

  2. Posted March 7, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Thanks Jim. With that comment, I believe I achieved my objective!

    Marty

  3. Jan Leigner
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    If I were to add one point, it would be to include “Discovery” as the first item under Best Methods.

    I believe that producing a formal, detailed, and yes, paid, Discovery effort is one of the most important tools to assure success.

    It gives the client the opportunity to be “led” by you and see how you work. It opens up the lines of communication so that you can demonstrate competence and/or humility as needed, and demonstrates your approach, rather than just talking about your approach in a ‘sales-y’ way.

    And it gives me the opportunity to see the client’s behavior too.

    Do all the stakeholders show up for all the sessions? Are they attentive or are they sending emails on their phones while you’re trying to learn about their requirements? Can they adequately describe things like their current systems architecture or workflows, or are they expecting the implementation process to facilitate their own internal learning?

    As a practice, I think that leading a wholly separate/independent Discovery effort ahead of any actual Design effort can tell everyone involved whether or not success is likely. Plus, if either party is worried after the Discovery phase, you can walk away and nobody’s time is wasted.

  4. Posted March 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your thinking Jan. Indeed, these are good practices. Much depends on the complexity of the endeavor and the timing of where the relationship follows. In order for anyone to be able to act, they must gain a concrete understanding of the existing situation and desired end state. Discovery is quite important — yet the subsequent Design is the synthesis of the Discovery work which illustrates that you can indeed invent what is necessary to get to the end goal.

  5. Posted April 29, 2013 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    Hello Marty,

    Excellent. Very good follow-up advise.

    Steve

  6. Hibo
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    How can I automatically reconcile posted GL transactions to an imported bank statement.(BAI.

  7. Posted September 2, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    The NetSuite software provides a mechanism to “clear” transactions by matching the imported transactions to entries already in the ledger. NetSuite’s design assumption is that the bank entries originated from the application — in contrast to some other systems that allow to to add unknown transactions quickly (Quickbooks comes to mind). Once you have your cleared bank transactions in NetSuite ledgers, then when it is time to work your bank statement, it becomes much easier to reconcile because the transactions don’t have to be flagged as cleared.

    Marty

  8. Darragh
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    Hi Marty can you natively import in BAI format as Hibo asks?
    We have a bank statement that can only be downloaded in CSV or BAI format. I can only see OFX/QFX and QIF as the upload options. There seem to be suiteapp options which are paid.
    Cheers.

  9. Posted September 28, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    A quick Google search revealed this converter option to move files to the target format:
    http://csvconverter.gginternational.net/

    Marty

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