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.
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.
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.