Why You Need an Independent ERP Software Consultant.
Updated: Nov 14, 2021
Searching for a new or replacement business Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software system is a daunting process. These days, the search typically starts with Google searches for ERP software, Business Administration Software, Accounting Software, or similar phrases. For example, searching on Accounting Software yields 522,000,000 results alone. As a result, business software vendors and resellers spend significant amounts of time and money to appear at the top of these search results.
ERP Software Tiers
Since there are hundreds of ERP software vendors to choose from, it is impossible for any single consultant to know the offerings of every vendor and whether their products will be the right fit for your organization. Therefore, independent software consultants generally work within an ERP tier structure and finally within a horizontal or vertical structure. For example, Champion Business Solutions, LLC, specializes in tier 2, horizontal structure.
The pyramid structure below shows tier 1 software vendors for very large, multinational Fortune 1000 companies. There are others, but SAP and Oracle are the main ones.
The tier 2 horizontal structure meets the needs of our clients at fair prices, with scalability. In contrast, the tier 2 vertical structure vendors are more industry-focused solutions at a much higher cost with less flexibility. There are many ERP solutions in the tier 2 group.
Tier 3 Software vendors are low-cost off-the-shelf accounting software packages.
Reaching Out to ERP Vendors
The first mistake when searching for business software is directly contacting software vendors or resellers themselves. Once you have contacted them directly, they will almost always claim to be a "perfect fit" for your company and attempt to get you to end your search right then and there. Unless you have very specific or unique business requirements, it is always best to look at two to three different software products. Software vendors traditionally sold their products through authorized resellers in geographic areas, but that has changed like everything else. Resellers offer tremendous value in implementing their solutions, but they can sometimes fall short of helping you reach your ultimate goals.
ERP Software Lead Services
There are business software lead services such as www.softwareconnect.com, www.softwareadivce.com, and www.capterra.com. Lead services are pretty helpful and valuable and will save you a lot of time in your business software search. With these services, you can speak directly to software experts and extensively customize your search. These sites offer personal service, and there is no cost to you. They earn their revenue through commissions from the software vendors. We recommend these services, especially if you are in a very specific or tightly regulated industry. Still, even with the lead services, you may narrow down some suitable options, but you are again dealing directly with the vendor or reseller. Another option is looking at what your competitors in your industry may be using.
Independent ERP Software Consultants
The ideal option is to use the services of an independent software consultant in your search. Independent consultants are just that, independent of any single software provider, and they work for you, the customer. Independent ERP business software consultants work in this space day in and day out. There is no substitute for experience here, and a good consultant will save you a lot of time, thousands of dollars, and best of all, regretting your decision.
As with most professional services, there are areas of specialty, and this is especially true here. Choose a consultant that is specific to your industry and problems. For example, pharmaceutical manufacturing software is far more specialized and regulated than job shop software. With so many offerings, an independent consultant can't know everything about every software solution; therefore, most consultants work in the space of two to three different solutions.
Engaging with an independent consultant typically starts with the consultant learning the business requirements, current pain points, and expected business growth. This is generally accomplished by the use of an ERP Software Business Process Assessment (BPA). In short, the BPA records the pain points and sets the vision for everyone. Consultant rates may vary, but a complete and thorough BPA should NEVER be free. A free BPA indicates that your company is being shoe-horned into a particular software solution. The initial BPA cost is a drop in the bucket of what your total spend will eventually be and puts you in control of the selection process instead of the vendors. A BPA is usually a 2-3 day onsite engagement where the consultant engages with your management and key team members through a detailed discovery process. The benefits of using an independent consultant are many. Below are the top 6 reasons to use an independent ERP consultant.
Initial Discovery- The consultant understands your business requirements at a level that no ERP Software vendor could going in cold. Through the BPA process, the consultant has interviewed key stakeholders and employees and personally through the operations. At the end of the Business Process Assessment (BPA), the company owns the BPA, which is then used to qualify prospective software vendors in the form of a Request for Proposal (RFP). The software vendors will have everything they need from the BPA to create a demo and pricing.
Software Selection- The consultant is generally the gatekeeper of the entire selection and implementation process. The consultant will arrange vendor software demonstrations based on company needs and manage the relationships, so the demo process is clean, on-point, and unbiased. A typical BPA will zero in on 2-3 software candidates, but that is dependent on how specialized the software needs to be.
System Implementation- The consultant has been on board from day one and is directly involved in everything from initial BPA discovery to post-go-live. The consultant's job is to ensure that the client (company) has received everything promised and agreed to. It is important to note that software vendors may be juggling many different go-lives on your desired date. Surprisingly, you may not be the priority you think you are, and the consultant's job is to keep everyone on their toes.
Post-Go-Live- The go-live is not the end of a business software implementation; it is just the beginning. Many ERP software providers will slowly drop off at this point since they have met their contractual obligations. However, the better ones will stay on board to help you realize the benefits of your new system. Our job is not finished as a consultant until a clear and visible improvement in the client's business operations.
Resources- Moving to a new ERP system requires significant internal resources for a successful go-live. It is not often that a company has the in-house talent, staff, or expertise to manage a full-blown ERP software implementation full time. Instead, the project becomes someone's additional part-time responsibility. Having a consultant work all of this removes the burden with minimal additional costs.
Impartial Advice- Some members of your team may be less than enthusiastic than others about moving to a new software system. However, since the consultant has no previous history in your organization, they are better positioned to champion the project than internal team members. Change is difficult for some, and a neutral third party can keep the process moving. A poison pill or naysayers can quickly bring your project to a halt, and your consultant can address these issues professionally and tactfully.
When searching for a new business software platform, it is best to bring in an independent software consultant to assist in the process from the very beginning. You do not want to find yourself after the go-live regretting leaving it all to your software provider. In addition, the Business Process Assessment was many months ago, and the consultant is the one looking for the initially promised results. A standard implementation can take four to six months, and it is easy to lose sight of the goal.
Champion Business Solutions, LLC, offers ERP Software selection advice. In addition, we can perform a thorough Business Process Assessment for your software search. For more information don't hesitate to get in touch with us.
Roger Pujol is a business improvement consultant and founder of Champion Business Solutions, LLC. He speaks and writes about encounters in helping small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) improve their business operations.
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