Have you decided to invest in a new ERP system? If so, you have likely done a great deal of research to find systems that best fit your business. Selecting the right system is key to a successful ERP system implementation, but don’t forget the importance of selecting the right vendor to lead the implementation. The right vendor will fit your company as well as the ERP system does and will be your partner throughout as well as after the implementation. Below are a few important areas to consider when selecting your ERP system implementation, vendor.
Review the vendor’s experience with the ERP system, the ERP system vendor, and your industry. You want a partner with a seasoned team of professionals who have experience implementing the system you are considering implementing and have experience in your industry. You also want a partner with a strong relationship with the ERP system vendor, to ensure a clear escalation path when issues require ERP system vendor involvement. Questions to consider during your evaluation:
• What experience do you have with the ERP system?
• What experience do you have with the ERP system vendor?
• What experience do you have in our industry?
• What was your most successful implementation? What made it successful?
• What was your least successful implementation? What made it unsuccessful?
Company History and Stability
Review the company’s history and stability. You want a stable partner, who will be there through the full implementation. Questions to consider during your evaluation:
• How long has the company been in business?
• What financial information are you willing and able to provide?
• How many employees do you have, in what roles?
• What is the average level of experience of your employees?
• What is your employee turnover rate?
Review the vendor’s implementation methodology to make sure it fits your implementation plans. You want a partner with a well-defined methodology that has been proven on several implementations. Questions to consider during your evaluation:
• Describe or provide your implementation methodology
• What key roles do you require on an implementation, on the vendor side, and on the client side?
• What are the key deliverables on an implementation, on the vendor side and on the client side?
Review the vendor’s reputation through reference calls with existing clients. You want a partner with nothing to hide, who wants you to talk with their existing clients about their implementations. Questions to consider during your evaluation:
• Describe your implementation experience with the vendor
• What went well?
• What didn’t go well?
• What would you do differently?
• If you could do it over, would you select the same implementation vendor? Why or why not?
As you go through your evaluation process, carefully consider whether or not a prospective implementation vendor is a fit for your company. You want a partner you can trust, who is committed to your success, and who values what you value. Look for qualities you seek in your employees and people you will be comfortable working with for a long period of time. Spend as much time as possible interacting with the implementation team, to make sure they will get along well with your project team and other employees with whom they will interact. This item may be last in this list of areas to consider, but it is certainly not the least important.
The Right ERP Partner Conclusion
Much of the information I have shared came from lessons learned through an unsuccessful system implementation at a previous company. We selected a system without considering many of the points above, and after months of struggling, we stopped the implementation and returned the system. When we started over, we did a full evaluation. We selected a short list of vendors we knew had experience in our industry, sent Request for Proposals (RFPs), held online demos, reviewed company information, and implementation methodologies, held reference calls, and compared pricing. We selected two finalists and held onsite demos, asking demo participants to complete a short survey. The two finalists were very comparable in many areas. One was larger, had been in business longer, and had more experience in our industry, but our selection committee unanimously selected the other vendor. Why? They were a better fit for our company. We had met key members of their team, and we wanted to work with them. Throughout the evaluation process, they had shown genuine interest in helping us achieve a successful implementation, and we trusted them.
Our re-implementation was very successful because we had selected a true partner to work with us. We wanted our system users to be excited about the new system, and our partner went above and beyond to help us achieve that goal. They consistently delivered more than we were expecting. On our onsite demo survey, we had included a question about company fit. It was the last question on the survey, but it was certainly not the least important. It was actually the most important.