In the last instalment of the ERP diaries, Solution selection – “to RFP or NOT to RFP”, we discussed what type of process you should follow in order to choose the right solution for your business, as well as some things to look out for.
Now that you’ve made a decision (with the help of your Discovery Phase partner) of the right system for your business, how do you decide on “who” should be your Solution Implementor (SI) partner?
Not only that, what do they actually “do”, and will you need help to “manage” the programme overall?
As outlined previously, don’t get confused between a “Software Vendor” (SV) and a “Solution Implementor”. The SI is the partner who will actually “implement” the SV’s software. Granted, the SV can also implement the solution…but from experience it’s not always the best option (for reasons I can’t elaborate upon here for fear of legal reproach!!!)
Many SIs advise they will manage the “end to end” project for you as part of the overall implementation. Some do, yet it’s more than likely they will only manage the configuration and build of the system, not what needs to happen on your side of the fence. More on that later.
When it comes to choosing the right SI, there are areas you need to consider:
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- Check the ERP SI’s credentials and certificates. When evaluating SIs look into their background; how long have they been in business? Are they growing or downsizing?
- Look for strong capabilities and credibility. Do they have partner certifications relevant to the solution(s) you are looking to implement? Do they have a strong technology team or business focus on product/solution development?
- Determine what do other customers have to say. Ask for references in your industry. Happy clients will gladly share their experiences with you.
- Check for hidden or additional fees. Look for hidden costs in the contract, such as additional fees for training, documentation services, setup or annual maintenance fees in addition to the monthly support and license costs.
- Take a further test drive. Before committing to a new ERP solution, be sure to kick the tires. The Demo (as part of the RFP phase) should demonstrate the features you need, as well as the functionality. Don’t be afraid to ask further questions – and lots of them.
- Agree to key performance indicators (KPIs) before signing a contract. What do you expect from them?
- Establish how easy is it to set up and train users. Most SI’s will provide training but make sure it’s included with the implementation costs. The “Train the Trainer” approach is fine…but some SI’s have limits on recording sessions, how many people can attend etc.
- Obtain clarity on how the SI will support you after the sale. Do your homework and make sure the SI has been around a while and understand the support costs.
- Be clear on how updates and upgrades are managed. Will the SI manage you though through updates, or is that above and beyond the service contract?
- Establish if you will have the same team throughout the engagement. It’s likely the SI are managing numerous implementations across multiple clients so ask how many other projects “your” SI team will be working on in addition to yours.
Super, super important – you’ll have been told that the solution can do “everything you want” but you will likely need help in discerning what it can really do and, what may be trickier, will it require customisation. Even after a strong demonstration of the system, there may be areas of functionality that don’t “necessarily” capture your true requirements. This is where the Programme Implementation (PI) partner can help.
What is the SI’s approach?
There are different approaches to implementing ERP’s. There is the “cookie cutter” approach or the more detailed, immersive approach. The approach the SI takes has to fit with the complexity of your ERP implementation, the scale of change, as well as where you are with regard to people, processes and what works from the perspective of your business “culture”.
Generally, the Solution Implementor is responsible for:
- Defining the “playbook” for their implementation method
- Defining the solution, from a configuration perspective
- Guiding you through the set up and design of the system
- Providing data templates for uploading company Master Data, Transactional data etc
- Creating an implementation plan “for the system only”
- Providing a bespoke training programme
- Organising support post “go-live”
So, what’s missing? Well, basically the overall management of the project and consideration of “what could go wrong”. There are multiple areas that need to be managed on “your” side, such as:
- The planning and implementation of the ERP project phases
- Defining tasks and required resources from key stakeholders
- Managing the budget
- Allocating and managing project resources, both third party resources (the “SI”) and your assigned project resources (SMEs) as well as any further resources involved in the implementation
- Creating and managing the Project Plan (including both internal and external tasks)
- Creating the important RACI and manage the RAID log
- Tracking the project deliverables against the agreed timeline
- Production of the weekly Status Reporting
- Providing the Board/Senior Management team Steering Updates on progress, risks and issues
Generally, there will be a Senior Partner allocated to the project who will provide:
- Governance and Accountability
- Programme Assurance
- Communication insight
- Key Stakeholder Management
- Checkpoint Stage analysis
In addition, the Programme Implementation partner will:
- Manage and coordinate data harvesting, cleansing, transformation
- Developing the company-wide system architecture
- Manage and, in many cases, perform “Business Process” streamlining
- Guide you through cultural change
Yet, whilst all of the above are of course part of the necessary evils of strong project management, the most important role which the PI has is bringing their “knowledge and experience” of similar implementations.
The number of times I’ve been asked by a company CEO, CFO or a PE House to come in and “rescue” a failing ERP implementation is (sadly) far too many. Knowledge of the basic pitfalls and common mistakes will ensure you have a “right first time” implementation – and not a very costly (and unbudgeted) remediation programme…..
This is where a great PI partner will really help you and add value to the process. It’s likely they’ve worked with many of the main players so can give you the low down on what to expect – and VERY importantly, identify where they are trying to pull the wool over your eyes…..
In the next instalment of the ERP Diaries, we’ll discuss how to build the right team, share some common found issues and mistakes made as well as some of our key learnings.
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