Selecting the right ERP partner

ERP implementations, contrary to popular belief, are not all about the software.  In fact if you are looking at the right level, pretty much all present-day ERP systems will do everything you need one way or another.  Yes one might look prettier and one might be slightly more expensive; but chances are they can all meet your business needs.

Of far more importance to the success of your project is the implementation company you choose to partner with.  You are going to be in a relationship for some time, and relationships can be tricky – far trickier than how to post an accounts payable transaction successfully.  The right choice of partner will make the project run smoother, cost less in the long run, and drive success from beginning to end.

Here are my top five evaluation criteria when selecting an implementation partner:

  • Culture.  Do they understand ours and do we understand theirs?  Are we in harmony when it comes to people, processes, goals and priorities?  If your partner doesn’t match you on a cultural level, chances are the road to success will be bumpy, full of conflict along the way, and you will not treat each other equally in the relationship.
  • Experience.  This is not simply a measure of how long they have been in business, or how many implementations they have done.  Do they understand your industry and the specific nuances within it?  Do they have a track record of success that they can back up with unsolicited and uncompensated references?  Do they have any specific products, skills or relationships that speak to your business?  Anyone can claim to have successful implementations, but chances are three or four specific questions will tell you whether they know your industry.
  • Approach.  Do they want to spend weeks or months interviewing everyone in the company to find out what they do?  If so chances are they don’t know as much as they say they do.  Do they have a methodology and assuming they do, is it substantiated by any supporting evidence?
  • Size.  If you are a big multi-national corporation you probably need to partner with a multinational corporation.  If you are a ten person business chances are that’s not the right size of partner for you.  Choose an organization that operates in the same realm as you when it comes to size, and that understands when they are and are not a fit for scale.  Physical location is substantially less important these days, but local knowledge still is.  Finding the right-sized partner will ensure that you get the attention you deserve and need, as opposed to being too big or too small for them.
  • Price.  Yes I know, price is always a factor sooner or later.  Nobody wants to be gouged, up front or by a thousand change requests later.  And I’m not suggesting you look for the cheapest price, because more often than not you get what you pay for and not in a good way.  But is the partner able to clearly explain what you are getting for your investment?  Do they track that post-implementation to show you your ROI?  Are they willing to offer a fixed services price for a fixed scope – so that you are accepting no additional financial risk?  Partners that can explain your investment, your ROI, and your risk clearly are far more likely to guide you to a successful outcome without any nasty surprises.

In short, there are different partners that are right for different companies.  And like in all relationships, picking the right one up front is the single biggest key to your mutual success and longevity.