Thoroughly evaluating ERP solutions is an important step in your evaluation that deserves a lot of attention. While you might be inclined to focus primarily on the ERP vendor selection criteria, there’s another stakeholder in your ERP implementation that you need to consider with equal importance – the ERP partner that provides implementation and support for your chosen solution.
Given that your partner will become part of your business, working with you not only through implementation, but for years beyond that, selecting the right partner is a critical component of your decision. Establishing a strong working relationship is essential to both initial and long-term success with your ERP system.
You want a partner that has extensive knowledge of the system itself, as well as experience working with companies like yours. But you should also look for fit. How do they do business? Do their values and approaches align with yours? Do they understand your culture?
1. Look for ERP expertise & keen business insight
The ERP partner you choose should have a broad view of your organization, one that goes beyond functionality in the software. Understanding the critical factors in your business is crucial to a successful ERP implementation. Ask your top partners to demonstrate their knowledge of your business or industry and have them showcase how that will translate into results for your company.
Look for a partner who has deep experience in the industry, with a stellar reputation for implementing solutions on time and on budget. Ask about demonstrated results they’ve delivered for other customers and be sure to speak with references. A partner with good customer references has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to customer success, beyond the initial sale.
2. Customize your ERP only when necessary
Change is hard. Your team may be reluctant to embrace new processes. But during the demos, try to be open to standard processes in the software, even if they’re different from how you currently do things. You might be surprised to see that there’s a better, easier way to perform the same task. And if it’s already included in the software, you’ll save costs on customization, maintenance and support.
And what if you do need to customize? Many partners can accommodate small tweaks to the system, often using tools provided by the ERP vendor. But if you need a more complex customization, the strength of your partner will be the critical success factor. Not all partners have the in-house expertise to develop custom solutions. So, if you think customization is a necessary path, do your homework on your partner. Ask them to provide examples of custom work they’ve done for other customers. And don’t be afraid to ask about how the work is delivered – are customizations handled in-house or do they outsource to other companies?
3. Know all the costs of your ERP project
You’ve probably heard stories of how ERP implementation costs spiraled out of control, costing thousands more than the original estimate. Unfortunately, this happens, but it doesn’t have to.
If you’re confident you need an ERP system but aren’t sure you can afford it, ask about a phased approach. You can break up the costs over a longer period and it may be less stressful on your staff. Alternatively, there may be options for financing, like a lease, allowing you to spread out the project costs as you start to see the benefits of the new system.
4. Understand the timeline to be up & running
Time is money. Your ERP partner should have a solid implementation methodology that ensures your project is executed smoothly and quickly. The faster you’re up and running, the greater your user buy-in, and the sooner you’ll start seeing a return on investment. Ask your partner about their implementation approach (if they haven’t told you about it up-front) to understand what the relationship looks like and who is responsible for what. By the end of the discussion you should have a clear roadmap for the implementation – and beyond…
5. Ask what customer support looks like after implementation
By the time you go-live with your new system, your ERP partner will be a key partner in your business. Their role is to ensure your system works as expected to help you achieve your goals.
Be sure to understand what their support program looks like. Do they have a Help Desk you can contact for support? Can they provide additional training for your team if necessary? What kind of online self-help resources do they offer? And what about a regular review of your business needs? Your partner should be proactive in helping you identify and address new challenges as your business changes.
The point here is that your ERP system is the backbone of your business – it requires care and maintenance to keep it running at peak performance. And that’s much easier to accomplish when you have a partner that you can rely on when you need support.
As one of the top ERP partners in North America, we've helped many other companies across Canada and the US streamline operations and fuel growth. We're here to guide you through the process – right from evaluation, through implementation and beyond.