When sizing up the costs of possibly replacing or upgrading an old ERP system, many organisations may find themselves pondering why do I need to invest even more than this to get some people to help me choose which ERP I should use? Surely there are people in my industry I can talk to, to see who they use, or internet forums, blogs websites I can research on? I could contact the vendors myself? Are these independent software selection consultants really worth their weight in gold?
Firstly, we are not all that expensive with our rates and some of us are watching our weight…. But I digress, it is understandable that these questions may sound familiar to many organisations that are looking at changing their ERP system because it is such a complex, expensive and infrequent occurrence. So it is only fair to ask “Why should I use software selection consultants?”
This article will give a few key reasons as to why organisation should consider using independent software solution consultants when looking at upgrading or replacing their existing enterprise software solutions.
Reasons why you should use Independent Software Selection Consultants
1. Experience in Software Selection Projects
The software selection process is not as simple as just googling for the best ERP system in your industry or asking people on online forums which system they recommend, contacting the vendor and purchasing licenses. In reality the selection process is one that can be quite complex and is aimed at choosing the right software solution for your business.
If done properly a selection project has plenty of activities that need to take place to ensure that this objective is met. For example, a selection team needs to be established with representation from the key user groups impacted by the software solution, a set of criteria must be determined to shortlist and screen potential solutions and vendors and requirements should be gathered, prioritised, vendors then need to demonstrate an understanding of these requirements and be prepared to present their solutions in light of these requirements, they are then ranked and referenced checked, amongst other activities. All to ensure that the correct solution is chosen.
A competent selection consultant will have had experience in assisting a broad spectrum of organisation through the selection process and as such are adept in their ability to help organizations manage the lengthy and complex selection project process and provide assistance and advice along the way. Independent consultants can provide objective advice and support to ensure the final decision is sound and reflects your organisation’s needs, as well as keeping the project on track and assisting in the mitigation of that arise within the selection group.
2. Provide Unbiased Information and Assistance
The process of selecting a software solution is not one that organisations engage in frequently which, as pointed out above, means that most organisation do not know what software solutions are and are not capable of doing and which one is best for their organisation’s needs without doing a great deal of market research. The learning process is made even more difficult by vendors who may talk up the capabilities of their solutions and provide biased information.
Independent Selection Consultants help remove the rose coloured glasses from the selection process and give you a more realistic view of the options available to your organisation. Independent consultants are not measured by the sales quotas of a particular vendor, nor do they get commission or compensation from software vendors. As such, the information gathered by independent selection consultants are for the best interests of your organisation and is filtered to help you make an unbiased decision on which software solution to go with.
Independent consultants help screen out unsuitable vendors based on the information they provide and help structure vendor responses in a way that makes sense to the client, so that they are focused on the key system requirements and scenarios and not other flash but not needed features.
3. Protect your Relationship with vendors/partners during negotiation
The relationship with a vendor only begins with selection, it continues on to implementation and to on-going support, the relationship between vendor and the organisation in most cases lasts for at least 5-10 years until the organisation may decide to undergo another selection process. This is comparable to the average marriage in Australia as at 2016, which according to Australian Institute of Family Studies is 8.7 years until most partners consider separation. Therefore, maintaining a good relationship between organisation and client is paramount to a successful return on investment on any solution software implementation.
However, much like marriages, when finances and differing interests come into question, partnerships may fall apart and relationships may become tarnished. Unlike marriages though, such discussion between vendors and organisations occur most frequently upfront during the selection process. During this stage the buying organisations want the best solution at the most reasonable price and vendors want to provide their software solution at the most optimal profit point. Therefore, it is then advised that independent selection consultants be used, to mediate these discussions and to ensure that the future relationship between the two parties does not start of on the wrong terms.
The independent selection consultant also has a considerable amount of experience in the selection process and is aware of the expected costs and reasonable discounts that most vendors provide. They are also aware of the packages most vendors provide, what kind of support is expected, what services are most commonly provided and the associated costs. As such, engaging an independent consultant can assist you come up with strategies and actions to obtain the best solution to meet your requirements and reduce the chance of paying unnecessary fees, without tarnishing your relationship with the vendor and helping you protect your investment long after implementation.
4. Engage key users in a structured way during the selection process
If you have read our other articles on Change Management, you will know that no matter how good a system fits an organisations requirements and how perfectly managed the project is, if users are not engaged correctly the organisation may find it difficult to realise the full benefits of the new system.
Change Management should not begin with training, in fact, it starts with involving key user groups in the selection process therefore increasing their buy in to the eventual solution and increasing their understanding. From a pragmatic view point, it also ensures that the business requirements used to select a system are actually the requirements that matter most to those who use the system day to day. The challenge to involving users in the selection process is being able to balance between under engaging and over engaging users. If users are over engaged the process may become unnecessarily long winded, trying to please everybody, or they may find that it impacts their day to day activities and lose interest. Similarly, if they are under engaged they may not adapt to the new solution as readily or flat our resent the new solution.
This is where an independent software consultant can be of value, this is because they are experts in providing clear and structured means to set up your selection team and to involve relevant key users in the process when and where appropriate. Therefore, ensuring that the requirements set gathered is representative of the business needs, and providing key users involvement and understanding as to the decisions around why a solution was chosen and how it could potentially impact them.
5. Act as an interpreter of your requirements to potential vendors/partners
Even if you have collated your business requirements, engaged all your internal stakeholders and are confident in your understanding of what solution your business needs there is no guarantee that the vendors you approach will share the same understanding of your requirements. In the worst case scenario, a vendor may even omit their inability to service a requirement by not clarifying their understanding and without experience and an understanding of what ERP solutions can and cannot do, you may not know any better.
An independent software solutions consultant, would have dealt with many vendors and have enough of an understanding of how such software works, the latest innovations in software offerings and more importantly understand the complex industry language that software vendors speak. Therefore, involving an independent software solutions consultant in the gathering and prioritising of your requirement and throughout the selection process mitigates against vendors misunderstanding your business requirements and subsequently, helps you choose the right software solution.
Furthermore, each vendor may respond to a request for proposal and to an organisations requirement sets in different ways, involving an independent software solutions consultant helps by normalising the responses in a way that your organisation can make sense of it without having to learn all the industry and vendor jargon used.
The SM Approach to Selection – Let us help you choose the right vehicle on the Road to ERP Success
This is why at Solution Minds our experienced Consultants follow a robust selection methodology and approach to understand your organisation’s requirements, involve key business operators, conduct comprehensive market research, normalise and rate vendors against a standard set of criteria and negotiate on your behalf to ensure that you get the right solution for your business.
Want to know more…
Director – Solution Minds
Mob: +61 400 729 559