Written by Oliver Franks, IFS Consultant
Purchasing and implementing an ERP solution is difficult. Fiendishly difficult. The classic mistake is assuming this is an IT project that drags the business behind it. The opposite is true. The other common error is thinking that you are simply buying a product. A senior colleague once told me that procuring an ERP solution is buying into a set of business processes and advice, and the software just happens to facilitate that.
That is absolutely correct.
Ignoring internal politics, there are two essential requirements when choosing a partner and it’s difficult to say which is more critical: The software itself or the partner you choose to guide you on this major change project.
Selecting the software
When looking for software, look at the vendors to understand what their focus is. If one of the vendors in your selection process is talking more about platforms and technology than about ERP or business change, it may be time to look elsewhere rather than try to align your plan with what they promise to deliver.
The optimal pick is a vendor that has deep industry knowledge and not only understands what you want to do, but has demonstrable capability in how to leverage the software to support upcoming trends and technologies (and the upcoming projects you don’t even know you have yet). Having thought leaders in these areas is a good sign, arguably more so than the logos in the vendor’s portfolio.
It is worth checking in the initial stages what the industry in general thinks of that vendor. Do they have a good reputation for delivery and support, have independent analysts ratified this? Gartner and the IDC are examples and you can often view whitepapers on vendor websites.
Most larger ERP vendors now will also run a partner network. This changes the game because your main relationship is with the partner, not the vendor of the software that you choose. You must ensure that the partner you pick will align with your goals, expectations and working practices. Having a direct contact at the vendor for technical software support is a positive as well, both for you and them.
Selecting a partner
Choosing a company to work with can be as tricky as choosing the software. You need to ensure you do not pick a company that promises to do everything on day one – it may sound tempting but realistically they should help you to identify and deliver what is possible in an agreed project scope. Remember, you will have whatever system you choose for many years, so be pragmatic about what to implement in the first project.
Partners have the advantage of being purely delivery focussed – there is no intention to have you as a pilot customer, or guinea pig for any new functionality. They exist to ensure your project goes smoothly and the business has a better springboard to utilise at the end of the process.
Demonstrable experience is of course one of the most straightforward elements to check. How does your chosen partner choose their project team? Are they people with years in industry and experience implementing the software? Industry experience is critical in these projects because having seen the real business impact of a certain setting change can be the difference between users loving and hating the new system.
The best projects are the ones that accurately and pragmatically review business practices to identify those that the business has grown because of, and those it has grown in spite of. Following this, the optimal solution is to optimise and expand the former and improve or remove the latter.
It is essential to have a good methodology with a project team that clearly understands it, and do you understand it? This is crucial as you are not being swept along for the ride here – this is your project!
A final point
Alongside the relationship with you, the partner is maintaining a relationship with the vendor, and the relationship there is one you must consider, too. A good vendor-partner relationship should be a factor in your decision, as key partners will have more say on what their customers are asking for and are more likely to have some design influence.
Anthesis are an authorised Gold IFS services partner, providing IFS Applications software and implementation services by consultants with 10+ years expertise in their field. We delivered over 12,000 days of business consultancy in 2019 and foster long-term relationships with our customers through support services and being an ongoing trusted adviser.