As noted in other blogs, we are of the view that when choosing an ERP vendor or solution, the product is the least important consideration in comparison to people and process. An interesting view given we specialise in Microsoft products, the most widely used ERPs on the planet.
ERP solutions have evolved to the point that very few have crucial features not present in at least three or four competing products. Yet there are still implementation stories of failure to deliver on expectation, staff stress, blown budgets and time overruns. Clearly, while the products have matured, the process of their implementation has some way to go.
Hence my view that it’s the three P’s, people, process and product in that order that matters when choosing an ERP vendor. The people and process are encapsulated by the company selected. In other words, choose the right company and you will get the right people and process.
The quality of service derived from an ERP vendor is determined by the type, quality, and the number of people they assign to work with you, not size. While what constitutes quality can be subjective, in my experience, there isn’t a lot of difference in staff quality between large and small ERP vendors with the proviso that larger organisations tend have a greater variation.
However, what does vary is the type of person. As a rule, people employed by smaller vendors will have broader but shallower experience when compared to larger vendors, where staff will have a narrower, but deeper skill set.
Putting these factors together, if you have a large resource-hungry project, then a smaller vendor will struggle because of resource constraints. Although at times this can be mitigated by contracting extra consultants or partnering.
Conversely, larger vendors will struggle with small projects, because the economics will prevent them from taking a team approach to get the broad skill set that a smaller vendor can deliver with fewer people.
As a generalisation, larger vendors will have more robust delivery processes. They will employ proven project methodology with the objective of delivering consistent and predictable results.
However, these methodologies can come with significant overhead and lack of flexibility. So, they don’t typically suit smaller projects unless the organisation has reason to be particularly risk averse. Generally smaller ERP vendors are much nimbler when it comes to balancing the risk/cost equation.
Part of vendor selection is understanding the deployment process offered by each vendor and asking them to explain the strengths and weaknesses of their process as compared with the competition.
At times problems arise because companies assume the vendor will have skills that the vendor assumes the company has. For example, the ability to handhold staff who are struggling to adapt, or to recognise flaws in business processes.
The starting point in getting the right people is to identify the roles required during implementation from both from your team and the vendor perspective. Having established the roles the next task is to determine which people will cover which aspect of each role, recognising a single role might be covered by multiple people and a single person may have multiple roles.
By insisting the vendor puts names against each role and commits to those people or their equivalent seeing the project through, you can then assess the relative strengths of each vendors delivery team.
Hopefully, through this process you will find your ‘Goldilocks’ vendor who is big enough to do the job well, but not so big they lack flexibility and that you are not important enough for them to care.