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How to choose the right ERP implementation partner? Here's 8 critical considerations.

How to choose the right ERP implementation partner? Here's 8 critical considerations.">

Deploying an ERP solution is a complex undertaking. Selecting the right software is only half of the challenge. For the project to be successful, you also need to appoint a trusted implementation partner who can deliver on your specific requirements and provide valuable and trusted guidance and leadership throughout the entire project. The ideal ERP implementation partner will have the relevant skills and experience to work with you in order to develop a robust deployment plan, manage the project and provide long-term support post ‘Go-Live’.

 But how do you choose between implementation partners, particularly when your chosen software vendor’s deployment model relies upon channel partners who on the face of it, all appear to offer the same thing? To help, we have created the following guide which covers the key high-level criteria that will assist when evaluating implementation partners to ensure the success of your deployment.

1. Experience

 It is vital that when you approach an implementation partner that they understand exactly what it is that you need from an ERP solution. The partner should obviously have a wealth of experience implementing your chosen solution; however, you must also look for a partner that has proven experience with successful ERP implementations within your industry. Seek at least 2-3 project references to validate the claims of the prospective partner.

Your implementation partner should also understand the key trends facing your industry and follow best practice rules. A partner that has a deep understanding and knowledge of both your industry and the ERP solution you have selected, will be able to make informed recommendations as to the particular features of the software that can help you achieve your business objectives and most importantly, improve your bottom line. What’s more, as they will already be aware of the processes, challenges, and regulations involved in your industry, they can quickly get on with getting to know your business and develop a solution that is the right fit for you.

2. Methodology

When it comes to an ERP implementation it is critical to understand the partner’s methodology. That is, the framework they will follow in order to deliver your project – essentially the blueprint for success. It is vital to get sight of this and understand what has influenced their approach. An implementation methodology should clearly demonstrate how the solution partner has used their own learning and understanding to inform their methodology. It shouldn’t just be a copy of the ERP vendor’s methodology or a generic one that could be applied to any partner implementing any ERP solution. At Cooper Software, we have always followed our own proprietary methodology which has been developed and refined from our years of experience gained in delivering numerous IFS software solutions for a wide range of customers from single-site operations to multi-site, multi-country companies.

3. Trust and Understanding

 The most important element to consider when selecting the right partner is trust. There must be a good fit between your internal team and the partner you select to deploy your new solution. ERP implementations are a long process and the last thing you need is to realise halfway through that the relationship with your implementation partner isn’t working. This wastes time and money and causes an incredible amount of bad feeling.

Building trust takes time, however, at the outset, you should definitely make sure that the values of your organisation and those of your ERP implementation partner are compatible. After all, their consultants will essentially become part of your team, working closely with your business, so it’s important to make sure they are a great fit. Do they understand your business and objectives? Do you both have similar expectations for the project? Do you have direct access to the key people with the partner’s business? Do you believe that the partner is committed to making your organisation successful? Can you be sure they aren’t selling you something you don’t need? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, you’ve probably not found the perfect partner just yet.

4. Technical Development

 In most cases, you usually need some form of customisation in order to make your ERP solution fit your individual business requirements. It is very rare that an out-of-the-box solution will meet your exact needs. Therefore, you should always choose an implementation partner who has the technical knowledge and ability to support other key systems, either your own or those of your suppliers, by developing solid data integration solutions with other 3rd party service providers.

5. Project Management Approach

How the implementation will be managed is critical. Find out how will the partner structure the project team. How will they communicate with you throughout the project? Linked to this is the methodology – project management should integrate with the methodology approach, so you know what to expect and when. Who will you contact should issues arise? Do you have a way to speak to someone qualified to quickly deal with your issues as they come up? It’s essential to the success of the project that you can rely on your partner to respond in a timely manner and resolve problems in a way that satisfies all parties. A great project management approach with excellent communication will allow for all of this.

6. Consultant Skills and Experience

Get as much information as you can on the actual consultants who will be working on your project to let you assess their experience and skill set. Ask for their profiles, or even better, meet them / talk to them if you can. Get an understanding of whether there is a pool of consultants your partner can tap into if required, especially if your project throws up particularly complex or niche requirements that demand a particular skill set. Even better, get an understanding of how consultants are continually developing their knowledge and upskilling.

7. Training and Support

All ERP implementations require post-Go-Live support. It’s important to choose a partner who can cater to these needs, either by providing either ad-hoc or 24/7 support as required. Training should form a key part of the implementation plan (using our methodology, it does!), but the level of training required can vary. Do you need on-going training that covers all key aspects of your chosen ERP solution, or do you require expert training with a view to creating ‘super-users’ who can then use their own knowledge to train in-house? Often, it might also be necessary to have access to additional resource to act as extra support on-site when you are going through the implementation process. A great partner will ensure a smooth transition and guarantee success.

 8. Relationship with the solution vendor

 Any potential implementation partner should have a great relationship with the solution vendor they represent. Particularly as they act as the intermediary between you the customer, and the vendor themselves. Any issues that might arise with the software, or if there are specific changes / requests that need to be made which need the input of the solution vendor, will be much easier to manage if there is a good channel of communication between the solution partner and the software vendor. The level of partner certification is also important here as are any awards, recognition the vendor may have presented upon the partner to illustrate the strength of the relationship.

 While this list is not set in stone, it gives what we feel are the main points to consider when selecting an ERP implementation partner. What we do know is that choosing the right partner for your ERP implementation project is a key part of determining its success. Partnering with the right team, with the right knowledge, skills, experience and shared goals, is the first step on the right path.

Cooper Software – IFS Gold Channel Partner

 We have worked hard for over 16 years to become a Gold IFS Channel Partner which is a testament to the knowledge, skills, and experience of our team. With a full-time staff of 70 and over 1500 individual projects delivered both locally and globally, our customer list includes a host of household names including Farrow & Ball, BAE Systems, Butcher’s Pet Care, and Harland & Wolff to name a few of the near 300 different IFS companies we have worked with. 75% of our business is from existing customers. We are proud that we maintain long-standing relationships with our customers that are built on trust, great communication, and mutual respect.

Aside from our implementation expertise, we have our own suite of bespoke products that integrate with IFS to extend the capability of the solution. What’s more, we have a solid support offering with a menu of services that can be tailored to the individual needs of our customers.

We’ve been short-listed for global awards several times, including recently winning the IFS Spirit Award at the IFS Partner of the Year Awards 2021.

 We think we have what it takes to be your implementation partner of choice. If you’d like to talk to us about your ERP project, please get in touch.