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When is the Right Time to Hire an ERP Consultant?

Whether your company is deploying an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software system for the first time or looking to upgrade or replace a legacy ERP system, the time will come when you and your team wonder if you have all the necessary information to move forward with what is certainly a complex and challenging project.

  • Are you getting the best alternatives from the vendors you are speaking with?
  • Have you found the right vendors to put into your Top 10 list as you aim for the perfect final choice?
  • Are you finding just what you think you need, or incurring surprises?
  • Do you know exactly what features and modules your business really requires?
  • Have you seriously considered the software as a service (SaaS) delivery model?
  • What key ERP facts may you have inadvertently left out?

But maybe the best question you can ask yourself is: Is it time to find someone who can facilitate, accelerate and add confidence to our decision making process?

Experienced and independent ERP consultants can help you, counsel you, guide you and walk you through the ERP maze. Tenured consultants require an up front investment, but often save money and increase ROI over the long run.

Most business and IT professionals only choose an ERP application once every decade or so, if they are lucky, but consultants work with these business software systems every day, so they retain the most current information that could save your project - and your sanity. They'll often able to help you with all the myriad details that you may not know, that you might have already forgotten or that you never knew existed in the first place.

So where do you find good ERP consultants? The best place to start is to talk with peers. Attend a business software conference and speak directly with other attendees. Visit local Chamber of Commerce meetings, business forums and even online business forums. Connect with business and IT professionals you know through LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media networks and ask them for their experience and opinions.

Its easy to feel like you're the only one with these kinds of questions. However, if these kinds of decisions about ERP selection or deployment give you concern or keep you up at night, then you can bet they're keeping other professionals up as well.

Natalie Gray, the director of ERP software selection for Denver-based Panorama Consulting Group, recommends three keys for selecting an ERP consultant:

  1. Independence - you want to select an ERP software consultant who is not tied in with a vendor and isn't a reseller for any ERP applications. You want someone who is there for you and has only your interests in mind in this complicated, expensive and time-consuming process of finding the optimal ERP application.
  2. Proven tools and methodology - "Companies with considerable ERP experience will have repeatable and proven tools and methodologies that will accelerate your selection and implementation process at a lower cost," Gray advises. "Ask to see specific sample deliverables and tools that they would deliver for your project."
  3. Focus on business needs - When selecting a consultant, you want to bring in the one who is committed to being responsive to your company and being your sounding board. You "want a firm that can incorporate your needs into the evaluation and implementation process," Gray notes. "ERP software initiatives should cater to your unique business needs rather than provide an entirely cookie cutter approach."

Leveraging an expert outside resource doesn't make us weak. In fact, it generally makes us smart. It makes us proactive, prepared and more informed. And it helps us become more open and honest leaders who know when they need the best possible input from people who might have more experience than we do. Sometimes knowing when to ask, when to listen and when to learn are the best lessons.

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