ERP implementations are large-scale change-events that impact your entire organization. Finding the right ERP partner can help you successfully navigate this initiative while achieving your desired outcome within budget and on time. It may be difficult to know what questions to ask when interviewing partners, but we’ve highlighted some key suggestions below.
1. What is your implementation process and what makes it successful?
Every great partner should have many experiences implementing your chosen ERP software. These experiences will produce a proven-process for implementations that should be reflected in the project plan. Additionally, there should be some critical tools/processes that the partner utilizes that enables a successful implementation. Ask to see a sample project plan and ask for references. Any great partner will not shy away from providing these two pieces of information!
2. How will we define and measure success?
Just like any other large-scale project or process improvement initiative there should be a business case with expected, measurable outcomes as well as key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring whether the project is on track. If you can’t measure it, then how do you know how you are doing or whether you have hit your target? You should determine what your desired outcome is before selecting an ERP and partner so that the demonstrations and implementations are in-line with achieving that outcome. Great partners will have a process for selecting and reporting on KPIs so that there is quantifiable feedback on the progress of the implementation. You should also expect that the KPI feedback should be reported on a regular cadence; what good does a KPI do if it’s too late to change the trajectory?
3. What strategies do you employ to ensure we go live on time and within budget?
Two key KPIs are likely going to be the timeline and budget. A great partner will expect that these two criteria will be measured and apart of the implementation’s KPIs. To begin, you should ask whether your go-live date and budget are achievable. Then you’ll want to know what tools, processes, and/or systems the partner employs to manage these two KPIs.
4. What change management strategies do you recommend?
Great partners have been through many implementations and have experienced various change management strategies. A good ERP implementation is going to create a lot of change and it may be difficult for your organization to overcome this in the short run. Your partner should be prepared and offer proven strategies for successfully managing the change.
5. What team members can we expect to work with?
Salespeople are not going to be the enablers of implementation’s success; the delivery team will be. Ask to speak with the Delivery Manager (or Project Manager) that will be assigned to your implementation before choosing a partner. Have a long enough conversation, or multiple conversations, to get a feeling of whether they’ll work well with you and your team. You’ll also want to know who the expected delivery team members will be on your engagement. How many years have they been implementing the software? Do any have experience in your industry? What expertise does each consultant have? It’s also important to know the expected time dedication that the partner will allot to your implementation (this should be aligned to your overall budget and timeline goals).
6. What will be expected of us?
The success of an implementation does not ride solely on a partner’s back; in fact you should not assume your partner is going to do all the work! ERP implementations have many factors that only the business will know best. Some examples are data and process requirements. Therefore, since most of your organization will be impacted, they should also be able to participate and validate the system. Great partners will have a prepared list of expectations that they can spell out for you. There will be expectations of ownership in data migration, testing and validation, training deployment, and communication. Be sure you understand why each expectation is listed and adds value to the overall success of the implementation.
7. How will we communicate and stay aligned?
Your ERP partner will become an extension of your own team so you’ll want to ensure that there is good chemistry (answering question 5 should help with this). You’ll also want to understand how the partner stays in contact with your team and drives alignment. Great partners will have pre-established means of communication and modes of transparency. Ask how they keep one version of the truth when it comes to the project plan and whether your team can participate directly within it. A great partner will take great strides to ensure you’re never in the dark on your implementation!
Finding the right ERP partner can have a huge impact on your implementation. That's why it's important to conduct interviews and these questions can help separate the good partners from the great ones.