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Getting an ERP system is one of those "look at that, we're growing up" moments most successful companies have.

However, most people underestimate how hard it is - and how long it takes - to properly implement their new ERP system.

In this article, I’ll explain the role of an ERP consultant, their role in your ERP selection and implementation process, as well as how to choose the right consultant for you.

What is ERP Software?

Enterprise resource planning software is a comprehensive business management solution that integrates and organizes various processes and functions within an organization. ERP systems have:

  • Centralized data management
  • Real-time reporting
  • Automation of routine tasks
  • Modules tailored to specific business functions

If you want the long answer, our team has covered the A-Z of ERP in another article.

ERP Consultant Overview

ERP consultants wear many hats, but their central role is to ensure that your chosen ERP system aligns with your business goals and is implemented accordingly.

Some of those hats include:

  • Having extensive system knowledge and knowing what's available on the market
  • Assessing your company's specific system requirements
  • Advising on the best type of ERP solution
  • Managing the implementation
  • Offering training to the workforce
  • Providing post-implementation support

Which come together to help you ensure you're maximizing your return on investment with the system.

ERP Consultant's Core Tasks

The ERP consultant can help with a lot, but they mainly take care of the following areas:

1. System Implementation

ERP implementation is not a simple plug-and-play affair. It's a complex process requiring careful planning, strategic project management, and meticulous execution, that takes, on average, at least 6 months to complete.

An ERP consultant is involved at every step, from ERP selection through to integration, overseeing the implementation process and training the end users.

For example, if a company wants to transition to a cloud ERP, the ERP consultant evaluates the business systems in place, identifies the most suitable ERP product, and manages the digital transformation.

Not just about setting up software

An ERP consultant also takes a look at your business, ensure your target processes are optimized to leverage the ERP system’s full potential.

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2. Planning for What's to Come

Implementing the system isn't the end of it; that would be like creating a spreadsheet with hard-coded values in every cell... tedious in the case of any changes.

An ERP consultant asks you and your team the right questions to help set up systems that offer real-time data and comprehensive business analytics for today and tomorrow.

With accurate and timely data, you can identify profitable opportunities and areas where resources are being wasted at every stage of your growth.

3. Advocate on Behalf of Customers

It always helps to have an external set of eyes look at your business; after all, when we spend time inside it, it quickly becomes all we can see.

Your ERP consultant offers a different perspective than your team can, identifying inefficiencies and concerns in your customer data. They know industry benchmarks and, by comparing them to your internal operations, can help you see if you're where you should be.

By integrating customer data into one place, you can see areas that are lacking and improve them, leading to increased customer engagement, satisfaction, and, ultimately, loyalty.

4. Reduce Implementation Risk

50-75% of companies fail to meet their ERP integration goals, which is incredible considering how expensive the whole process can be.

ERP consultants bring an experienced perspective to the situation, avoiding costly mistakes and disruptions to business continuity that you may not have even thought about.

By ensuring a smooth implementation, ERP consultants can prevent losses related to downtime, lost data, operational inefficiencies, and more.

5. Optimize Resource Use

ERP consultants help businesses utilize resources more effectively by eliminating redundant processes and automating routine tasks.

They know what the low-hanging fruit looks like and want you to see their value quickly, so they'll likely find areas that can improve the business immediately, and then follow that up with deeper changes.

ERP Consultant's Supporting Tasks

An ERP consultant is more than just tech support.

The role has grown in popularity because they go beyond "Have you tried turning it off and back on again" to truly help your business.

Here's a bit more of what they can do:

1. Change Management

Any ERP project is often met with resistance from employees due to the inevitable changes it brings. An ERP consultant's role is to make that change as smooth as possible for all stakeholders.

Let's say a company is making a shift from a legacy system to NetSuite's ERP solution.

The ERP consultant is responsible for validating your system choice, addressing concerns, explaining the benefits, and training the users to adapt to the new system.

2. Versatile Support

Sure, ERP consultants are well-versed in information technology, but they're not limited to providing technical support.

They're the bridge between the ERP providers and your company, ensuring your specific business management needs are met. Some of their tasks involve:

  • Working on upgrades based on company needs
  • Ensuring ERP software is up-to-date and adaptable to emerging technologies and changing market conditions
  • Addressing unique requirements, such as customizing the ERP product or integrating it with other management systems

3. Meeting Business Objectives

Ultimately, an ERP consultant is a strategic partner in your business journey. They're going to take the necessary time to understand your vision, business administration strategies, and potential roadblocks, then provide professional services to equip you with the best system possible.

Choosing An ERP Consultant

Now for the best part. Choosing the right ERP consultant for your business.

How are you to make sure that the person or organization you choose can actually do the things I’ve outlined above?

Here's a handy checklist that will guide you to make an informed decision.

1. Experience and Expertise

ERP consultants should have a robust portfolio demonstrating years of experience across diverse projects.

They should be conversant with various ERP systems and should understand the nuances of cloud ERP and on-premises solutions.

2. Communication Skills

An ERP consultant translates your business requirements into the right ERP system and, conversely, helps you understand what the heck the system can do. Hence, top-notch communication skills are essential.

They should be able to understand your needs, explain complex technicalities in simple terms, and effectively train your employees to use the new system.

3. Proven Methodology

A successful ERP consultant follows a proven methodology for ERP implementation.

From conducting a thorough analysis of your business needs to managing the project timeline and budget, they should have a systematic approach to steer the implementation process and be able to share this with you upfront.

4. Client Testimonials

Client testimonials are a reflection of the consultant's work ethic, reliability, and efficiency. A quick look at reviews and ratings can provide insights into their ability to deliver on their promises.

After all, a satisfied client is the best advertisement.

5. Pricing

The question of pricing often comes into play when considering hiring an ERP consultant but it's at the bottom of this list for a reason.

It's important to remember that while ERP consultants come with a cost, the return on investment they bring is substantial.

Being able to save your time (and associated labor & opportunity costs) by:

  • Managing the implementation process
  • Reducing operational inefficiencies
  • Improving decision-making capabilities

These are all things that will lead to increased revenue and profit, without taking on the additional headache.

The Bottom Line

With their blend of business and technical knowledge, ERP consultants are incredibly valuable allies, helping your business navigate a categorically complex issue.

Asking why an ERP consultant is valuable is the same as asking why wedding planners are popular: because they get the job done, well, without making you give up your life to do it.

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By Vidhi Mehta

A Junior Accountant at Black & White Zebra, Vidhi is an ACCA Member with six years of accounting experience.