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If you've decided to implement an ERP system in your organization, you're on a great path, but did you know that up to 75% of ERP projects fail to meet their objectives?

Often, the issue isn't the software but how it's implemented—which is where a skilled partner can make a massive impact. I'll show you how to choose the ideal ERP partner, making sure your investment delivers the maximum return.

What is an ERP Implementation Partner?

An ERP implementation partner is a consulting firm or service provider that helps you with the selection, implementation (duh), optimization, and ongoing support of Enterprise Resource Planning software.

Here’s a breakdown of what ERP partners do:

  • Identify the best ERP software for your specific business needs and goals (if you’ve not already done that)
  • Tweak the ERP system to integrate with your existing business processes 
  • Help transfer all your business's data to the new platform
  • Train your employees on how to use the new ERP system
  • Take the system for a test drive before going live to spot any bugs
  • Offer ongoing support after the system is up and running to address any issues that may arise.
📚This might interest you: ERP consultant vs ERP implementation partner: While ERP consultants focus on the strategic side—analyzing your business needs and recommending ERP systems—ERP implementation partners handle the hands-on configuration, integration, data migration, and user training.

Why Work With an ERP Implementation Partner?

Working with an ERP implementation partner significantly boosts your odds of a successful ERP project. These experts bring a wealth of knowledge and resources that can help streamline every phase of your implementation—from planning and customization to training and live support.

Instead of navigating the complex process alone and risking costly mistakes, a partner provides the guidance and support necessary to optimize your system efficiently and effectively.

Case study: Nike's ERP Implementation: The High Cost of Getting it Wrong!

Nike undertook an ambitious ERP project in the late 1990s, aiming to centralize 27 disjointed order management applications with a new system featuring SAP, i2, and Siebel modules. Unfortunately, several missteps led to a high-profile failure:

Premature implementation: Nike launched the i2 demand forecasting module before it was fully integrated with SAP, leading to data inconsistencies.

Overzealous rollout: Opting for a "big bang" approach, Nike tried to implement the entire system at once, overwhelming their people and processes.

Training shortfalls: The team received insufficient training, which compounded errors and inefficiencies.

Integration challenges: A lack of expertise in integrating diverse software modules further complicated the rollout.

The fallout was severe: a $100 million loss, significant drops in stock price, and major disruptions in their supply chain. It took Nike around 7 years and substantial additional investments to rectify the system and stabilize operations.

Lesson Learned: Nike’s experience underscores the importance of phased implementations, comprehensive training, and choosing an ERP partner with deep expertise in complex system integration. Make sure your ERP implementation partner has a proven track record of success to avoid similar pitfalls.

Here are 5 reasons a partner benefits you:

1. Minimizes Internal Effort on ERP Projects

ERP implementations are intense. A qualified partner takes the reins on many project tasks, allowing your team members to concentrate on core business activities. 

This is particularly crucial for smaller businesses with limited staff to dedicate to a complex ERP project.

2. Goes Beyond Surface Analysis 

Bringing in an ERP implementation partner means getting a fresh, expert perspective on your entire operation. They really get into the details of how your business works, from everyday processes to your specific metrics and safety protocols. 

This outside view—paired with an in-depth understanding of ERP system functionality—helps spot challenges and opportunities that slip past your internal project team.

Plus, if you’re engaging an ERP partner early in your discovery process, they can guide you through system selection, ensuring you have the one that aligns best with your company's specific needs and budget.

3. Stress-Tested Methodology

From data migration to training and live support, ERP implementations are multifaceted. Partners bring proven methodologies that streamline these processes, saving time and money while ensuring a seamless transition.

They help you craft a clear project implementation plan, keep a tight grip on timelines, and spot potential hurdles before they become issues.

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4. Handles Change Management

Introducing a new ERP system is going to shake things up at your workplace, and let's be honest, not everyone will be thrilled about it. In fact, according to Gartner, resistance from staff is one of the major hurdles—faced by 82% of companies—to successful ERP implementation.

That's where a savvy ERP partner comes in handy. They're not just familiar with the tech; they know how to smooth over the rough patches of change management. They’ll help you develop strategies to get everyone on board, maximizing user adoption with tailored training and continuous support.

5. Ongoing Support

ERP systems are not set-and-forget solutions. Even after your ERP system is up and running, you'll likely need ongoing support... Which means your internal resources are never quite free from the task.

A partner can provide ongoing maintenance, address technical issues, and help you stay up-to-date with the latest software updates and features, allowing your team to focus on the things they do best.

Considerations for an ERP Implementation Partner

Selecting the right ERP partner involves more than just checking off boxes. Here's a deeper dive into qualities and attributes to look for in a partner:

Experience and Industry Expertise

Look for a partner who knows your industry inside out. For instance, if you’re in manufacturing, a partner with experience in this industry will understand the complexities of your production processes and regulatory requirements.

Check their track record—ask for case studies that show they’ve successfully tackled challenges similar to yours.

Software Expertise

Not all ERP systems are created equal, and neither are their implementers. Ensure your partner has deep expertise in your chosen ERP software solution. They should offer insights into leveraging its features to your advantage.

💡Author's tip

💡Author's tip

If you already know you’re leaning towards a popular option like SAP or Oracle, you should look for a partner specifically certified in these technologies, as they can share expert platform-specific tips.

Project Management Methodology

Your partner should follow a structured project management approach to keep your ERP implementation on schedule and within budget. Ask them to outline their implementation methodology.

For example, do they follow the Agile methodology, which allows for more flexibility and iterative testing, or the Waterfall approach, which is more linear and sequential? Understanding this can help you align expectations and workflows.

Cost and Value

Consider the total cost of ownership, which goes beyond the initial price. Some partners might offer a fixed fee for the entire project, while others might operate on a time-and-materials basis. Consider what makes the most sense for your budget and how changes to the project scope could affect costs.

💡Author's tip

💡Author's tip

Be wary of low initial quotes—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

 

Ensure all potential costs are transparent to avoid surprises down the line.

Communication and Cultural Fit

ERP implementation isn’t a sprint; it’s more like a marathon. It can take anywhere from six months to a couple of years, especially for the big, complex projects. So, the partner you pick? You should think of them as a part of your team, working closely with your staff for at least a year.

It’s crucial that they don’t just bring technical chops to the table. Sure, expertise is important, but so are the soft skills—how they communicate, adapt, and handle challenges. And cultural fit? Absolutely non-negotiable. They’ll need to gel with your team’s vibe and values because a partner who clicks with your style and approaches problems the way you do will make collaboration smoother and drive better results. 

Post-Implementation Support

Your partner should be there for you long after the go-live date, providing maintenance, support, and ongoing training to ensure your ERP system continues to deliver value. Well-defined service level agreements (SLAs) and responsive support teams are essential for a seamless transition to the operational phase.

How to Choose a Partner

Picking the right ERP implementation partner is a big decision, and it’s one you want to get right. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the selection process:

1. Define your Requirements

Before you start your search for a partner, it’s crucial to pinpoint exactly what you need from your ERP system. Here are a few key areas to consider:

  • Problem identification: What specific problems do you need the ERP system to solve?
  • Required functionalities: What critical functionalities can your business not do without?
  • External support needs: What are you needing help with? This could be project management, functional expertise, technical expertise, change management, and training.
  • Budget and timeline: Establish a realistic budget and timeline for the implementation. These parameters will help steer your selection process.

Clearly outlining your requirements upfront will streamline the process of finding a partner who can meet your specific needs effectively.

2. Create a Request for Proposal (RFP)

Once you know what you need, put it all down in an RFP. This document should outline your company’s background, the goals of the ERP project, and the specifics of what you need from a partner. It’s like your wish list—detailing everything from software requirements to project timelines. The RFP should outline your 

  • project overview and objectives
  • current systems and business processes
  • functional and technical requirements
  • implementation scope, approach, and deliverables
  • evaluation criteria and proposal guidelines

3. Identify Potential Partners

Start gathering names. You can get recommendations from your ERP vendor, look up industry leaders, or even ask peers for their suggestions. 

Once you have a list, do a bit of homework on each. Check their websites, read customer reviews, and see how they stack up against your requirements.

4. Issue the RFP and Evaluate Responses

Send your RFP to the potential partners and see how they respond. This is where you can really start to compare how each one measures up:

  • Who understood your needs the best? 
  • Who offered the most compelling solution?

This step helps you narrow down your list to the most promising candidates.

5. Conduct Interviews and Presentations

Bring in your top choices for a more in-depth discussion. This is your chance to ask the tough questions and get a feel for what it’s like to work with them. 

How do they handle challenges? Can they give examples of overcoming similar issues in the past? This step is all about seeing who fits your company culture and who you can trust to get the job done.

Interview Questions:

1. Can you share details about your most successful and challenging ERP implementation projects?

2. Can you walk us through your ERP implementation methodology and project management approach?

3. How do you plan to ensure knowledge transfer and train our internal team during the implementation?

4. How do you manage scope creep and handle change requests during the project?

5. How do you plan to staff our project, and what roles will be filled by your team versus our internal resources?

6. Describe your testing methodology and approach to quality assurance.

7. How do you handle scope changes and their impact on project costs?

8. What kind of post-implementation support and maintenance services do you offer?

6. Perform Due Diligence and Reference Checks

Almost there! Now, it’s time to do a deep dive into your final candidates. Check their financial stability, confirm their credentials, and talk to their previous clients. Are they as reliable as they seem? Do they deliver on their promises? This step is crucial to pick a partner who can go the distance.

7. Negotiate and Finalize the Contract

It’s time to hammer out the details with your selected partner. Make sure everything from the scope of the project to the support terms is laid out clearly in the contract. 

This is also the time to discuss any final adjustments to ensure the partnership will meet all your needs.

8. Onboard the Selected Partner

Congratulations, you’ve chosen your ERP implementation partner! 

Now, introduce them to your team and systems, set up the project infrastructure, and get ready to start your ERP journey together. Clear communication and defined roles are key to a smooth kickoff.

💡Expert tip

💡Expert tip

Closely monitor and manage the partnership throughout the implementation process. Conduct regular project reviews and address any issues or concerns promptly.

Secure Your ERP Success With the Right Partner

Finding the right ERP implementation partner is much like matchmaking. You're looking for someone who complements your person (aka business) and enhances your life (aka operations).

By actively managing the partnership, you can ensure that the project remains on track and that your organization is well-positioned to achieve its desired outcomes.

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Simon Litt
By Simon Litt

Simon Litt is the Editor of The CFO Club, where he shares his passion for all things money-related. Performing research, talking to experts, and calling on his own professional background, he'll be working hard to ensure that The CFO Club is an indispensable resource for anyone seeking to stay informed on the latest financial trends and topics in the world of tech.

Prior to editing this publication, Simon spent years working in, and running his own, investor relations agency, servicing public companies that wanted to reach and connect deeper with their shareholder base. Simon's experience includes constructing comprehensive budgets for IR activities, consulting CEOs & executive teams on best practices for the public markets, and facilitating compliant communications training.