Evaluating ERP Consulting Firms

Posted by Amede Hungerford, Vice President of Marketing at NetSuite

At some point, just about every organization calls in an outside consultant or two to help with an ERP implementation. It might be a frantic call for trouble-shooting mid-project or, better, at the start of a project to help ensure each phase goes smoothly. But regardless, most companies -- and especially SMBs -- can benefit from outside consulting support.

Selecting the right firm that can meet your requirements can be challenging, however. Consultants vary in their level and type of ERP expertise, experience, geographic coverage, size and vertical industry knowledge. Fortunately, there are some common criteria to consider when selecting your next ERP consulting firm. That criteria falls into three categories:

Experience
The number of ERP implementations and length of time a firm has worked in ERP is important to consider. Two years or more of ERP development and implementation experience is preferred.

The company's regional experience is another useful asset. In the case of large consulting organizations that offer ERP consulting as part of a menu of other services (e.g., a global systems integrator), regional market knowledge is important for enterprise customers expanding into new regions or countries outside of their home markets. Alternatively, small businesses may favor consultants with regional familiarity, as well as geographic proximity, so they will more easily interact with end-users -- a critical consideration during deployment.

Knowledge of product and industry
It's ideal, though not imperative, for a consulting firm to have expertise with the specific application to be deployed. For example, look for knowledge of NetSuite and a track record of successful NetSuite ERP implementations. Consultants still developing NetSuite experience who, nevertheless, have a successful track record in other on-premise ERP implementations may also do well. Many of the concepts and strategies behind an ERP implementation are similar, and a consulting company that has experience implementing other ERP solutions should be able to apply that knowledge to a NetSuite project. Of course, a combination of both product knowledge and experience is best, which is why NetSuite offers training specifically to implementation partners.

If the consultant has product-specific experience, make sure it was gained in a consulting or solution provider environment, and not only as an application administrator. Those are two very different skill sets. Application administrators are not as likely to know the ins and outs of actually deploying software or be in the best position to give advice on business process or change management requirements.

Trust
By definition, any consulting firm that will be involved in your core IT systems and relied upon to provide recommendations that can make or break an ERP roll-out must be a trusted partner. It should be a firm you can trust to have your best interests in mind and have the experience to make the project successful. Trust can be established by requesting referrals within your business network and by checking a firm's customer references. Ask colleagues who they would recommend. Speak with companies like yours who have worked with the consultant.

Along with references, certification is a good indication of a consulting firm's credibility. Certified consultants have passed an examination given by a third party, usually a software provider or another independent organization. NetSuite's new ERP Consultant Certification Program, which is already being rapidly adopted by ERP consultants, is an objective way to determine a consultant's knowledge and, thus, the level of trust to place in his or her competence. To obtain a NetSuite ERP consulting certification, the candidate takes two tests--the ERP Consultant Exam and SuiteFoundation. More information on the program, including topics covered and suggested courses to prepare for the tests, can be found at the NetSuite ERP Consultant Certification Program page.

Certification not only validates knowledge, but also the company's commitment to excellence. For the client, certification offers an objective method to evaluate credentials. For the consulting firm, certification provides a clear competitive advantage.

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