Are some ERP suppliers crooks?

I recently read a very interesting post entitled “Are Some ERP Consulting Firms Crooks?” (see article here). It was aimed at those consultants who are employed, ostensibly, to provide arm’s length, independent advice to businesses but who shamelessly take advantage of their client’s limited knowledge. People who are looking for help to choose and install a new ERP system find themselves conned as projects take longer and cost much more than originally stated.

 

But many of the points ring true for the scenario where the client is looking to do their own system selection and invites a few ERP suppliers to tender. In such a situation, the customer is relying on the potential provider to be upfront and honest, and offer useful advice. Clearly, they will also attempt to sell their system, but acting in a professional, consultative manner is a great way to win business.

 

Sadly, I often see the opposite happen. There are the resellers who field their best consultant to charm the customer and present the product brilliantly; and post-order, for those consultants never to be seen again. Or those who offer a terrific annual support rate which locks the customer in for 3 years – and only then does the customer discover that the support isn’t that great; and seems to come with lots of options for you to be charged extra!

 

However, the customers themselves are often their own worst enemy. Not so long ago, I was asked to tender for a system. The proposed final solution was going to be such a compromise that I felt compelled to write a summary of the likely failings and suggest that they reconsider their approach. But no, the Director was adamant that this was how he wanted it to be. Result – a very expensive system that delivered only a fraction of its capabilities. We, by the way, politely withdrew from the bid.

 

What’s the lesson to be drawn? In my view, references are everything. Whether it’s a consultant assisting the business to implement or a supplier offering up advice on how they would satisfy your requirements, speak to their past clients. And, one other thing.. another reason that the article branded some ERP consultants crooks was their ability to put forward ‘tame’ clients who would confirm how great they performed. So, don’t just accept the first reference given, check out a few.

How to Select an ERP System and Not Get Badly Stung in the Process!

A couple of years ago, out of sheer frustration at the number of prospect companies who had chosen to proceed on a clearly misguided software acquisition path (in my humble opinion and clearly not at all sour grapes!), I put together a ‘Guide for Business Advisers’.

 

I hoped that this guide would help many avoid the worst or most obvious mistakes. It has subsequently been utilised not simply as a guide for those terming themselves business advisers such as IT consultants, the local enterprise company’s ERP expert or a business’s accountants; but also as a useful set of hints for the poor sod in the prospect company who has been handed the poisoned chalice of finding the next ERP system. We’ve met everyone from the CEO or CFO down to the new graduate given this as his or her work project!

 

Things that had inspired me to write the guide included finding a prospective client who had committed to an unbreakable 3 year support contract with a supplier on the basis of a single presentation. It cost a five figure sum to release them from the contract but was worth it. More commonly, we find a prospective  client fails to carry out some basic due diligence and ends up purchasing from a company which looks great on the web and turns out to be no more than ‘one man and a dog up a close’ (as we say in Scotland).

 

Over the next few blogs, I plan to summarise the contents so that readers may have an insight into a process which I have observed in my 30 years operating on both sides of the fence – as IT consultant advising clients when I was in the accountancy profession as a ‘Computer Audit Manager’ and more recently trying to be as objective as possible while selling ERP systems on behalf of IT companies.

 

In the next blog, we’ll start with the ‘Selection Process’ and subsequent blogs will consider ‘Ballpark Costs’, ‘Implementation’, ‘Things You (or your Client’) Should Check Out’ and ‘New Technologies Worth Considering’.

 

As the guide was originally published in February 2011, this affords me a great opportunity to update the Guide and, who knows, have a runaway eBook success on Amazon!