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So, you’ve made the decision to upgrade your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Where should you start?
Some businesses only need help setting up their software, and there are ERP implementation partners that will do just that – without involving themselves in process improvement or deep consulting. But most businesses need more than that.
When you’re searching for an ERP partner, it’s important to ask the right questions to make sure they offer the support and guidance you need. Small- and midsized businesses (SMBs) can benefit from thorough, long-term partnerships. Such partnerships enable them to focus on their day-to-day while retaining optimal solutions and processes.
We want SMBs to be able to make the most informed decision when selecting an ERP partner. The decision is often more consequential than people realize. If you don’t know what to expect from an ERP implementation partner, you may end up settling for less than you need.
An ERP implementation partner consults with businesses to identify the best ERP solution, configurations and customizations to support their operations and future goals. The partner then works with a business to migrate or implement the system, providing support and guidance throughout. They work to understand your business processes so they can design a solution that maps to it.
“Implementing an ERP solution is what we're supposed to be doing at the very minimum,” says Rob Thomas, Presales Solution Architect at Enavate. “What we end up doing is also being business process experts. We help improve their existing business processes and give them recommendations on better ways to gain efficiencies in their system implementations.”
That’s the core objective when Enavate works with clients to implement an ERP solution: To improve their business. Enavate’s ERP Implementation Experts need to make our clients’ lives better by helping streamline their processes, with ERP as the tool to get that done. We do this with our expertise both in the industry and standard business practices to help bring their business inefficiencies to light.
Selecting an ERP partner that looks at your business holistically and cares deeply about identifying the most ideal, effective solution will magnify the benefits and ROI you experience post-implementation.
After all, as Steve Fetters, Presales Solution Architect at Enavate, points out: Most leaders are knee-deep in running their businesses. It’s hard to see the bigger picture, and they can’t be ERP solution experts right out of the gate.
Fetters sees Enavate’s partnership with clients in two parts. “One is to be an objective partner to help the client step back and see the forest for the trees,” he says. “On the other side of it, the partner can provide deep subject matter expertise into the solution.”
It’s not a myth. Partners that focus on your overall business, apply their wealth of industry and solution knowledge, provide training and change management to smooth the transition, and are available to you post-implementation do exist.
At Enavate, the role of an ERP implementation partner is defined as part of your team who:
A great partner is not a “yes man.” They won’t just implement and configure your software, no questions asked, especially if they know a better way of streamlining the process. A great partner reviews your current system and ensures that the business’ wants and needs align with your goals.
You’re busy keeping your business on the path to success, profit and growth. Your ERP is instrumental on this path, and implementing a new, more fitting solution can transform the journey altogether. You don’t want to risk transforming the journey to a more treacherous path with the wrong implementation.
An ERP partner can look at your overall business and identify the solution and configurations that will have the greatest impact. This is their day-to-day, their wheelhouse, just as your business is yours. ERP partners can analyze potential configurations more efficiently than you could in-house. They already have a pulse on the solutions and the industry and can suggest configurations and offerings that may not even be on your radar.
Without a true partner to consult with, your view may be limited and rooted in how you’ve always operated. That’s what you know best. A true partner will challenge you in the delivery process and ask, “Why are you really doing it this way?”. If the answer is “That’s how we’ve always done it,” then there is probably a more efficient and straightforward way that your ERP Implementation partner can help you discover.
Challenging business leaders to think beyond what they know is cornerstone benefit great ERP implementation partners provide.
“When we’re really working as partners,” Fetters says. “We can help them see something that they’re just too busy to see.”
Another common phrase partners hear is: Doesn’t everybody do it this way? Your partner can be pivotal in ensuring you don’t make the wrong choice based on misleading information.
“The fact that we have experience across a lot of different organizations gives us a broader view of what other people do,” says Carolyn Newell-Robbins, Sales Solution Architect at Enavate. A true partner knows what’s actually happening in your industry, how “everybody does it,” and whether that would work for you.
Great partners build trust and relationships with clients so they’re operating from a place of mutual respect. They have clients’ best interest at heart, and clients can rest assured that any recommendation is for the betterment of their business and operations – not the lining of a partner’s pocket. These partners are in it for the long haul.
“We want a long-term relationship with our clients. Three years from now, we want you to still be contacting us saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got a new business process.’ We want to be the partner that helps you get there, not just get the software in and ignore you afterwards.” - Rob Thomas, Presales Solution Architect, Enavate
If you have a long-term partner, you won’t be starting from square one when you need to adapt your ERP. What you need from your technology stack will likely shift with time. For example, a business may need to implement a new warehouse management solution as their operation grows or changes. Or there may be an acquisition and the client needs a consult on how to conduct a successful integration.
“If they want to reevaluate their implementation because their business processes have changed or there’s been a change in their market, we will do that in the future,” Thomas says. “The way we implemented the software may not be ideal now because businesses grow, businesses change. We want them to come to us to say, ‘How do we get the software to meet our new challenges?’”
Great partners hold clients accountable during and after the implementation process. They take a collaborative approach to implementation, with the responsibility shared between them and the client. This is key to a successful implementation with optimal outcomes.
“The heart of this relationship is the intersection of people and software,” Fetters says. “There’s expertise in the software and expertise in the business. Our role is to help where those intersect; make that as productive and optimal a combination as possible.”
Each party has responsibilities because each brings specialized knowledge, capabilities and influence. You understand your unique business, culture and goals; your partner understands best practices and has industry knowledge to help you best implement and use your ERP solution.
We focus our methodology on equal collaboration to give you the fastest and greatest return on investment possible.
An ERP implementation can be disruptive even under the best of circumstances. A partner can help you navigate major changes so that disruption and risks are minimized. Moving to an ERP is not just asking employees to learn a new software, we understand that it is bigger than that. You are asking them to change how they do their day-to-day jobs and the entire business process itself might change with it.
You want to make sure your partner can help you through change and assure business doesn’t stop. ERP gets a bad reputation when people hear stories of businesses that go live with a new ERP and immediately can’t ship a product because the software won’t let you print a shipping label. ERP can stop business when not implemented correctly or when support stops the minute it goes live. A true partner cannot let that happen. A true partner knows what they need to do to prevent the worst from happening.
What does this look like? Essential risk-reduction tactics include:
There are components that automated testing can be helpful for, but at the end of the day, partners are working with human beings that need to learn how to do their jobs differently. Your employees need to test and practice their new processes before the ERP goes live. We’ll assure the software is functioning properly in the testing phase, but it’s all about the people.
In amidst all these responsibilities is the implementation itself. Your ERP partner will:
Now that you know what an ERP partner can do, what strikes you as critical to your own business in terms of this relationship?
Do you have the in-house expertise to carry the load on your own? Do you want a partner that will set you up and leave you be? Or would you benefit from the value a true partner can provide: process, experience and relationships?
Enavate has deep expertise from conducting many ERP implementations. Our ERP team is made up of senior, long-tenured professionals. Our support and technical teams are capable and experienced professionals who have superb relationships with our vendors.
Plus, to us, it’s personal. We are invested in each client’s success and longevity.
We don’t ever go away. That’s the intent. When we say partner, we mean it. We help our clients for life, helping after they’re live on the new software. We’re helping as the business evolves and changes – because business changes, that’s the nature of the world. We want to be here as their business partner when they need us.
Does Enavate sound like the kind of partner you’re looking for? If so, contact us to learn how working with us means being in a strong, valuable and collaborative partnership.
Stephanie, Enavate's SMB Delivery Leader, is a proven technology executive focused on building consulting practices and leading teams through complex industry focused projects. As a delivery leader spanning across many industries, she is passionate about helping clients grow their business through technology.