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9 Games ERP Consultants Play

January 14th, 2013 by

ERP Consultant Games

Most in the ERP industry agree that software consultants can play a major role in helping their clients successfully implement a new ERP package. While some consulting firms have more expertise than others do, at least most firms try to operate with their client’s best interest in mind.

However, there are many firms within the ERP industry that are outright thieves. They will not hesitate to take advantage of their clients in order to pad their own wallets. In fact, some firms are so good at this it has become part of their standard operating procedures.

Clients that are educated and aware of the games consulting firms play can save themselves a few headaches and a lot of money. Below are some of their tricks to watch out for.

1)      The “Bait and Switch” Routine

During the sales process, this is when certain consultants are brought in to display the expertise within the firm. They may know best practices and the software, but it might be the last time you ever see them.

2)      Resumes: Lies and Half-Truths  

Outright falsification of consultant resumes is more common than you think. In addition, many resumes presented by the firm are not really resumes, but vague “profiles” that lack detail and read like sales literature.

3)      “Lowballing” the Quote

This is the oldest trick in the book, yet surprisingly many clients continue to fall into this trap. For example, all consultants know that for time and material quotes the actual implementation costs are usually much higher.  Also, most fixed price quotes are only fixed until further notice.  When the client wants to make only minor changes in the project scope, they are hit with expensive change orders. The change order costs are usually 100% greater than the actual time for the consultants to perform the work.

4)      The “Best” Implementation Tools & Methods

Most firms claim to have the very best implementation methods and tools available. However, do not be surprised when their consultants run off and do something entirely different during the project. Maybe the tools are not so great; otherwise, their consultants would use them!

5)      The Less You Know – The More Money They Make

For some firms, a potential client that has ill-conceived project objectives, an undefined scope, or lacks basic knowledge of ERP; is considered a gold mine. The idea is to gloss over these “minor” details until after the client signs the contract.

6)      Marquee Accounts for Reference Checks

When a potential client asks for a list of the firm’s other clients for a reference check, many firms provide only their “marquee accounts”. These accounts are compensated by the firm in some form for being a reference. Therefore, do not expect these clients to mention anything bad about the firm.

7)      Not Enough Time and Talent

Most consulting firms would love to “camp out” on your ERP project. One way to do this is convince the client that the organization lacks the right employees for the project. Also, some firms too easily support the premise that the client’s best employees have other tasks to perform that are more important than an ERP project. That is, “No need to get your hands dirty. Our consultants will do the project for you.”  

8)      “Add-on” Services 

Once consultants get their foot in the door, many try to sell their clients additional services. These include more consultants for readiness assessments, change management programs, best practices, and other services you may not truly need. Also, do not be surprised when your consultants push for software functionality that was originally out-of-scope. 

9)      The Promise of Software Knowledge Transfer

Most firms state that one of their goals is to “work themselves off the project” by transferring software knowledge to the client. However, nine times out of ten, if it is going to happen, the client must force the issue. Considering their hourly rates, what incentives do consultants have to transfer software knowledge?

This guest post is by Steven Phillips, author of the Street Smart ERP blog and the new book Control Your ERP Destiny.




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SAP Implementation Projects: Still Crazy After All These Years

August 16th, 2010 by

R3 Solution

The following is re-posted with the permission of my friend Michael Doane, see his site at http://sapsearchlight.blogspot.com/

———————————-

Through the good graces of my long-time associate Jon Reed (www.jonerp.com), I recently discovered a blog that covers the life of an SAP project: SAP: Loathe It or Ignore It, You Can’t Like It http://sapmesideways.blogspot.com/.

Shortly thereafter, Dennis Howlett posted about this blog “Your Implementations are Killing Us” http://blogs.zdnet.com/Howlett/?p=1075 and the next morning I received a frantic e-mail from a friend at SAP lamenting its posting. So I guess this blogger is gaining some buzz.

I take exception with the title of the SAP blog as I have seen countless clients who actually do like SAP. All the same, I find it a curious and worthwhile contribution. The writer maintains complete anonymity throughout. No profile or mention of his name, his company’s, the implementation partner’s identity. Mum. While this is largely understandable as a matter of the blogger’s self-protection, it also degrades the effect. All the same, the twenty-seven postings since January, 2009 vividly describe the mind-numbing frustrations, side-shows, and cul-de-sacs that a poorly-run implementation can engender.

The appearance of this blog is in parallel to some serious SAP head scratching on the subject of bad implementations. At the end of the day, when an SAP implementation project goes wrong, it is the joint fault (in varying measures) of the client and the systems integrator but it is usually SAP that gets the PR black eye.

I have been involved in SAP implementation work since 1995 and the balance of my book “The New SAP Blue Book, A Concise Business Guide to the World of SAP” provides guidance for the best practices for implementation. The book first appeared in 1998 and has been revised seven times as better practices continue to emerge. During this same time-period, I have done a considerable amount of primary research with more than 1500 clients reporting upon their SAP experiences and the performance of their SAP systems integrator.

SAP does not deserve the full black-eye for failed implementations. In my esteem, however, SAP does a poor job of policing its SAP partners. The 1500 clients reported upon the field performance of all of the leading integrators (Accenture, IBM, Deloitte, et al) and the following provider failures were chronically noted in regard to deficient project process (in order of importance):

  • Poor scope/resource management
  • Lack of adherence to methodology: all the systems integrators have sophisticated methodologies and tools; they just don’t use them consistently (if at all);
  • Ineffective partner management.

In this research, clients cited who they considered responsible for various issue. They tabbed themselves the guilty party for:

  • Over-engineered and difficult to use results
  • Insufficient post-implementation planning
  • Lack of client ownership.

What SAP Can Do to Address Implementation Issues

All the systems integrators, including SAP Consulting, regularly tout their client satisfaction ratings. When you scratch the surface, these ratings tend to be childish and generalized buckets for entire projects of Very Satisfied, Satisfied, and Not Satisfied. The first reaction is to ask who is satisfied, what are they satisfied with, and when were they satisfied. Many clients I have spoken to who claimed that they were satisfied added that the whole project was a bumpy nerve-wracking mess but they were finally satisfied that it was over.

In this light, SAP needs to finally recognize that implementation services are every bit as much about consulting as about software. While tools such as Solution Manager are excellent for tracking software issues, project issues relative to consulting, governance, etc. are not tracked. SAP should be working more closely with its largest implementation partners to create client-satisfaction tracking that continually addresses these issues from an SI perspective:

  • Business/IT Alignment
  • Governance & Control
  • Human Capital Management
  • Technology, Tools & Process
  • Service Delivery & Operations

Short of this, SAP should create and cultivate a network of objective, third-party quality assurance units (not SAP, not SAP implementation partners) to accomplish this tracking. When such a QA unit exists, life is better for both the client and the systems integrator as in many cases the QA group can point out to clients where they are going wrong. Again, each of the systems integrators have their own internal quality assurance but it is seldom demonstrably objective. By the same token, such QA should not be undertaken by SAP.

Quality assurance can add 1% to 2% to an overall implementation budget while resulting in a 10% to 30% savings in over-all implementation costs (primarily by fending off budget over-runs).

Value to Clients of Third Party Implementation Project Quality Assurance:

  • Cost containment, derived from progress monitoring
  • Time adherence, resulting from continuous (phase to phase) monitoring as well as scope management
  • Vision/benefits realization: assuring that the project will deliver the intended business value
  • Reduced administrative and strategic burden; fewer client/SI meetings for the purpose of progress reporting, issues management, and the like
  • Objective advisory as to what other services or support functions might be appropriate and desirable.
  • Quality assurance reporting would be most effective if it is directed to the client, to SAP, and to the systems integration partner.

In the field, I find that systems integrators initially balk at the inclusion of third party quality assurance on the premise that it will act as an audit of only their performance. Once they understand that the quality assurance role also focuses on client performance and SAP performance, the activity yields positive results.

It should be noted that the SAP/SI partner dynamic is not the same for all partners. Clearly, IBM and Accenture are not as malleable as a small partner such as Capgemini or any number of boutiques. However, it is evident that scrolling a third-party quality assurance activity into any SAP implementation will benefit all three parties (client, SI, and SAP).

It is probably too late for our anonymous blogger. I look forward to when he fills out his satisfaction rating.

—————————-

The original posting for this article can be seen at: http://sapsearchlight.blogspot.com/2009/07/sap-implementation-projects-still-crazy.html




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ERP Software Selection: Do you want to be a Guinea Pig?

August 9th, 2010 by

Hit the target

 

“If the software functionality does not do what we need it to do, nothing else really matters.”

Back in the 1980’s, IT department preferences or mandates to use specific proprietary mainframe technologies drove many ERP software decisions. This was about the technologies the IT department could (or would) support not the mainframe software that best satisfied business needs.

Later in the 1990’s the mainframe vs. “open system” (client/server) wars caused many to take a blind leap of faith into open systems only to find out later the ERP software functionality in this arena was not as mature as their mainframe counterparts. Though open systems eventually won, many jumped head first into this brave new world simply at the wrong time.

Today “open source ERP”, upstart internet based application services (SaaS), “cloud computing” and other paradigms represent the same fork in the road. It is guaranteed tomorrow there will be a new one. The point is not to generalize regarding any particular direction; but the lessons of the past must not be ignored…. If the software functionality does not do what we need it to do, nothing else really matters.

When this occurs everyone will forget all the seemingly valid reasons a package was selected in the first place (cheaper, newer technology or everyone else is starting to do it). They will focus on the lousy functionality and lack of project benefits.

In the real world budgets are not unlimited, technology can be a strategic enabler, and there are other important trade-offs. However, nine times out of ten if the software functionality is a bad fit, eventually the project is deemed a failure. This means software decisions that do not weigh functionality the most can defeat the purpose of a new ERP system.

The Future of ERP?

The message above seems simple enough (and almost elementary), but many smart people allow themselves to get caught up in the industry hype.  Let the academics and consultants who really care debate the future of ERP because in the meantime you have a business to run. Unless you are interested in becoming a guinea pig. Believe me, a lot of software vendors are looking for them.

The Right Side of ERP History

Selecting software is not just a quantitative process. It ultimately boils down to a business decision and you want to be on the right side of history. As long as the cost of ownership is affordable, the technology stable, the package is supported, and many other companies are using it; go with the software that best meets business needs. 

If the organization cannot find a package that satisfies at least 85% of the overall software requirements (and almost all of the important ones), it is time to either look at higher-end packages or redesign your business processes.

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Editor’s commentary – Steve Phillips runs a great blog which is linked here:

http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/street-smart-erp

Be sure to visit his site and support his efforts!

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