We often talk with manufacturers and distributors about their enterprise technology initiatives, and the specific role of an ERP consultant. It’s important the company understands the value Ultra’s independent ERP consultant team can deliver to their organization.
Most project teams from mid-market manufacturing and distribution organizatons are challenged by an ERP evaluation and selection project. The sheer size of the project is a key reason. The typical ERP project cuts across each area of the business, impacting functional areas from finance, accounting and supply chain, to shop floor, production, inventory, quality management, shipping and more. It’s difficult for team to free themselves up from their functional responsibilities and immediate tasks and apply the needed time, effort and attention to the project.
Also, noteworthy – it’s highly unlikely anyone on the project team has gone through or led a comprehensive evaluation and selection project. At best, perhaps one team member has some experience in the area, but more often than not, their experience took place a decade or so ago.
Another critical factor – a successful ERP selection and implementation demands a myriad of skillsets – from project management, business process mapping, change management and risk management, to a full understanding of modern enterprise technology and the vendor landscape.
That’s where the role of an ERP consultant comes into play.
Driving Value – That’s the Role of an ERP Consultant
With specific ERP experience and expertise, the role of an ERP consultant involves knowing the best practices for evaluating and implementing systems, mitigating risk, helping the project stay on time and on budget and driving ROI.
We’ve grouped the specifics of the role in the following categories:
- Offering Experience, Independence: Drawing on decades of experience in enterprise technology, the role of an ERP consultant is to view the project from an outside perspective based on industry best practices. Independent consultants are not software resellers and do not receive compensation from software companies. They keep up-to-date on the vendor landscape, technology platforms and offerings of modern ERP and can provide unbiased and vendor-neutral guidance.
- Sharing Industry Knowledge: The role of an ERP consultant is to offer experience implementing ERP software in a specific industry or with other similar businesses. A good consultant will also suggest best practices from outside of the industry that could be of help to the business if incorporated.
- Providing Specialized Skill Set: The role of an ERP consultant also involves project management, functional expertise, risk mitigation and scores of other specific skills.
- Leading Business Process Transformation: There’s value in obtaining unbiased opinions about what’s working or not working regarding business processes. This expert outsider’s perspective can be invaluable throughout the project to counter the team’s personal biases, based on their job roles and how things have been done in the past.
- Driving Change Management: Selecting and implementing an ERP system results in big changes for the entire business business. These changes can be overwhelming for your team and the rest of your workforce. An ERP consultant draws on organizational change management skills to help in user adoption and acceptance of the project.
- Managing Implementation: When the role of an ERP consultant is involved in implementation, the project has a higher likelihood of success when led by resources with experience in setting the plan, project management, ERP data conversion, and all aspects of ERP implementation. Once again, the involvement of an independent resource helps keep the project on time, within scope and on budget – and helps mitigate any conflicts with the vendor.
- Providing Training: In many projects, the role of an ERP consultant is to help develop and deliver user training, ERP education and support during the entire project – from selection to go-live.
The Role of an ERP Consultant: The Place to Start
As we’ve made clear, in order to improve the chance for success and reduce risks, ERP project team works more effectively when drawing on expert methodologies. When considering the role of an ERP consultant, the place to start is business process transformation. When the focus is business process transformation, and not solely technology, the project team has a better chance of conducting an effective technology evaluation that is designed to meet future state needs.
For today’s successful projects, the role of an ERP consultant is to guide the organization through the very important phase of Business Process Improvement. Before any discussion of ERP vendors or system features, it’s a best practice to put into action multi-dimensional business process improvement (BPI) methodologies. Ultra’s proven BPI methodology includes the following phases:
Current State: For true business process transformation, an ERP consultant guides project teams to start with a current state analysis that involves in-depth discovery activities to identify current business processes in all functional areas. This entails a comprehensive review of
current “As Is” processes, collecting all the business process improvement opportunities or “pain point” cutting across each functional area of the enterprise.
Education: Taking the time for a thorough education of all those involved in the project is critical for the project team to be well versed in ERP concepts and industry best practices. This is a key area led by the ERP consultant.
Future State: The next step is ERP requirements definition to identify certain criteria a new enterprise software should address, which is determined through thorough future state mapping. The future state is a development of the “To Be” state, with standardized processes across all functional areas that meet the opportunities or “pain points” revealed in the Current State analysis.
Moving to Evaluation, Selection: After the Future State analysis, and building out the specific list of requirements, the focus of the ERP consultant turns to evaluation of the technology products from the enterprise software vendors that best serve the industry and aligns with business requirements. Enterprise software selection is deceptively complex – involving a comprehensive review of the findings from current state and future state analysis.
The role of an ERP consultant serves to make the process go a lot smoother, accelerate time to value, reduce the chance of risk and provide the organization with much needed ongoing management and support.
Heading into an active project? Contact Ultra for a look at the value an ERP consultant can deliver to your organization.