5 Tips For Getting More From Your ERP Consultant
When you are searching for help from an ERP consultant it might be common for you to simply ask:
'We have a problem with our ERP system. Please can you look into this for me?”
It may seem very convenient to call in help from an ERP consultant – We have a problem, They can fix it - but it is well-known that those consulting services always come at a price. In this blog, I want to discuss how you can utilise consulting services in the best possible manner when you meet with your consultant to discuss your business problems. Why is this important? Because working with an ERP consultant doesn’t just cost money, it costs time, which can sometimes get misused if you don’t get the productive outcome you desire.
Here are my 5 tips for getting the most of your time with an ERP consultant:
1. Prepare well
Preparation is the most important step for almost all meetings and this also applies to your interaction with your ERP consultant. It may sound surprising, but it is not uncommon for ERP consultants to find that their clients don’t know what exactly they need. This is by no means the fault of the client because in most cases they receive insufficient information from their colleagues or internal customers about the issue at hand. You can avoid situations like this by preparing thoroughly before you engage an ERP consultant.
The following list may help you prepare well:
- Organise meeting rooms or set up conference calls in advance
- Prepare a clear meeting agenda
- Make sure that you have complete understanding of the business problem or requirement
- Gather as much information as possible by asking plenty of questions to the person who reported the problem or asked for a new business solution
- Breakdown the business problem into smaller chunks so that it can be explained in an efficient manner
- Check if some of the problems can be resolved or addressed by your internal team
- Simplify the requirement in plain English and avoid using internal business terms to prevent any confusion and misunderstanding
- Prepare a contact list in case you need more information
2. Listen carefully
When ERP consultants suggest a solution for your business problems, it is very important to understand what exactly is being suggested.
- Understand how the suggested solution can solve your business problems
- Ask questions if you are not clear
- Ask for alternative solutions so that you can comprehend why one solution is better than another
- Finally, select the solution which best suits your business requirements
- Discuss project plan and delivery time once you have agreed on a solution
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3. Agree goals / milestones
Large projects may require project management and constant follow-up with consultants. Hence, it makes perfect sense to setup specific goals and milestones to achieve the desired outcome in a timely manner. Ensure that you have agreed S.M.A.R.T. goals. As highlighted by George T. Doran in the November 1981 issue of Management Review, S.M.A.R.T. stands for:
- S – Specific
- M – Measureable
- A – Assignable (or achievable)
- R - Realistic
- T – Time-related
4. Embrace the unexpected
If any ERP consultant claims that he/she knows everything about their ERP systems then take it with a pinch of salt! It is perfectly possible and normal that consultants may not know the answer to all the questions you ask. If they can’t answer your question straightaway, don’t get disappointed. Instead ask them how and when they can find a solution for you. Expert consultants will know how to problem-solve the situation and they usually have access to a vast amount of knowledge within their organisation or network.
5. Follow up
In the real world, consultants often work with multiple clients on multiple systems from multiple locations. So always follow up after your meeting to make sure that agreed goals are met in a timely manner. Also, follow up on any questions which you asked and the consultant said, “I’ll get back to you later!”
In summary, if you wish to utilise your time with an ERP consultant in the best possible way then remember these five important tips: prepare well, listen carefully, agree SMART goals, manage expectations and follow-up. Most importantly, remember that consultants are there to help you, support you and solve your problems. Following these tips will only create win-win situations for both parties involved.