Choosing the Right ERP Partner Can Be Almost as Difficult as Choosing the Software

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The explosion of  internet purchasing has taught consumers to pit vendors against each other in relatively short order to compete for your business via comparison shopping. In a market where anything can be purchased from anywhere in the world, we all want the best products without paying the most expensive prices. Merchants of these goods all compete to prove to you that they are the best choice. In the ERP business, the contractors competing for your loyalty are called  Value Added Resellers or VARs for short. These companies implement, train on and support your ERP system and consult with you on other IT or finance matters depending on your needs. When choosing the right VAR for your company, consider the following ideas to make sure that the relationship flourishes into the future.

  1. Beware of the “used car salesman.” Unfortunately, these people, by nature, are predators that hover or circle the economy waiting to pounce on the next unsuspecting prey. Don’t take your salesperson at face value, gut check yourself as well as others within your organization to get a sense of sincerity and integrity. A deal isn’t just about the dollars involved, but the joint effort of forming a mutual partnership that you can build on as your organization grows. Even though the task of the salesperson is to win your trust, remember that after the deal is closed only the respectable ones will keep in touch.
  2. References within a business environment, in my opinion, have become a concept that everyone is aware of, but very few investigate. It is common knowledge that nobody will give you the name of a bad reference, but that doesn’t mean each reference is glowing. Ask about different people within the organization, interactions with team members, challenges (because nobody uses the word problems anymore) and their solutions. Ask specifics about what kind of work was done with that reference to gauge the comparison to your business needs.
  3. Turnover, longevity, flexibility, and years in business can also be distinguishing factors in how well a company is managed along with its personnel. Your position within your organization has goals and deadlines as well as the need to stay within a budget, so you need to get things done more efficiently and effectively. If a particular VAR lacks flexibility or longevity, you may need to wait longer periods of time to get the assistance that you require or you may have to settle for a junior level consultant that doesn’t yet have the ability to adapt to your environment without costing you time and money. Consider a partner who has committed to the Microsoft Partner Network Gold ERP competency because it shows that the partner has enough depth on the bench to handle your projects and has obtained the necessary training and exams required for this rigorous certification.
  4. The goals of the VAR organization may assist in the decision making process as they may give some insight into the way their business is directed. Is the company only in it to make money? Do they see that you are only going to buy a certain amount so they figure they will get you in and out as fast as possible so they can move on to the next sale? Are they overly cautious, which means that they may take up valuable time thinking and rethinking strategies, testing and retesting solutions?  Are they self-serving in that you will need to seek out their support every time the most simplistic problem arises?

Look for companies that exude integrity and professionalism. These companies usually employ philosophies and goals that mirror those of your own company. Remember that the more cohesive the unit, the more time and money it saves you. Most of all, find the companies that aspire to be a partner rather than your crutch, because it sets a good foundation as you build toward the future.

By Mark Kowalski, Project Manager, at Crestwood Associates, the Illinois Microsoft Partner Network with Gold Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) competency.

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