Just like any strategically important relationship with companies that provide you with products or services, an Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) provider is equally important to your success. Borrowing and modifying a phrase from the movie “Finding Nemo”, “Your consultants are friends not food.” Some definitions from the Cambridge English Dictionary below will help us get started.
- Vendor – “Someone who is selling something” “A company or person or company that sells goods or services.”
- Partner – “A person or organization you are closely involved with” “To join with another person or organization in a business activity” “If a company or person partners with another, they work together.”
- Relationship – “The way in which two or more companies, countries or people behave towards each other”
Starting with the ERP consultant first, in my experience, two types of companies exist. The first is transaction focused. This does not imply these organizations are not ethical. They focus just on that transaction, providing quality services the client requested, and maximizing their profits on that transaction independently from other or future engagements. The most important measurement is profit from the transaction. The second is client focused organization. These organizations primary focus is the success of the project and did the client achieve their goals. These organizations believe that this ultimately delivers appropriate profits in not just the original transaction but in future transactions as well. I am not saying that these organizations are not interested in maximizing profits, just like your organization, all consulting firms exist to make money.
If you are buying office supplies, you likely are looking for a vendor that provides a good product at a good price. This is a transaction. If you are purchasing inventory that you use to produce the finished product you sell, you are likely to look more for a relationship. You want to know if you can rely on them to provide quality and timely goods that keep your customers happy. Your relationship with your ERP consultant is also very important to your success and keeping your customers happy. This is where customer focused firms can help you achieve your goals better than a transaction-based firm.
We briefly discussed how a value client-based firm can do more for you, but there are also things you can do to help a client-based organization make you successful. The first answer is trust. Trust that they are supportive of your goals. Trust that they realize that their success is directly tied to your success. Trust that they are passionate about providing you solutions that will make you better. Trust that they will go above and beyond to make you successful and most important, trust that they care more or equally about your well-being as well as their own well being. Do you want a consultant that lays in bed at night worrying about their own success or one worrying about finding answers and solutions for you?
Now that trust is established, it is a must that you communicate and be honest with your partner. This helps them take good care of you. A common situation is starting work with a client and then the client goes silent. Most of the time it is for good reasons. Other internal project deadlines, emergencies that pop up that consume your time, and a change in priorities are just a few of these good reasons. A consulting firm’s product is their employees’ time, by communicating with them they can both schedule to keep resources busy and at the same time make sure those key resources are available when you need them to continue. When you do communicate, be honest. In my 25 plus years in consulting, I have never provided a solution that I did not feel was best for my client or have I ever invoiced time that I did not feel was working toward’s that client’s goals. If you feel that the solution or understanding of the issue is not understood, communicate and be honest with your partner. We want to align with your expectations. If you feel that a support ticket or a project is not meeting your expectations, communicate this in a timely manner.
Just like a marriage, honesty and communication are key in both directions. The environment during this process changes and working with your partner is important to overall success for both parties. We have worked with clients that experienced economic changes during a project, we have worked with clients that have had internal priorities change during a project, going silent is never the best answer, but understand that trust will help both parties’ success.
A trustworthy partner understands that when working on a project the client now has two jobs, their normal 40 plus hour job and the job of implementing a system or adding functionality to an existing system already in place. We realize the stress these places on clients. The best consultant in the world does not know their client’s business better than the client. Your time is not just requested but required for success. Make sure deadlines placed on you providing information, data or time are adequate for you to perform both jobs, if not communicate this timely. This helps the partner plan make sure resources are available and we meet your expectations. A problem area in projects is testing. It is time consuming for the client, but success is not likely without this commitment. You never want to have the project manager say, “We have been live for three weeks and are 70% complete on testing.”
Summarizing, a client focused partner is a “Friend, not food.” It is important you understand your relationship is not a transaction with these partners but a long-term commitment to your success. This is why it is important you understand if you have a transaction or client focused partner. Look at it in these terms, do you want an employee that works hours or one that focuses on the task at hand. We do not want to be seen as software implementers, but trusted business consultants that can make you a better and more profitable organization.
At DSWi, we are a committed client focused organization. We have helped over 100 clients from coast-to-coast grow, cut costs and become more profitable since we started in 2006. Yesterday, today and always, our business has one goal: Helping your business grow.