ERP Implementation Partner: How to Choose the Best for Your Business Part 1

By Rob Jolliffe | July 28, 2022
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How to Choose an ERP Partner

Once a business chooses an ERP software their next question should be “Who is the best ERP partner to meet my business’s specific needs?”.    

Typically, the company that owns the software, the ERP Vendor, is also the one responsible for the implementation. For other ERP systems like NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, or SAP, you often work with a third-party partner company. That company will be an expert at implementing your chosen ERP system. You often work with a third-party partner company for other ERP systems like NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, or SAP ever term is used, once a business chooses an ERP software their next question should be “Who is the best ERP partner to meet my business’s specific needs?” 

There are many terms for an ERP Partner that you will come across in your search; ERP Implementation Partner, ERP Trainer, ERP Implementor, ERP Consultant. Choosing the right ERP implementation partner is very important. The wrong decision can lead to costly mistakes during the implementation process. You might end up with a system that doesn't meet your needs.  

Often the company who owns the software, the ERP Vendor, is also the one responsible for the implementation.  Small and medium-sized manufacturers can find the right ERP solution for their company but they must assess their needs and compare different implementation partners. 

 If you enjoy this article and would like to talk to Sabre Limited’s president Rob Jolliffe to chat about these concepts, you can book a one-on-one 30-minute call with him at https://calendly.com/robert-jolliffe    

Small and medium sized manufacturers can find the right ERP solution for their company. But they must assess their needs and compare different implementation partners. 

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So how do you choose the best ERP partner for your business? There are several factors to consider, including the size of your company, the features you need, and your budget. 

Earlier in 2022, we wrote about who we think are the top 5 Business Central manufacturing implementation partners.

This post is the first part of a two-part series exploring all the factors you should consider when choosing a third-party company to help you with your ERP implementation.

Keep reading to learn more! 

Define Your Needs: Generalist vs Specialist 

Before you start looking for an ERP implementation partner, it's important to first understand your business’s specific needs.

What processes do you need to manage? What type of data do you need to track?  

When you're ready to start looking for an ERP implementor, keep the following in mind. 

Essentially, there are two types of ERP implementation partners in the world.  

The first type of ERP partner is the generalist. They claim to specialize in many industries. But you will notice the industries they claim to specialize in have little in common with each other! For example, how does manufacturing relate to healthcare or the charitable sector? 

The second type of ERP partner is what's called "specialized." They focus on one industry and one industry only. They treat it as their core business offering.  

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This means they are always doing implementations within the same industry vertical. They gain a lot of experience in that one industry rather than a broad range of industries. 

The reason generalist ERP partners sell to such a broad customer base is because the take on any type of client. The sales department completely focuses on selling to anyone. They may have people who are good at selling in one area, but the sales team will sell to whoever walks in the door.

Generalists: You must train them in your industry 

Many customers assume that generalist ERP partners have dedicated teams for each industry they serve. 

In a large generalist ERP partner that makes 1000s of deals a year, this may be the case. But most generalist ERP partners do not have dedicated teams for each industry.

In a year, a generalist ERP partner will get a lot of work from one industry, and not as much work from another. This will change throughout the year; they get an excess of work in one area and droughts in another area.  

There is a big chance they could have no active manufacturing projects for a few months because they aren’t closing those as they have a bunch of government or healthcare projects instead. 

This type of partner cannot have staff that are too specialized. If they were, they might not have any work to do for part of the year! All the staff need to be able to roll with whatever work is coming in.

You don't want to have to train your partner.

If you are working with someone unfamiliar with your industry, they may not understand why you do some of the things you do. You need them to be able to hit the ground running from day one.

Specialists: They already know your Industry 

ERP implementation partners who specialize in one industry vertical are the opposite of this. They can hit the ground running on day one.

For example, you might find a company that are experts in mining and energy. That's their vertical and it is all they do. Sometimes, there could be a few interrelated sub-verticals they are involved in, such as equipment maintenance and oilfield management.  

There are not as many of these partners in the market. Once there are two or three partners in a particular vertical, they tend to crowd each other out. There is not enough room for them. There are only around 15-20 main industry verticals for ERP implementation partners. 

You can spot a specialist ERP Partner because their sales are all from one industry. All their advertising, marketing, and website will be exclusively dedicated to that one industry. 

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Each team member of that ERP Partner has experience in your industry. They will be more experienced than any generalist partner’s employees can be. The generalist partner is moving their employees between projects based on workload. 

Consultants that work for a specialist ERP partner are doing implementations in the same industry all the time. They gain far more experience in your industry than a consultant working for a generalist. 

You can expect consultants from a specialist ERP partner to collaborate on business analysis. They know your industry so well, why wouldn't they? But what the heck is business analysis? And why do you need it? 

Business Analysis: Deciding How to Change Your Business to Fit a New ERP 

A business analysis determines how best to integrate business processes with technology-based solutions. If you are getting a new ERP system, you must change some of your business processes to get new features.

If your new ERP system involves a major technological upgrade, then you will need to make big changes. For example, if you are going from an MS-DOS system to a cloud-based ERP (rare, but it happens) there will be massive changes required. 

It is important to properly manage this change, and business analysis will help you do that smoothly.  

Generalists don't provide this. They expect you to do this on your own. They are not used to working with small businesses that don't have IT departments.   

Generalists are familiar with working for businesses doing million-dollar projects. They're designed to work with large companies that have process improvement departments with many business analysts. 

 Most small businesses don't have this. As generalists try and downsize into the small business market, we see this problem more and more. 

These are the kinds of small businesses that Sabre deals with. We are often working with clients not big enough to have those resources.

They may have a lean IT department. The few engineers try to map and document their processes and systems. Business analysis is not their main, full-time responsibility.

Specialized ERP partners know how to deal with this situation. They can guide the customer with best practices. For the small business getting ERP, this is huge.

Conclusion 

When it comes time to choose an ERP implementation partner, you have two main options: generalists or specialists. Generalist partners are good if you want a one-stop shop for all your needs and don't mind sacrificing some industry knowledge.  

However, if you want someone who really understands your industry’s intricacies and can help with business analysis, go for a specialist partner.  

At Sabre Limited we fill in a lot of the gaps ourselves because we already know. You don’t have to explain anything to us.   

That's what we do better than anyone else in this space. We take the time to get to know your business inside and out so that we can provide you with the best possible service. 

If you need help with a Dynamics 365 Manufacturing systems choice Inventory Management in Business Central or any other questions, give us a call at: (519) 585-7524 x.45 or contact our team, we're excited to talk with you soon! 

Rob Jolliffe

Robert has been a Dynamics 365 Business Central consultant since 2008 and a general manufacturing consultant for over 25 years. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto mechanical engineering program where he focused on production engineering. In addition to a deep knowledge of Manufacturing Robert holds a Microsoft Systems Engineer designation and is much less of an expert in Networking and IT infrastructure than he thinks, but is still pretty good. He also has applied his engineering skills to learning programming, and is warned frequently by the professional developers who work for him that he is pretty good, but don't write any code for customers without letting them check it.

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