6 criteria for selecting a software implementation consultant

Enterprise software implementation is a big deal, and the right consultant can make your life easier. Here are six essential criteria to consider when selecting a consultant.

direction signs
Credit: Freeimages.com | Michaela Kobyakov

Enterprise software implementation is a big deal. Most enterprise software projects can take many person-years of effort and have a large price tag. Many companies find that they require expertise from third parties like software vendors, system integrators and subject matter experts (SMEs) to round out their team. 

Yet many organizations have more clearly defined selection criteria for smartphones – a small purchase – than for enterprise software. If you need a system integrator or implementation consultant, how do you select the right one? Beyond finding a firm that appears to have the right resources to meet your needs, consider the following six essential selection criteria. 

1. Business and industry expertise

Enterprise IT projects can impact the entire business. Your system integrator or implementation consultant (aka "the firm") should bring more to the table than IT skills and subject matter expertise.

  • How well does the consulting firm’s leadership understand the position of the business in a global market?
  • Do they demonstrate knowledge of your industry, the subject matter and best practices?

2. Market knowledge

Understanding your business and IT needs is a given. To be most effective, they must also know about the software market, to help you arrive at a solid "short list" of vendors.

  • Does the firm understand which solutions can best meet your needs?
  • Do they have solid contacts within the software market niche (e.g., financials, HR, EHS, asset management)?
  • Do they understand the strengths and weaknesses of key competitors within that niche?

3. Program/project management capabilities

Program/project management goes well beyond a GANTT chart.

  • Can the firm help you  navigate the entire systems lifecycle if needed?
  • Have they demonstrated the ability to manage large, complex efforts?
  • Do they possess the skills to clearly define and manage the project scope, schedule and budget?
  • Can they manage scope creep, at the same time making critical changes when necessary?

4. Methodology

A good methodology and clearly defined deliverables can keep the effort on track, while the lack of a clearly stated methodology raises a red flag.

  • Does the firm have a methodology that has proven successful on other projects?
  • What are the primary technical and project management approaches?
  • What methodology and tools do they employ?
  • What are the main deliverables?
  • Can the firm show examples of completed work products?
  • What do their clients say about the efficacy of the firm's methodology and tools?

5. Communications

Assume that scope changes and issues will arise throughout the systems lifecycle. What’s not always so clear is how to manage these changes.

  • Does the firm have the business savvy and communication skills to identify issues that others may miss?
  • Will they communicate critical issues to key stakeholders before the issues have a large impact on scope schedule, and budget?
  • Will they recommend solutions and help you to make sound decisions?

6. Independence and objectivity

Enterprise software initiatives can span months or years, so it is important to find a firm that has your best interests in mind. This is where independence and objectivity play an important role.

  • Does the firm have your best interests in mind, or are they more interested in billable hours and keeping consultants off the bench?
  • Is the firm independent? Are they allied with one or more software vendors?
  • Are they good listeners?
  • Do they have a "one size fits all" mindset, or can they be objective about your initiative?
  • Can you trust their advice?
  • Will they tell you when you are about to make a bad decision? 

You can enhance your organization’s chances for success by developing – and applying – objective system integrator/consultant selection criteria. My previous blog post provided six tips for making the selection.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

To comment on this article and other CIO content, visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Download the CIO Nov/Dec 2016 Digital Magazine
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.