5 ways a consultant can benefit your software implementation

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If you shudder when you hear the word “consultant,” you're not alone. Yet a consultant can invigorate and strengthen your software initiative, while saving time and money.

I freely admit that, early in my career, I said that I would never become a consultant. Well, I got that one wrong: except for eight years working for a chemicals and energy company and two years working for a software company, I've spent most of my career as a consultant. And I went to the "dark side" of software consulting in the last century!

To some people, the word “consultant” evokes a negative response, reminding them of past bad experiences. Yet the right consultant can invigorate and strengthen your software initiative, helping you to more easily plan and navigate the software lifecycle, all while saving time and money.

Here are five ways that a consultant can positively impact your software initiative.

1. Protect your interests

Enterprise software initiatives involve multiple parties from outside and within your organization. With software and hardware vendors, systems integrators, content providers, IT, business and operations staff, varied perspectives and interests can cause conflicts.

A consultant can protect your interests, starting with strategy and planning—your real objectives, and who will use the software. Also, a consultant can help you to identify and prioritize needs vs. wants, and focus software demos on these requirements. Further, a consultant can save you time and money by helping you to select software that meets your needs, keeping in mind current, near-term and long-term needs.

When you configure your software, your consultant likely knows your requirements better than you do, and can help you to configure it right the first time. And, during implementation, the consultant who understands the “big picture” can advise you how to further to protect your interests by making sure that you have the appropriate strategy, plans and resources to pull it off.

2. Enable organizational change management

Organizational change occurs each time you introduce new technology. Some organizations put on blinders and focus only on the technology—the software to be implemented. Organizations that address people and process issues as well, are far better off.

New technology is a means to improve and standardize the way people work. Remember learning to use a smartphone or tablet with a touch screen? I will bet it was strange at first, but now you wouldn't go back to the old way of doing things. Engaging people early and helping them to embrace new technology strengthens the overall effort.

3. Enable focus on your core business

In most organizations, IT is not your core business; it's a services offering at the business, regional, or corporate level. If you replace enterprise software every 5-10 years, it may not make sense to keep IT resources on hand for this infrequent event.

This is where consultants shine, allowing your organization to focus on its core business. A consultant fills the gaps and complements your resources, whether you need business, subject matter, or IT expertise; business process, organizational change, program or risk management expertise.

4. Help you to navigate the lifecycle

Your consultant helps you to chart a clear path, to stay on objective, and to make informed decisions when things change. During the course of an enterprise mega-project, players and resource needs change; this requires rebalancing. And, inevitably, requirements change, so you need to know whether to alter your course now or circle back later to address these scope changes.

A consultant/navigator also helps you to identify risks and their mitigation. For instance, if your new software must go live by a certain date to meet merger/acquisition contract terms, or generate regulatory reports, then you need to know the impacts of getting behind schedule. If you run the risk of having “dirty” or incomplete data in your new system, then what can you do to mitigate this? If you expect push-back from software users, then how do you engage the users, and help them adopt the software quickly (see organizational change management)?

5. Help you to achieve expected benefits

A consultant helps you to develop your business case, and identify the expected benefits. In addition, a consultant can make your software initiative more cost effective through better program management, organizational change management and expertise.

If you plan to start an enterprise software initiative soon, then make a strategic move and answer this—why do it yourself if your organization lacks the core competencies? Find a trusted advisor with the expertise and diplomacy to make the effort more manageable and cost-effective. If you need help selecting a consultant, see “6 tips for finding a great software implementation consultant” and “6 criteria for selecting a software implementation consultant.”

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