Enterprise software implementations can take many months to several years, and usually require a team effort demanding both internal and external resources. Many companies also find that they require expertise from system integrators or software implementation consultants to round out their team.
If you need a system integrator or implementation consultant, how do you qualify and select one? Here are six tips to help you find a great one.
1. Create a small selection team
Often, a group of business, subject matter and IT specialists makes the selection. This can work well if you establish a few ground rules.
The selection team needs
- to elicit input from and accurately represent stakeholders,
- the authority to speak for stakeholders,
- to be free of individual agendas and biases,
- to be small enough to reach a consensus, and
- agile enough to address challenges and make decisions.
2. Establish objective selection criteria and stick to them
Define a set of objective criteria before starting discussions with system integrators or software implementers. This lets you confirm your intentions and takes the emotion out of the equation. Objective selection criteria are perhaps the most important deliverable. See companion post, 6 criteria for selecting a software implementation consultant.
3. Know your consultants
Get to know the candidate firm(s), their people, and how they work. Make a point to meet several times before issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP). Look beyond the firm’s sales team and ask to meet the key project contacts and executive sponsors. By the time you issue the RFP, you should know that the firms are qualified and you are comfortable working with them.
4. Be specific about your needs
Develop the RFP in a way that makes the proposals easy to evaluate. Avoid sending a “blind” RFP that’s just fishing for information. If you do, you encourage responses from serious contenders as well as habitual bidders—and these responses are hard to compare.
Be very clear about what you want in the proposal, e.g.,
- The scope of work.
- The firm’s role, e.g., facilitate the process, serve as project manager, lend a few sets of extra hands, or conduct a turn-key project.
- The type of expertise you seek, e.g., specific subject matter, IT, or program/project management expertise.
- The level of experience you expect.
- A summary of time-critical milestones, e.g., compliance-driven dates or merger & acquisition contract deadlines.
- Other expectations of the firm.
5. Time is valuable – don’t waste it
Do not request information just for the heck of it. If you have prequalified a firm that can meet your needs, then avoid inviting other firms just to satisfy a purchasing requirement. This only wastes time and effort to prepare and evaluate proposals.
6. Do due diligence
Don’t believe the sales pitch; conduct your own research.
- Speak to current and past clients. If possible, speak with clients beyond those references provided.
- Ask about the firm’s reputation for implementing the software you selected, in your industry or in a similar roll-out.
- Ask about strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement in the firm and its methodology, as well as in configuring the software you plan to implement.
- Check financial strength, length of time in business, and other indicators of staying power.
Enterprise software implementation requires a multidisciplinary team and often involves a systems integrator or implementation consultant. If you find yourself in this situation, then employ these six tips to find a great consultant that can help make the project go more smoothly.