- October 12, 2016
- Posted by: Tom Ryan
- Category: Thought Leadership
Smart companies are discerning. They save money and use external consultants only when it makes business sense. And the smartest firms are exceptionally savvy in choosing the best consultants for a given assignment.
This is especially true in software selections. It’s simply too expensive, disruptive and risky for companies to change core applications frequently. Typically, most firms use a given ERP or other core application for a decade – maybe longer. If something is this important to the company and will be with the company for a such a lengthy time period, then utilizing experts to bring the most current and insightful intelligence into the decision is smart and prudent. It can also spare a company from making a bad, if not tragic, mistake.
Why Use a Consultant?
The best software selection consultants possess a number of attributes, the least of which is an in-depth understanding of several solutions that apply to a firm of your size, industry affiliation, etc. These consultants should be free of conflicts of interests (e.g., they can’t also be a reseller of one of the potential solutions). They should:
- help you objectively: evaluate your company’s true requirements versus the available solution alternatives
- reduce the risk of procuring or implementing the solution
- help you protect your IT investment – specifically purchase only the solutions that you need and maximize legacy systems you can retain, provide experienced advice relative to the IT decisions necessary when selecting new software
- help you develop the appropriate project management plans incorporating both the activities of the vendor as well as the activities of your internal staff
- help increase the likelihood of your success by advising you with respect to cost controls, benefit realization, and helping ensure timeliness of completion of the project
- help lend credibility with respect to the investment costs versus potential benefits when trying to sell the project to corporate management.
A software selection consultant adds objectivity to the selection process in four ways:
- Educates your firm to the changes that have impacted these applications since the last solution was chosen. Getting the entire selection (or executive) team on the same page as to what new capabilities (e.g., mobile applications, process workflow handling, artificial intelligence, multi-tenancy, big data, etc.) are in newer software solutions helps move the decision in more timely and relevant paths.
- Bring critical integrations, limitations and other requirements of pre-existing systems to the fore. As a result of doing resource requirements gathering with your staff and understanding the capabilities and shortcomings of your existing systems, the consultant will use their experience to advise you as to which of the critically needed functions exist within packaged software solutions versus those that are best served by your legacy or other systems. They can also help you and your staff visualize how the new system can better provide the existing functionality that you need as well as what new functionality can now be implemented. This process better defines the scope of the software selection activity.
- Critically assess potential solution providers. The selection consultant can also help you understand the capabilities of different software solution providers objectively based on their experience with prior projects. This is especially true when the consultant does not also do implementations of one or more vendors’ solutions. When a consulting firm has staff that are focused on implementations their objectivity about solutions from other providers than those that they partner with for implementations could be suspect.
- Assist in contract negotiations with software vendors and implementers. Firms that are used to negotiating with on-premises vendors will find cloud contracts majorly different. Likewise, the skills and consulting team needed to implement newer generation solutions is not what it used to be. A few bucks spent in this step can often save firms millions down the road.
A great software selection consultant has been through many projects. This experience enables them to advise you on the steps you need to ensure the success of your project. The structured process a consultant brings to the table can help ensure that buy-in to the final decision begins with the requirements gathering stage and carries all the way through to the final decision process. Additionally, the consultant is aware of what it takes for the project to succeed versus those activities which increase implementation risk.
A key part for ensuring project success is developing a realistic yet cost-effective project plan for the actual implementation of the new system. Having been exposed to many projects in your industry, the consultant can help you develop an overall project plan that is comprehensive, as detailed as needed, and incorporates both your internal staff activities as well as the vendor’s activities.
The Different Consulting Models
When choosing a selection consultant, it is important to consider the consulting model of the firms that you are selecting from.
Smaller independent consulting firms tend to be more entrepreneurial in their nature, more cost-benefit focused (treating your money as if it was their own), and tend to focus on leveraging your internal resources versus their own. Larger firms often have a bench filled with resources that they need to keep billable. This internal stress incentivizes them to use their own resources rather than your own.
Smaller consulting firms often have less overhead than the large consulting firms. Also, the people presenting their capabilities to you are usually the people who will actually do the work. In larger firms, there is often a separate sales group versus the consulting group. You get to meet the salespeople but not always the actual workers who would do the project.
Large consulting firms have their own corporate culture. This culture often flavors how they approach a project. Smaller firms tend to be more adaptable to fitting in with your own corporate culture.
What deliverables should you expect?
This listing below details all the different types of deliverables you should expect when employing a consulting firm to help you do the software selection project. What is important is that the consultants have a methodology and process, they have templates that can be used for each of these deliverables, and they are experience working through this process to reach a successful selection. What we listed here are deliverables consistent with our own methodology. Each engagement’s situation will dictate how many of these deliverables will actually be needed.
- Kick-off market briefing that helps the broader selection team understand how products/vendors have changed over the intervening years and what a long-list might contain
- Educate the broader selection team on the process to be followed and how communications will occur between vendors and the company
- Requirements gathering and development of as-is vs to-be documents
- Initial listing of possible solution providers to balance against internal/existing capabilities
- Initial TCO analysis, assist in go-no go decision about doing a new selection vs. upgrading what you have vs. incremental, internally developed improvements in process and solutions
- If a go, develop an initial Request for Information to vet a large list (10-15 vendors) of providers to a shorter list (5-6 vendors)
- Develop a full RFP, gather responses from the shorter list, score and determine finalists to provide scripted demonstrations (2-4 vendors)
- Convert RFP into scripted demonstrations, score and determine the preferred solution provider and 1 or 2 alternate providers (1-3 vendors)
- Execute initial due diligence on these finalists
- Prepare a preliminary implementation plan to help determine internal resource requirements and validate with vendor developed implementation plans
- Develop a more detailed TCO, score and evaluate the finalists, confirm vendor of choice
- Gain executive approval of vendor of choice, project direction, and preliminary budget
- Execute final due diligence with vendor of choice, initiate contract negotiation, maintain dialogue with alternate vendors as backup to vendor of choice negotiations
- Confirm deal, finalize TCO, gain corporate approval, initiate project
GLB Global, best of both worlds
GLB Global is the go-to firm for software selections in the food and beverage industry. We have an extensive track record in software selections for food and beverage firms as small as $30M or as large as $7B in revenues. We also have a powerful network of consulting associates with specialized skills (e.g., change management) and related industry expertise should a project require it.
Our expertise includes sub verticals such as: grocery retail (fresh and frozen), food service, ingredients (extracts and compounds), nutraceuticals, grower processors, and others. We have expertise in many food safety initiatives and regulatory requirements.
Likewise, we are knowledgeable re: technologies that food process companies require such as product lifecycle management, trade promotion management, direct store delivery, producer payroll (for dairies), and other food safety compliance solutions. Our application software experience, obviously, is deep in areas like: ERP, financial systems, warehouse management systems, transportation management systems, inventory management, order management, and procurement.
Our client work has taken us to all over North America, Asia-Pacific and Europe/UK.
Smart companies recognize that their expertise is running their businesses. Their IT staff is skilled with the solutions they already have. Developing and executing a plan to select new systems is not typically a skill contained within the enterprise. Having a software selection process to follow, tools to support that process, and skill in managing to that process is the business that software selection consultants are skilled at. A software selection consultant can help you find the software solution that meets your current needs and also enables you to fulfill your future state requirements, they can help do this in a cost effective and timely fashion, and they can help you gain the organizational buy-in to enable implementation success.