Tuesday, 10 February 2009

In support of generalist CRM and ERP systems?

The immediate response to my post in support of best of breed software packages was an even mix of support for my view, and defence of generalist CRM and ERP systems.

Leaving aside the supportive comments, the comments defending the CRM/ERP systems tended to focus on the role of the consultants or System Integrator - that win the contract to implement a solution around the chosen CRM/ERP software – and their level of specialisation in the needs of the customer.

In this area there are good and bad suppliers (and good suppliers who sometimes don’t get it right). I could give examples of supposed “specialist” ERP/CRM service suppliers who win business on the back of their extensive experience in a sector, and then ship in a horde of highly-priced consultants with no previous experience of the sector – who then go back to first principles in trying to tailor and implement the system. I can also give examples of specialist ERP/CRM suppliers who have an excellent understanding of typical user requirements, supply consultants with real experience of their customer’s operations, and look to implement the chosen system as quickly and cheaply as possible – rather than find reasons for supplying even more consultancy days.

For potential customers – having decided on implementing a generalist CRM/ERP system - how to decide on which service supplier?

As I’ve posted before, it is essential to follow up on reference sites – and not just those nominated by the services supplier – get a list of all their customers and get to meet some of those who have not been nominated. Try to get to see their Post Implementation Report – how did the implementation succeed against the original business plan, budget and timescale – and is the system truly delivering benefits? Get to meet end users and their managers – is the system doing what they want – or have they had to change the way they work to match the system (and has that business process change helped or hindered their organisation?).

And don’t be afraid to draft in specialist applications to overcome shortfalls in particular areas – for instance, it’s amazing how many local authorities using ERP applications have found it easier, quicker and cheaper to buy specialist best-of-breed applications to work alongside their ERP system. Yes, the ERP supplier will try to fight against it, but many authorities have seen that the supplier’s arguments are unfounded – and several systems integrators now use those specialist applications in the tenders to help them win the overall business.

Above all else, ensure that your supply contract has a clear definition of what is being delivered – it’s amazing how many contracts I’ve seen that have taken months to negotiate, but still lack basic definitions of deliverables – indeed, whilst there may be “expectations” in the minds of senior managers and officers, many contracts still refer just to delivery of the software package against a standard specification, and a number of “warm bodies” at certain per diem rates.....

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