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The client-consultant dynamics involved in successful cloud ERP implementation

The story of every implementation seems so similar on the surface, yet so different underneath. There are usually at least three versions of every implementation story:

1.) A client’s version – “This is what I wanted, but I thought we would also get this, this & that along with it.”

2.) Management / account exec’s version – “This is definitely possible and it should be fairly easy.”

3.) A consultant’s version – “This is what I understand you need and here is what we delivered.”

It’s amusing to see how different each of these versions are sometimes. The smaller the difference in each, the smoother the implementation will be and the more likely you find the “success story.”

Every hit Hollywood movie has a cast of characters and the dynamics between them can often define a hit or a flop. An implementation story is not much different. Implementation stories are more about the dynamics between CLIENT, CONSULTANT and BUSINESS PRACTICES/PROCESS (although the last is not a real character but trust me it hits you harder than any human could). Often, a cloud ERP product is flexible to match your to-be business process, but is there an unwritten code on how the consultants should be or how the client should be to have a successful implementation?

The answer to this question lies mainly in interpreting the keyword, “successful.” What you feel is the definition of “successful” could be the opposite for the client. Defining the success factors with the client upfront is equally (if not more) important than what the consultant deems successful.

I want to make it easy for everybody.  I’ve put together two lists. The first one includes tips for clients on how to best approach the implementation with your vendors. The second is all about tips for consultants on how best to work with your clients.

The ideal client:

1. Never assume the obvious: Ask questions and speak up frequently throughout the process. This is far more convenient than later saying, “I just assumed this feature/function would be there.” Hearing “this is not what I wanted” is much worse for the consultant than being asked questions.

2. Be open to new industry practices/processes if they add value: Industry-wide best practices are generally built into ERP products. Being open to a new UI and new ways of solution delivery is always recommended rather than trying to mimic the exact solution your legacy application provides. This doesn’t mean to-be processes shouldn’t be mapped, but if you agree with your vendor’s product vision and roadmap, there is no doubt about the best practices embedded into the system.

3. Be direct, be open and ask for it: Sometimes clients give consultants a hard time, asking for too many things at once. However I realized that these clients often turned out to be my best friend in the end.  These clients push you to the limit and help you enhance your product. If a consultant loves consulting, he or she will not mind these requests.

4. Involve all required employee skill-sets from the start: When you involve staff that have both technical skills as well as functional ones from the start, they can easily pick up from where the implementation consultants left off. It’s a game changer. And as the functional requirements are collected and executed by consultants, you will have key staff involved in the process, Win-Win.

The ideal consultant:

1. Understand the real requirements, beyond just what the client mentions: Understanding exactly what the client requires is the secret to success for every implementation. Sometimes clients are not even aware of what it is they require and what different products they can benefit from. Determining their holistic requirement and pooling them into primary vs secondary requirements can solve various challenges, such as avoiding scope creep and delivering better solutions right at the start. Sometimes the requirements can be conflicting and it’s better to give clients a choice sooner than later.

2. Probe, probe & probe (but make sure it’s in the right direction): Probe until you are sure you are giving precisely what the client needs. At the same time, it is quite critical that the consultant understand all of the different options that are available in the product. Probing into an area that is not supported by the product can lead to dissatisfaction in clients or lead to enhancement requests that severely affect timelines.

3. Set the correct expectations: If something can’t be achieved, it’s better to tell the plain truth rather than offer other solutions to meet the requirements. And if you don’t know something just say it. Using key phrases such as “I need to check,” “I think it’s possible” and “it might be true” is very important because even a subtle miscommunication can lead to the wrong expectations.

The business practices:

successful cloud implementation

Every organization’s practices slightly differ from industry-wide practices. However, it is important to acknowledge this gap. Clients should allow products to fill this gap as much as possible so they can extract the maximum value out of the system. Cloud ERP challenges differ from traditional ERP implementation (I will leave this topic for a whole other blog post.) For now, the above dynamics between clients and consultants are very critical for successful cloud implementation.

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