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Selecting the Right System Integrator: How to Score Candidates
On January 27, 2015 / By Michael T. Critelli

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Panel judges holding empty score signs

Selecting an ERP or accounting system is a complex process that requires focus on a variety of issues. Most teams spend time selecting the ERP package based on how well the software candidates fulfill key requirements, budget, and preferred implementation timeframe. However, a key component is usually missing—the System Integrator (SI). Selecting the right SI to support planning and implementation can be as important as selecting the right ERP package.

A good SI has critical knowledge of how an ERP system functions within a variety of business environments. Functional knowledge helps an SI determine the configuration options that best support critical future-state activities. Successful project teams select the SI based on depth of resources, industry experience, implementation approach and support capabilities.

Depth of Resources

A deep bench is one of the most important factors to consider when evaluating an SI. One of the biggest risks to a project occurs when an SI team member performs poorly or leaves. The chosen SI should be able to backfill any position without difficulty. The location of SI consultants is another important consideration given the cost of travel.

The following considerations help define which SI offers the depth of resources needed:

  • Number of SI resources
  • Location of SI resources
  • Existence of a development/customization group
  • Use of third-party contractors
  • Access to the implementation team members during the selection process
  • Qualifications within the industry
  • Cultural fit

Industry Experience

SI industry experience pays dividends during the system design process. The SI team should be able to provide practical, functional and efficient alternatives to unexpected scenarios based on past experience. Most experienced SIs can catch issues before finishing design to avoid unexpected problems or changes in configuration. If an unorthodox problem arises, a good SI will call an industry peer and ask them to walk the client through their process.

The following reference criteria will help define an SI’s industry experience:

  • Industry specific projects
  • Simple projects within the industry
  • Challenging projects within the industry
  • Cross-industry knowledge that may apply

Implementation Approach

The system integrator’s approach is by far the most important part of the SI scorecard. Most implementation approaches are very similar across the software tier. Tier 1 packages, like Oracle and SAP, are implemented with large SI teams on-site throughout the project. Tier 2 packages, like MicroSoft Dynamics or SAP Business One, are implemented using the “homework model” with part-time SI resources. However, there are critical components to a successful implementation approach.

Make sure an SI’s implementation approach includes the following components:

  • A change management plan
  • A certified project manager with industry experience
  • Access to the system within the first few weeks of the project
  • An industry-specific data model to drive key metrics and master data setup
  • Comprehensive reports, interfaces, conversion and extension (RICE) approach
  • End-user participation in design, unit, conversion, and integration testing
  • A link to the support organization

Support Methodology

The SI’s project and post-implementation support methodology is a commonly forgotten step. Bad support can turn into an unwelcome surprise. A poorly developed support model during implementation can affect the overall project timeline and budget. End users develop negative perceptions about the ERP or accounting system when impacted by system down time or poor performance during implementation. Day-to-day business operations can be severely impacted if the system is not performing well after go live.

Ask about the following elements of an SI’s post-implementation support model:

  • In house or contracted applications support model
  • Number of people staffed as support
  • Third-party add-on support
  • Access to system environment performance statistics
  • Service Level Agreements

System Integrator Score Graph

Trenegy is a Houston-based management consulting firm equipping energy and manufacturing companies for growth and change. Trenegy helps companies select the right ERP/SI team, properly prepare for an ERP implementation, and successfully implement the solution. For more information, contact us at info@trenegy.com.