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In the previous article Building the Right Consulting Relationships (Part I) we focused upon the consulting aspects and how to be a good partner to our clients. In this article we focus more on what the client should look for in a prospective partner.
What should Clients look for in a partner

I’ve been an independent ERP consultant for over 25 years now and I would like to think that I have always had the best of intentions for my clients, but that is not always the case with every independent consultant.

The good news is that there are a number of questions you can ask to avoid the consulting minefield that we see many clients fall into. These will help determine whether or not you are adequately vetting a potential partner that can influence your level of success in the future.

Are consultants really independent?

With the diversity of technologies available as part of your digital transformation, it is important that your consulting partners are truly independent. Probably not to be fair they will specialise in some functions and products and have knowledge of others. So find out if they are accredited partners of software vendors or resellers, or if they have affiliate companies that could create conflicts of interest.

How much 'Hands-On' Implementation experience do consultants really have?

Most credible consultants will have many years experience both in industry and in the software product they specialise in. In my humble opinion the fresh academic consultants that many partners provide aren’t of much value to most organisations. The best have worked with multiple technologies, in various industry sectors and know how to marry theory with hands-on implementation experience. Generally this may account for over 10 years in senior consultants and 5+ years in the average consultant. So be sure your partners consultants have implemented multiple types of technology – including the ones you are considering.

How much attention will we get from Managing Partners?

This is rather subjective, obviously you want to know that your organisation and project will get the level of attention needed from the senior executives within your consulting partner. However if the team on the ground is well balanced, has competent consultants and leaders then escalation to the executive leadership should be rare if at all. But be sure that you feel comfortable with their backgrounds and ability to help your project – especially when times get tough throughout your journey.

How much time will the consulting team spend On-Site?

Getting to know the business team is very important. Consultants are not effective when they do not spend enough time working closely with the client. They need to spend a reasonable amount of time on-site building trust. Working with your team, side by side, learning your culture, understanding the nuances of your operations, and giving you the high-touch experience that you deserve and are paying for. Once this is established then remote work can be more productive and cost effective (depending upon the implementation and change being delivered).

Has the prospective consulting partner successfully completed multiple end to end implementations or have they been removed or let go by previous clients?

There’s no better indicator of a consulting team’s abilities than by looking at recent client references. Ask the firm how many times they completed a delivery versus being removed or let go by clients in that last couple of years. Be very weary of any consulting firm if they have a history of unhappy clients.

Can your prospective consulting partner provide credible and positive references?

Ensure that referenced are recent. Some consulting firms may bask in their glory days, when they used to do good work and use those references to help them win current work. Instead, look for references on very recent projects.

How much experience does your prospective partner have with ERP Software Selection Projects vs ERP Implementation?

Consulting firms without balanced experience and revenue from multiple phases of an implementation cycle are generally not as credible. Unless the are openly a specialist in a particular area (that you specifically need). If this is not the case then you may want to know that your consultants don’t just do software selection and pretend to do implementations (or vice versa), so dig into the details of the type of work they actually do. A partner should be able to provide ERP consultants that have relevant hands-on experience.

How is the partner company represented within the industry, what do vendors, resellers, and competitors think?

This is a little harder to gauge but informal references, Glassdoor and Indeed reports can all give an indication regarding a prospective partners ability. Ask around to gauge perceptions among industry peers. If you hear negative feedback from multiple sources, its worth considering where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.

What do current and former employees have to say about you?

An unhappy or disgruntled workforce is one of the biggest detriments to a consulting company. As stated above read reviews, look at the company’s LinkedIn page.

How much staff turnover has the consulting partner experienced?

A company with high turnover probably has some underlying issues. Look at the company’s LinkedIn page, beware of consulting firms with high turnover especially at the executive level.
A rising tide raises all ships

A consulting partner should be one that you intend to partner with for years to come. The best ones will make you both successful.
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