Your business has decided that it is time to implement an ERP system, or to upgrade your current one. Many businesses at this juncture face the same choice – do you recruit an in-house ERP specialist to lead and carry out the project, or do you bring in an external consultancy firm? There are a number of reasons you might want to do either, and you might think we would be a bit biased in favour of outsourcing! But in the interest of balance, here is a look at the benefits of each approach.
Though recruitment comes with some upfront onboarding costs, it has to be said that in the long-term, it would be cheaper to hire an in-house specialist. Most consultancy firms come with a pretty hefty day-rate, and an ERP project is not going to be complete in a few weeks. That being said, from the perspective “value for money” you will probably find that outsourcing to an ERP consultancy gives you access to a whole team of consultants and experts who you can call upon to work on your project. When recruiting, you are likely to find someone who specialises in a particular aspect of ERP – they might be functional, technical or focused on a particular part of the system like finance or production. Outsourcing gives you access to a whole team of experts in the different areas of ERP – technical consultants, functional consultants, finance specialists, etc. All will have extensive experience and knowledge in their field, making the pool of talent you can call upon that much deeper. This is particularly useful not just in an implementation project but in a longer term relationship – helping you to build out a well-rounded system which fully supports and streamlines the various business functions.
Selecting an ERP partner takes time – but we would argue that recruiting a member of staff takes longer. There’s the interview process, then short listing, then a second round of interviews if you didn’t find a suitable candidate the first time. Then you have to make an offer, and probably wait for the candidate to serve their notice period in their current role. Once you finally have them within your organisation, they are probably going to need an induction period during which they will need to familiarise themselves with the business and the various processes before they can get stuck into any meaty projects. ERP consultants are likely to have a well-established and repeatable process which will enable them to hit the ground running in any business. This of course includes getting to know your business, but the exposure they have had to a variety of businesses and experience they have analysing and streamlining processes should make this initial part of the project that much smoother, and ultimately enable you to get going on the “doing” of the project much quicker.
On the one hand, you might say that having your own in-house specialist (or team of specialists) gives you constant and consistent access to resource in this area. They are on your payroll and accountable to your business only. An ERP consultancy has other clients, and you cannot control whether they work overtime or whether they will be available on a particular day to solve a challenge or answer a question. Then again, when it comes to in-house specialists, the same thing tends to happen in every business – someone is bought in to do a specific role, and inevitably they end up being pulled onto something else. You may recruit someone specifically to run with an ERP implementation project, but you would be very lucky if they get to maintain laser-like focus on that project. As they are likely to be a valuable technical resource, you may find them being pulled onto other projects or tasks at the C Suite level, and because it’s what the business needs – NOW – you have little control over when and how this happens. An external ERP consultant is an ERP consultant 24/7 – you have commissioned them to do a job, they have given you a timeline, maybe even signed up to an SLA – so it’s contractual commitment vs. best endeavours. Another point to note is around sickness or absence. If your internal ERP specialist is unexpectedly absent, that could put the brakes on your project, or rob you of critical support for your ERP system. Due to contractual commitment (as mentioned above), an external consultancy will have issues like this covered – it is their problem to solve, not yours.
A different perspective
One advantage of having an in-house ERP specialist is that after a period of time, they will know the business inside out. They will have had exposure to most of if not all of the business functions, in-depth understanding of the current system and processes, and an idea of how to get things pushed through and signed off. On the other hand, bringing in an external consultant may give you a fresh perspective on the situation. Having someone examine and critique your processes who is not entrenched in the politics and the “we’ve always done it this way” of the business can help you uncover new opportunities you could have missed before.
Whatever your decision, we would be happy to provide the support that gets you where you need to be with your ERP project. Whether that’s full end-to-end project consultation, implementation and roll-out, or just a helping hand for your internal resource, we can help. If you would like to chat about an upcoming project, get in touch.