When an ERP software system implementation fails, sometimes it’s because the vendor told a potential buyer that its round peg would fit into the user’s square hole in order to make the sale. But maybe even more often, the failure is because the integrator either did not fully understand the user’s industry or business, the client’s relationship with its supply chain, customers and employees, or how the digital transformation was intended to improve corporate performance.

As an ERP software system attorney who has litigated disputes between users and integrators, we’ve learned from experience that many of the larger integrators are very good at selling their services but are not nearly as good at delivering what is in their marketing material, sales pitches and proposals. Sometimes, they oversell their capability.

Choosing the right ERP integrator is as important as selecting the correct ERP vendor. As is the case with vendors, price seldom should be the ultimate determining factor. Here are the six critical criteria every company needs to keep in mind when considering which integrator will be involved in upgrading a legacy ERP software system or installing one for the first time.

1 – Define the Critical Criteria. Know what you want to buy. Some integrators take the approach that they alone are qualified to tell you what you need to purchase. Know whether a global partner is needed to support and work in multiple countries or if a boutique firm with deep but specialized knowledge is more important.

2 – Find the Right People. Beyond merely reading the bios on a website or in a proposal, see if the people used by the integrator have the methodology and tools needed for the size and scope of your project. Don’t neglect looking for what is repeatable from their other assignments that will mesh with the needs and requirements of your specific implementation.

3 – Experience in Your Industry. It is extremely beneficial for the integrator to have handled successful projects in your industry or sector, or in businesses close enough to what you do to have acquired transferrable knowledge. When reviewing proposals, look hard for challenging projects they’ve handled and how they dealt with unexpected problems when the implementation project required changes.

4 – Depth of Their Resources. A deep reservoir of reserve talent is important but this is available to many integrators, not simply the large entities such as Accenture. While you need to know the strength of the bench, also ask about how often and for what tasks the integrator brings in third-party subcontractors, what access you’ll have to both staff working on the project day-to-day as well as to upper echelon executives when you have a question or concern. Finally, make sure that there’s a good cultural fit between the integrator and your organization.

5 – Approach to ERP Implementation. Different integrators take different approaches to their assignments. Beyond whether your integration will be done by a dedicated, full-time team or be accomplished by part-time resources depends partly on the size of your project. More important are things such as including a change management package, using a certified Project Manager through the implementation, having an industry-specific model to drive key metrics, providing critical reports during the process, and your participation in the design, data conversion and integration phases.

6 – Post-Implementation Support. Frequently, this is overlooked yet post-implementation problems can result in production downtime, accounting or payroll issues and day-to-day business operations. Know how many people will provide support after “go live” and whether they’re inhouse or contract personnel. What kind of ongoing information will be provided about performance data? What service level is appropriate the needs to be negotiated and written into the contract with the integrator.

Key Differences in Integrators

A simple fact-of-life is that not all integrators are created equal, and some are less equal than others.

An effective way to choose an integrator is employing an outside consultant to help you create an RFP, weigh the various proposals and sit at the table asking hard questions as you interview finalists.