This blog from Sapphire Systems…
For many businesses, summer means it’s time to reconsider your business software installation services provider. If you’re considering a new business software partner/reseller/consultant, here are six areas to probe when evaluating if a new partner has the ideal qualities for a successful relationship.
They include: Partner size/stability, Global reach, Telephone support capability & SLAs, Support for add-on products, Ability to customise around your software, Facilitation of customer-to-customer knowledge sharing.
Let’s look at the ideal characteristics of a partner in each area:
Your ERP system is the lifeblood of your company and critical to working efficiently and remaining agile. So, just as you need a stable system, you need a stable vendor to support and upgrade it. Don’t tie your success to a three-person operation or a firm with a short operating history; look for a partner with decades of ERP installation and support experience and with customer case examples to prove it. They should be able to present a well-thought-out approach that shows they understand the challenges of implementation.
There are two significant upsides to choosing a partner with global reach to install and support your business software. Even if your company doesn’t operate globally, a partner that does can introduce best practices from around the world. For example, your new regulation/compliance issue that could affect your business processes and workflows – a partner who has dealt with fast-evolving regulations in the European Union would likely offer more valuable insights regarding compliance.
If you operate in multiple countries, a partner with global reach is a must, not just an advantage. Operating on more than one continent means you’ll need 24-hour global support, and a partner with:
Real-time telephone and online help
A support portal (to log, track, and amend calls)
Support on six continents (assuming you don’t operate in Antarctica)
Finally, the best partners have proactive support and offer content based on their knowledge of the industry, including eLearning webinars, fact sheets, and hints & tips documents that demonstrate their understanding of life with the software post-installation.
Telephone support capability & SLAs
When your system has issues or you need to implement a change or exception immediately, you must speak to a support person quickly; when you get that support person on the line, you need them to provide expert advice. Too often, partners offer front-line telephone support staff who lack product and installation expertise, but you need expert help over the phone and SLAs to back them up.
The criteria a partner should display with telephone support include:
24-hour availability around the globe
Experienced and knowledgeable tier-1 support staff
In-house handling of all queries
Similar SLAs for support across continents
SLAs are a perfect litmus test for evaluating if a partner will back up their installation to ensure your operations run smoothly.
Add-on products support
An experienced partner will be comfortable supporting add-on products for your business use cases. Recognizing that most software benefits from third-party specialty add-ons, your partner should be able to point to customers who have leveraged the partner’s skill in both recommending and installing add-ons. Query your potential partners about providing add-ons throughout the life of the product, not simply during deployment. For example, if warehouse management is critical to your success, ask about implementing add-on modules focused on warehouse optimization. Think about the functions you want to optimize and judge potential partners’ suggestions for add-on products to do so.
Ability to customise around your software
While modern ERP software platforms ‘pack a punch’ out of the box, your unique processes either give you a competitive advantage or simply make you more efficient. You shouldn’t have to adjust the way you do business to the software – your partner should know how to customise the software to the way you want to do business. Inquire about partners’ willingness and charges around customisation; they should be able to provide customer examples of successfully customised ERPs.
Facilitation of customer-to-customer knowledge sharing
Sometimes, the best source for learning how to manage issues and optimise your deployment come from industry peers who have tackled the same challenges. The more modern a product, the more useful you’ll find peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. Choose a partner who regularly facilitates your contact with other customers at venues like user groups and conferences. In addition, the partner ideally hosts customer/user sessions, wherein the partner organization provides experts to host discussions, panels, and even online events to teach you optimal ways to manage your solution.
Choosing the right partner to perform your business software installation should involve an evaluation that reaches beyond the initial implementation – you need a partner who consistently delivers everywhere in the world and with the SLAs to back up their promises.