Pitfalls to Avoid During the RFP Evaluation Process: A Christmas Analogy

Selecting an ERP System Integrator can be a lot like getting a Christmas present – sometimes it comes with unexpected setbacks.

On Christmas morning, the excitement is almost palpable as children tear the wrapping paper off their presents until they finally see the one gift they wanted more than anything else.  That Barbie dream house!  That remote-controlled car!  That Lego Death Star set!  That shiny new bicycle!

And then the unthinkable happens…

Barbie’s house doesn’t look like it did on TV: Barbie has nowhere to sit and there’s no convertible…in fact, there isn’t much of anything.  That remote-controlled car takes batteries that you don’t have in the house.  The Death Star is missing pieces as if Lego Luke already took his shot.  And Dad had to get his toolbox to put together the bike that came in a box.

The good news is that these setbacks are usually temporary and relatively easy to solve.  Some require a small additional investment in batteries, others provide future gift opportunities, while some gave Dad an excuse to buy new tools.  Regardless, that initial euphoria was replaced with frustration and melancholy as expectations were put on hold.

The lessons learned from these dream-crushing surprises can be applied to some of the pitfalls you want to avoid during your RFP process for selecting your ERP Systems Integrator (SI).  Think of ERP like that present that you couldn’t wait for on Christmas morning but with more moving parts than the coolest bike, more add-on modules than Barbie’s Dream House, and more tools than a quick trip to Sears can hope to solve.  Not to mention that it’s a LOT more expensive than that Death Star…

Accessories Sold Separately

Don’t get fooled by the commercial: that Dream House is probably more expensive than you think.  Proposals typically include a broad range of services from your SI, and you need to clearly understand which ones are included, which ones are recommended, and which ones are little more than advertisements for capabilities that they are more than willing to provide (for an additional fee).

For example, automated testing and data profiling services are often proposed by the SI, but they are not always included in the actual scope of the proposal.  Furthermore, SIs like to tout their capabilities around new technology and initiatives like SAP Leonardo, but things like Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Machine Learning, and Big Data almost certainly cost extra.  At best, you are probably getting some “technology workshops” as part of the proposal.  These can undoubtedly be valuable, but their primary purpose is to dazzle your team (and your executives) with the power of these technologies vis-a-vis your solution…so that they can upsell you.

Some Assembly Required

No one buys a Lego set and expects it to come fully assembled. In fact, it’s understood that the assembly is part of the experience.  So too with ERP, there are a lot of parts that need to come together to get you from Explore to Go-Live.  That being said, it’s not the expected work that is the issue.  It’s the surprises that create problems, and while there’s no way to know that your box of Legos is missing some pieces until you open it, you can validate that everything agreed to during the proposal phase ends up in the Statement of Work (SOW). This won’t guarantee that you have everything you need, but it will ensure you at least get everything you expected.

In addition, you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of the tools required to complete the project.  While the SI will typically bring their own toolsets for managing the project, change management, and documentation management and control, things like Agile development tools, testing tools, and ETL licenses are usually the responsibility of the client.  So even though Dad often welcomed a reason to go shopping for new tools, you probably won’t feel the same about procuring additional licenses for your team mid-project.

Batteries Not Included

Batteries are to toys just like people are to your ERP project.  To make sure that you have the right number of people (eight AAAs vs six) as well as the right types of skillsets (9 Volts vs D cells), the first thing you need is a holistic estimate from your SI regarding the participation expectations from your company.  It should include not only estimates for shared responsibilities, but also their best estimates for the activities you have full accountability for like data cleansing, legacy remediation, and infrastructure. Furthermore, methodologies and deployment plans will typically vary from one proposal to another, and it’s important to understand how these differences will impact the resource requirements from your organization.

As an example, think about assembling that new bike.  Assuming that Dad has everything he needs to put it together, what happens if your brother and sister both got bikes too?  Dad can only do one bike at a time, so two of you are going to have to wait.  Similarly, if the proposed deployment plan for your project is contingent upon having three “Dads” simultaneously, you had better understand where the other two resources are coming from.

This is where insisting upon a role-based, time-phased staffing model from your SI is absolutely essential.  It will give you a view of the skillsets you need, the amount of capacity needed for each skillset, and the timing of the requirements.  Getting any of these wrong will translate to project delays later on as you either scramble to find the right people internally or go to the store (SI) to buy extra batteries (their resources).

Another practice that we recommend for large projects like ERP is to make internal staffing someone’s full-time job, even during the RFP phase.  This way, the appropriate plans and strategies for backfilling are coordinated with the areas of the business that will need to provide the “batteries” for the project.  It’s simply not realistic to show up with requests for SMEs and analysts two weeks before they are needed, and planning needs to start as early as possible so that the ramp-up of your internal team does not become the trigger for a change order.  Because as we all know, “batteries” only work in one device at a time: you can’t use one set of batteries to power your remote-controlled car and your clock at the same time.

Patience and proper planning go a long way.  No matter what is on your ERP SI “wishlist”, there is always the risk of running into setbacks that can threaten your Go-Live and/or result in change orders.  Keep these common pitfalls in mind as you prepare your team for the RFP evaluation process and you’ll not only be able to set more realistic expectations but you’ll also increase your chances of getting the partner and solution you were hoping for.

Follow me on Twitter @sstamp_ue.  Find my other UpperEdge blogs and follow UpperEdge on Twitter and LinkedIn.  Learn more about Project Execution Advisory Support.

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