Should I go with a generalist or specialist? When you want some work done, a project completed, or a problem fixed, that’s a question you’ll often ask. In some instances a generalist is the best choice, while in others only a specialist will do—the family doctor for an annual check-up, a cardiologist for heart problems, a general contractor when you’re building a house, a plumber when you have a leaky pipe. When you’re about to embark on an enterprise resource planning (ERP) project and are comparing ERP vendors, you’ll be making a similar decision. Is a large, globally recognized firm with thousands of employees the best match, or is a smaller firm with a specific business focus the better choice? Who will best meet your needs?
Comparing ERP Vendors: Big Generalist or Small Specialist?
In the case of ERP, generalists are the big consulting firms, those who have the breadth of experience and personnel to take on major ERP implementations. If you’re doing an enterprise-wide ERP implementation, they are a likely choice. In this type of engagement, you’ll be working with a large team that covers all the bases, implementing multiple modules touching almost every line of business. Big consulting firms take an enterprise-wide approach, employing dozens of consultants with varying ranges of individual skills and experience, and favor a defined reporting hierarchy to track project progress in accordance with your timeline.
So when might a smaller, specialized ERP vendor be preferable? When you have very specific ERP implementation needs—integration of a new module into an existing ERP system or if you require proven, in-depth industry expertise to implement modules in a new ERP rollout—you’re wise to select the specialist.
Regardless of the size of your organization or the scope of your implementation project, let’s take a few minutes to consider the advantages of working with a small, specialized ERP vendor. Because these implementations are often ERP module-specific, in the discussion that follows we’ll use the example of an SAP Global Trade Services (GTS) module integration to highlight the advantages.
Small and Specialized Offers Better Communication and Faster Implementation
There are distinct advantages in working with a small vendor who has a specialized ERP focus. First, communications are direct and unencumbered by the bureaucracy inherent in a large consulting team. A small team ensures good communication both among consulting members and with you as the client. When you have questions, concerns, and perspectives to share, you take them directly to the people doing the work. Communications are not filtered or distorted by layers of project management, making a small, specialized consulting team inherently more responsive to client needs.
Second, to be competitive and successful, a smaller, specialized ERP consulting firm hires employees with proven expertise and further enhances their skills with continuous compliance- and global trade-specific best-practice training. Unlike a big firm, a smaller firm is not an on-ramp for entry-level employees seeking experience. A small, specialized ERP vendor employs professionals with years of hands-on, in-the-trenches, technical and business experience. This wealth of knowledge brings mature insight and practical perspective to guide an implementation project to success.
Third, with a sustained focus on a specific area of ERP implementation, consultants develop an ever-deepening expertise regarding all facets (including typical problems) of that particular implementation process. As a small team, this knowledge is readily shared among other members, and most importantly, diligently employed to design the optimal solution, anticipate and remedy any problems during implementation, and deliver results tailored to your needs.
You Need Business Knowledge and Technical Knowledge
A consultant who possesses both business knowledge and technical knowledge of ERP modules applies this knowledge to evaluate your business’s particular needs. The consultant then determines where, when, and how specific ERP capabilities should be applied. Any implementation of Global Trade Services (GTS), for example, needs to begin with a thorough understanding of your trade process, from sourcing to destination. Equally important is the determination of which of the myriad global regulations apply to your trade processes.
Hands-on experience with GTS module functionality, relevant ERP integration points, a thorough understanding of import/export rules and regulations, and experience in using online government resources like Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) and the Harmonized Tariff Schedule are just a few of the competencies that an experienced consultant brings. Only a skilled consultant specializing in global trade services possesses the wealth of knowledge required to orchestrate specific GTS functionality to address your global trade needs. It’s that type of expertise that a small, focused ERP vendor provides.
The Added Value of Certified Expertise
ERP consulting firms with focused areas of expertise often complement their staff with employees that fall outside of the traditional technical/business consulting realm. Their skills bring added benefit and value in fine-tuning any solution. For example, in the practice of global trade, a licensed customs broker brings certified expertise regarding entry procedures, product classification and valuation, admissibility requirements, duties, applicable taxes, and fees.
The additional level of detailed expertise brought by these employees further ensures that your trade processes are compliant with current regulations. Given the stringent focus and stiff sanctions that governments are placing on global trade, guidance provided by a licensed customs broker can equate to significant financial savings (via avoiding fines and sanctions) and greater efficiency in trade processes.
Compelling Reasons to Work With a Small ERP Vendor
When comparing ERP vendors, consider these additional reasons why a small ERP integrator with a specialized business focus and module-specific integration experience is best qualified to meet your needs.
- Highly-refined and proven implementation methodology. From the initial meeting to final sign-off, a smaller company’s methodology has been developed and perfected as the result of its executives being involved in its dozens to hundreds of successful implementations.
- Membership in associations such as American Association of Exporters & Importers (AAEI) and International Compliance Professionals Association (ICPA) provides further evidence of the vendor’s specialized focus and commitment.
- Best practice and procedure recommendations—based on the latest software functionality, understanding of current rules and regulations, lessons learned from previous implementations, and an intimate understanding of your business practices.
- Rigorous testing before final sign-off that virtually guarantees the solution delivers the required functionality with zero defects.
- Client independence through detailed documentation of integration points and processes, as well as hands-on training for IT staff and business users as part of the implementation process.
- Direct communication with the C-suite and the assurance they are closely involved in the success of your project.
A small, specialized ERP vendor is not “all things to all people.” A small, specialized vendor limits its project scope and excels in delivering those services. Sustained focus on specific business areas and a team of highly-skilled professionals are essential qualities of an exceptionally well-qualified consulting firm.
A Small, Specialized ERP Vendor Focused on Your Success
If you are comparing ERP vendors in preparation for a GRC or GTS implementation, or are currently struggling with a disappointing prior implementation, contact us today. At Pinary, our team of experienced specialists would welcome the opportunity to learn about your needs and discuss how we can help you achieve success.
Pinary, Inc. is an SAP Partner and ASUG Member. As a small, specialized firm we focus on global trade services (GTS). With more than 20 years of SAP experience, we have established an enviable 100% implementation success rate. Reach out to us today to start the conversation.