By Glenn Hofmann, KES Managing Director
When deploying an ERP solution such as NetSuite, an important decision is whether to work directly with the software provider or work through a partner. As a NetSuite partner, we naturally lean toward recommending the latter option. However, we know from experience that even when an organization does decide to work with a partner, they often do not fully consider the importance of choosing the right partner for their organization. This is not a “one size fits all” decision, as different partners make more sense for different organizations. While some organizations may simply look to get the “safe” partner with the most implementations or the “cheapest” partner with the lowest quote, the reality is that choosing the right partner is just as important as choosing the right ERP solution. So with this in mind, I have outlined what I believe are the four most important qualities when choosing your NetSuite partner.
1. They have a proven NetSuite deployment track record and an in depth understanding of leading practices for your industry
You will use NetSuite for years to come (we like to say it is the last ERP your organization will ever need to buy!). Over time, technology will change, your business will evolve, and it’s very likely that even your industry as a whole could change in significant ways. With this being said, it’s important to choose a NetSuite partner that has proven staying power and that you can be confident will be there to support you for the long term. So, ask lots of questions. How long have they been in business? How long have they worked with NetSuite? How many implementations have they done? Be sure to ask for references, as any reputable partner will be willing to share these.
Once you are comfortable that the partner is a solid organization with good NetSuite credentials, the next thing to verify is that they understand your industry. This is important, as you want a partner that will help guide you towards leading practices for your industry. This often means rethinking some of your current processes as well as planning for future add-ons. Even if the partner sounds like they know NetSuite well, they will not be able to help unlock the full value of NetSuite for you if they do not understand your business processes. This can result in extra costs, workarounds, needless customizations, and often using less than the full capabilities of NetSuite.
2. They offer the full breadth of services you need to support both the implementation and your long-term vision
In general, an ERP project is not a one-time transaction. You should look beyond the partner just helping with the core NetSuite “enablement”, and consider if they will work well as an actual long-term partnership. This is especially true if you have a complex environment or foresee changes to your business in the future. Ideally your NetSuite partner should be your true “business systems” partner with knowledge and services that go well beyond core configuration. Example of services that you may want to validate as being available from your potential NetSuite partner include:
- Core NetSuite Configuration
- Project Management
- Data migration
- Customizations (workflows/scripting)
- Customized Training
- System Integrations (internal or external)
- 3rd Party Solution Relationships
- Post Go Live Support
- Annual Health Checks
- Release Impact Analysis
- Strategic Planning
- Accounting Services
While a number of these may not be important for your organization, for any that are, you should confirm that your potential partner can provide these. Otherwise you may be forced to change partners at some point or have to work with multiple partners, neither of which is ideal.
3. They have a good cultural fit with your organization
In addition to being knowledgeable and experienced, you want to work with a partner where you feel like your businesses are culturally similar. Every organization has a unique culture, and since your NetSuite partner will be a long-term relationship, you want a partner whose culture aligns with yours. Working with a partner that shares a similar work ethic and style will have a big impact on ensuring a smooth implementation. Culturally similar organizations will have better communication and can avoid vague or unreasonable project expectations. This is an important aspect of the partner selection process that is often overlooked.
You want to ensure you feel comfortable with your NetSuite partner, and that they truly are your partner, not just your software provider. Cultural fit is hard to define because it is largely subjective. Cultural fit is that “gut feeling” that you will be able to work with the partner team without any major clash of project approach or personalities. It is a mix of values, behaviors, and unspoken rules that helps you answer key questions such as whether you trust them and feel comfortable around their people. Chances are before your NetSuite implementation is complete that you will have interacted with many people on the partner team. All of your conversations and interactions should be positive, from the salesperson who began the conversation to the implementation team to the support desk. So, if in early conversations you feel uneasy or don’t get a sense of confidence with every interaction, you may want to consider if this partner is the right fit. Oftentimes, a gut feeling can be quite revealing, and if there are concerns at the start, these concerns will quite likely just grow over time.
4. They are humble and listen to your team
With this partner quality, I am going to go back to my days as an IT leader and a personal pet peeve of mine when a new consulting vendor would come knocking. A huge turn off for me was explaining my business and challenges for an hour or two with this potential partner and then immediately have them start to tell me all the ways I should be running my business differently. Somehow the years I had put into understanding our industry, my company, and my people were irrelevant, and all problems would be solved if I ignored everything I had learned and just listened to the partner. Sound familiar?
Your NetSuite partner should listen to your team and leverage your team’s knowledge through the requirements process. The partner is there to lead the discussion and interactively discuss where your processes may not be aligned with leading practices. They should also understand that each business is unique, with their own needs, so there are valid reasons to need customized processes that may be outside of leading practices. Before engaging with a potential NetSuite partner, you ideally will have already collaborated with key internal stakeholders to identify the challenges within your organization’s systems/processes and then express these to your potential partner. A good partner will dig further to better understand and help guide, rather than to immediately tell you what you need to change.
Most importantly, even if a partner is completely knowledgeable of NetSuite and your industry, there is not a chance that they do, or ever will, understand your business better than you. They should use your knowledge to design a great solution, rather than dismiss your knowledge and force you down a path that they already have in mind.
Hopefully the above provides some insight and guidance as you look to engage a partner for your NetSuite implementation. If you follow the above and make sure that your potential NetSuite partner matches on all four qualities, there is a very good chance that you have made the right decision and can move forward with your NetSuite implementation with confidence.