The Hidden Perils of Hiring Freelance ERP Consultants – Part 2
In part one of this two-part series, we discussed some of the pitfalls of hiring lone-ranger ERP consultants to manage and maintain mission-critical software systems. Like a homeowner who hires a neighborhood handyman to do electrical work, that approach can be a roll of the dice. While it might work well some of the time, there are some substantial risks and drawbacks to working with freelance ERP consultants.
In part one of this series, we covered some of the potential downsides to hiring a solo operator:
- Independent consultants are generalists, so they often lack the specialized skills needed to get a job done quickly, efficiently, and correctly. They are jacks-of-all-trades, but masters of none.
- Independents don’t have access to formal training or pre-release versions of the software. They rely on on-the-job training, which is usually paid for by you, the client.
- Solo operators have little or no visibility to the vendor’s roadmap. They typically don’t understand the bigger picture, so they’re not in a position to advise clients with a clear view to what is on the horizon.
Now let’s look at some additional concerns that arise when ERP customers hire cut-rate freelancers:
Freelancers Can’t Necessarily Stand Behind Their Work
What happens when a solo ERP consultant does something that causes a problem for your company? If it’s a minor issue, chances are they can fix it; but what if it’s something more serious?
Mistakes happen, but when a contractor’s actions result in lost data, a security breach, or work that needs to be scrapped and redone; you’ll be better off having a formidable organization behind you that can set things right.
An individual freelancer can only afford to spend so many hours on non-billable work, and it’s unlikely that they can afford to fix major problems if they should occur. If you were hiring a contractor to work on your home, chances are you’d want someone with adequate insurance coverage. The same principle should apply to work performed on your ERP system.
Reputable consulting organizations have the depth and breadth to make sure that job is done right; but if things ever do go wrong, we have the resources and management capacity to set things back on course.
Solo Operators Can’t Always Be There for You
What happens if your solo consultant gets sick, has a family emergency, or otherwise becomes unavailable on short notice? There are two typical problem scenarios here. The first is that the consultant is unavailable when you need them most, – during the peak season or in the middle of a critical IT project, for example.
The second scenario is potentially even worse; when a consultant walks out the door permanently without having fully documented their work, someone has to be called in to bring order to the resulting chaos. We’ve seen this happen countless times, and while organizations can always get through it, it can be a painful process.
Established consulting organizations, in contrast, can call upon additional team members to step in whenever they’re needed. Processes are in place to document what’s happening at each of our clients, and we’re accustomed to making sure that the handoff process goes smoothly whenever a transition is needed.
You May be At Risk of Violating Your EULA
ERP customers should also be aware of potential license violations and the problems they can cause.
ERP vendors are very protective of their reputations. When something goes wrong, it’s easy to point the finger at the software vendor, when in fact the problem often lies with the implementation. We have seen countless examples of customers who are utterly frustrated that “the software doesn’t work”, only to discover that somewhere along the way, someone has done a sub-standard job of configuring the system, formatting reports, or designing a business process.
With the right knowledge and a little bit of time, we have always been able to repair someone else’s bad implementation; but this speaks to a bigger concern that the ERP vendors grapple with; poorly qualified consultants are often the root cause of customer satisfaction.
That’s why most ERP vendors have provisions in their End-User License Agreement (EULA) designed to safeguard against misdirected blame. Chances are, your EULA states that work on your ERP system should only be performed by someone employed at your organization, or by a certified partner organization.
If you bring in a solo consultant, you risk violating your license agreement. That can have legal ramifications, including suspension of technical support and updates, or even financial penalties. Is it worth that risk to save a few dollars on your hourly rate?
Freelancers Can’t Be a Voice for You
It’s important to have an ally who can be an advocate for you with the software vendor.
Virtually every ERP software vendor works with a community of certified partners, – organizations that sell, implement, and maintain their software systems for clients. These partners meet rigorous requirements for training and certification across a spectrum of different disciplines, and must keep current with the most recent developments concerning the ERP product.
Authorized partners are in regular communication with the software vendor. Large software companies view their partner community as a critical link to their customers. Synergy Resources has regular access to high-level executives at the vendors that we work with. When we bring concerns to them, they listen to what we say. We can be an advocate for you in a way that a freelance consultant never could be.
Trusted Advisors for the Long Term
Synergy Resources is an established technology consulting firm that has been serving small and midsize businesses for nearly three decades. We’re proud to know that our customers see us as trusted advisors, along with their attorneys and CPAs.
We have a big-picture view of the technology landscape and where it’s headed. We understand what the vendors are planning for the next six months, two years, and beyond. We have helped hundreds of companies to realize tangible business benefits with the technology we sell and service.
We’re proud to bring that value to our customers, and we know that solo operators simply can’t provide that, – no matter how good they are.
Have concerns about work performed by a freelance ERP consultant? Contact us to discuss, we are here to help.