In this article, we will highlight the five key actions to ensure your perfect ERP purchase and implementation based on our experience of performing hundreds of NetSuite implementations. The five key actions include:
1. Be Very Cautious with Sales Reps
2. Control Implementation Costs with a Phase I: Design
3. Ensure You Buy the Right Amount of Software by Finishing the Phase I: Design Before Purchasing Software
4. Don’t over or under project management
5. Proper Testing and Accountability Always Result in a Smooth Cut Over
- Be Very Cautious with Sales Reps
Only work with a sales person who has implementation experience. The problem we’ve seen with sales reps who don’t have implementation experience is they will say whatever they need to close the deal – selling you the wrong amount ($) of software and implementation services. Then, the sales rep will forget about you and hand you off to the poor implementation team who has to tell you what was promised can’t be done or will cost significantly more than originally estimated.
A sales rep with implementation experience has seen a project from start to finish and has the knowledge to be able to be honest with a prospect during the sales process because they know the ramifications downstream and care about the on-going relationship.
At SCS Cloud, our sales team are all Certified NetSuite ERP Implementation consultants with years of implementation experience. Our sales team also helps with the solution architecture after the project is awarded in order to avoid you having to repeat your requirements and also to avoid having a bait and switch of resources to an implementation team you never met and/or qualified.
- Control Implementation Costs with a Phase I: Design
We treat an implementation like building a house. First you meet with the designer/builder and get an estimate (our sales process), then you complete the blueprints and get a revised estimate for the building (our Phase I: Design) and finally you build the house (our Phase II: Configuration).
However, most will provide a quote during the sales process and stick to that quote whether it is over what you need to spend or under. If it’s under, mid-way through the project when that implementation team runs out of hours, they will put pencils down until you agree to pay more.
In order to best control implementation costs, you need a thorough Phase I: Design before getting into the configuration of your software. A typical Phase I: Design lasts 40-80 hours and the deliverable is a formal document that depicts your business requirements and how they will be configured in NetSuite (all by process area). Now, before the project starts, we do let our customers know that Phase I: Design will be 40-80 hours (on average). We also quote the number of hours for the remaining project (Phase II: Configuration) based on the requirements we learned in the sales process. However, our statements of work (SOW) are always refined before the beginning of Phase II: Configuration to zero in on the correct number of hours from our original estimate. For example, maybe we quoted Phase II at 200 hours, but after the design learned your CRM requirements were less than we thought, so the whole Phase II should actually be 170 hours. Or the reverse would be, maybe we learned you needed some complex integrations that added 40 hours to the project. Either way, we build a bridge of hours from our initial Phase II quote to our new quote based on the requirements gathered and agreed upon in Phase I.
This approach is unique because, as mentioned before, most implementers quote you a price for the whole project up-front – yet I struggle to know how you can quote the cost to build a house before finishing the design. So, most customers wind up with lots of unplanned/explained change orders and lose control of the project costs because their implementation team runs out of hours mid project, but never had the conversation up-front that they needed more hours. So, you are held hostage to spend the additional money to keep the project going.
At SCS Cloud, there are never any surprises in costs because our approach is to work with our customers on their requirements and only provide quotes once we have all the details. Once we begin Phase II: Configuration there should be no surprises about the implementation fees whatsoever.
- Ensure You Buy the Right Amount of Software by Finishing the Phase I: Design Before Purchasing Software
This could arguably be the most important and frustrating point in this article. It amazes me how many NetSuite customers were sold the wrong amount of software. Most implementers will sell you the software before completing Phase I: Design. Going back to the building a house example, I always ask, how do you know how much building supplies you need before finishing the blue prints? The answer is you don’t.
The impact of buying software before the design is done is that your implementer is guessing on what you need and you wind up:
- Buying too much software and are stuck with the costs
- Buying too little software and the implementer has to come back later asking for more
The solution is simple – either don’t buy any software until Phase I: Design is completed or buy the bare minimum. Anyone who says you can’t do it this way, doesn’t have your best interests in mind – just their own commissions.
At SCS Cloud, we don’t need you to buy the software until our Phase I: Design is completed. This ensures you purchase the correct amount of software and delay the cash out flow until you are ready to start using it.
- Don’t over or under project management
I’ll start off by saying, project management is crucial to the success of any implementation. However, for most mid-market company implementations of NetSuite the project manager can often be the project executive overseeing the project and not a dedicated secondary resource who bills a ton of time yet adds little to no value because they don’t have NetSuite implementation experience (just project management experience).
NetSuite projects last 3-4 months on average and are not full time for the implementation team. So, often the project lead or his/her boss can act as the project manager. Without going down a rabbit hole, the key successful project management for a NetSuite project is:
- Tracking the key tasks (20-30 of them) with start/end dates, budget to actual hours and progress
- Hosting a every other week status update call to review the last two weeks accomplishments, the next two weeks objectives, budget vs actual and any risks/open items
- Facilitating communication if/when tasks get challenging. The project manager must be knowledgeable about NetSuite to best resolve. So, a project manager who doesn’t have implementation consulting experience winds up just blowing smoke.
At SCS Cloud, either one of our Executives (who are all seasoned and certified NetSuite ERP consultants) or project leads (also certified NetSuite ERP consultants) will project manage our implementations. They are already knee deep with the customer and can efficiently and effectively control the project to ensure things are progressing nicely. Our approach is to have our team leader who is in the fox hole with team project manage instead of an individual who doesn’t have the skillset sit in the fox hole, yet barks commands from somewhere else.
- Proper Testing and Accountability Always Result in a Smooth Cut Over
After experiencing 100 cut-overs/go-lives, there is nothing more satisfying than a smooth one. This is a two-way street – no one wants a rough cut-over, it never ends well. However, the good news and this isn’t just theory, it’s easy to ensure a smooth cut-over. The trick is very simple and deployed on all our implementations at SCS Cloud. We always require the client’s key users to sign off that they have fully and thoroughly tested NetSuite and are ready to cut-over. What this sign-off does is holds the key users accountable for properly, thoroughly and accurately testing the heck out of the system before going live. This all starts with users documenting all the test cases they can think of (we always provide a pretty comprehensive list to start with). Then, you will test each use case 3-4 times to really make sure it works as planned and you understand how to operate the system. Finally, you will be ready to sign off that testing is complete and you are ready to cut-over to NetSuite.
It is amazing how many companies skip testing or have no mechanism to hold their employees accountable for testing. Then, they have a horrible cut-over and the original implementation team is fired and often we are brought in to fix a mess.
From all of us at SCS Cloud, we hope that you find our 5 key action items of value for your next NetSuite (or any ERP) implementation. We truly believe if you follow our advice, you will have a great implementation experience. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for more information.