What projects are currently pending and do they offer a higher ROI than the ERP upgrade? Re-assigning resources to an upgrade at the expense of ROI should be avoided, even if it means bringing in outside consultants.
But the decision to use outside resources should not be viewed as purely a cost issue. Rather, it should be viewed as a way to realize ROI from other projects in a timely manner. If that justification doesn't hold up, you're probably going to be handling the upgrade internally.
The latter is a great way to lower the cost, yet still maintain control, and is a good compromise between totally outsourcing the project and handling it entirely in-house.
Do you typically outsource to the software vendor, or do you utilize another resource such as a staffing company? While vendors do have the most expertise with their applications, they can also carry a price tag that is three times more than an IT staffing company.
Plus, many of the consultants who were laid off by vendors in the lean years are now with staffing companies, or they contract with the vendors to handle upgrade projects, which means that consultants with recent upgrade experience are readily available without having to pay vendor prices.
Choose Your Partner
If the decision is made to outsource some or all of an ERP upgrade, the next critical step is to select the right partner. There are a number of key things to look for, including:
Experience with the software: Whether it's PeopleSoft, Oracle or SAP, you want a firm with a solid track record of handling projects involving the same software you'll be asking them to upgrade.
Experience with projects of a similar size and scope: Make sure the firm you ultimately select can show you not only consultants who are very experienced, but who also have successfully (and recently) completed projects similar to yours.
A sufficient pool of qualified IT talent from which to draw: Select a firm that has the appropriate level(s) of talent for your particular project and can dedicate those consultants for the duration of the project (and sometimes longer).
When possible, request local candidates to save travel costs, but understand that finding candidates with specific experience levels can require a regional or national search.
References: Make sure that the staffing firm can provide references for the consultants that are specific to the upgrade in question, and check them carefully.
Very soon, most major ERP vendors will have succeeded in their mission to get clients upgraded to the newest supported level of their product, or they will be charging them significantly higher maintenance fees to continue supporting older versions. For the companies that are lagging behind, time is running out.
The good news for IT managers is that whether the issue is financial, personnel or both, those upgrades can still be completed on time and within budget if the time is taken to identify the best mix of internal and external resources for the project at hand.
Chris Egizi is vice president, Technology Consulting Services, with Kforce Technology, a full service professional staffing firm.