As a boutique, technology and partner agnostic consultancy, we spend our lives helping companies select and implement Cloud HR and Finance software including Oracle, SAP SuccessFactors and Workday. It can be confusing navigating through the 100+ systems on the market and understanding all their strengths and weaknesses but the one thing they all have in common is that some of their customers love them, and some of their customers cannot stand them. How can this be?!
Veran’s observation is that a business’ satisfaction with the software and the projects through which they’re implemented, is not dictated by the software chosen but the way it's implemented and the company's ability to adopt that new solution. How do you get that right? By choosing the right implementation partner.
I interviewed some of our team about how businesses make this choice and put together 4 key themes to be considered.
1. Flexibility vs. Challenge
Many businesses we talk to want to work with a partner who is ‘flexible’. What they mean is they want the partner to have empathy and to allow for changes to the timeline, design and payment terms if needed, which has become especially important given the uncertain market conditions brought about by Covid-19 and the sad fact that some Cloud customers have seen a 98% reduction in revenue almost overnight. So surely flexibility as a criteria for a partner is a no-brainer, right? Not always… increasing the duration of a project increases the cost, plus adding or changing the scope can too increase cost (which unsurprisingly financially benefits the implementation partner) and increases risk as your business potentially has to manage more change.
On the flip side, we hear many businesses saying they wish their partners would challenge them more and be less flexible, especially when it comes to adopting standard processes and keeping the design, reporting and integrations simple rather than letting them rebuild the complexities they suffer from today. Furthermore, having concrete milestones with the go-live date set in stone can make it easier for the internal project team to keep stakeholders on track and make timely decisions according to the plan.
Our recommendation is to establish the level of flexibility you are looking for on the measures in the image and then we can advise on which partners best match your preferences.
2. Pre-configured Solution vs Traditional Design & Build
Depending on the software you select, some implementation partners offer a ready-made version that companies can take ‘out of the box’. This has the advantage of being cheaper to purchase and implement but the disadvantage of requiring your business to change in order to fit that solution. Some software and implementation partners can only be designed using a more traditional methodology which means buying the software licences, designing each module, testing what the implementation partner has configured based on your design and then deploying your solution. Although this can be more costly, the benefit is the system may better meet your requirements seeing as you have designed it specifically for your business.
There is also some middle ground, this is where you can take the pre-configured solution and make some tweaks. How do you know which option is best for you? See where you land on these measures and we can recommend the best approach and the partners you should consider.
3. Industry Focus vs. Industry Agnostic
Another consideration worth discussing is how much specialist experience you would like your implementation partner to have in your industry sector. See highlighted the two options and their key advantages; which option is most important and relevant to you?:
An industry-focused implementation partner will have the advantage that they really understand the complexities, challenges and language used in your sector, and can bring insights into what your peers and competitors are doing. As described in point 3, they may also provide a proven solution which will meet sector-specific requirements such as rostering and scheduling for retail and hospitality or meeting regulations set out by the Financial Conduct Authority for banks, asset managers and insurers. In the same regard, these partners may become a bit complacent delivering the same solution over and over, almost like a cookie cutter approach.
Recently, businesses who we support are looking outside of their sector, wanting to be challenged, become more innovative and take lessons learnt from other industries such as:
- How do technology firms foster a culture of innovation?
- What can we learn from start-ups about agile working?
- How do retail businesses mass recruit and onboard seasonal staff?
- What can we learn from law firms about productivity and billing?
Thinking ‘outside the industry box’ creates opportunities for more radical success if your business is open to doing things a bit differently.
On the other hand, implementation with a partner who is not as familiar with your industry may take longer and may require more of your stakeholders’ time to help them understand the industry demands and terminology. And it may take your team longer to build trust in their consultants.
4. Big partner, Big cost vs. Boutique
Our fourth and final consideration when choosing a partner is whether you want a large named consultancy or a specialist boutique. Anecdotally, we hear big consultancies = big costs and we thought we would put that to the test.
We plotted publicly available day rates against number of employees to confirm that smaller partners generally offer lower costs.
Generally speaking the bigger the consultancy, the bigger the day rates. However, a lot of companies choose larger named consultancies for 2 main reasons:
1. Perceived lower risk: Business leaders and project sponsors often feel their personal risk is lower when they choose a big name because even if the project goes wrong, at least they chose a ‘safe’ brand.
Our view is that smaller firms actually have a higher stake in the game – every project has to be successful in order for them to survive and win more work. A single unhappy client could ruin their reputation. So, in our experience and certainly at Veran, smaller businesses are likely to take more care to ensure the project is a success because they have more to lose.
2. Perceived higher quality: Due to their big revenues, big firms can invest a lot in using offshore design teams and marketing specialists to create really beautiful outputs and sometimes businesses are glad to pay more for that result. On the other hand, many consultants move to boutiques or set up their own firms after being at the big auditors so know what they are up against and how to replicate this high standard of output. It is a bit harder than having specialist teams who do that as their day job but the client sees the same glossy deliverable.
We purposely benchmark our day rates at 25% below the big consultancies and would love to chat to you about how we can support your team through their next project.
In conclusion, the success of any programme is often dictated by the implementation partner, not the software chosen. We recommend you reflect on the scales and information we have provided to determine the attributes and suitability of your implementation partner.
For questions and enquiries, contact us on
+44 (020)3 858 7379 / firstname.lastname@example.org
"The project plan was brilliantly managed and constructed, largely by Veran. To get to where we are, problem free, in that short space of time and to replicate all the functionality we had was phenomenal. We set quite an aggressive target for ourselves, and we've achieved it.
I would have to say, hand-on-heart, to anyone who is looking to implement an HR system (most my peers don't have their own in house HR teams), you absolutely need to use an external consultancy that's expert in this; it's very hard to do it successfully if you don't.
Veran was a great fit for us."
Kerry Christie, Head of HR at Aberdeen Asset Management