It’s really important to understand when you hire a consultant, they don’t "do" a business process - they facilitate it. The systems that a consultant is helping you to implement is one that your team will use day in, day out. It’s really key that the users have a solid grasp on what they need to do and are able to do it.
There have been many studies done on software, both ERP and even Microsoft products. A typical user uses just a fraction of the functionality of any software package that’s deployed. In some cases that can be to the detriment of the company because there are more efficient ways of doing things.
A good example of this is spreadsheets. Consultants see spreadsheets in many companies they go to, even companies that run ERP systems have little side spreadsheets where people are tracking information on their own.
Those people who create the spreadsheet are the only ones that understand how these spreadsheets, which typically contain critical business information, operate and are set up. If they’re not around, others can’t get that information or won’t understand it. It is a situation like this that a fully implemented and fully used ERP system is meant to counter.
Consider an example of a warehouse management system in one company. Nobody believed any of the information in the ERP system. The transactions were never up to date. Goods receipts, shipping out of stock, transfers of inventory were all entered after-the-fact. No one cared when information got entered into the system.
Basically, what would happen is a sales person would take an order. The client would say, “Well, how many of these do you have on hand?” They wouldn’t even bother looking it up. Instead, they’d say, “Well, I’ll have to get back to you,” or they’d guess.
The company might take and order based on the information that came back. But if the information was wrong and there wasn’t enough stock to satisfy the order, the company would end up with an upset customer. One who may not want to do business with them in the future.
What happened with this company was a consultant worked with them to implement a full warehouse management system in which all of the users were provided with handheld units so all of the inventory could be barcoded.
What resulted was a company that went from zero belief in any of their inventory to complete, zealous belief in every single inventory item that they had on hand. What this means is that the warehouse people really took pride in making sure that everything was barcoded, everything was received, and everything, as it was received, was accurately entered into inventory.
The inventory information could, in fact be trusted, no questions asked. So, when the sales orders came in and that order entry person was on the phone with the customer, they could say, “Yes, absolutely. I can guarantee we have X amount on stock and that we can get that to you within two days.”
It went from a discouraged workforce to a zealous workforce. Their core business did not change much, but the process improved by 10%. That 10% all took place with the warehouse management system, which, in turn, revolutionized that company.
The story you just read is one example of how a consultant can create lasting value in an organization. But, there are there other ways that consultants can create lasting value.