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Consultant or Contractor: What’s the Difference?

SMC ERP implementation partners
Posted by: Jamon Johnston on
June 28, 2021

SMC: ERP Implementation Partners

The implementation of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is one of the most significant strategic initiatives an organisation can embark on. It is a highly skilled team-based activity with major impacts on an organisation, hence it is crucial to have an experienced and effective lead Consultant for this major endeavour. SMC are proven ERP implementation partners.

The entire digital transformation project could be put at risk without experienced and competent project managers involved and there are plenty of industry statistics around detailing failed projects and the reasons attributed to those failures. One critical reason is the capabilities and experience of those engaged in the implementation.

When a business starts this journey, often they will be working through decisions about who to engage, that is a Consultant Project Manager (Consultant PM) or a Contractor Project Manager (Contractor PM). Hopefully, this article will provide you with food for thought on making that all important call for this critical organisational initiative. Let’s face it, getting this major strategic project right, can set up a business up for years and will be a legacy to all involved. Getting it wrong, will not.

Consultant PM or Contractor PM; what’s the difference? 

Quite simply, when you engage a Consultant PM, their role is to evaluate the needs of the client’s and provide expert advice and opinion on what needs to be done. It is essentially a leadership position. Like any team-based activity, there needs to be an experienced lead for the project to function well and achieve outcomes.

The role of a Contractor PM on the other hand is to do a general evaluation for the client and then perform the work based on their assigned responsibilities. It is not a lead position and the skills and experience necessary are often lacking.

Oftentimes, many Contractor PMs claim they also have skills for multiple roles: Project Manager, Change Manager, DM Lead etc. However, be warned, each of these roles are vastly different and it’s not necessarily a ‘one cap fits all’ solution for you. These roles are specailised in nature and each one requires professionals with unique capabilities and deep experience in order to get the results you desire.

Such is the case for many of our clients who have engaged SMC as Consultant PMs and ERP implementation partners. Having a large team of specialists that we can call on for advice and assistance has been highly valued by our clients as the project develops: ERP experts, project managers, change managers, business analysts, data analytics, test managers and consultants. This wealth of expertise adds value to every aspect of your ERP journey. Each role, although individually specialised brings its expertise and knowledge to the team as a whole, integrating with others to achieve the outcome envisioned.

Working client-side and representing your interests is paramount in these major digital projects. Some Contractor PMs rely on vendors and partners for work. This often creates biases that conflict with your best interests which is not ideal. SMC prides itself on being 100% independent. This is a critically important factor because it means we represent your organisation’s interest, not the vendor as could be the case when you engage a Contractor PM.

SMC Experience 

SMC Consulting PMs have proven, holistic methodology and critical IP for all ‘client-side’ activities, deliverables, lessons learned, tools and accelerators that constitute good practices based on hundreds of successful implementations and our expert resources.

Further, having rescued numerous digital transformation projects that have been fraught with problems, it’s our experience that Contractor PMs will often revert to their strengths during a project meltdown. This means that they relegate responsibilities to others, and in the worst of cases, neglect responsibilities entirely. This is a recipe for digital transformation disaster.

A Consultant PM on the other hand, as a project lead expert will ensure that all those team members engaged for the implementation, perform and deliver on their accountabilities and so are able to hedge against project risk. It is imperative that this person has a background in successful ERP implementation work and is someone who can take ownership, is willing to put their reputation on the line, and can lead.

Sometimes, a decision-makers within a business will consider using someone internally. Although this is admirable, our experiential evidence shows otherwise. This resource, as with a Contractor PM decreases the chances of a successful outcome significantly.

At SMC our Consulting PMs take full ownership of the digital implementation projects we work on. We take the role of Project Leader seriously, providing you with expert governance and insights for all aspects of this major undertaking to lower the risks to you, every step of the way. We cannot stress enough how crucial it is to have a Consultant PM, who is an ERP specialist involved.

We have a history of successful ERP implementations and it is the reason why we exist. That and having witnessed the carnage of ERP projects by less experienced, less capable contractors, albeit with the best intentions.

It’s wise to remember that old adage ‘save now, pay later’, because in our experience that is just what occurs when organisations try to cut the budget for ERP project implementations. A Contractor PM may be cheaper initially, but your investment could very well turn into a world of pain without the experience and expertise that Consultant PMs bring to the project. It’s just not worth the risk for your ERP implementation.

SMC are proven ERP implementation partners.

SMC is a 100% independent consultancy that specialises in enterprise software to enable your digital future.