Consultants vs Contractors: What’s Best for ERP Training?

Whitepaper by:Nicky Cortes
Director of Training and Development

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) has become a business necessity, with the market expected to exceed $49.5 billion by 2024

Done correctly, ERP provides much-needed efficiency, enables control and enhances profitability. Despite this, however, many ERP projects fail to meet expectations. In fact, somewhere between 55% to 75% of all ERP projects fail to meet their objectives.² 

Too many companies take the view that ERP implementation begins and ends with commissioning the ERP system, and that ERP training is an optional extra. The reality is entirely different, and a successful ERP implementation requires effective end-user training from the outset. 

Even when the importance of training is understood, there is still a debate around the best approach to ERP end-user training, especially concerning the role of consultants and contractors. This article will define contractors and consultants, examine their benefits, and advise on scenarios each is best suited to.

Additional reading: For more resources on the planning and implementation of ERP end-user training, check out our free guide and templates — The ERP End User Training Plan Toolkit

What is a consultant?

A consultant is a person, more often than not part of a consultancy firm, like Optimum, that provides professional and expert advice to businesses that lack the required in-house knowledge and expertise for a specific project.

The service provided is usually linked to a defined outcome with agreed milestones or deliverables, and the supervision of the people involved is the responsibility of the consultancy business (or shared with the client).

The consultant company is responsible for ensuring timely delivery, quality and performance management of the people concerned. They may or may not be also located in the client’s offices.

A consultant will usually come from a business with people of similar skills and expertise, providing backup and specialist support. In many cases, an agreed amount of time will be negotiated before the beginning of any given project, thereby allowing a consultant to efficiently work the hours required by the client in order to meet their deadlines. 

There are a number of instances in which a business might decide that the best option is to hire an external consultant. These include:

  • When there are doubts surrounding timeframes, as it’s quick and simple to offboard consultants when timelines change or slip.
  • When an objective view of problems and/or solutions is required, as consultants can act as independent observers.
  • When internal politics get in the way, consultants are well placed to make progress as they are less vulnerable to sensitive situations in a working environment.
  • Retaining in-house teams or individuals can be expensive, and consultants can act as a more cost-effective solution.

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The benefits of using a consultant

Consultants are a far more budget-friendly option than hiring an entire in-house team. Any costs associated with them should be considered, especially at the early planning stage, as an investment in the project’s success. Trust your consultant, and they will use their expertise and experience to plan, develop and deliver your end-user training project accordingly.

Consultants can also help avoid common project delays, like scope creep, unclear requirements, and project timelines. This can be the difference between getting the project done well and just getting the project done. 

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits consultants can bring to bear:

  • Expert opinion: Consultant companies have a pool of expertise to provide insight and resources, and bring a pre-defined, proven and structured approach.
  • Objectivity: Consultants have a distance from internal business challenges, providing a far more objective perspective. Sometimes, employees are too close to a problem to identify the best way to solve it. In these cases, a consultant can be considered a catalyst for change.
  • Flexibility: Consultants can supplement existing staff requirements. Either for short-term training needs or longer-term relationships. They can also more easily add resources when needed.
  • Insight: Having worked in various industries and scenarios, consultants can bring new perspectives to a business that might not be present in-house.
  • Execution: Consultancy teams can be more focused and less distracted by internal tasks. The team approach also means if that individual is taken away, they have fully trained and experienced replacements ready to step in.

What is a contractor?

A contractor is someone employed by a business to perform a given task or project. They are usually hired to perform activities provided by an existing staff member, either in their regular day-to-day duties or by being seconded to a project.

The contractor is under the client’s direct supervision. As a result, the client is responsible for managing the contractor’s work risks, including quality assurance, timeliness of delivery, and general performance management. Clients will generally pay for a set amount of time from their contractor.

Contractors typically spend no more than 6 to 9 months on one project, although it is often in their financial interest to make it last as long as possible. Familiarity can make a contractor “part of the furniture,” and they can be retained when the burning need has passed.

There are various reasons why a business might hire a contractor:

  • To get specific skills and knowledge to help with an important project, such as ERP training.
  • To cover for short-term staff absence during crucial project stages.
  • To recruit a known individual with a specialist domain or industry experience.

The benefits of using a contractor

Hiring a contractor brings with it its own set of specific benefits to businesses. These include, but are not limited to:

  • An easy alternative to a full-time hire: A contractor is more straightforward to recruit than a permanent employee. Furthermore, they are usually available quickly, and there is a defined period to their contract.
  • Provide stand-ins: Contractors can act as stand-ins for permanent roles, keeping the seat warm until a permanent employee is hired or returns. 
  • Costs only attributable to projects: As contractors are charged against the project, you can expand the workforce without headcount implications.

Get the right support for your business

There are several aspects to be considered before deciding between consultants and contractors. These include:

  • How long will the work take?
  • What budget is available, and for how long?
  • What external expert guidance is required? 
  • What level of support is needed in both the long and short-term?

While contractors can be deployed to great effect for short term fixes, there are many advantages in using a consultancy over a contractor in the specific context of ERP training. These include:

  • Cost implications: A consultancy is likely to be more cost-effective over the duration of a project. There is minimal downtime, and the client only pays for the days they need, whilst consultants can also be offboarded with less notice given
  • Broader experience: With the best will in the world, individual contractors might have experience, but with a consultancy a client is gaining the experience of a team of trainers across numerous different industries, workstreams and systems.
  • Project continuity: If something happens with a contractor during a project, for example, if they become ill or unable to work for whatever reason, project progress will be significantly impacted. Even worse, if the contractor’s circumstances change, an awful lot of experience and knowledge walks out the door. With a consultancy, the work would get moved to another of the full-time team member.

Optimum is here to help

Working alongside consultancy partners like Optimum is ideal for planning, implementing, and delivering a robust ERP end-user training timeline. We enable clients to gain the support of an experienced consultancy and the benefits that entails. For example, as part of the service:

  • Training materials are quality checked by QA staff
  • Our own client engagement managers manage the ERP training phase

We can provide flexible, high quality and tailored training solutions, often working alongside and supporting internal training teams, and help to upskill internal teams for delivery. Optimum also offers a 10 day cancellation period to our clients. In contrast, training contractors often work to a fixed-term contract, and are therefore harder to offboard and more likely to get paid for minimal work when your training requirements change.

No ERP project is ever fully complete. Having an experienced partner on hand who understands that and can help with refresher training, new joiner programmes, and upgrade training support is always worth considering. Get in touch today and find out how we can help with your user adoption requirements.

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¹ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) Software Market Research Report

²Your guide to a successful ERP journey

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