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The 1980s were a golden age for independent music in America. Shunned by popular radio, American indie bands filled their Econoline vans with amplifiers and drum kits and set out for the open road. At a rate of a show a night, they reached their audience from beyond the confines of the traditional recording industry. And in the absence of major label coddling, they founded independent record labels and created independent distribution networks, all outside of the mainstream. In doing so, they reconceptualized the Do-It-Yourself (D-I-Y) ethos as applicable to areas well beyond basement breweries and backyard patio projects.

Remote_ConsultingThis D-I-Y ethos is not unfamiliar to most ERP consultants. The popular conception of consultant life resembles the back sleeve of a men’s magazine: a life of executive suites and first class flights, champagne after takeoff or a plush robe and a goblet of brandy before bed. The reality of the average consultant’s life resembles that of many indie bands: tightly packed flying closets with dive-bomb economy landings onto the short tracks of major airports, so vast and confusing as to comprise cities within cities, compact car rentals and hotels splitting the five star rating system in two, with a glass of OJ from concentrate and a reconstituted egg patty for breakfast. We make it work on a shoe string to keep the costs of implementation down for our clients, while providing the best personal service necessary for project success. Even still, the costs of travel figure significantly into the overall costs of an average implementation, comprising as much as 30% or more of project budgets.

This D-I-Y mentality finds a place similarly in the hearts of many small and medium-sized companies implementing ERP. When discussing consultation options with a prospective client, it is not uncommon to hear phrases like “we prefer to go-it-alone and pull in help only when it’s absolutely required.” Because of the costs of consultation, many small and medium-sized businesses view consultation as an either-or proposition: either implement independently and keep costs in check, or introduce consultation and blow the budget. Not surprisingly, many such companies choose to implement independently, but by choosing to do so, they risk falling into one many ERP implementation pitfalls, the kind that seasoned consultants could help a project team to avoid.

To mitigate this risk, some companies employ hybrid approaches, and technological innovations increasingly allow for such alternative implementation models. Some examples might include the following: * Many consultation efforts do not require full-day allocations and onsite visitations. Quite often, a two-hour prototyping session, facilitated by a web conferencing application, can move a project team forward. * A consultant with a VPN connection and a remote desktop can review a client’s GL structure and make recommendations. * Remote user training allows for modular and incremental learning, apportioned into manageable two-hour blocks that helps to avoid the educational fire hose-effect associated with full-day training sessions.*

Remote sessions help keep teams from stalling into idle between consultant visits, which reduces the pressure to pack all project progress into a monthly onsite session. Fundamentally, consultation is of benefit to clients when it furthers their project’s best interests—when it helps project teams gain the necessary traction to implement a system to meet the needs of the business. And such traction need not require an hourly quota. When working with your consulting partners, explore the options for remote work. Many projects will likely require some form of onsite engagement, but remote consultation may better fit your budget and your company’s culture, especially if you intend to D-I-Y.

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