Who’s Responsible for Successful ERP Software Implementations? Customer or Vendor?

Mark Canes

In the past, we’ve seen statistics that show up to 75% of all ERP Implementations are considered a failure (in terms of meeting objectives, on time, and within budget)1. This contradicts my personal experience here at Blue Link, where most of our implementations are on time and within the budget outlined in the Agreement with the new Customer.

 But there’s no doubt that many ERP implementations are, shall we say, less than successful. This led us to consider “Who is ultimately responsible” for a successful ERP Software implementation? The question was raised to a group of professionals in the ERP Community Group on LinkedIn.

 Based on the responses received to date, there is no one definitive answer, as the reasons given on both sides make a lot of sense. To put it into perspective, from those professionals that actually gave their opinion:

  • 39% responded that the Customer is responsible
  • 44% responded that both the Customer and Vendor were equally responsible
  • 17% responded that the Vendor is responsible

So is there a right answer? Below we have summarized arguments put forward by the respondents, so you can draw an educated conclusion for yourself.

Vendors are Responsible (17%)

In general, the responses from those that indicated “The Vendor is Responsible” made the argument that expectations must be set at the right level, based on the Customer willingness or ability to participate in the implementation process. As an example, if the Customer is unable or unwilling to educate the Vendor on their operations or business model, it is the responsibility of the Vendor to ensure the Customer is aware that they will likely get a more generic installation, one that might not improve their operating efficiencies as they hoped.

From the comments received, it appears these professionals have had some bad experiences with previous implementations and, as the Vendor, would take the responsibility to ensure the Customer understands what they will get with their lack of detailed involvement.

Customers are Responsible (39%)

As with the “Vendor is Responsible” responses above, the responses from those professionals who indicate the ‘Customer is Responsible” has one overwhelming theme: “The Customer is the one paying the bills and therefore they are ultimately responsible.”

The discussions focused on the Customer knowing what they purchased, using the ERP software to improve their efficiency and an expectation of an ROI. Often there were additional customer-or-vendor-responsible-erp-software-implementationcomments regarding the responsibility of the Vendor to provide what they claim they can provide in a system and in the signed Agreement.

One response was very clear when they discussed Software as a Service (SaaS) implementations and stated that if the implementation is not successful, the probability of the Customer remaining with the vendor is low.

These professionals realize that the one holding the money is normally the one who should be responsible, but we think they also realize that sometimes this is not what actually happens.

Both are Responsible (44%)

The responses we received that indicated “Both are Responsible” were not a surprise. In all the comments, there was one very clear statement, “the Vendor and Customer must work together and be equally responsible for a successful implementation”.

Phrases such as “Team Work” and “active and constructive liaison” were used in the responses. A statement like “to be able to identify correctly everyone’s role and responsibilities” puts it all in perspective.

Our Opinion

In our opinion, implementation is the responsibility of both the Vendor and Customer. As professionals in the world of ERP implementations, it is our responsibility to make sure we understand what the Customers’ needs are, to provide them with the software to help them in the period of time agreed to in the Agreement, and to provide them with the guidance in their implementation-related tasks, as we have the ERP implementation experience.

In turn the Customer is responsible for educating the Vendor as to all needs and business processes up front, so that the vendor can determine if their solution will fit these needs. I The Customer also needs to allocate the appropriate resources (including people with the authority to make decisions) to the project, and take direction from the Vendor on implementation tasks where the vendor’s expertise exceeds the customer’s.

This may seem too black and white and implementations are rarely that straightforward. As vendors, we try to ensure that both sides understand the tasks, roles and responsibilities before the process begins, and then work collaboratively through the more colorful issues that arise during the implementation.

1 In the reports discussing implementation failure rates there were specific criteria such as projects being over budget and how much additional time over estimated schedule did it take the implementation to be completed. An additional note to consider is that the research was normally conducted on the top ERP Vendors. Search “erp software implementation failure analysis causes” to learn more about failures.