In our first post here we noted that the paradox of ERP is that the very people who need to be most involved in the process, the ones who stand to benefit the most, are usually the ones who already have plenty to do in their daily responsibilities. Adding a new ERP system on top of that is a real challenge, but we also noted the pressures companies feel once they decide to engage. In today’s post we’ll take a look at the results of Aberdeen Research’s recent survey of nearly 200 respondents, and review the groundwork that the best of these companies established when they began their projects.
By far among all responding companies, whether they were ‘Best-in-Class’ (i.e., in the top 20% of implementation successes), or something lesser, the number one element of their ERP groundwork was to have established a “centralized project map and timeline for the implementation process.” The idea behind the timeline is to have a project ‘roadmap’ that helps to ensure that the project meets its initial stated budget and implementation timeline. You may or may not make it exactly as drawn up, but how can you know how to get to your destination without this roadmap?
Next most important: to have “business processes [that] are standardized and aligned with [the] ERP implementation.” At our firm, we call this the BPA (the Business Process Analysis). It’s a detailed and extensive analysis that serves to map the current way of doing things, and then map the way things could be done in a new ERP system. Sometimes, we match the client’s needs to specific software, if there’s a pre-existing bias in that direction; other times, it’s more generic. But it always serves to ensure that both we and the client understand the business processes and workflows, and that we agree on the desired outcomes.
The groundwork component cited third most often by respondents to Aberdeen’s survey was “the ability to identify gaps between ERP functionality and other internal technologies.” Here, we not only identify those gaps, but we also identify the gap between what is, and what should be. That’s where you need experienced process consultants who know your industry to help you through the analysis. In our case, our core competencies, given our Midwest location, are in the areas of manufacturing and distribution. If we haven’t “seen it all” by now, we’re pretty close. Gaps are best defined by a combination of the client company’s team and the consultants who help them with the mapping.
Finally, the fourth element to the groundwork in Aberdeen’s research was labeled as “consistent policies for classification / metadata tagging of data.” Simply put, this means ensuring that you have things like a logical and documented part numbering system… that your customer and vendor data are ‘clean’ before transfer to the new system… and that the data to be carried over to the new system has been suitably tagged and validated. In our experience, this is often a choke point in an ERP implementation, simply because most of this ‘validation’ work needs to be done by the client staff prior to any automated transfer of the actual data to a new system. It’s laborious and tedious – and necessary – work.
And true to the paradox, it mostly needs to be done by the very people most deeply involved in the implementation – all while carrying on with their so-called day jobs.
By seeing to all this groundwork, project stakeholders in a new ERP system have the best chances of sticking to a budget and a timeline, and internally managing and controlling the many details of the process. In other words, start with visibility through planning, and then manage to the plan.
And appropriately enough, in our next post we’ll talk about just that: managing the ongoing project. Stay tuned…