When we first started doing ERP implementations back in the 80s (and we didn’t even call them “ERP implementations” back then…), the industry’s focus was mostly on technology, not business. We have always been suspect of that approach, and sure enough, post year 2000, these implementations became very much about business. I recall how in the run-up to Y2K, the focus was, largely, on making sure you were “Windows-compliant” and Year 2000 ready.
Today it may be a different story, but it your ERP implementation sure had better be all about the business focus. Because that’s where the ROI lies. That’s where process reform lies. And that’s where you will find the roots of your business success in the next ten years.
Recently a post by Eric Kimberling wisely pointed out key differences between a tech-focused implementation and a business-focused one. We’ll highlight his observations here, by noting 5 key differentiators:
- Executive support focuses on getting the job done right. Most successful business-focused implementations focus on getting the job done right the first time, and thus wisely consider the long-term business implications. You only want to do this once (or every so many years) – so you’d best do it right and be sure to “find the right balance between short-term implementation costs and longer-term costs and benefits.”
- Business processes are well-defined up front. Don’t just throw caution to the wind and assume the new ERP system will automatically provide you with the path to better business processes. The business-focused implementation requires a clear vision on management’s part about what you want your processes to look like, and they focus all the time necessary on business process analysis and reengineering.
- Organizational change management entails much more than basic end-user training. Training is just one component of having your employees adapt new software and deliver measurable results to the business. Assessments pertaining to organizational readiness… impact… and a healthy discussion about changes… all should be a part of the mix.
- Testing focuses on business usage instead of technical stability. Getting the technical aspects of modifications and implementation tasks is hard enough. But it’s not enough. It’s critically important (and really should go without saying) that testing must be used to validate that the necessary business requirements will be met. No one knows your business like you do, so companies must take a major role in ensuring that testing focuses on their business use.
- Benefits realization is focused on real business results. A technically sound implementation is not necessarily a successful one from a business standpoint. Business-focused implementations, besides striving to be ‘on-time, on-budget’ focus on tangible measurable results. They set baselines and targets and identify the key performance indicators that yield the most meaningful benchmarks in their business. They then make sure to measure those results.
Remember that in the end, the purpose of your ERP implementation is to improve business results and streamline operations, not to impress the world with your technology chops.