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Posts Tagged ‘Digital transformation’

Companies executing a digital transformation in an effort to keep up with the pace of business change today and all its competitive challenges need to consider a lot of strategies when doing so.  A recent article from Panorama Consulting reminds us that setting the right expectations comes first.

 

Starting with a statement of project scope, you need to then develop the business case – why are you implementing new technology in the first place? – and then work out the elements of ROI (return on investment), and the corresponding budget and timeline.  Clear understanding of expectations must then be communicated throughout the organization.

Timelines, let alone budgets, are often very difficult to estimate.  Changes to both are inevitable.  But you can help your planning by considering a few aspects that are often overlooked.  Among the key project tasks Panorama’s consultants advise organizations to remember are:

  • Quantifying specific benefits you hope to achieve, such as visibility into real-time data, visibility across functional areas, reduced inventory and decreased days to close
  • Developing a master data management strategy and data migration strategy
  • Conducting an organizational readiness assessment
  • Developing and executing an organizational change management plan
  • Assessing staffing needs for each phase of the project, and possibly augmenting your staff with outside resources
  • Working with functional leads to map current and future state business processes and identify pain points
  • Working with functional leads to define requirements, validate requirements and schedule software demos
  • Recruiting stakeholders from different departments, business units and locations to help define requirements
  • Distributing workshop guides to prepare employees for requirements gathering workshops
  • Prioritizing functional requirements into three categories (mandatory, value-add, nice to have)
  • Balancing the need for software customization with the cost of training
  • Reskilling employees whose jobs will become automated
  • Meeting with the vendor for an organizational design session

It’s a lot of ground to cover, but considering these details before you commit can save a lot of time, money and frustration, and go along ways towards ensuring your digital transformation project’s success.

 

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The world of ERP, like all tech initiatives, is constantly evolving.  A recent opinion piece from Panorama Consulting suggests that in this light, ERP implementations — which have a “bad reputation” for being over-budget, over-time, and low on the ROI scale – are being replaced by “digital transformations,” a broader initiative designed to position the organization for future growth, accelerate competitive advantage and produce real ROI.

Our image above portrays some of the contrasts defined in Panorama’s post, found here.

They prescribe a change management strategy based on “large-scale change,” noting that if you’re after a “truly digital transformation,” then you must consider the large-scale change: “…that means you’re changing more than your technology – you’re undergoing large-scale change and fundamentally altering structures, processes and employees’ day-to-day jobs. If new technology is merely enhancing one of these elements, then you’re likely experiencing small-scale change.”

Like many initiatives, large-scale change requires three key elements:

  • preparing for change, including risk analysis and a readiness assessment and roadmap
  • managing the change, with a focus on communications, and overcoming resistance
  • reinforcing the change, where you gather employee feedback to assess results, root causes of resistance, and celebrate successes.

Key signposts for change management failure, according to Panorama include:

  • lack of executive sponsorship
  • ignoring the “people side” of change
  • lack of dedicated resources
  • ignoring resistance to change
  • no communications plan

When you think about it, those are many of the same hallmarks of failed ERP implementation plans as well.  There’s a familiar theme here, and in the end it’s really about the scale of change you’re trying to implement.  The larger the scale, or the greater the desire for ROI, r the more intense the focus on positioning for growth… the more executive talent, time and resources, as well as communications, strategy and roadmap creation become critical to a successful result.

Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

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Recently another ERP blogger we frequently reference, Eric Kimberling of Colorado, wrote about some of the lessons he’s learned from 12 years of guiding clients in their ERP pathways and decisions.

Given our thirty years of experience, we thought we’d take a few of Mr. Kimberling’s comments and splice them with our own to provide a few thoughts on some of the key lessons we’ve all learned about what he likes to call “digital transformations” or broadly speaking, ERP implementations and workflow improvement initiatives.  For the most part, the topic points are his, and the advice following is ours.

  1. Here we are in unanimous agreement: It’s more about the people and processes than it is about the technology.   Identifying key processes, establishing the right workflows, seeking to make users comfortable with change… and mapping all these efforts into a suitable software solution that removes redundant efforts, eliminates disparate information silos,  streamlines peoples’ jobs and ultimately serves your customers more efficiently – these people- and process- focused initiatives are the real key to digital transformations.
  2. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. There’s a lot of good software out there.  Just as there are a lot of good implementation consultants.  Unfortunately, there are also a lot who know the technology but not the business processes.  Why would you hire anyone that’s not a subject matter expert in your chosen field?  Ours expertise is manufacturing and distribution — so don’t hire us to install your dental practice management software (or fill your cavities) — and vice-versa.
  3. Your business should drive your software and transformation needs – and not the other way around. That also means that if your software cannot be matched to the way you work, then you need to find different software.  (Another reason for hiring implementation consultants that know your territory, i.e., business.)
  4. Take the hype and the jargon with a major grain of salt. Tech is notorious for having a million buzzwords.  Cloud, SaaS, big data, XML, agile… the list goes on forever.  Once again, what’s best for the business?  At the end of the day, where your system is located (local, cloud, etc.) is less important than whether the tool you choose is going to be the right one for the way you work, and be up and running over 99% of the time.  The buzz words and the tech, while sometimes important, always matter less than the interests and flow of your business.
  5. The best technology will not fix broken business processes. We always insist on making the business process analysis the first item on our agenda.  Identifying process flows, both the current ones and what they should look like in the end, is what creates the road map to everything that follows.  Involve all the key stakeholders and users in your project in this crucial step from the very beginning.  That will ensure you’re starting from the right foundation.
  6. Failures, like successes, don’t happen overnight. Usually, win or lose, there is a trail of decisions, events and actions – all driven by people­ – that determines the success or failure of most ERP projects.  These occur along a timeline.  So when you see something going off the rails (and we always tell our own consultants this), be the first to pull the cord and stop the train.  Run towards the fires (issues).  It will usually only get worse if you don’t stop, pivot, re-evaluate and take corrective action to fix the flaws in your foundation sooner, rather than later.

Both Kimberling and we could list more, but today’s list should provide any company about to embark on a digital transformation or process and software upgrade with the key lessons they’ll want to know – before they begin the effort.

 

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At a recent “Digital Enterprise Boot Camp” in Toronto, a group of leading IT executives and project managers discussed their experiences with recent ERP implementations and digital transformations.  Some of the key takeaways included…

For starters, there’s budget.  ERP implementations are large and costly, and one takeaway was that you don’t have to buy every module.  Focus those capital expenditures on the key project areas and the fewest number of early feasible users.  That way, you can see some progress, and pitfalls, along the way, and only invest more deeply later as project objectives begin to prove out.

Think next about best practices that are not necessarily technical in nature.  There are very real differences between projects that succeed and projects that fail, and they often have little to do with technology.  Best operational practices add real value to an ERP implementation, and smart CIOs consider those workflows and the people who will manage them before evening thinking about specific software.

Recognize the need for strong internal discipline.  This was especially valid for companies who had grown both organically and via acquisition, as different cultures and business styles lead to different processes and different outcomes.  You’re looking for standardized and consistent operations, mapped out before you implement process changes and software to match.

ERP isn’t just about software, it’s about the business transformation.  Most of the best projects are more about people and processes than software.  Software alone is not an effective blueprint for running your business.  Effective change management and project management are the real keys.

20 years is too long to be on the same legacy system.  Businesses change a lot over twenty years – these days more than ever, and twenty year-old ERP systems simply don’t keep up.  Business today is more aligned with technology than ever, and your systems need to keep up.  Organizational change management and careful planning of processes and the people involved are the first steps.

Internal biases are alive and well entrenched.  Most organizations have internal biases, recognized or not.  The main thing is to mitigate the biases by understanding the changes and flows truly required to align your business with its best profit-making capabilities today, and then explore the solutions – from change management and process flow through software and implementation services customized to our unique circumstances – that will truly match your needs.  After all, there’s a good chance those choices will have to work for you for the next twenty years.

(Read the full article here.)

 

 

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Any “digital transformation,” as the consultants at Panorama Consulting like to call things like ERP implementations, can seem daunting, a thing best put off ‘until tomorrow’ when, apparently, it will be… easier?  A recent article by Panorama makes a few points however that are worth noting, and that may get you off the starting line to your own internal project efforts and transformation.  We’ll meld their comments and our experience into today’s post.

For starters they point out, think about your ERP effort at a grass roots level.  You can start simply enough by having a few of your own people map out their current business processes, while thinking about the potential improvements they might want to see in a future state.  We always start our clients’ ERP projects with just such an effort.  Clients are usually too busy to do it for themselves, or perhaps too close to the subject to properly critique it, or lacking in the higher level business analysis skills that can help shape the best outcomes.  But at the very least, you can get your team thinking about how you do things today, and how you could better do them tomorrow, with less overlap and redundancy, and better information sharing and collaboration.

As you gather and review your grass roots analysis results, begin thinking about your overarching project goals.  Instead of starting with no sense of direction, think about the long-term goals business goals that underlie your IT, ERP or digital transformation project.  Be sure everyone understands the same goals, and how each of their individual parts in the process will contribute in the end to a more profitable, focused and leaner company.  Be careful not to get too distracted by the technology, and keep your purpose business-focused: that’s how you’ll succeed with customers and grow your own business.

Defining your business processes and requirements is the logical outcome of the actions and discussion we just noted.  It’s getting your ducks in a row.  It can take some time and outside help may be required (to learn what works and what doesn’t, best practices, etc.).  When you are ready to commence your actual ERP initiative, you’ll be equipped with the necessary data, thinking and step-outlines necessary to give your project its full forward momentum.

If you do all the above, you’ll be well prepared for the final step of hiring your outside consultant or reseller or implementer.  The process will go quicker and more smoothly if you’ve already given serious consideration to your business goals, your processes and workflows, and to your newly imagined future state.  It will help you more quickly and accurately match up process needs with software flows (and vice-versa), and save you time and money getting to the point where you’re ready to actually install and implement.

If it all sounds easy, well then, just remember that all along, your employees still have their regular jobs to do!  Be realistic in your expectations, fair in your judgments and remain focused on the planned business outcomes.  If you orient your resources consistently toward giving your people the tools they need and staying focused on the project’s business goals, you’ll fall into the small but highly desirable category of those who actually succeeded in their ERP implementations.

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digital-transformA recent post by our friends at Panorama suggests there are some myths about “digital transformation” – the process of transforming a company into a 21st century digital enterprise worthy of a quick recap today.  They make 4 points of distinction that companies should heed in the process of their continuous improvement and digital initiatives.

  1. Myth: digital transformation is the same thing as an ERP implementation. Their first point is that digital transformation is not ERP – at least, not ERP alone.  They do not assume a single off-the-shelf ERP solution.  Rather, they are open to best-of-breed, or sometimes hybrid, solutions.  Rarely is one company’s base ERP offering sufficient to serve the complete needs of a company.  We ourselves have found that with any of the variety of ERP solutions we’ve sold over the years, it’s still necessary and useful to utilize that software’s companion, third-party options to extend the reach and capabilities of the core system into areas often better handled by vertical subject matter experts.  Moreover, notes Panorama, ERP solutions are often about incremental improvements.  A digital transformation often requires “a more revolutionary approach to operational and organizational change.”
  1. Myth: your digital transformation software needs to be provided by one ERP vendor. As implied above, a digital transformation opens doors to all manner of new thoughts, processes, ideas and technologies.  So ERP may come from one source, your e-commerce from a second and your warehouse management from a third.  There’s no harm in that if all can be well-integrated.  And that requires people and process analysis, before anyone touches much software or hardware, we might add.
  2. Myth: digital transformations should be run by the IT department. Most enterprise software initiatives must be viewed first as a business project, and then as a “computer” or “IT” project.  We always remind prospective clients: ERP (and by extension, digital transformation, is first and foremost a strategic business investment.  Business and executive involvement here are more important than ever.
  3. Myth: digital transformations are best for every organization. Not always, Panorama points out.  Sometimes, incremental, slow change is best.  They note that… “The key is to identify what type of project you want this to be, and then ensure that you have alignment in how you allocated resources, focus and measures of success for the project.”

Whether yours is an ERP project, a true digital transformation, or something in between, begin with a clear definition of the what the project is, and the pace of change the organization believes it can support.  These will often dictate the steps that should – or should not – be taken after.

 

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