Posts Tagged ‘ERP planning’

A lot of companies fall into the “We Have To” category when it comes to upgrading their business software.  As in, we have to, because… our software is terribly old and outdated, or… it’s not supported any more, or… we’re so heavily modified in unnecessary ways that it just makes sense to start over.

Valid considerations all.  But should they be the foundational purpose – the raison d’etre if you will – for your upgrade?  In a word, no.

In fact, software upgrades provide the perfect opportunity to take a big step back.  Instead of simply replacing your old technology, you can recognize that software has taken huge leaps in the past few years, and that a new implementation is the ideal time to look at the big picture, the new tools, and the process realignment and organizational change management that fit so perfectly with a new system or upgrade.

View your effort as a digital transformation project, says Eric Kimberling, CEO of Colorado’s Panorama Consulting.  He recommends that companies “step back and define a clear vision for [their] ERP.”  He suggests that companies ask themselves: “What exactly are you trying to accomplish?  What business improvements do you expect?  How will modern technology help you realize those improvements?  How will your project governance align with those goals during implementation?”

It’s the right time to clearly define the benefits you expect to derive from your new system, and to better understand your own internal processes and workflows, whether automated or not.  You can then look at who is responsible for what, to determine whether that’s properly aligned – something the odds are you haven’t looked at in a very long time.

Your business case should extend beyond merely justifying your project.  You should be able to create gains, and then track those efforts in whatever sort of scorecard works for you going forward.  Defining just a few key performance indicators, and then monitoring these over time, remains one of the best prescriptions for implementing a new system that we’ve ever heard, or given.

As an added incentive, it’s worth recognizing the plethora of tools now available that didn’t exist, at least in manageable form, even a few years ago.  Business Intelligence reporting is a key one.  Companies today are finding gold from analyzing all the data they can get their hands on, often in unexpected places.  And when it comes to saving money through better understanding of your key business data – like inventory, turns, cash turnover and the like – it’s worth the investment.

It all comes down to planning.  If you work with your internal staff and a good outside consulting team, you’ll find it won’t take very long to get the momentum rolling toward improving your processes, refining your strategies, streamlining your workflows, and turning the “we have to do it” implementation blues into the “why did we wait so long” jig.


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ERP buying has changed and evolved, especially in the past few years.  From twenty-plus years of deploying systems, we’ve seen a few changes worth noting, and humbly suggest a few pointers to today’s buyers.

Back in the ‘good old days’ systems were purchased predominantly under the criteria that they ‘must be bought’ in order to stay current with the technology du jour, or in some cases, because ‘we need to run under Windows’ or even ‘we need to get past Y2K.’  In those days, systems were sold to the SMB marketplace on the premise of their underlying technology, and their ability to rapidly automate core accounting tasks like billing, purchasing and creating financial statements. 

Quite often, we sold ‘modules’ (GL, AP, AR, etc.) based on a modest user count (usually divisible by five, interestingly enough) and then bundled a little bit of training.  It wasn’t unusual to sell a half dozen modules along with 50 or 100 hours of user training, and call it a sale.

Today’s buyer (and seller) have raised the stakes much higher.  Today, the key underlying business imperative is to understand the client’s real needs.

What used to be about function/feature/benefit is today about communicating and analyzing business needs… mapping processes and workflow… and matching software fit and functionality to the actual demonstrated business improvement needs of the client.

Ask the questions… Where are we redundant in entering data repeatedly?  Where are we ruled by spreadsheets?  Where do we generate useless (or the wrong) reports?  Where are people doing the work that computers should be doing?  How quickly can we analyze business strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities?  Do we have the data, and if so, do we have the tools by which to analyze and manage?  Can we grow with the systems we have today?  How many people’s lives and jobs are frustrated by the many and petty hoops we jump through just to create a ‘report’ that the CFO/CEO demands every morning?  The list goes on…

Today’s ‘business case’ scenarios demand that the vendor/client team explore the most onerous and difficult business challenges.  Smart planners will develop a dozen or more such scenarios, and then map out deliberately and clearly how the software will solve those problems.  It’s: problem, process, analysis, conclusions, action steps, deploy.  Repeat as necessary.

Identify your poorest performing processes, then evaluate how software, training and consulting will meet the challenge of surmounting them.  Done properly, the final result will deliver noticeable process improvement; meet the operating requirements of the company; solve your key challenges; improve reporting and analytical capability resulting in improved visibility and business management; and fit well with your people, processes and environment.

And most of all, in the end, the right solution will pay for itself – many times over.

Note: For more on this topic, visit our earlier post on using business process reengineering to set the stage for ERP deployment.  That post can be found here.


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