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Posts Tagged ‘ERP’

“Organizations don’t prosper,” notes Harvard Business Review, “unless managers in the middle ranks . . . identify and promote the need for change.”

Put another way, managers today sometimes need to advocate for the types of change they want to see in their organizations, and that includes changing your processes and your process management software to better align with the company’s goals.

In that light, a recent article from the folks at Panorama Consulting nicely highlights what they call the “8 Secrets to Developing a Business Case for an ERP Implementation.”  (Full article here.)

 

We’ll share their 8 key tips here today…

  1. Relate the problem to the bottom line. Always the most important factor.  Whether it’s keeping up with growing workloads, managing disparate silos of data or giving common access to all, the best way to pitch your strategy is to relate it to your company’s bottom line.
  2. Show multiple opportunities for improvement. ERP touches all levels of the organization.  Emphasize the transformational benefits, and be sure stakeholders understand: it’s a strategic investment.
  3. Demonstrate long-term usability. Modern systems are powerful, expansive, user-friendly and integrate with other technologies allowing you to adapt to the future.  Outdated systems can be expensive and difficult at best to maintain.  Show the value therein.
  4. Build credibility through case studies and reports. Decision makers need data to justify any investment.  ERP is no different.  Systems providers should be able to provide you with plenty of ammunition.
  5. Anticipate failure. As Panorama notes: “When you approach the executive team, don’t just present the reasons why you should adopt the new technology. Think through the potential reasons why you shouldn’t, and come prepared with answers to objections.”
  6. Set a realistic timeframe. Systems take time… lots of it.  Allow for pre-purchase analysis, workflow and process review, resource allocation efforts, as well as training, testing, data porting, and a well-paced go-live process.  Again, just be realistic, then build in some margin for error.  You’re taxing everyone’s systems, but the results in the end are worth it.
  7. Offer to monitor, report and analyze. Keep up communication with the executive team at all times and regularly.  Provide regular status updates, and be honest about them.  Show that your efforts are aligned with their priorities.
  8. Liaise between executives and end-users. Again, quoting the consultants: “Nobody will have more insight into what’s necessary in an ERP system than the people who currently own your business processes. You can communicate their pain points up the chain of command, ensuring the technology you select meets your business needs.”

Never lose sight of the business case, and build yours around it, if you want to enjoy the benefits of the best that technology has to offer, and the opportunity to make a lasting impression on the entire firm.

 

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Do you need to redefine your information technology strategy?  Our friends at Panorama Consulting in a recent post point out several reasons you might, all of which we’ve found to be valid in our 30 years of helping guide client strategies.  They include:

 

  • You haven’t updated your technology in the last decade.
  • Your IT strategy is not aligned with your overall business strategy (a big one!)
  • You haven’t considered all your strategic options — It’s not just about ERP… What about smaller initiatives? What about Internet of Things (IOT), or Business Intelligence (BI) reporting?
  • You don’t have an action plan for replacing your enterprise and software technology.
  • Your IT strategy doesn’t meet your organization’s ROI thresholds (does your IT strategy fit the costs, tolerance of risk and benefit objectives of your firm?)

Following are six good guidelines for developing your strategy that any company should consider.

  1. Define your company’s overall strategy. You need a written document that summarizes the company vision and where you’re headed in terms of growth, product lines and transformation.
  2. Define IT’s role and purpose in your organization. Does your organization view IT as a commodity or as a competitive differentiator that provides unique value to your customers? This will determine whether your IT team will be in-house or out-sourced, and that in turn may answer further questions about where your tech resides and which type of solutions you consider, from on-premise to hosted.
  3. Assess your IT department’s competencies. A sophisticated IT department can handle a sophisticated ERP system. Less sophisticated IT departments may consider simpler, cloud-based solutions.
  4. Consider all your digital transformation options. There is a nearly bewildering array of options available to companies today. You can piece together best-of-breed solutions from multiple providers, or opt for a single-source solution. Aside from technology, you can transform your organization by reengineering your business processes or reimagining your business model.
  5. 5. Develop a long-term strategy. Some organizations rush into a short-term technology decision without considering the long-term impacts. An example is implementing a CRM system without first determining how well it fits into your overall back-end accounting system. Sounds like a small consideration, but in reality, it’s a deal-breaker.  Keep an eye always toward the long-term view.
  6. Consider the non-technical aspects of your digital strategy. Always keep the people and processes first in your thinking, and make sure the IT strategy serves the business strategy – and not the other way around.

Good tips all, all worth heeding.

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In a recent report compilation the editors at Panorama Consulting Solutions listed what they considered to be four of the top manufacturing software solutions, as well as their prescription for the “ideal” manufacturing software system, from among the now over 200 solutions from which companies today have to choose.  Those top four included SAP, Oracle, Infor and Microsoft Dynamics.

Of the Dynamics 365 solution, Panorama writes…

Microsoft Dynamics solutions have a familiar user interface and suit organizations of all sizes. Microsoft Dynamics D365 Enterprise enables data and resource integration across various departments and locations. The solution has been redeveloped as a pure SaaS model, but also can be deployed on-premise or hosted in the cloud. In terms of field service functionality, Microsoft Dynamics employs IoT technology to improve response times and operational efficiency.

This October, Dynamics 365 for Sales will be enabled with artificial intelligence, which will give manufacturers better visibility into their supply chain. Dynamics D365 continues its reliance on a partner ecosystem to develop niche functionality. Partners are currently in the process of understanding niche IP development for the new version of Microsoft Dynamics.

As to that “ideal” manufacturing system?  Here’s some sage advice:

The ideal manufacturing solution should address the entire supply chain, from product inception to customer delivery. It should have functionality to track suppliers, materials, production costs, maintenance and customer relationships. Ultimately, it should increase operational efficiency and provide full visibility into manufacturing processes and business data. Transforming your manufacturing organization requires technology that drives efficiency and enables full supply chain visibility.

While it’s helpful to compare the strengths of various ERP systems, the best solution for your business depends on your unique needs and situation.

To their advice we would add:

Discuss your needs with a software reselling partner or consultant who knows the territory, one who specializes in the manufacturing sector, and is aware of the many nuances of production, scheduling, bills of material and the unique inventory requirements that attend to them.  Find a good consultant, determine whether you’re comfortable with their people and if they have a methodology for getting you to where you want to go.  Then, when you think you’re ready, talk to a couple of their references, make sure you are on the same page with respect to your unique project roadmap, and be willing to provide the full range of resources and staff commitment required to get the job done.

After all, you only want to do this once.

(You can find access to the full report beginning here.)

 

 

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Our headline is a tad misleading because, while the specifics concern Microsoft Dynamics NAV, one of the world’s leading ERP and business management software systems, the principles of the article could be applied to virtually any software system implementation.  This one just happened to be NAV, because that’s what the consultant, a London-based freelancer by the name of Hannes Holst, implemented when he wrote the article.  (it’s our firm’s specialty as well, by way of full disclosure.)

In that project, Holst was tasked with replacing an existing ERP system with Dynamics NAV, and the plan was to do it on time and on budget – or under.  And they succeeded.  The three critical factors, in Holst’s retrospective were…

  1. Know what the business wants. In our own process at our firm, we label this the business process analysis, but call it what you will, you have to scope the requirements.  It’s the roadmap for all that follows.  It’s a serious (and yes, billable) engagement requiring both parties’ key staff to engage deeply in thinking about the client’s company, processes and goals.  Then, a roadmap is constructed that involves what, where, when, how and who, and guides the entire project team so they understand the goals, benchmarks and processes of that implementation

 

  1. Utilize the Dynamics NAV standard. NAV has been developed continuously for well over twenty years now, and covers all the functionality most any business could need today.  Standardized functionality has been applied all up and down the accounting workflow in NAV, and it works across many industries.  (While we specialize here in manufacturing and distribution, it’s equally adept at retail, service and many others.)  So wherever possible, Holst advises, align the business processes with the software.  This makes projects simpler, quicker and more agile.  Users can start working in some areas very quickly, as other pieces get added later.  (There are some caveats in this regard, but the advice is generally true.)  Finally, assess customizations in terms of impact to the company, which includes an overarching need, the budget, the need to continually maintain those modifications into the future, and the value of their overall ROI.  And when you do customize, wait a while, and then prioritize those “mods” from high to low when you determine which are truly needed.

 

  1. Hire an internal NAV expert. You can’t always do this of course, but you can have your most knowledgeable expert on the company’s inner-workings coordinating the project on the client side with the project leader from the consultant’s side.  A lot of issues can be resolved quickly when you have process- and software-knowledgeable participants on both sides of that support call.  That internal resource at the client side has a lot to do with landing your project on-time and/or on-budget.  They can recognize problems early on, unsnag project logjams, warn of impending potential pitfalls, and keep client-side implementers on-task and moving forward.  Your whole implementation benefits from the insights an internal expert can bring to bear, and having voices on both sides of the project management spectrum helps ensure that projects are kept honest, flowing, cooperative and, ultimately, successful.

 

Holst’s full, brief article can be found here (you have to join the forum, but it’s free):

 

 

 

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Recently the folks at Panorama Consulting wrote an article about who should be on a company’s digital transformation project management team.  Included were the results of a study by two professors who came up with a clever way to think of the personality traits required of that team.  We’ll get to that in a moment, but first…

They first noted that teams can run from a very few players to as many as 15 or so.  Most, in our experience, have about 3 to 5 key members.  That team will develop a project charter to assign responsibilities and resources, both internal and external, throughout the project.  This steering committee decides which tasks can be handed off, and which (like final sign off on future-state business processes) cannot.  The charter defines how decisions are made, and by whom.

The team also addresses the fact that while major transformation is occurring, the business must still go on.  Day to day operations are ongoing, even as the new special project takes precedence, and senior managers need to determine how that’s going to work.  Overtime?  Suck it up?  Hire temps?  Wait for a slowdown in business?  Whatever the answer, it must be addressed at the outset, and adhered to thereafter.

In their article Panorama notes that…

“Some organizations build their project team based on who they believe to be the smartest or most technically-skilled. While technical expertise and operational knowledge are important, communication skills are also valuable, especially when the project team is tasked with executing an organizational change management plan to engage and train employees.”

Professors Kenneth Benne and Paul Sheats published a study, Functional Roles of Group Members, in which they identified key personality traits that contribute to strong teams. Here are five of those personality traits:

  • The Cheerleader encourages other project team members to participate and recognizes them for their contributions. This role is useful for encouraging engagement on both the project team and throughout the organization.
  • The Peacemaker helps project team members reach a consensus when compromise is necessary. Peacemakers focus on the success of the organization as a whole. This role is useful when defining and prioritizing business processes.
  • The Sergeant-at-Arms ensures the project team meets deadlines and expectations while adhering to the organization’s core values. This role can help develop strong project controls and governance and gently remind team members of these guidelines.
  • The Good-Humor Man relieves the tension and anxiety of digital transformation. The right amount of jest can lighten the mood and reenergize team members.
  • The Contrarian is a critical thinker and innovator who is not afraid to share his/her opinion. This role can challenge project team members to think about the project from a people and process perspective instead of a technical perspective. The contrarian can also ensure that the project team preserves the organization’s competitive advantage during business process management.

Make sense for you?  Worth thinking about, for sure.

 

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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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