We assist many different businesses with the initial implementation, recovery and improvement of ERP systems. In every project, the one thing in common is the scarcity of one resource type or another. It’s nearly always the case that people are unavailable for the amount of time required to get the best out of the implementation. Of course, money is often a consideration as well.
Traditionally, vendors adopt an approach to ERP improvement and/or deployment that involves transferring knowledge to the customer and then allowing the customer to work out how best to use the software. This waterfall-type model relies heavily on the best people in the customer’s business spending a considerable amount of time learning to use the software and making decisions.
For the customer, the outcome is a very knowledgeable team and a system that does what the team felt was right, but it has taken a very long time. Sometimes the devotion given to learning the ERP system is detrimental to the day-to-day running of the business – other opportunities have perhaps been missed, and business decisions haven’t been given the attention they deserve.
A year after the ERP system was put in place, the level of knowledge about the system is restricted to how the system is configured. 90% of the initial education has only been used to discount those bits of software that are not needed. The chosen route through the system is what is known and remembered.
So, is there another way? How can we achieve a rapid ERP implementation that still delivers results?
Business processes are vital to a well-implemented ERP system. These are what customers actually use in their business. At CBO, we approach an implementation by first defining optimal end-to-end business processes with our customer.
We then work with the customer to keep the initial scope of the implementation to the bare minimum, disrupting as little of the business as possible. We use a team to configure the software to support the agreed processes, bearing in mind the totality but focusing on the initial requirements.
We follow this by walking our customer through the configured software, tweaking and automating as required, so they’re happy it matches their processes and operates smoothly and responsively.
Training and cutover to live running then takes place. We can then go back to the process models, determine the next priority and repeat the process – meanwhile the customer is reaping the benefits of already running on the Phase 1 software.
Our experience is that this approach enables an initial Go Live in four to five months, rather than nine to 12 months. The most constrained resource our customers have (their time) is used effectively and in the most intellectually positive way – for designing the business. They don’t have to spend a huge amount of time learning software they’ll never use and they are able to continue running the business.
The benefits of this approach are that Phase 1 benefits are seen much earlier and the internal human resource costs on the project are much lower. The neutral is that vendor costs are probably about the same between the two approaches.
The downside is that the customer has little knowledge of the software, so it’s important that ‘super users’ are trained in the software to a great depth. Our contention is that because they’re learning more about the software they’re using on a daily basis, the training is much quicker.