When I’m working with trainee consultants on an ERP implementation, the first thing I tell them is to consider the project like a geographic journey. What’s the first thing you do when you plan a journey? Pick the destination. You might start the process by thinking, ‘I’m going to go to this country.’ But ultimately, you choose a specific destination. And that’s what you should do when you start an ERP project.
You need to know exactly where you’re going to end up. So when I’m planning a journey, I know which hotel I’m going to go to, which country it’s in, which city it’s in, etc. Once I know these details I can start planning backwards to figure out how I’m going to get there. Am I going to take a plane, am I going to travel by train, am I going to use my car?
You will make similar decisions as part of your ERP implementation. Are you going to find a different vehicle for getting there, or are you going to use the one that you have and just pick a better route or improve the way you do it?
The key is to have a clear destination in mind. Make sure that you don’t just decide to improve your business processes or make your business better. It’s remarkable the number of companies I’ve worked with that go down the route of an implementation project with these kind of undefined goals in mind.
What you really need to do is say ‘I am going to improve the following specific things’ – and be able to measure them.
So making sure you know exactly where you’re going with your project is hugely important. And this means you have to define the criteria for success. If we go back to the idea of the journey – it’s not good enough knowing where I want to be, I have to have a way of measuring whether I’ve reached that destination or not. Just like you know when you get to your hotel, you walk in and they know your name at the desk.
Define some easy-to-measure but very high-profile success criteria. An example would be: in your financials area, reducing the number of days it takes to get financial statements to the management team. This is a goal that is key for management, important to your business and straightforward to measure. Even better, you might want to set the goal of becoming a real-time information business, so that even though you haven’t actually trimmed your numbers yet, your management team can get them.
In your manufacturing organisation, an objective could be to capture more information in order to make monitoring quality levels and/or costs easier. You might decide to set the goal of reducing the number of days it takes to pay suppliers, because increased visibility of inventory means you can reduce the amount of stock you have to buy in.
All of these are examples of specific ways to measure success. If you put goals into your plan and make sure your vendor is aware of them upfront, your project is ultimately going to be much more successful.