With anything in business or business process, it is easy to get “stuck in a rut” – i.e. rely heavily on what you are currently doing and how you are currently doing it. In the busy day-to-day, it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees and identify areas where you could be doing better. Where this is a particular challenge is ERP – if you are currently using an ERP system, it is likely to be so integral across various business functions, that you are almost tempted to “not fix what is not broken”. There are a number of reasons why you might want to review your ERP strategy – whether it is part of a wider commitment to continual improvement, or more of an emergency cost or efficiency saving measure. With that in mind, what is it that you should be reviewing? Which aspects, features and functions of your ERP system should you be putting under the microscope? And how do you use this information to inform your future ERP strategy?
Here is a quick guide to conducting a review of your ERP strategy – and how to use the review to get what you need.
There are a number of relatively obvious things to get straight before you begin. Make sure you and whoever else is involved in the review knows the following details:
- When the current system was deployed
- What the current licensing commitment is – how much? Is it monthly or annual?
- How many users you have a license for – and check this against your user list
- Who your current supplier, vendor or support partner is
It is also probably a very good idea at this point to dig out a copy of the original statement of requirements document (hopefully there was one) and any contracts or agreements you have in place with your current supplier. If you do not have these, the very first point on your brand new ERP strategy should be about maintaining documentation.
This basic information and detail will be a massive help to you when it comes to building out the requirements and selecting a vendor or reseller for your next investment. Deciding on whether the current monthly or annual cost, number of licensed users, and the current supplier or vendor is right for you comes a bit later in the process.
Review against your goals and processes
Once you have the fundamental details on the table – it is time to start asking the tough questions. Is your ERP system helping to achieve your goals? These goals will be directly linked to your core business processes – each process should have a goal, and you should work to understand how ERP usage fits into this. Is it a help to your core processes? Or is something in the system blocking or hindering key steps? To ascertain this you should look closely at how ERP feeds and supports your processes, whether there are any further opportunities for streamlining or automation, and any stumbling blocks caused by lack of functionality, bandwidth or otherwise. Knowing where the gaps are will help you decide what is required going forward. For more in-depth guidance on conducting a business process review in line with your ERP usage, check out this post.
Review against objectives
Slightly more specific and less overarching as goals – the objective is essentially what you are trying to achieve from the ERP review – are you trying to cut costs? Increase the efficiency of a particular process? Gain more functionality? Here you can use the information you have gathered already to decide whether you can address this objective through changing your ERP strategy – whether that is adding customisation, more automation, or investing in a new system. This may be something as simple as renegotiating your license as you have fewer users now, or exploring options for integration with other systems. Where you go with this will depend on the need and the best outcome for the business, but that is for another blog.
User feedback – use with caution
Canvassing your wider end user base for their opinion on the current ERP system and how they use it is a great way to get another perspective on the matter. An individual or a particular business function may be able to point you in the direction of a feature, flaw or challenge that you were not previously aware of. Proceed down this route with caution though – many times, we have seen the most common complaint from end users in a business around the ERP system is “it is too slow”. While this may very well be a reason to review your ERP deployment and consider investing in a new one, there may be other things you can address first from a wider infrastructure perspective. Another one to bear in mind here is that issues with certain functionality may be a training issue rather than a software one. Getting user feedback is a key part of the process here – but be sure to dig into the why and how not just taking the what at face value.
The next steps
As mentioned above, what the next steps are following the ERP strategy review will depend on many factors including your findings, desired outcomes and a pretty important factor – your budget. Our only advice here is – whatever need you identify through this process – take action. If the findings from your review spend the rest of their days in someone’s notebook, or on someone’s laptop, you have not achieved anything. Make sure the actions are owned, have a timescale assigned to them, and are monitored for progress and eventual outcome.
If you would like some more specific advice or guidance on conducting an ERP review, we have decades of experience helping organisations of all sizes deploy and optimise their use of ERP software. Get in touch – we would love to talk about your project.