People. Process. Systems.

Stephen Douglas
19th May 2020

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It’s no great revelation to say that looking at the stats from any number of sources for ERP implementation projects the reality is that more than 50% will still fail. This can be attributed to various factors; lack of a clear objective and not defining a clear common goal from the outset; managing budget and time constraints; lack of definition on business processes and a fear of change within the organisation. These are all critical factors to the success of any change project and risks which must be mitigated.


Being an independent ERP and Project Management Consultancy, we speak to many businesses about the problems and challenges they have and the help we can offer at the implementation stage of an ERP project.


Aside from my own personal favourite of ‘who are you and how did you get this number?!’ one of the questions we are asked most often is ‘why would we need you if we have our software partner to help us implement the new system?’.


It’s a fair question, which not only provides an opportunity to highlight the differences between a software vendor or partner and an independent ERP and change management consultancy but one which also allows us to demonstrate why this isn’t an ‘either or’ scenario.


For many businesses embarking on an implementation project there is still a lack of understanding and clarity on the role of the ERP Partner, what they can, can’t, or simply are not there to do and any gaps that this will leave. This can lead to confusion and delays and have a detrimental impact on the success of any project. It is imperative to establish from the outset the role of the partner in implementing the software, expectations they will have on the business delivering their own resources either internally or through a third party, and that everyone is clear on exactly what they need to do to ensure a successful implementation.


There are various factors to be taken into consideration when a business is deciding which partner to buy their software from. The reality of the ERP market today is that many ERP systems are similar in terms of functionality and performance. For some the key differentiator between which software package to choose can be between the partners themselves. Number of installations, licensing costs, reference ability, location, accreditations and certifications are all factors in helping a business choose their platform and preferred vendor.


At this point, the other big question for a business should be how they are going to successfully implement their chosen software? Do they see this as an IT project just to replace an ageing system or are they taking this as an opportunity transform the business and its processes and deliver real, tangible benefits to the organisation? Two entirely different views and approaches which can be the difference between success and failure.


Our experience tells us that the technology itself is rarely the problem when it comes to project failures or challenges. Below are a couple of key considerations to make before deciding who you want to lead your implementation:


1. System and Industry Knowledge

The software partner’s main focus is typically on configuring the system and making sure that it meets the functional and technical requirements.  That’s to be expected – their key expertise is in the intricacies of their own software.  So they take a software led perspective to the project.  Quite often vendor specific ERP consultants will specialise in a particular module or business function only. Sometimes the end to end solution and business change view is missing. End to end solution management is vital for effective flow across the whole business.


An independent and business led ERP and Process Consultancy should take a business led approach to the project.  Ensuring there is robust integration and touch points between the different areas across people, processes and systems. They combine systems expertise with industry and business knowledge. This involves working alongside the software partner, not replacing them, and alongside the customer team.   They should sit in the middle and bring together the business change with the technology change.


2.Implementation Methodology & Change Management

System integrators or software partners will often deploy product experts who may be extremely knowledgeable in a technical capacity but lack the expertise and experience in delivering business change and process change. Often the approach is to build the new technology solution based on a fairly like-for-like basis regarding existing processes.  This misses a whole opportunity of business improvement beyond just the pure technology upgrade.

A robust implementation methodology which encapsulates the business change, not just the technology change, is vital to ensure the full business benefits are achieved and to reduce jeopardising the success of the project.


Although there is no one size fits all approach, any methodology should be covering across the plan; design; build; test; go live and review stages ensuring deliverables are met across planning; solution specification; scenario planning; data migration and cutover stages.


By encompassing project management, solution management and change management through a robust and structured implementation approach across people, process and systems a business will be far more likely to enjoy implementation success and true business transformation.


As has been previously mentioned, technology is rarely the reason for ERP failures. It is more often lack of expertise or focus on project management, change management, governance and the lighter touch activities that will have a bearing on the success or otherwise of a project. If there is too much focus on working from checklists and box ticking rather than on the people within the business, then it’s fair to say the project won’t realise its desired outcomes.


It is the people in the organisation who will make or break a transformation or ERP implementation project. Without a skilled and concerted focus on the ‘Change Management’ elements of the project companies will face communication issues and lack of support and awareness from day one which will be major contributory factors to the failure of the project.


If you would like to speak to Optimum PPS about your systems implementation plans or any other challenges you are facing with your systems then get in touch.

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