365 Quotes for ERP Implementations

Brett's Hobby

Brett with his personal ERP library

I consider myself an ERP/Cloud implementation practitioner on the road to becoming a better ERP advisor and leader.  I have been on this path for 20 years and believe that I have much to share with my peers.  I also believe that I still have much to learn on this journey.  My hope is that you will partner with me in the never-ending quest for ERP implementation success.  During my ongoing research I have collected a database of over 3000 quotes on ERP-related topics (pains, success, best practices, failures, mistakes, implementations, selections).

As part of that partnership I would like to share 365 quotes from valuable books/resources that have influenced/guided my ERP journey.

 

# Quote Resource Author(s)
1 Often the problem lies not with the ERP concept. But in the demand for quick fixes and rapid cures to underlying structural problems. e-Business Roadmap for Success Dr. Ravi Kalakota & Marcia Robinson
2 Putting yourself on the same side as the customer is one of the best ways to avoid the massive rework caused by the customer deciding that the product you just spent 12 months on is not the right product after all. Rapid Development  Steve McConnell
3 Reliability is results driven. Repeatability is input driven. Agile Project Management Jim Highsmith
4 One of the most important areas in enhancing the value added to clients is designing the presentation of information so that it can be readily assimilated and internalized as knowledge. Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships Ross Dawson
5 All of the work that goes into development is not adding value until the software is in the hands of the customer. Lean Software Development Mary Poppendieck & Tom Poppendieck
6 Iterations systematically reduce the trade space, grow the knowledge of the solution, and increase stakeholder buy-in. At the same time, each iteration, or spiral, is planned to mitigate specific risks in the project. Evolutionary Process for Integrating COTS-Based Systems (EPIC) Carnegie Mellon – Software Engineering Institute
7 “Good people can make a bad system work; bad people can’t make a good system work”. The Reengineering Handbook Raymond L. Manganelli, Mark M. Klein
8 “The truth is, no organization plans to fail – rather, they fail to plan…” Control Your ERP Destiny Steven Scott Phillips
9 Many ERP implementations proceed without sufficient knowledge of the possibilities or potential in the new systems. This relegates the design process to a discussion of repeating the current design (the only thing the client knows) or implementing a process that the consultants happen to know (limited to what the consultants have experienced). Maximize Return on Investment Using ERP Applications Worster, Weirick, Andera
10 There are literally thousands of decisions that must be made on these projects. The project team must be empowered to make most of them. That is one reason organizations must put their best people on these teams.

 

E-Business and ERP Murrell G. Shields
11 Achieving early wins and optimizing user buy-in can pave the way for controlling both political and fiscal costs down the road and increase the chances of delivery project on time and on budget. Total Cost of Ownership: A strategic tool for erp planning and implementation Richard West, Stephen L. Daigle – California State University
12 In making design decisions, the entire process should be considered, not just the individual steps, in isolation. As in many things, the business process is only as good as its weakest subprocess. Most of the attention should be focused on the process bottlenecks. Managing the Change Process

 

David K. Carr, Kelvin J. Hard, William J. Trahant. Coopers & Lybrand Center of Excellence for Change Management
13 To integrate business processes, there is a tendency to employ a bottom-up technical integration, stitching together application components that were never intended to work together at the business level. Business Process Management – the third wave Howard Smith and Peter Fingar
14 The “Train the Trainer” Pitfall: It is not realistic to assume someone can be trained several weeks before the go-live and expect him/her to deliver quality training. Control Your ERP Destiny Steven Scott Phillips
15 Requirements creep must first be differentiated from requirements evolution (elaboration). Agile Project Management Jim Highsmith
16 Two overriding criteria that mast be present if the implementation of a COTS solution are to be successful: realistic expectations and organizational flexibility. Successful Packaged Software Implementation Christine B. Tayntor
17 Every organization that implements an ERP system is, in effect, reengineering. Modern ERP Marianne Bradford
18 Remember that if you fail to implement, who cares what the software (ERP) does? Modern ERP Marianna Bradford
19 Not all process-integration problems are technical, and not all about IT. Integrating computer systems is not the same as integrating the business. Business Process Management – the third wave Howard Smith and Peter Fingar
20 Having an ERP system is not a luxury but a necessity. It is a must for survival in this competitive world. ERP Demystified Alexis Leon
21 A major cause of this difficulty is that organizations building these systems tend either to assume that components can be simply thrown together or they fall back on the traditional engineering skills and processes with which they are familiar-skills and processes that have been shown not to work in the building of a COTS-based (ERP) system. Evolutionary Process for Integrating COTS-Based Systems (EPIC) Carnegie Mellon – Software Engineering Institute
22 The acquisition of the tools, of and by itself, will not make you proficient in their use and thus will not provide a competitive advantage. ERP: Making It Happen Thomas Wallace & Michael Kremzar
23 Inclusion of end users promotes acceptance of the solution and helps break down “us versus them” barriers.   Working together, the two groups will provide a balanced evaluation. Successful Packaged Software Implementation Christine B. Tayntor
24 “Planning can become mechanistic and succumb to a checklist mentality.” Balancing Agility and Discipline Barry Boehm, Richard Turner
25 Good design can’t fix broken business models – Jeffrey Veen Why New Systems Fail Phil Simon
26 When managers of a company select an ERP package to implement, they are “buying into” the ERP vendor’s view of a certain industry’s best practices and relying on the system to support their efforts to embrace these practices. Modern ERP Marianne Bradford
27 The gap between a person’s current knowledge level and the knowledge requirement associated with the change will directly impact the probability of success for those individuals. ADKAR – A Model for Change in Business, Government and Our Community Jeffrey M. Hiatt
28 Prototypes are generally designed to handle only the nominal cases; they aren’t expected to handle the exceptional cases. Rapid Development Steve McConnell
29 The development of knowledge is an iterative process, in which experience and lessons provide the basis for deeper understandings in ongoing feedback loops. Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships Ross Dawson
30 Organizations are now in a business environment where their success will depend on their ability to rapidly respond to changing business requirements. E-Business and ERP Murrell G. Shields
31 ERP is commonly misperceived as a computer system. Not so.   It’s a people system made possible by the computer software and hardware. ERP: Making It Happen Thomas Wallace & Michael Kremzar
32 The starting step for business-driven implementation is the creation of business process maps. Secrets to a Successful COTS Implementation Nick Berg
33 It is better to know all the questions than some of the answers. – James Thurber Why New Systems Fail Phil Simon
34 Ironically, customizations don’t add value by default.   By default they subtract value, at least in the short run through costs associated with analysis, design, and development. Modern ERP Marianne Bradford
35 In general, the more comprehensive the system, the more complex configuration will be. Successful Packaged Software Implementation Christine B. Tayntor
36 There is often a level of arrogance in ERP consultants who are taken with replacing existing systems, a level of arrogance that is generally counter-productive. Maximize Return on Investment Using ERP Applications Worster, Weirick, Andera
37 Companies should be careful not to automate non-value-added processes in the new system. Optimize Your ERP System: How to Avoid the Implementation Sins

 

Sage ERP X3 Whitepaper
38 You give me good people and a great process, and we’ll beat any organization with the best technology but a poor process and under motivated people. Information Week – Focus on the Process Doug Patterson, VP and CIO
39 The longer a team, large or small, goes without delivering an integrated product to a review process, the greater the potential for failure. Agile Project Management Jim Highsmith
40 If you’re using a waterfall model, forgetting something can be a costly mistake. You don’t find out until you get down to a system testing that one of the requirements was missing or wrong. Rapid Development Steve McConnell
41 A time-tested maxim in training is always to build on what you know. Principles of the Business Rule Approach Ronald Ross
42 Standardization is the key antidote to low productivity. Lean Six Sigma for Service Michael L. George
43 Off-the-shelf solutions also do not provide a competitive edge for long – any technology your company can buy today your competitors can buy tomorrow. Senior executive must consider a new set of questions: What business processes bring us our identity and competitive advantage? e-Business Roadmap for Success Dr. Ravi Kalakota & Marcia Robinson
44 The way to reduce the impact of defects is to find them as soon as they occur. Lean Software Development Mary Poppendieck & Tom Poppendieck
45 Tools like Enterprise Resource Planning, Lean Manufacturing, Total Quality Management, and others are all essential.   Each one alone is insufficient ERP: Making It Happen Thomas Wallace & Michael Kremzar
46 Implementations must shift from “design and build” unique products to “buy and integrate” standard products. Secrets to a Successful COTS Implementation Nick Berg
47 It is recognized that information accuracy is not a system problem, but rather a management problem. Directing the ERP Implementation Michael Pelphrey
48 Do it once, right at the source. Principles of the Business Rule Approach Ronald Ross
49 At the end of the day a computer problem is probably a business problem. e-Business Roadmap for Success Dr. Ravi Kalakota & Marcia Robinson
50 There is an inclination when implementing packaged applications to use new technologies to implement the same old ways of doing things. E-Business and ERP Murrell G. Shields
51 ERP SaaS requires greater discipline and control for success than on-premise implementations. Cloud Can Bring Out the Best of ERP Brett Beaubouef
52 There is no such thing as a stand-alone ERP module.   ERP is designed to work in concert with other modules as part of a business process. ERP Business Solution Manifesto Brett Beaubouef
53 ERP systems will not exhibit their full potential unless they are properly integrated with other enterprise software applications. ERP Demystified Alexis Leon
54 Successful implementations are done internally.   In other words, virtually all of the work involved must be done by the company’s own people. The responsibility can’t be turned over to outsiders, such as consultants. ERP: Making It Happen Thomas Wallace & Michael Kremzar
55 Chris Koch of CIO.com writes that “Blank sheet reengineering can lead to unrealistic business process designs that can’t be implemented through enterprise software. Why New Systems Fail Phil Simon
56 A common mistake made by many business leaders is to assume that by building awareness of the need for change they have also created desire. ADKAR – A Model for Change in Business, Government and Our Community Jeffrey M. Hiatt
57 Collectively employees do understand the processes, but individually, they do not. Control Your ERP Destiny Steven Scott Phillips
58 Optimizing a business function is futile and non-value-added if it is not part of a revenue/competitive business process. Maximize Return on Investment Using ERP Applications Worster, Weirick, Andera
59 Discipline creates well-organized memories, history, and experience. Balancing Agility and Discipline Barry Boehm, Richard Turner
60 Unsuccessful companies start their ERP implementation effort with automation, bypassing the critical steps of understanding and simplifying their processes. These companies believe that automation alone will improve performance and lead to productivity gains. Automating complex or nonvalue-added processes, however, will not increase productivity or provide measurable improvements in performance. e-Business Roadmap for Success Dr. Ravi Kalakota & Marcia Robinson
61 Teams proceed in a linear fashion with little reliable feedback – they have good ideas, but they don’t test them in the cauldron of reality. Documents don’t work. Products do. Effective simulations or models of the actual product. Agile Project Management Jim Highsmith
62 The Standish Group found that the number one reason that projects succeed is user involvement. Easy access to end-users is one of the three critical success factors in rapid-development projects. Good relationships with customers improve actual development speed. Good relations with customers improve perceived development speed. Rapid Development Steve McConnell
63 The four key characteristics or enablers of knowledge transfer in communication are: (1) Interactivity, (2) Bandwidth, (3) Structure, (4) Reusability Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships Ross Dawson
64 The underlying philosophy is that in smaller, less rigid structures, employees are closer to the customers and can respond faster. Managing the Change Process David K. Carr, Kelvin J. Hard, William J. Trahant. Coopers & Lybrand Center of Excellence for Change Management
65 Business rule solution: Real-time delivery of business logic to knowledge workers as errors actually occur creates a seamless, never-ending, self-training environment. Principles of the Business Rule Approach Ronald Ross
66 (ERP) Service organizations are essentially big “people machines”, where having a high level of turnover is just as deadly as if a manufacturer was constantly asked to change machine parts. Lean Six Sigma for Service Michael L. George
67 The goal of an integrated enterprise is to reduce information float, that is, the time between when data is captured in one place in the system and when it becomes available and usable. e-Business Roadmap for Success Dr. Ravi Kalakota & Marcia Robinson
68 The advantage of the incremental approach is that the company can get feedback on the implementation and how it is received and possibly fin tune the implementation strategy. ERP Demystified Alexis Leon
69 ERP is a philosophy for operating a business model. If your company does not want to adapt to this philosophy, save yourself the headache and don’t pursue ERP. Directing the ERP Implementation Michael Pelphrey
70 There is no such thing as an easy implementation of an ERP project. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) The Great Gamble Ray Atkinson
71 Selecting the consultants (and an implementation methodology) is as important as selecting the (ERP) package. ERP Demystified Alexis Leon
72 The big bang approach promised to reduce the integration cost in conditions of thorough and careful execution. This method dominated early ERP implementations and it partially contributed to the higher rate of failure in its implementation. ERP Demystified Alexis Leon
73 There is no such thing as a competitive ERP implementation methodology. Only thing competitive for implementation partners are its people. Self-Quote Brett Beaubouef
74 It may take months to adjust learning curves with an organization. A major challenge in ERP implementation is the selection of the adequate training for the end-user and education. ERP Implementation Challenges & Critical Organization Success Factors Rajeshwar Vayyavur
75 Implementing the ERP system and realizing the promised benefits are two different ball games. Implementation can be a success, but if the operational phase is not planned and organized properly with the support of all the people involved, then the promised benefits will not materialize. ERP Demystified Alexis Leon
76 In the absence of knowledge and ability you can expect lower utilization throughout the organization, incorrect usage of new processes and tools, a negative impact on customers and sustained reduction productivity. ADKAR – A Model for Change in Business, Government and Our Community Jeffrey M. Hiatt
77 If the project should start to derail, consultants are the easiest to blame. Why New Systems Fail Phil Simon
78 The organizational culture and the nature of projects will be different from company to company. Thus, two ERP implementations can never be identical. ERP Demystified Alexis Leon
79 Claims of ‘proven paths’, ‘best practices’, and simplistic implementations methodologies, that fail litter the ERP landscape as each software company seeks to gain some form of advantage over its rivals. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) The Great Gamble Ray Atkinson
80 Implementation audits are necessary to keep the project on track. Audits should be conducted to compare project results, business objectives, systems objectives, and project objectives. Directing the ERP Implementation Michael Pelphrey
81 Information and intelligence are half of the equation.   The other half is flexible and adaptive production processes that can swiftly respond to threats and/or opportunities. ERP Lessons Learned – Structured Process Wayne L. Staley
82 The rule is efficiency never trumps effectiveness. ERP Lessons Learned – Structured Process Wayne L. Staley
83 “Paralysis through analysis” in a futile attempt to develop the perfect solution. Control Your ERP Destiny Steven Scott Phillips
84 Companies need a systematic method of analyzing the impact of business processes and a more reliable way of introducing new process designs. Business Process Management – the third wave Howard Smith and Peter Fingar
85 When failure is not blamed but considered part of the learning process, people feel secure in taking bold steps outside their narrow territory, and that is when things start happening. Managing the Change Process David K. Carr, Kelvin J. Hard, William J. Trahant. Coopers & Lybrand Center of Excellence for Change Management
86 Where knowledge transfer is a key objective, project handover should be formalized, rather than just letting the engagement end. Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships Ross Dawson
87 Some people mistakenly assume that agility connotes a lack of structure, but the absence of structure, or stability, generated chaos. Conversely, too much structure generates rigidity. Agile Project Management Jim Highsmith
88 In order to manage these changes, it is important for the implementation team to document changes that must be made to individual jobs and execute plans to help people transition to their new jobs. E-Business and ERP Murrell G. Shields
89 ERP SaaS 101: Great customer service can overcome a multitude of software sins. Self-Quote Brett Beaubouef
90 ERP 101: How you gather business requirements sends a message. Self-Quote Brett Beaubouef
91 On time, in scope and on budget means nothing if an ERP customer is not willing to provide a reference. Self-Quote Brett Beaubouef
92 Extracting and cleansing the data from the existing system can be the single largest task in the project ERP Demystified Alexis Leon
93 The goal should not be to fail fast but to learn fast. R “Ray” Wang: An interview by Bob Morris Ray Wang
94 Certified consultants are able to translate business requirements into software configurations far more effectively than non-certified consultants. They can also provide a much more realistic forecast of what your CRM will entail in terms of time and resource requirements.  

Top 50 CRM Quotes

 

Jim McPeak, vice president, Envoy Corporation

95 Content without the context of business process is meaningless Twitter Quote Dennis Howlett
96 End results modeling and pilot room testing with the company can eliminate surprises and uncover almost all “invisible” ghosts in the closet ERP Readiness Checklist Gerry Poe
97 ERP is a semi-finished package. The user organization must configure to meet their needs. Enterprise Resource Planning Jyotindra Zaveri
98 A good ERP is more than just good software. It involves an institutional commitment to connecting people, processes, and resources Quote James Young
99 The data migration phase of a project can consume up to 30% of the total project resources. The most common flaw in data migration planning is that too few resources are invested in it Top 10 Reasons Why Systems Projects Fail Dr. Paul Dorsey
100 Implementing ERP well is a difficult, but not impossible task. It requires not only that you work hard, but that you work hard on the right things. Website ERP Focus

JIT is Just Plain Wrong for Cloud ERP

Given that we are well in the third decade of ERP implementations, I still observe ERP implementations following outdated/misguided concepts that do not utilize limited resources to the fullest.  One of these misapplied concepts is Just-In-Time (JIT) training.  End user enablement continues to be an implementation challenge primarily due to the limited investment made for the most important component of an ERP business solution.  This limitation must be addressed in order to realize the value of ERP in the Cloud.

Evolving Traditional ERP Testing for Cloud ERP

Consider the following illustration that highlights the tradition user involvement model:

Limited User Involvement

Traditional User Involvement

Traditional ERP implementation approaches view end users as an audience versus an active participant to leverage during the entire implementation.  End users by far make up the largest stakeholder group in an ERP implementation however; they have the least amount of involvement and responsibility.  Let’s further contrast and identify opportunities where end-user involvement can have a positive influence on ERP implementations.

Rethinking the Waterfall Testing Paradigm

If we take a stroll down memory lane we can recall the standard testing approach we learned from the Waterfall Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC):

Limited ERP Testing

Traditional Testing Approach

Consider the following:

  • The majority of testing and hands-on experience occurs with a limited group of users leaving a small window for direct users to gain confidence and experience with the ERP system.
  • The limitation with direct user involvement is based on the premise that a working system is not available until the end of the implementation.       This is not the case with a Cloud ERP system that can be provisioned early during the implementation life cycle.
  • JIT End User training is a big bang approach – one time shot to get end-user training right. It also gives end users limited time to internalize the change. This approach naturally requires additional support and creates a greater potential for user errors.

Waterfall is based upon software being developed from scratch – i.e. you could not actively involved end users until the software existed.  When ERP came to the market many approach/processes designed for software development were incorrectly applied to ERP implementations.  The next section we will discuss how to involve the target audience sooner during a Cloud ERP implementation.

Increasing End User Involvement

There are two key value propositions for increasing end-user involvement:

  1. Additional validation of the solution via testing.
  2. Greater user adoption and enablement.

For robust testing business users should first be trained on the ERP Cloud service.  Remember that testing can be “hands-on” learning for business users.  Consider the following illustration:

Increasing User Involement

Incremental User Involvement with ERP Implementations

Let’s expand on some key themes.  First, education/learning is an iterative process where new information needs to be assimilated by users before knowledge is created.  Second, an educated user is a better contributor to the project.  Third, it is easier to manage and support educated end users.  A forward-thinking end-user enablement process drives greater participation and ownership.

Consequences of Not Evolving your User Enablement Approach

As ERP Cloud adoption continues we will see an increase in the following implementation drivers:

Market Drivers for Cloud ERP

Market Drivers for ERP Cloud Implementations

Consider that traditional ERP implementation approaches do not effectively leverage the largest resource pool available.  I can appreciate that with additional resources comes greater coordination and communication channels (N * (N-1) / 2) yet I have witnessed that the business value outweighs the associated project risk.  With the above said I do not recommend we start involving end users without some level of enablement and guidance.  Just as an individual user learns a new system over time the end-user training approach should incrementally prepare the user for greater involvement during the ERP Cloud implementation.

Following are key consequences if we continue with a JIT user involvement strategy:

JIT User Enablement

Potential issues/risks from take a JIT user enablement approach

The JIT approach is being used to squeeze pennies out of an ERP Cloud implementation when the potential risk that results is far greater and eventually must be solved through additional dollars or lost opportunities.

Challenge to Cloud ERP Service Providers and Implementation Partners

Cloud ERP Service Providers and Implementation Partners should take the lead in promoting and supporting end-user involvement earlier during the implementation.  Unfortunately, Cloud ERP Service Providers are not providing a robust set of tools and services for incremental user enablement.  Test cases should be business process focused and not just business function oriented.

Implementation Partners must also adapt to this new paradigm.   It is unfortunate that many implementation partners choose to address ERP Cloud Implementation drivers (mostly cost) by reducing project leadership and transferring user enablement to the customer – regardless if the customer have the required tools/competencies for incremental user involvement.  This short-sighted approach ultimately leads to an unfavorable customer experience with Cloud ERP.

Summary

Just in Time (JIT) is an operations management approach for improving ROI by minimizing inventory and related carrying cost for a production process.   JIT is a viable strategy given that the process is production quality and all input variables are within controlled tolerances.   Implementing a Cloud ERP solution is not a production quality process nor are all input variables can be controlled.  This concept has been applied to ERP end-user training with the intent of maximizing training investment.  JIT training reduces the need for refresher training due to ERP knowledge loss experienced if training precedes the go-live event over a long period of time.  JIT training may be a valid approach for end users after the ERP Cloud service is in Production but it is a limited strategy to employ during an ERP implementation.   Make the end-user an active partner not a passive customer.

ERP Project 101: Organizational Fit Gap

I think we can all agree that organizational fit is a key consideration for successful ERP selections and implementations.  However, mention the phase “fit/gap” or “gap analysis” and most people will fixate on the ERP software.  There are several examples of functional/software fit-gap templates/activities but very few organizational fit-gap templates/guides.  The goal of this blog is to shed some light on this very important activity.

 What is an Organizational Fit/Gap?

An organizational fit/gap analysis is a comparison of the customer’s existing organizational model that supports the business to the defined organizational model supported (or assumed) by the ERP system.  Consider the following illustration: 

Org Gap Analysis

Organizational Fit Gap Analysis

If you do not know what is changing in the organization then how can you manage organizational change?  Too often I see ERP projects only focus on the “To Be” model and expect business users to figure out how to transition. I have also observed that customers see organizational change activities as an opportunity to reduce implementation costs by performing the activity themselves – regardless of their capabilities. 

In order to effectively conduct an organizational fit/gap analysis there are two key sources of information that are required: 

Information   Source Comments
Customer’s Organizational Structure and Business   Processes A   majority of peers and customers believe that this exercise is a non-value-add activity given the imminent organizational change that will occur as part of   the ERP implementation.
ERP Business Process Maps Consider   ERP business process maps as a demonstration by the ERP vendor to show how   their ERP software supports business processes.

Just as you perform a formal Fit/Gap analysis on ERP functionality you should also consider performing a formal organization Fit/Gap analysis as illustrated below:

Organizational Gap Analysis for ERP

Template to identify possible organizational changes based upon predefined ERP roles/responsibilities

An organizational fit/gap analysis should be performed during the ERP selection stage and refined during the early design stages of the ERP implementation.  Do not limit yourself to performing this exercise only once.  The analysis performed during an organizational Fit/Gap will drive future decisions and implementation activities.

What Activities should an Organizational Fit/Gap Influence?

The organization fit/gap analysis will have a direct impact on your organization change management plan and communication plan.  In addition, this analysis will provide insight into user security requirements.  Utilizing this approach will highlight how well the predefined ERP user security profile(s) align to the organization’s existing users.  As a general rule, the majority of predefined ERP workflows are based upon predefined user security roles; therefore keep in mind that ERP user security profile changes may require additional testing for related ERP workflows. 

Why Do We Need a Formal Organizational Fit/Gap?

Conducting a formal organizational fit/gap enables you to quantify the level of change.  Instead of taking a broad stroke at managing change you can provide a focused effort to accomplishing your objective. Remember that people are the most important component of a business solution.  Given the importance I believe that formalizing this activity is worth the investment.

Summary

Predefined ERP implementation tools, templates, roles can provide limited value to an implementation.  Too often the ERP market wrongly perceives that these predefined components result in faster implementations.  This misconception is most pronounced in the ERP SaaS/Cloud arena.  At the end of the day, an ERP implementation should only move as fast as the customer can handle the change.  Conducting a formal organizational fit/gap can enable the customer to adapt faster by focusing on the specific changes required for success.

Troubleshooting ERP Projects

During my career in ERP consulting I  had several opportunities to be involved in deployment of emerging ERP products and services.  As with any innovation rollout there are challenges to overcome and I had to learn how to quickly triage ERP projects for success.  Troubleshooting an ERP project is more than just performing an assessment – it’s implementing a realistic action plan and making it work for all stakeholders involved.   Following is a tested and proven approach to jumpstart stalled ERP projects.

Method

Similar to a Forest Fire Hotshot I typically got dropped into a “hot” ERP project that had stalled or had serious show stoppers.   Time is always against you.  However, you must first put in the effort to objectively understand the situation and establish your credibility:

Troubleshooting ERP Challenges

Troubleshooting ERP Projects

Too often I see project managers jump into the details (WBS, Risks, Issues, CPI, SPI, Cost) without first understanding the context.  You cannot be perceived as a busy body looking for who dropped the ball.  Vendors, Customers, and System Implementers are made up of people.  People make mistakes – especially me.  People don’t care what you know until they know you care.   It will be people – not technology – that will play the biggest role in getting the ERP project back on track.

Before hitting the ground running you first need to do your homework.  As part of an ERP assessment it is important to review the key project artifacts generated and updated throughout the project.

Key Project Documents

Key Project Documents

This is the easy part and it is usually a simple process to review and evaluate.  If a project scope statement does not exist or is not well-defined then chances are this absence is contributing to the problem.  Creating or refining the project scope statement is a very small part of the action plan you need to execute.  Now, let’s turn our attention to the implicit artifacts and information that are harder to identify and resolve.

Understand the Underlying Drivers

ERP vendors,  System Implementers (SIs), and Customers want their ERP implementation to be successful.  Yet there are fundamental drivers for each stakeholder  appears to be in contradiction.  Consider the following illustration:

ERP Stakeholder Implicit Drivers

ERP Stakeholder Implicit Drivers

Understanding the fundamental drivers of your stakeholders enable you to relate, empathize and align the efforts of all project stakeholders.  It is important to note that you need the efforts from ALL stakeholders for success – regardless of who is at fault.  I humbly submit that it is extremely rare when a single stakeholder is responsible or is at fault.  On the flip side it is even more extreme to have a single stakeholder solely responsible for saving the day.

Strategy & Execution

It is a straight-forward exercise to develop a plan for troubleshooting an ERP project but providing a plan by itself does not add business value.  How you execute and implement the plan is more important than the plan itself.  Many of my project management colleagues may not agree with my assessment but I am  convinced that this is true.  Following are my guiding principles for ERP troubleshoot efforts:

  1. Create quick wins.  Triage is required to stop the bleeding.  You need to quickly seize the initiative  and  create positive events.
  2. Attack problems from multiple angles.  If you have one approach get stonewalled you still have other ongoing activities to continue the march forward.  This means that you have contingency plans in flight.  Be aggressive.
  3. Triage is not the time for lessons learned.  There will be opportunity for reflection after the immediate problem(s) have been addressed.
  4. Problem solving is not about assigning blame.  You need every individual to have laser focus on resolving the problem and not on how to protect them own interests.
  5. All stakeholders must be willing to stretch outside their comfort zone.       Customer and vendors limit their response based upon contractual arrangements.  Partners think outside the box for mutual success.
  6. The answer lies within the team.  Many times the greatest impact you can have is to enable the  key players to recognize the solution. Communication skills will be vital to your success:
Communication Skills

Survival Skill – Communications

Summary

There is a fair amount of information available in books, articles, and blogs related to avoiding ERP problems and I agree that you should take reasonable steps to minimize known ERP problems.  However, I believe that it is prudent to be prepared for the “unknown unknowns” that always occur with any ERP project.  Troubleshooting ERP projects require process knowledge of project management fundamentals, problem solving techniques, and most importantly – perseverance.  Just like the rudder steers the ship, finding small success(es) can get your ERP project back on the path for success.

ERP SaaS 101: Services Trump Software

How many ERP SaaS offerings are in the market today?  The number depends on who you ask but it is a fair statement to say that all Tier I and the majority of Tier II ERP vendors have a SaaS offering.  A majority of the market and many ERP analysts still take an on-premise approach to evaluating ERP SaaS offerings.  Services, not software, will have the greatest impact on ERP SaaS success.  The purpose of this article is to examine the impact services will have in a SaaS model.

Installation Is Not an Implementation

Ah, the battle cry of ERP SaaS “You can be up and running in a matter of minutes!”  Now, it is a fair statement you will have a running system but it is a far cry from a configured business solution.  Consider the key activities required for this transformation:

SaaS Implementation Services

SaaS Technical Services

Even though ERP software and infrastructure can be provided in an accelerated fashion, the business value realization of an ERP SaaS model can only be achieved through the effective delivery of technology services.   SaaS ERP is not a push-button solution.  I submit that technology services should have an equal or greater emphasis on ERP SaaS selection than ERP SaaS software. 

Great Services Can Cover a Multitude of Software Gaps

ERP SaaS software installation is a very small step in ERP SaaS experience.  Consider the following illustration:

ERP SaaS Solution Lifecycle

ERP SaaS Lifecycle

Following are a few points I would like to elaborate.  First, installed ERP software does not provide any business value own its own.  Business value is only realized when software is configured and implemented in a production environment.   Second, let’s not forget that an ERP SaaS model is outsourcing technical services to the ERP vendor.   Third, ERP SaaS software release cycles will be at least three times faster than traditional on-premise ERP software.  That means that a SaaS software model will address gaps in a shorter term.  As more customers look at SaaS ERP I believe that services not software will be the emerging competitive differentiator. 

Majority of ERP SaaS Offerings are Non-Competitive Differentiators

For purposes of this discussion please allow me to broadly categorize business processes into three areas:

ERP supporting business models

ERP supporting key business process groups

There are some key concepts that should factor in the ERP SaaS selection process.  First, competitive advantage only comes from revenue-generating business processes.  For example, would having the best of breed solution for SOX compliance enable you to gain market share?  Also consider if you would highlight your Payroll system as a competitive advantage to your customers. A best practice is not a competitive practice.  Organizations, just like individuals, cannot be the best in everything but it makes sense to be the best in your revenue generating activities.  A best-of-breed SaaS solution is of little value if the ERP SaaS provider does not provide competent technical services for reliable integration across multiple environments.

Summary

Too often we focus on the cart before the horse.  I believe that we are experiencing this misalignment with the emerging ERP SaaS market.  The best ERP software is of little value if you cannot implement a viable, manageable solution.  Technical services provided by the ERP vendor’s SaaS operations will have the greatest, long-term impact for business success.  Pick an ERP vendor that will focus on improving both their ERP software and SaaS technical services.

ERP Project 101: Deployment vs Requirements Gathering

Customers, System implementers and ERP vendors are always looking for ways to accelerate ERP implementations.  One popular approach is to take a phased deployment approach based upon criteria such as location, ERP module or feature set.   Requirements are gathered, validated, and tested based upon a limited scope.  Unfortunately, many ERP projects utilizing this approach result in failure given requirements conflict and misaligned expectations.  In the following blog posting we will discuss how to minimize challenges associated with phased ERP deployments.

Reality Check!  There will be ERP requirements conflicts

A reality with any cross-functional or multi-site deployment is that there will be requirement conflicts as part of an ERP implementation.  In our focus for rapid results and simplifying ERP deployments we forget the fundamental result – an ERP implementation is the implementation of a business solution.  Consider the following illustration:

ERP REquirements Conflict

Example of Requirements Conflict for ERP

Let’s assume that we want to accelerate an ERP HR implementation by deploying ERP solution by region.   To further streamline our efforts the project only gather requirements from the North America HR stakeholders (Phase I). The above approach appears to work for the initial ERP deployment; however; these short-sighted decisions can have a negative impact to future deployments.   Remember that correcting problems and limitations are more costly once an ERP system is deployed in a production environment. 

With the above said, I appreciate that ERP vendors are evolving their ERP software to provide additional flexibility in configurations to allow variances based upon industry, line of business, country and even user preferences.  However, we should understand that all ERP solutions leverage a common data model with specific data dependencies.  We can address this constraint in one of two methods.  Either we take a risky approach of gathering requirements in silos hoping that we clearly define all ERP configuration dependencies or take the practical approach of gathering requirements across all HR operational areas. In the next section we discuss several practical steps to ensure requirements conflicts are minimize.

Practical Steps to Minimize ERP Requirements Conflict

Let’s brief speak to some common-sense approaches to deal with the reality of ERP requirements conflicts.

How to address ERP requirements conflicts

Practical approaches to address requirements conflicts

The first step of requirements management is to perform a stakeholder analysis to identify the appropriate business owners and subject matter experts in include in requirements gathering.  It is important to note that we always implement to a business process not simply to the software (ex. module, feature). Utilize solution modeling to analyze business requirements from multiple perspectives.  Too often I observe ERP projects spend more time on defining exceptions to standard business scenarios versus defining a common requirements set that can be leverage to isolate and manage unique requirement criteria.  Consider the following illustration:

 

Logical Business Requirements Model

Logical progression of gathering ERP requirements

There should be a logical progression of business requirements from the global level to the specific user level.  Isolate requirement exceptions to effectively quantify frequency, impact, and cost.  Utilizing this approach will provide the customer with greater insight for an informed decision.   Finally, let’s not forget the Lean principle that states process efficiency is gained when variability (exceptions) is minimized.

Summary & Conclusion

The ERP industry is hyper-competitive where every ERP vendor and System Implementer is looking for an edge to accelerate and reduce the costs associated with ERP implementations.  This desire is intensified by the entrance of ERP SaaS offerings with lower entry costs for a growing target market.  The challenge is to identify competent options for accelerating ERP implementations without putting long-term customer success at significant risk.  Requirements management (gathering, validating, and testing) is the critical discipline that impacts all downstream implementation activities.  Taking a technology-oriented approach results in (a) unclear requirements, (b) requirements conflicts, and (c) additional rework to support future deployments.  Making the right investments in requirements management will be the best chance to accelerate downstream activities including deployments.                    

SaaS ERP is not a push button solution

SaaS ERP is the latest effort in the ERP industry to provide a rapid, cost-effective solution for customers who want an enterprise solution.  A SaaS deployment model does provide the potential for greater value realization; however, the value proposition is dependent upon appropriate expectations and implementation approach.  The purpose of the following article is to provide insight to ensure customers make realistic and informed decisions.

General Expectations for SaaS ERP

I firmly believe that one of the key reasons for failed ERP implementations is that expectations were not correctly established and managed throughout the implementation.   Consider the following:

Common Expectations of SaaS ERP

Common Expectations of SaaS ERP

 

  1. Cheap:  The customer does not need to make a huge expenditure to implement and utilize.
  2. Fast: Answer a few questions and have an up and running software in weeks.
  3. Flexible:  Business users can make changes.  Minimize IT involvement.
  4. Intuitive:  Quick to learn and easy to navigate.

We can all agree that the above targets are worthy goals of any ERP solution.  However, this is only part of the story.   The next section discusses the efforts required to achieve the goals listed.

Desired Results of SaaS ERP

To better understand ERP SaaS expectations we need to elaborate on the desired results that should be realized by customers. 

Elaborating on SaaS ERP Expectations

Elaborating on SaaS ERP Expectations

 

Some of the desired results are directly addressed by the SaaS model but the majority of results are addressed either by (a) the ERP software architecture or (b) the delivery model.   Example:  SaaS ERP does not require an initial outlay of funding for capital expenditures for hardware and related infrastructure.  SaaS ERP eliminates the need for a separate effort for ERP software installation and certification.  Yet, it is important to remember that ERP software installation represents at most 5% of the total time required to implement an ERP solution.  Therefore the SaaS model by itself does not have a dramatic impact on accelerating ERP implementations.

SaaS ERP Realities

Allow me to share some observations I have regarding the ERP SaaS model that may not appear to be readily evident:

SaaS ERP Realities

Let’s take one of the above desired results to elaborate on the above diagram.  A goal for SaaS ERP is to reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).  One of the key ERP design strategies is to enable business users to tailor the functionality to meet requirements without having IT to make a costly customization.  However, it is important to understand the shift of effort from IT to functional users.  There may be a reduction in the effort or a change in the nature of the work but the effort is still required.  There is no “push button” to eliminate this work. 

For another example let’s take the ERP value stream.  ERP vendors can create additional value to customers by providing new and enhanced functionality.   The leading SaaS ERP delivery model should provide a 3:1 ratio increase in the software release cycle.   Yet, it is important to realize that more frequent ERP software releases require additional testing and deployment (organizational change) work.  It is interesting to note that many of the leading SaaS ERP vendors do provide an out-of-the-box testing automation solution.  Again, the customer will experience a shift from technical to functional effort.

 Summary

Sorry if I burst your bubble, but I rather have an informed customer that will have reasonable expectations versus a customer with unrealistic expectations.  SaaS ERP is one of many delivery models that ERP vendors offer to customers.  While it is true that SaaS ERP provide customers with new options not available previously, it is not a slam dunk for all customers.  Developing the customer’s use case and understanding all technical and organizational impacts will better ensure an informed decision is reached.

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