300 Quotes for ERP Implementations

Brett's Hobby

My Little Hobby

 

Not sure if I’m wiser but as part of my knowledge sharing efforts, I would like to share 300+ quotes from over 50 books/resources that have influenced/guided my ERP journey.  Nothing beats “hands-on” experience but trust you may find some value.  These quotes are grouped into the following areas:

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FYI:  I’m working on gathering 300 quotes.  Not there yet but I’m still reading and exploring.  Education never ends.

Requirements Management

“For any organization there are just a few key processes that handle the core business.  All the other processes support the key processes on a certain aspect.” ERP: Tools, Techniques, and Applications, Carol Ptak, Eli Schragenheim.

“To maximize a revenue-supporting process is illogical as it will take effort away from revenue-generating business processes.” Bill Curtis.

“Rules always cost the business something.  This cost must be balanced against business risks.” Principles of the Business Rule Approach, Ronald Ross.

“Reduce complexity through standardization.” Lean Six Sigma for Service, Michael L. George.

“Organizations with broken systems typically suffer from broken business processes and vice versa.” Why New Systems Fail, Phil Simon.

“The cost of control obviously should not exceed the cost of inaccuracies.” ERP: Making It Happen, Thomas Wallace & Michael Kremzar.

“Testing is the only way to ensure that you have satisfied all of the requirements for accurate data.” Consider, Select & Implement an ERP system, O’Sullivan, Rico, Goldensohn.

“Making the effort to understand your customer’s expectations can save a lot of friction and extra work.” Rapid Development, Steve McConnell.

“A key aspect of enriching mental models is bringing assumptions to light.  People’s assumptions are their blind spots.” Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships, Ross Dawson.

“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.

“Adaptive approaches are good when your requirements are uncertain or volatile.” Agile Project Management, Agile Software Development.

“A common mistake is to design and configure the system for only the first site and worry about the others later.” Control Your ERP Destiny, Steven Scott Phillips.

“The cost of complexity isn’t offset by what you can charge.  Complexity creates opportunities for you to fail your customer.” Gerand Arpey – President of American Airlines.

“Customers tend to interpret requirements broadly, and developers tend to interpret them narrowly.”, Rapid Development, Steve McConnell.

“The proposed process designs should always be designed within the logic of the ERP systems.” Maximize Return on Investment Using ERP Applications, Worster, Weirick, Andera.

“The ability to trace requirements flow from their source (originator), through the various project phases (design, prototyping, customizations, testing, piloting, and delivery) is a requirements generation best practice.” Directing the ERP Implementation, Michael Pelphrey.

“If you do not define the lowest level of detail required for reporting, you will not be able to design the transaction input to achieve that result.” ERP Implementation Best Practices Success And Cautionary Tales, Valerie Campbell CPA CGMA.

“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.

“Paralysis through analysis” is a futile attempt to develop the perfect solution.  Control Your ERP Destiny. Steven Scott Phillips.

“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.

“Requirements creep must first be differentiated from requirements evolution (elaboration).” Agile Project Management. Jim Highsmith.

“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.

“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.

“There is no direct relationship between a company size and the complexity of its (ERP) software requirements.”, Control Your ERP Destiny. Steven Scott Phillips.

“One of the advantages, but also criticisms, of ERP systems is that they impose a standardized way of conducting business processes.” , Modern ERP: Select, Implement, and Use Today’s Advanced Business Systems, Marianne Bradford.

Results-Oriented

 “How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose.” Bill Gates.

“Improvements in the use of the ERP system are an outcome of improvements in the process.”  ERP – The Implementation Cycle, Stephen Harwood.

“Be open to new ways to accomplish the same goal.” The Executive Guide to Implementing Accounting Software, Ken E. Sebahar.

“Competitive advantage comes not from systems, but from doing something better than competitors. “ Mission Critical – Realizing the Promise of Enterprise Systems, Thomas Davenport.

“Whilst technology is a great enabler, it is not a panacea in itself.” ERP – The Implementation Cycle, Stephen Harwood.

“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.

“Using an ERP system simply to run things in the same way as before implementation is a guarantee of disappointment.” Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) The Great Gamble, Ray Atkinson.

“The goal should not be to fail fast but to learn fast.” R “Ray” Wang: An interview by Bob Morris, Ray Wang.

“ERP is first an attitude; second, a process, and only third, a set of tools.” ERP Demystified, Alexis Leon.

“An information system only has value when people use it correctly.” ERP – The Implementation Cycle,, Stephen Harwood.

“A company may employ the most sophisticated software in the world, but unless information is managed, timely, accurate, and complete, the system serves little purpose.” ERP Lessons Learned – Structured Process, Wayne L. Staley.

“Benchmarking has its limits.” The Reengineering Handbook, Raymond L. Manganelli, Mark M. Klein.

“One dollar of prevention spent on fail proofing strategies can be worth several thousand dollars of expensive fixes and rehabilitation.” ERP A-Z: Implementer’s Guide for Success, Travis Anderegg.

“The success of the Go Live day is measured by the lack of problems.” ERP – The Implementation Cycle, Stephen Harwood.

“One guiding tenet is every present: any change we administer should add more value, cost less, or deliver services more rapidly.” Transitioning the Enterprise to the Cloud, Ed Mahon, CIO at Kent State University.

“Optimizing individual function areas generally does not result in optimization of the whole process because, within departments, only individual activities are goal oriented.”  Business Process Oriented Implementation of Standard Software , Mathias Kirchmer.

“Utilize a “test first” approach.  Test scripts are written in advance of any configuration or development.” Secrets to a Successful COTS Implementation, Nick Berg.

“The first comprehensive picture of whether the accounting numbers balance and make sense will arise during the month end process.” ERP – The Implementation Cycle, Stephen Harwood.

“Users only care about their experiences.” Transitioning the Enterprise to the Cloud, Ed Mahon, CIO at Kent State University.

“Collectively employees do understand the processes, but individually, they do not.” Control Your ERP Destiny, Steven Scott Phillips.

Applying knowledge is the final step that makes the knowledge valuable. Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships, Ross Dawson.

“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.

“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

“Content without the context of business process is meaningless.” Dennis Howlett.

“Reliability is results driven.  Repeatability is input driven.” Agile Project Management, Jim Highsmith.

Process thinking is a discipline. Maximize Return on Investment Using ERP Applications, Worster, Weirick, Andera.

“Are the business processes that will be automated clearly understood and documented?  An adage says, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” The software equivalent is less positive “If you don’t know what it is you’re automating, no system will help””. Successful Packaged Software Implementation, Christine B. Tayntor.

“Decreasing variability early in the process has larger impact than decreasing variability late in the process.” Lean Software Development. Mary Poppendieck & Tom Poppendieck.

“The rule is efficiency never trumps effectiveness”. ERP Lessons Learned – Structured Process, Wayne L. Staley.

“Good design can’t fix broken business models.” Jeffrey Veen.

“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.

“The way to reduce the impact of defects is to find them as soon as they occur.” Lean Software Development.  Mary Poppendieck & Tom Poppendieck.

“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.

“Remember that if you fail to implement, who cares what the software (ERP) does?” Modern ERP, Marianna Bradford.

“Standardization is the key antidote to low productivity.” Lean Six Sigma for Service.  Michael L. George

“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.

“The assumption is the thicker the report the greater the “due diligence”. This may actually be measuring waste, not actionable information.” ERP Information at the Speed of Reality: ERP Lessons Learned, Wayne L. Staley.

Organizational Enablement

“Untrained (or under trained) users may end up needing three to six times as much support as end-users who have been trained.” ERP: Tools, Techniques, and Applications, Carol Ptak, Eli Schragenheim.

“Experience shows that the greater employee involvement in the change, the greater the positive response in understanding the compelling need for the change and the sharing of the vision.”Managing the Change Process, David K. Carr, Kelvin J. Hard, William J. Trahant. Coopers & Lybrand Center of Excellence for Change Management

“Prototyping and testing provides one of the highest forms of learning that ERP team participants can receive.” ERP A-Z: Implementer’s Guide for Success, Travis Anderegg.

“An ERP system cannot be installed without the capability of an organization to change.”ERP A-Z: Implementer’s Guide for Success, Travis Anderegg.

“People are one of the hidden costs of ERP implementation.  Without proper training, about 30 to 40 % of front-line workers will not be able to handle the demands of the new system.” Consider, Select & Implement an ERP system, O’Sullivan, Rico, Goldensohn.

“The users of the ERP will be confronted with a huge amount of data; most of the data will have no relevancy to any decision that needs to be considered.”ERP: Tools, Techniques, and Applications, Carol Ptak, Eli Schragenheim.

“Operation and maintenance phase begins with a period of initial struggle until people become comfortable in their roles and tasks.  The duration of this stage depends on how effective the training was.” Enterprise Resource Planning, Alexis Leon.

“Old adage is true: the longer the work stays in process, the more it costs.” Lean Six Sigma for Service, Michael L. George.

“Every forward-thinking enterprise values productivity, which is one of the first things to suffer when technological systems are not end-user-friendly.”, Enterprise Resource Planning, Alexis Leon.

“When data cleansing or manual translations are required, end users should be part of the team.” Successful Packaged Software Implementation, Christine B. Tayntor.

 “Untrained users simply do not take advantage of the system for the intent that is was purchased.” Enterprise Resource Planning , Alexis Leon.

“Education may be viewed as understanding of concepts and practices. Training, however, if the application of education into day-to-day events.” Directing the ERP Implementation, Michael Pelphrey.

“Maintain the project team for at least 1 month after the go-live date.” Consider, Select & Implement an ERP system, O’Sullivan, Rico, Goldensohn.

“Manual input of data is the best possible training method.” The Executive Guide to Implementing Accounting Software, Ken E. Sebahar.

“People can’t be controlled like machines: Service processes are far more dependent on the interaction of people (both internal handoffs and working with customers) than are manufacturing processes.” Lean Six Sigma for Service, Michael L. George.

“Go at a pace that suits the organization’s readiness.” Lean Six Sigma for Service, Michael L. George.

“The logic is inexorable – the better the training, the faster you will see the business metrics move in the direction you are looking for.”  ERP Demystified. Alexis Leon.

“Without change, performance would never improve. Modern ERP.”  Marianne Bradford.

“Resistance, in many cases, is simply a sign of a lack of communication.” ERP A-Z: Implementer’s Guide for Success, Travis Anderegg.

“How can one manage change if one does not understand exactly what is changing”. ADKAR – A Model for Change in Business, Government and Our Community, Jeffrey M. Hiatt.

“There are limits to how much change an organization and its end users can stomach at once.” Why New Systems Fail. Phil Simon.

“In an organization undergoing change, building a resilient work force by widely disseminating the change vision and strategy and by minimizing disruption is essential.” Managing the Change Process, David K. Carr, Kelvin J. Hard, William J. Trahant. Coopers & Lybrand Center of Excellence for Change Management.

“Train and then re-train: The best approach to training is to do it several times. Once is not enough. Three recommend points of training are follows are: On Design, Before test, Post go-live.” Top 5 Recommendations to Ensure Your ERP Implementation is Successful, Sandeep Walia.

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Derek Bok.

“Although consultants may participate in testing to some extent, employees should drive the majority of testing.  Doing so maximizes knowledge transfer and readies them for real life under the new system.” Why New Systems Fail. Phil Simon.

 “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.

“Every organization that implements an ERP system is, in effect, reengineering.” Modern ERP, Marianne Bradford.

“A time-tested maxim in training is always to build on what you know.” Principles of the Business Rule Approach.  Ronald Ross.

“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.

“Nothing is more irritating than being forced to serve the system instead of the system serving the customer”, ERP Information at the Speed of Reality.  Wayne L Staley.

“Ollie Wight said it well: “Grease-gun education doesn’t work.” He was referring to the one-shot, quick-hit educational approaches tried so often without lasting results.”, ERP: Making It Happen: The Implementers’ Guide to Success with Enterprise Resource Planning, Thomas F. Wallace.

“Gartner Research recommends allocating 17 percent of the project’s budget for training. Those companies spending less than 13 percent on training are three times more likely to have problems.”, Concepts In Enterprise Resource Planning, Ellen Monk and Bret Wagner.

“A key point: Don’t train before you educate.  People need to know what and why before they’re taught how.  Education should occur either prior to, or simultaneously with the training.”,  Erp: Making It Happen; The Implementers’ Guide to Success with Enterprise Resource Planning, Thomas F. Wallace.

Rapid Implementation

“In order to do rapid implementations, trade-offs must be made.” E-Business and ERP, Murrell G. Shields.

“Rapid Implementations: The data cleanup must start early in the project for the organization to be prepared for the data conversion.” E-Business and ERP, Murrell G. Shields.

“Rapid implementation cannot be done with a massive project team.” E-Business and ERP, Murrell G. Shields.

“Deliver sooner rather than later.  It is rare to get 100% support for any project; “fence sitters” will wait to see how things turn out before giving their support.” Modern ERP, Marianne Bradford.

“The training in a rapid implementation should be hands-on.” E-Business and ERP, Murrell G. Shields.

“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.

“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.

“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.

Data Conversion

“If your existing data is inaccurate and unreliable a new software system will not fix that.” Consider, Select & Implement an ERP system. O’Sullivan, Rico, Goldensohn.

“In order to increase the chances that the conversion will go smoothly, do a dry run test of the conversion plan prior to the real go-live.” Control Your ERP Destiny. Steven Scott Phillips.

“When implementing a new ERP system you need to start data migration from the existing legacy business systems as soon as possible.” ERP Demystified. Alexis Leon.

“It is recognized that information accuracy is not a system problem, but rather a management problem.” Directing the ERP Implementation. Michael Pelphrey.

“Do it once, right at the source.”  Principles of the Business Rule Approach, Ronald Ross.

“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.

“Extracting and cleansing the data from the existing system can be the single largest task in the project.” ERP Demystified.  Alexis Leon.

Evaluating Consulting Partners

“Consultants are there for guidance, but the final say regarding implementation should fail upon the management’s responsibility.” ERP 308 – Most Asked Questions, Leonard Frost.

“No implementation partner will have a complete appreciation of the customer’s business solution until the customer makes the investment to perform knowledge transfer with the implementation partner.” Max Your Investment: 10 Key Strategies for ERP/COTs Success, Brett Beaubouef.

“There is a misguided belief that experienced consultants face no learning curves with the software.”  Control Your ERP Destiny.  Steven Scott Phillips.

“Competent ERP implementation partners should be able to provide industry and configuration best practices day one.”  Max Your Investment: 10 Key Strategies for ERP/COTs Success. Brett Beaubouef.

“The more the consultants know about the company the better they will be equipped to provide good advice.”  ERP A-Z: Implementer’s Guide for Success, Travis Anderegg.

“Bait and switch.  This is the practice of displaying certain consultants, during the sales process, to show the sales company understands business and the ERP implementation process to ensure a successful outcome.” Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) The Great Gamble, Ray Atkinson.

“Have successful project managers who are capable of anticipating what can go wrong.” ERP Demystified, Alexis Leon.

“No company, no manager is sufficiently brilliant to think about all of the complexities and complications inherent in a cross-functional ERP project.” Mission Critical – Realizing the Promise of Enterprise Systems, Thomas Davenport.

“Overspend on consultancy is often compensated for by a cut-back in training.  This is not helped by the fact that training costs tend to be under-estimated in the first place.” ERP – The Implementation Cycle, Stephen Harwood.

“The less you know the more money they (consultants) make.” Control Your ERP Destiny, Steven Scott Phillips.

“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.

“Process is not a substitute for skill.” Agile Project Management, Jim Highsmith.

“Selecting the consultants (and an implementation methodology) is as important as selecting the (ERP) package.” ERP Demystified. Alexis Leon.

“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.

“It is better to know all the questions than some of the answers.”  James Thurber.

“There is no such thing as an easy implementation of an ERP project.” Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) the Great Gamble. Ray Atkinson.

“Discipline creates well-organized memories, history, and experience.” Balancing Agility and Discipline. Barry Boehm, Richard Turner.

“(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.

“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.

“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.

Creating documentation is far easier than generating decisions.  Producing a great volume of documentation does not result in producing a great amount of knowledge.” Max Your Investment: 10 Key Strategies for ERP/COTs Success, Brett Beaubouef.

ERP Innovation

“Machine learning is a logical progression, not a human inspiration.” Brett Beaubouef.

“Roles are finite.  People are infinite.” Agile Project Management, Jim Highsmith.

“Knowledge often emerges from the collaboration of people with very different ways of looking at their field.”  Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships, Ross Dawson

“As the level of control increases, the level of innovation decreases.” Max Your Investment: 10 Key Strategies for ERP/COTs  Success, Brett Beaubouef.

“Interaction drives innovation.  Innovation emerges from the interaction of diverse individuals.” Agile Project Management, Jim Highsmith

 “Digital Darwinism is unkind to those who wait.” R “Ray” Wang: An interview by Bob Morris, Bob Morris

“What businesses need is not a one-time fix for individual processes but an environment that combines business and technical systems to produce processes that flex and recombine as required by changes in the market.” Business Process Management – the third wave, Howard Smith and Peter Fingar.

ERP Project Success

“A real configuration of an ERP system can only happen when there is real data in the system.”  Enterprise Resource Planning “Alexis Leon.

“Control is not a cost effective substitute for education.” Brett Beaubouef.

“As Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister (2003) so pithily state, “If a project has no risks, don’t do it.” Risk is an essential characteristic of innovation”.”, Agile Project Management, Jim Highsmith.

“Cost overruns are manageable if the project will achieve worthwhile benefits; however, failing to satisfy business goals is always unacceptable.” Principles of the Business Rule Approach, Ronald Ross.

“Customers like rapid delivery.  Rapid delivery means companies can deliver faster than customers can change their minds.”  Lean Software Development, Mary Poppendieck & Tom Poppendieck.

“Lack of alignment of ERP system and business processes is a major issue in the implementation of ERP.” ERP Implementation Challenges & Critical Organization Success Factors, Rajeshwar Vayyavur.

“A hybrid (cloud) model will add complexity”.  Transitioning the Enterprise to the Cloud, Ed Mahon.

“It is important to recognize how fast ERP team members, and organizations, can acquire new knowledge.” ERP A-Z: Implementer’s Guide for Success, Travis Anderegg.

“You can have a cheap, fast or quality implementation, but you only get two”. How to select your ERP without losing your mind, Andy Pratico.

“Understand the implications of the decisions you make.” Rapid Development , Steve McConnell.

“Industry leaders have not effectively defined the set of business skills that should be included in any ERP consultant’s educational process.” Maximize Return on Investment Using ERP Applications, Worster, Weirick, Andera.

“One of the biggest mistakes during ERP projects is not taking the time to build a common understanding of how business is conducted today and potential improvement opportunities.” Control Your ERP Destiny,  Steven Scott Phillips.

“If the project becomes all things to all people, it will fail to meet anyone’s expectations.” Control Your ERP Destiny, Steven Scott Phillips.

“A consultant with software knowledge is one thing, but if the consultant is a poor communicator, it undermines the transfer of knowledge.”  Control Your ERP Destiny, Steven Scott Phillips.

“Job 1 is to run the business.  Very close to that in importance should be implementing ERP.” ERP: Making It Happen, Thomas Wallace & Michael Kremzar.

“A methodology will help ward off risk, but a contingency plan is still absolutely necessary.” ERP Demystified, Alexis Leon.

“The lesson here is that organizations will encounter great peril when the system they seek to install does not fit their culture.” Mission Critical – Realizing the Promise of Enterprise Systems, Thomas Davenport.

“ERP Success: Know what features and objectives will NOT be included in the project.” The Executive Guide to Implementing Accounting Software, Ken E. Sebahar.

“Regarding methodologies, there is nothing new under the sun.  Every methodology is based upon a set of rules, environmental conditions and assumptions.  All have strengths and challenges that must be addressed for success.” Max Your Investment: 10 Key Strategies for ERP/COTs  Success.  Brett Beaubouef.

“Due diligence may feel like a waste of time and money, but weighed against the high cost of failure, it is imperative.” ERP Information at the Speed of Reality, Wayne L Staley.

“There must be awareness throughout the organization of the importance of scope management.” E-Business and ERP  , Murrell G. Shields.

“The longer the timeframe and the further apart the milestones in a project, the harder it is to create a sense of urgency.” E-Business and ERP, Murrell G. Shields.

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” General Dwight Eisenhower.

“Deferring decision(s) will cause significant risks to the (ERP) project success.”  Directing the ERP Implementation, Michael Pelphrey.

“Many of the major decisions and actions that ultimately determine whether a project is a success or a failure occur very early in the life of the project.” E-Business and ERP  , Murrell G. Shields.

“The best people for the project are likely to be those who have the least free time, since they are already in key positions.” ERP – The Implementation Cycle, Stephen Harwood.

“Success is not to be found in excellent project management alone. ADKAR – A Model for Change in Business, Government and Our Community, Jeffrey M. Hiatt.

“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.

“The rumor mill and grapevine are active in most companies, and it is in the project team’s best interests to preempt them by providing clear, consistent, targeted, and ongoing communications.”  Successful Packaged Software Implementation, Christine B. Tayntor.

“But technology is not reengineering.  Reengineering changes the business processes – the way the work is done.”  The Reengineering Handbook, Raymond L. Manganelli, Mark M. Klein.

“Projects that skimp on upstream activities typically have to do the same work downstream at anywhere from 10 to 100 times the cost of doing it properly in the first place.” (Fagan 1976; Boehm and Papaccio 1988).  Rapid Development, Steve McConnell.

“The success or failure of a new system hinges directly on the acceptance of that system by the organization’s end users.” Why New Systems Fail, Phil Simon.

“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.

Chris Koch of CIO.com writes, “Blank sheet reengineering can lead to unrealistic business process designs that can’t be implemented through enterprise software.”.

“A major cause of this difficulty (failures) 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 COTS- based (ERP) system.” Evolutionary Process for Integrating COTS-Based Systems (EPIC) Carnegie Mellon – Software Engineering Institute.

“Agile methods universally need close relationships with the customer and users of the systems under development.”  Balancing Agility and Discipline. Barry Boehm, Richard Turner.

“The truth is, no organization plans to fail – rather, they fail to plan…” Control Your ERP Destiny, Steven Scott Phillips.

“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.

“Planning can become mechanistic and succumb to a checklist mentality.” Balancing Agility and Discipline.  Barry Boehm, Richard Turner.

“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.

“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.

“It is only prudent to allow for some slippage in time and budget, and not to count on full project functionality until after testing and installation are complete.” Managerial Issues of Enterprise Resource Planning Systems, David L. Olson.

“The highest probability of successful implementations of ERP software is when there is only a minimal need to change business processes and ERP software.” Enterprise Resource Planning Systems: Systems, Life Cycle, Electronic Commerce, and Risk,  Daniel E. O’Leary.

“Bad processes (and systems) beat up good people.”, Consider, Select & Implement an ERP system, Dr. Jill O’Sullivan, John Rico, Dennis Goldensohn.

“Effectively managed implementations are deliverable driven.”, E-Business and ERP: Rapid Implementation and Project Planning. Murrell G. Shields.

“Change control is about coordination, not denial.”, Agile Project Management. Jim Highsmith.

“For an ERP implementation to go smoothly and provide value, it is critical that a company understand both its current processes and the state of the process after implementation.” Concepts in Enterprise Resource Planning, by Ellen Monk, Bret Wagner.

“No ERP methodology is a substitute for thinking.”, Brett Beaubouef.

“Making partners of customers means they become more likely to understand technical constraints. You start to get rid of the “I need it all now” phenomenon, and customers begin cooperating to find realistic, mutually satisfying technical solutions.” Rapid Development, Steve McConnell.

“The timelier the validation, the better.”, Directing the ERP Implementation, Michael Pelphrey.

ERP  Utilization

“ERP systems will not exhibit their full potential unless they are properly integrated with other enterprise software applications.”  ERP Demystified. Alexis Leon.

“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

“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.

 “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.

“A good system will shine light into dark corners.” Making ERP Work. Sam Graham.

“A major overhead in operating ERP systems is entering transactions. Transactions take time, cost money and introduce the possibility of errors.” Making ERP Work. Sam Graham.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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.

The Next Evolution of ERP: Adaptive ERP

With the initial release of ERP, one of the key “game changers” was the ability of business users to access data and generates reports without direct IT involvement. This empowerment of the business user had a significant impact on business agility. Today, we continue to see ERP vendors focus on providing business-friendly tools for reporting and analysis.  Yet, I can see a new evolution brewing in the ERP industry what I like to call “Adaptive ERP” where business users can perform on-demand actions to meet business changes real-time.  In the next sections we discuss the key capabilities of Adaptive ERP and a practical assessment of where the ERP industry is today.

What is Adaptive ERP?

Adaptive ERP would enable business users to configure, simulate, test, and implement business technology changes with limited traditional IT services (ex. software development).  Predictive analysis will become a reality.  Logical thinking and search methods will be more valuable than technical syntax. Information will become context and even transactional specific.   Following is an illustration of the major domains that Adaptive ERP should address:

Adaptive ERP

Conceptual Model of Adaptive ERP

Domain:  Logical Development

Too often a change in the business model requires an IT development effort.  Any competent IT development will require the following activities:

  • Business requirements gathering
  • Technical design
  • Technical construction
  • Unit, System testing

In general, the greater the number of individuals involved in a project the greater the coordination/communication effort resulting in a greater time commitment.  Enabling business to become agile will require an evolutionary change in how ERP supports business activities.  However, simply removing people out of the equation is not the answer.  What is required is providing business owners the tools and experience required to become more self-sufficient.

Logical Development

Logical Development for ERP

Following is a brief list of the capabilities required to enable business users to perform logical development

  • Business models must be defined as metadata within the ERP software.
  • Business rules are separate from technical components and are exposed directly to business users.
  • Business scenarios are defined separate from the respective business models. Business exceptions are variations to a specific business scenario.
  • Business users should have the ability to run simulations in production (i.e. parallel testing)
  • ERP must provide automated testing support
    • Automated unit and system testing (self-learning via business model metadata).
    • Automated business process test scripting.
    • Test scripts are a results-oriented view of business requirements.
    • Automated impact analysis with logical development change.
  • Business users should be trained in logical and structured thinking.  There has to be a prescribed process to effectively conduct knowledge transfer with the ERP software.  Business users should be able to directly educate (i.e. configure) the ERP software on how they run their business.

Remember that a key value proposition for ERP is to reduce software development.  This is not an argument to eliminate IT but rather to refocus IT from tactical support to strategic activities.  IT will play a very important role in enabling business users in logical and structured thinking.

Domain: Predictive Analysis

Today, there is interest in Big Data and Enterprise 2.0 technologies but they are not the final destination.

Predictive Analysis

Predictive Analysis

At the end of the day, business decisions have an impact on business results. Enterprise 2.0 and Big Data are supportive technologies.  Enterprise 2.0 focuses on the utilization of Web 2.0 standards in developing collaborative technologies like blogs, RSS, social bookmarking, social networking and wikis.  Enterprise 2.0 emphasizes employee, partner and consumer collaboration for creating knowledge.  Big Data is the next evolution in Knowledge Management where it is now viable to manage and utilize both structured and unstructured data.   However, the key challenge remains – how to effectively leverage all the information we are collecting.  We need to flip the following time paradigm:

Data Analysis Cycle

Business Information Cycle

Changing this paradigm will require inference engines that streamline analysis generation and enable predictive analysis.  Following is a brief list of capabilities that will support predictive analysis:

  • Case-Based Inference will provide recommendations based upon data and transactional patterns.
  • Rules-Based Inference will provide tactical, operational decision support based upon standard business principles.
  • Big Data will facilitate the assimilation of structured and unstructured data to identify patterns and provide operational context.
  • Collaborative ERP 2.0 will support collaborative discussions and provide transactional context for decision support.

Advancements like this in analytics will enable business users to focus on the value-add activities of reviewing analysis and drawing conclusions for effective business decisions. 

Domain: Open

Whether or not you are sold on open source ERP,  you have to admire the new paradigm and simplicity that open source ERP promotes.  As we continue to see the consumerization of legacy ERP technologies, the market will continue to drive individual user enablement and vendor independence.  Following is a brief list of capabilities that will promote a more open ERP industry

  • BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)will enableemployees are able to bring their own computing devices – such as smartphones, laptops and PDAs – to the workplace for use and connectivity on the corporate network.
  • BPMN compliance will ensure that ERP business process definitions will agree with business process definition standards outlined in the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) model.  This model is governed by the Object Management Group (OMG).  In my humble opinion, the OMG is in the best position to define a global standard for business process models.  This advancement will be a key enabler to the holy grail of true enterprise system interoperability.  This is no small task and will require significant market demand to promote this standardization initiative.
  • Collaborative Shared Development is a key benefit of an open community.  Sometimes it takes a village of developers to support an ERP solution.  Today, I can go to the Apple App Store to purchase an app for my iPhone.  In the future, we should see an ERP App Store when a customer or an individual business user can download an object (software, report, role-based feature) to customize their ERP experience.
  • Open Partner Network.  The more integrated your ERP is within your business value chain (suppliers, vendors, customers, providers) the more powerful your ERP system can be.  I expect we will see the ERP market put more value in delivered integrations with partner, supplier, and provider networks over software product features.  SOA will be a key enabler for making open partner networks a reality.

Openness is about creating flexibility and the freedom for a customer to respond to the changing business environment in the most effective manner.

Domain: Viable Solutions

A profound lesson I learned the hard way is that regardless of how many features and products an ERP vendor can provide (even for free); it will all be all in vain if the software is unmanageable.  It is unacceptable that a customer has to pay triple and even quadruple the original software cost to maintain their ERP investment.  Some may argue that ERP vendors have not acted in the best interest of their customers by building features upon features without providing tools to significantly reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Simplifying Technical Support

Simplifying Technical Support

Following is a brief list of capabilities that will significantly reduce TCO:

  • Automated testing (self-learning tools).
  • Automated master data management (information awareness tools).
  • Eliminate the need for multiple instances.
  • Assimilated, holistic solutions– loosely coupled point systems will not work and result in greater costs and possible failures.
    • Minimize the technical stack.
  • Higher Quality Assurance
    • Upgrades/Software Maintenance releases included the test cases and results performed by the ERP vendor.
  • Implementation Wizards
  • Support for Hybrid Deployments
    • Software architecture can support either single or multiple tenants.
    • On-Premise, Hosted, Public Cloud, Private Cloud for either applications and/or data.
      • Example:  Customer decides to store mission-critical data on-premise and internal data on the public cloud.

It should no longer be acceptable that an ERP customer has to totally shoulder additional implementation and upgrade costs.  This is not indicative of a true partnership.

Challenge to ERP Industry for Adaptive ERP

Today, we continue to see a consolidation of the ERP industry.  With these acquisitions some ERP vendors provide some limited capabilities of Adaptive ERP but these capabilities are spread across multiple software products and platforms.  An ERP solution is only as strong as its weakest link (integration).  More technologies loosely coupled together usually mean (a) more IT resources, (b) additional points of failure, and (c) a more complicated experience for business users. We have witnessed where ERP software has become bloated with features upon features without any logical progression.  ERP customers are forced to deal and pay for unused features resulting in more frustration than simplicity.

Many top-tier ERP software solution packages use a systems configuration concept to set up the business environment for some time but please allow me to challenge the industry a little more. I agree that several ERP software packages provides configuration concept yet there is no clear decrease in implementation schedule (ex. SAP) or cost savings associated with this approach because the currently exposed configurations do not change that frequently (ex. Earning Codes, GL Accounts). Objects like business rules, scenarios, and exceptions change more frequently. This is a challenge for some ERP software (ex. PeopleSoft) where many business rules are encapsulated within the technical object. Pre-configurations are only a beginning – it adds value in the short-term but ERP is a long-term proposition. In my humble opinion, the key is to expose the underlying business model to business users for greater real-time interaction.

Also, there are Master Data Management (MDM) solutions available to support a tactical level of data governance by removing duplicates, standardizing data and, incorporating rules to eliminate incorrect data from entering the ERP system.  For Adaptive ERP, MDM must advance in what I call “information awareness”.   Information awareness means two things (1) MDM is able to automatically detect and define new information sources within the enterprise ecosystem via data polling, and (2) MDM is able to determine how data is used.  These capabilities will be key enablers for automated impact analysis.

What we need to have is a mature, open, holistic solution where all the individual software platforms are assimilated into a robust, uniformed solution.  This is not simply building a dashboard that brings together two separate user sessions together or an orchestration level that adds another level of technology abstraction and performance overhead.  A viable solution is a manageable solution.

Summary

I’m a firm believer in performing non-competitive business activities as competent and cheap as possible.  In that end I am a firm believer in ERP.  However, the ERP industry has come up short in the areas of total cost of ownership and business adaptability.  Many on both sides of the aisle have wrongly concluded that more software features and increasing the technical stack are the answers for making ERP adaptable.  Putting more power in the hand of business users is the strategic answer for business agility.  People are the most important and adaptive component of a business solution.

Developing a Business Case for ERP Customizations

To customize or not to customize – that is the question which continues to be a source of contention and confusion.  On one hand, customization(s) can result in an expensive ERP solution.  However, ERP software enhancements can provide a competitive advantage or cost reduction that is customer-specific.  The challenge is not in the question itself but rather how the answer is justified.  Unfortunately, many business cases for ERP customizations are either too short-sighted or do not fully comprehend the impacts to the ERP investment.  In the next section we will discuss the key components required for an ERP business case for customization(s).

 Business Case Overview

 Following is a business case template I’ve used as a consultant to justify ERP customizations. 

Valuation and Justification for ERP customization

Business Case Format

Let’s briefly discuss each section in greater detail.  The Problem (or Opportunity) section should clearly define the issue(s) as well as the target audience who will benefit from addressing the problem.  The problem section should also explain the compelling reason (s) why the problem should be addressed.  The Solution section should speak directly to solving the problem or addressing the opportunity.  The solution section must include the method(s) used to validate that the proposed solution solved the defined problem.

The Approach section details the viable methods available to implement the solution.  The approach section should not be a theoretically exploration of all possible options.  Too often I have observed where unrealistic approaches were defined, which did more to confuse decision makers rather than create a focused, compelling argument.  In general, I typically provide three approaches when pitching an ERP customization:

  • Full Customization (Extreme)
  • Partial Customization (Middle of the Road)
  • Out Of The Box (OOTB) (Extreme)

Following is a generic example of comparing the above options:

Possible Approaches for ERP Gaps

Possible Approaches for ERP Gaps

Moving back to the business case, the Risk Assessment section outlines the risk(s) associated with each approach option defined in the previous section as well as identifying the risk(s) of doing nothing to address the problem/opportunity.  The final section is the Value Analysis section.  The key challenge I have noted is that short-term value methods (examples: benefit/cost analysis, payback period) are used to support a decision with a long-term impact.   In the next section we will discuss the unique considerations one must address in developing a valid ERP software customization value analysis.

Value Assessment Considerations for ERP

In addition to the short-term costs associated with ERP customizations one must consider the following areas to calculate the long-term costs:

  1. Impact to Upgrade and Maintenance:  What is the impact that the customization will have to the ERP maintenance and upgrade process.  Is the software customization intrusive? – Meaning is it an add-on enhancement or a fundamental change to how the ERP software works?  The more intrusive the customization is the greater the costs required for ERP support and upgrades.   Frequent ERP upgrades are a key strategy for driving additional business value.
  2. Impact to IT Resource Sourcing:  The more you customize the ERP software the more customer-specific ERP knowledge an IT resource requires to provide an effective level of service.  Additional customizations will have a shrinking effect on the IT resource pool and may have the potential of driving up related IT support costs. 
  3. Cumulative Impact to the IT Footprint:  Too often we consider customizations individually and not part of the total ERP software changes made.   A field change here or a new application page may not seem like a big deal but you must remember that you must support everything you customize.

The above areas will ensure that you generate a holistic set of information for an informed decision.  Too often, short-sighted decisions are made to customize ERP without completely understanding the potential impacts.  The next section will shed more light on some of the less obvious risks associated with not having a holistic business case.

 Risks of not developing an effective ERP customization business case

Incomplete information results in incomplete decisions and more importantly – missed expectations and business results.  Following are a few of the key risks generated from over-customizing your ERP software:

  1. Greater operational costs:  There is an additional cost associated with customizations –typically required from the IT organization to support and manage the software changes. 
  2. Slower deployments of technology:  With additional technology dependencies generated by ERP customizations come the additional planning and testing activities required to deploy new ERP functionality.
  3. Lost opportunity costs:  This is an area that is typically overlooked in customization value analysis.  It is more than just comparing one ERP customization to another but also identifying the potential reduction in flexibility ERP software can provide to the business. 

Summary

ERP is a long-term proposition and requires a long-term business case and value analysis for any change in the ERP’s value proposition.   Too often decisions on ERP customizations are based upon partial information and are made in isolation.   ERP is only one component of a business solution.  Business processes and People have a greater impact on business results. 

Key Drivers for Business Results

Key Drivers for Business Results

Granted, the full impact of a customization decision may not be fully appreciated in the short-term but poor decisions will build into a formidable wave that will keep you from experiencing value from your ERP investment.

 

Business pain can be good for ERP

Instinctively, we all try to avoid or minimize pain.  This is true for individuals as well as business organizations.  However, in our attempts to reduce pain, we too often focus on eliminating the symptoms without addressing the underlying root cause.  We may feel temporary relieve but our short-term decisions only lead us to a point were the pain resurfaces and the available options to address the pain become more limited and costly.   In the next sections, we will discuss how to address business pain by effectively utilizing your existing ERP investment.

Step #1 – Take an appropriate problem solving approach

Following is a standard problem-solving approach as defined in the Project Management Institute’s Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).

Root cause analysis

Root Cause Analysis

Seems easy enough!  The challenge I’ve observed is that many organizations do not execute the problem-solving process effectively.  To compound this challenge many customers believe that having an ERP system somehow accelerates or simplifies the problem-solving process.  Following are some of the common misconceptions that cause ERP customers to miss the mark in solving problems.

Missing the Mark

Missing the Mark

The misperceptions and inappropriate expectations surrounding ERP can cloud your view of the real problem.  However, the greater hindrances to effective problem solving are the views that (a) pain is bad, and (b) quick-fixes are more desirable (demanded) than permanent solutions to business problems. For an ERP perspective, the typical end-result to quick fixes will be more customizations.  Greater customizations result in less flexibility and more costs. If unchecked, your organization can build band aid fixes on top of one another,which may ultimately result in a catastrophic event.  The key to eliminating this quick-fix mentality is to change the perspective of how pain is viewed.

Step #2 – See business pain as an opportunity

My daughter loves to play volleyball.  Recently, she has experienced some pain with her ankles as well as experienced some falls that caused my wife and me to have concerns.  I suspect that I’m a little over-sensitive given that our daughter has Type-1 diabetes.  We took our daughter to see a sports physician specialist to identify the problem.  “Your daughter has a good problem to have.,” said the specialist, “she is still growing!  Your daughter is still figuring out how to coordinate her changing limbs.”  Whew!  What at relief yet what a good life lesson.  Too often, organizations can’t see past the present pain. We focus only on the symptoms (negatives) without looking for the opportunities (positives).

Many times, IT organizations are motivated by addressing problems by taking a “triage” or ‘fire-fighting” mentality.  IT performance metrics can support this mentality if the focus is only on cycle-time and response-time metrics.  Don’t get me wrong, if a production system goes offline unexpectedly, you can bet that a quick response is warranted.  A red flag to look for is when ERP support problems are seen as an inconvenience rather than an opportunity.  This can be especially frustrating to IT when the problem is a recurring issue.  When viewed as a hindrance there is the natural human tendency to deal with the issue as quickly as possible to move on to the next problem. To get out of the above support rut  first we need to eliminate or minimize reoccurring problems through effective problem solving.  Once performed the IT organization can spend the time to evaluate viable options for greater ERP value generation.

Step #3 – Use business pain as a driver to increase ERP value generation

During my career as an ERP consultant, one of the key challenges I faced with every one of my customers was how to drive additional value from their ERP investment.  As I did additional analysis, a common theme across my customers was that they did not realize the rapid deployment of new ERP functionality.  Based upon my experience, I have identified the top three strategies that support long-term, rapid delivery from ERP.

Strategies for Rapid Delivery via ERP

Rapid Deployment Strategies for ERP

As seen from the illustration above the single largest driver for long-term, rapid delivery of addition value from a customer’s ERP investment is frequent upgrades. However, in the effort to address tactical business pain quickly IT organizations built customizations as quick fixes instead of allowing these opportunities to drive the value proposition for an ERP upgrade.  It is important that the internal IT organization resist the temptation for a quick win and illuminate the IT roadmap that will provide the opportunity for greater value from their ERP investment.  In the next section, we will briefly discuss the price to be paid if one uses ERP as a means to a quick fix.

 The price of ERP quick fixes

There is a price associated with every decision made.  In the case of ERP, the short-term gains will eventually result in limiting your ERP strategy.  ERP quick fixes are typically implemented as customizations.  Customizations require a greater level of support from the customer’s IT organization (because ERP vendors do not support customizations).  IT spends more time performing support activities (indirect business value) versus building new enhancements (direct business value).

Second, customizations add to the upgrade effort.  Third – and most important – performing quick fixes send a signal to customers that counters the basic value proposition of ERP (packaged) software.  The price of ERP quick fixes may be small at first but they will have a compounding effect on the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

 Summary

Pain is the way our bodies (and organizations) communicate that something is wrong.  It defines the gap between where we are and where we want to be.  Effective root-cause analysis is the first step to correctly diagnoses the pain and identify viable solutions.  ERP can play a positive or sometimes negative role in addressing business pains.  The key to understand how to correctly apply ERP technology to transform business pains into opportunities for greater business value.

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