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Given that we are well in the third decade of ERP implementations, I still observe ERP implementations following outdated/misguided concepts that do not utilize limited resources to the fullest.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.

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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