Have you had enough with your current ERP?


Have you had enough with your current ERP?

A Boardroom Meeting Snapshot
When it all comes down to discuss matters related to ERP in SMB environment, whether it’s an a) initial implementation, b)integration with additional modules or other systems, c) switching to another vendor’s solution, and/or other not less important reasons, we imagine a boardroom full of Managers and Employees, and ERP Sales reps (and sometimes with their Technicians). They discuss business requirements and how they address those requirements during the actual implementation of an ERP system. So many people consider that precisely such kind of kick-off meetings are the beginning of the ERP system implementation process. However, this is just the beginning of the final phase of the implementation process. The story begins way earlier, well at least the success story does begin way before the ERP kick-off meeting ever takes place and with new force participating in the project. That new force is an competent external Consultant with no ties to any ERP solutions and with complete objective viewpoints.

From =>”As-Is” to =>”To-Be” to => “Could-Be”

The classic case based on real experiences across different companies, solutions, and consultants, typically revolves around understanding a client’s business environment “AS IS” and then figuring out its “TO BE” state. A Client, an ERP rep, and an Independent Consultant, each of the Actors perform their role in working out how to transition all processes from ‘As-Is’ to ‘To-Be.’ Moreover, Sales reps try their best at making their clients believe vague promises by delivering one-of-a-kind presentations of how this transition would take place. Sadly, a typical client with zero to few failed experiences still tend to believe and faithfully expect that their next ERP will be delivered as promised on the presentation slides. A Consultant’s role here in this triangle, by Freud, is to bridge the mountain of hope and the mountain of promises. However, most of the times Consultants don’t get a chance to participate in such projects. Thus, Clients end up having what they have as all ‘To-Be’ things become ‘Could-Be’ on the paper, ERP Integrators wave their hands blaming clients’ users in incompetency or justifying other reasons, and Clients must accept current implementation at its face value and a new ‘As-Is’ state.


How it All Should-Be

Could we blame these integrators in unethical business and failed promises? No, not really, because they are not necessarily immoral, and they are not the only ones to be blamed in failures. Everybody is responsible. The role of a Consultant, often misunderstood by other stakeholders during the process of implementation, is to make sure that a Client has realistic expectations, and an Integrator can deliver them within the scope, time, and budget. Reasons, why Consultants are not invited or constricted in their roles, is the perception that Consulting Services are unaffordable or unnecessary at SMB scale. So that’s precisely why most ERP implementations do not end up being at a proper level of expectations. In such a case, a business may get hurt, operations have frictions and bottlenecks, and people get stressed out. In the worst-case scenario, a new ERP implementation becomes a business owner’s nightmare. For the ERP system implementation to be the way it should be, performing a quality business assessment is a good starting point. Such initial investment into the success of any given business sheds light into organizational processes, existing technologies, and its people. The preliminary analysis allows understanding several WHAT questions, such as what a company has as an asset, what it needs, what should be changed, what people think about the change, what they want and so on. Then the series of questions such as WHY, HOW, WHEN, and WHO will be defined and answered depending on a Client’s business model. When a Consultant provides all answers, a strong foundation of a proper ERP implementation is established securing about 80 percent of the overall success, and that’s how it should be from the beginning.

What’s the Value Add

So, would a hosting of a Business Consultant in your ERP project team deliver that 80% success factor or is it just another marketing campaign trying to sell an air? The physical presence of a Consultant guy at your premises doesn’t mean anything, but the stuff that guy does predefines what you will end up having in your ERP, and that is worth paying some attention. Let’s deep dive into the Value Add of Consulting Services. A proper consulting performs an investigation of all corners of a Client’s business. It’s like an audit, but instead of focusing on numbers, the attention is on operations. During a set of interviews, Employees provide insights into the step-by-step tasks they do daily. All provided inputs are pooled together into simple and understandable charts of the current state of business processes. Figuratively speaking, this shows the whole business in one picture, where a Consultant can further spot out all process bottlenecks and what causes them. After careful analysis and series of Management consulting sessions, a Consultant maps out the game plan for the organizational change, i.e. what needs to be changed, necessary resources, and other business-specific nuances. Attention to details is essential. One tiny insight can drastically change trajectory of the project budgets, vendors, delivery timings, people acceptance or resistance, and the list can go on and on. Understanding of a Client’s business is the critical feature in preparing a solid foundation for further ERP development. Without that foundation, even an implementation of the best in class ERP systems could have undesirable outcomes.

Back to the Boardroom

Once a Consultant finishes interviewing people, performing business analysis, and delivers process blueprints, together with a Client, they begin Vendor selection stage. When we are talking about a new implementation project, being Vendor agnostic means exploring and comparing all available options and shortlisting a top number of possible solutions and integrators. When most promising solutions are shortlisted, it is the job of a Consultant to communicate to the ERP Integrator what a Client expects from them. Secondly, share all significant findings with an Integrator so that their Sales reps understand their opportunities and their Technicians can prepare best system demonstration tailored for the specific functional requirements. When Integrators have all the necessary information from a Consultant and ready to show what their solutions can do, it’s time to book that boardroom for the next ERP solution demonstration. After a Client has seen all demos from different Integrators, connecting a conceptual part done by a Consultant and technical features of a specific system demonstrated by an Integrator makes the future picture of an ERP system much clear. Thus, a Client could make a safe decision to take next step selecting a new System and schedule a kick-off meeting with an ERP Integrator’s team. The kick-off meeting is the beginning of the final part of the ERP project and a separate topic we will have a chance to discuss.

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