No one will come out directly and say they hate ERP necessarily, but this headline sums up what may be the problem: “Turning On ERP Systems Can Turn Off People.”
This was the title of an article published by a pair of consultants from Belgium-based TriFinance, and it just got more painful from there. Drawing upon first-hand encounters with several clients, they detail issues of ERP badly deployed, badly maintained, and basically badly positioned among the staff who should have enjoyed a change in the quality of information they needed to do their jobs.
That’s not to say ERP frustrations are inevitable, particularly when you think through how your needs and processes will evolve with the technology. In fact, a recent webcast on evaluating ERP systems sponsored by Oracle suggested more organizations are being very thoughtful about getting such projects right, particularly when it comes time to upgrade.
“Often we’re seeing clients go out and say, ‘Let’s go outside and not just look at our current vendor, but let’s look at what’s out there,’” Scott Glenn, associate principal, IT Effectiveness at consulting firm The Hackett Group said in the webcast. This can be substantially cheaper than going for an entirely new implementation.
“It’s an opportunity to look not just at technology but your business processes,” he added. “With the emergence of SaaS, you have different models . . there are a lot more options out there.”
Chuck Langenhop, senior director of CFO Advisory Services, agreed. He told the webcast audience that what increasingly makes sense is to look at third party add-ons to the ERP investments they’ve already made. This starts with having a solid understanding of what user interface your key stakeholders will ultimately prefer.
“I’d say that the connection between ERP tables with spreadsheets continues to improve, to the extent that spreadsheets are refreshable reports and not just used for one-time exports of data,” he said.
The advice on the webcast parallels almost exactly with what the TruFinance experts concluded in their collection of ERP horror stories:
So what are leaders to do? Of course they need to keep stressing the authority of the process and not the tool. But there’s more: leaders who decide to select and roll out new technologies in their companies should move beyond mere functionality discussions and assess the true organizational impact of new tools through the reality of their employees.
ERP projects won’t always go perfectly initially, in other words. On the other hand, it may be possible to perfect them over time.
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