The Truth of ERP: Reflections from a long and wearying US Presidential Election (warning – it’s not over yet)

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Over the past few months, political coverage reminded me of a Winston Churchill quote – “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get it’s pants on”. Living in a world of competing politicians and contentious media, there were seemingly plenty of lies for both sides to yelp about.

I thanked my lucky stars that in the business of ERP, we don’t deal in lies as the currency of the realm. Over the next few days, I began to rethink that. I won’t go so far as to say there’s widespread lying in the world of ERP, but there’s a lot of conventional wisdom, which neither follows proven convention, nor is particularly wise.

I realized that as an ERP Consultant, half of our work seems like swimming upstream with the truth on our backs – truths learned the hard way – truths proven time and time again – but implementing these truths and getting client buy-in is sometimes the hardest part of a software selection and implementation. If you find yourself dealing with an ERP implementation, here’s a few ‘truths’ you might find helpful

Conventional Wisdom says ‘buy ERP software and your business will be see huge improvements’.

  • Truth is it’s a lot more than simply buying software.
  • Truth is 80% of the attempts at ERP will fail.
  • Truth is you’re not buying a solution with ERP, you’re buying a toolkit.

The clients and prospects I talk to are really smart people. They run great businesses and the most common problems they really have revolve around dealing with rapid growth and phenomenal success.

Conventional Wisdom says, ‘how hard can ERP be – we can figure this out in house’

  • Truth is, ERP is far more complex and the ERP industry survives by making it look simple, when it rarely is.
  • Truth is every, and I mean every client in the last 20 years has underestimated how difficult an ERP project is measured by both effort and people needed to get the project to go live. Did I say every? – there was one who was exactly right a few months ago – but that’s one in 25 years, 1 in 400.

Conventional Wisdom says ERP can improve your business.

  • Truth is, 9 of 10 companies have no idea HOW MUCH ERP has the potential to impact the business and
  • Truth is, without setting those goals, most companies will never reach the goal. You know that about goal setting in your own life, you don’t set a goal, you don’t measure progress to the goal, you don’t reach the goal - the life of your business is no different.

The truth is, starting your ERP project with careful business analysis let’s you build a case that justifies the project, gets you the resources you need, and focuses the entire organization on a common goal. Replacing a poorly performing, older ERP platform can actually enable a company to drive an average of 3% bottom line improvement. Implementing ERP over manual business processes can often result in a 7% bump. Is that easy? NO – it’s hard work. And it all comes after the ERP implementation and as the users learning curve results in better workflow and processes.

Look, change in any business is hard. If you find yourself running an ERP project you will run up against resistance – that’s normal. Say you’re dealing with a Operations Manager – he’s been doing things the same for many years. He’s found out, in the beginning, by trial and error, through his hard knocks research that ‘his way’ is the best way to do it. He’s proven it over the years that come hell or high water, his process works. He’s experienced that his way is the best way. Research, Proven, Experienced. Is it any wonder he’s hesitant to change when some IT guy walks in telling him this is how the software does it best?

Truth is, you can’t just walk in and say ‘do it because I said so’. You need to show him the research – this is how others have done it in the past. Proven, that after go-live, costs dropped, efficiencies rose. Experienced – knowing that many others said the same thing and when you do it right, here’s what happens.

The truth is, ERP is an IT Project, a Software Project, and a Business Reengineering process. When you pull all those aspects together, well, truth is, it’s not easy - but the payoff can be worth it.

Exerpted from the ERPodcast, the weekly musings of Gene Hammons, Director of Profit From ERP, a selection and implementation consultancy. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts  or visit the Profit From ERP Website 

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