ERP Upgrade – Getting the Green Light

Hi There…

So you have brainstormed with the team and agreed on your areas of weakness, where the threats are and as a result have strong agreement that to move forward with an upgrade would be a REALLY good idea…

However, the guy that signs the check is not in the room…

The next step for me was to write a detailed – Problem – Solution and Financial Impact document.

This document will provide you with a couple of things…

  • First – It really provides you with clarity and an assurance that you are doing the right thing…
  • Second – It documents in detail those critical business and systems issues for future reference.

One problem – the document was for me and other geeks… What executive would read 10 pages of techno goop – other than me and maybe you?… therein lies the problem… sometimes the boss wants the gory detail but usually he / she wants the “Executive Overview”.

Consequently you have to be prepared to provide BOTH.

So you have the gory details – Now write an Executive Overview – same format as the detail doc EXCEPT  that it’s on ONE PAGE. Also – Include a rough cut timeline – phase plan – Top level, but gives readers an idea of what comes first, second and third and a general idea of how long the project is going to take. BE conservative here. we know how these projects go, right?

If you think it will take you 2 months – it will probably take 4….

Oh, and on the financial impact part, be sure to state monthly costs (leases / financed equipment), length of commitment and total cost.

So

  • State your problem(s)
  • Your solution(s)
  • A statement of financial impact
  • And a time line

Next, I would plan to discuss the Implementation Plan Executive Overview at a regularly scheduled managers meeting, board meeting, whatever, HOWEVER,  send it out a day early, give people time to digest it. If you have “planted seeds” early, and team members have a chance to review, there might not be a lot to discuss.

That’s how it usually works for me…

As a matter of fact, I sent out the Executive Overview the night before our meeting, and on the way out of the office I stopped by the Bosses office to say goodnight. The first thing he said to me was, “Well it looks like we have put off the ERP upgrade long enough, go ahead and buy the hardware” – first phase of my plan!

Wow – that was almost effortless… Except that it had taken months of discussion with VARs and teammates, drafting and redrafting the plan, feedback and just thinking it through.

Anyway – it has worked for me on many occasions – hope it provides you with some ideas.

Please be advised that I just updated this site and I will continue to work on it. I MIGHT have lost you as a feed reader subscriber, so if you feel so inclined

Let me know what you think – drop a comment below…

Please re subscribe – spread the word about ERP Roadmap.

Happy Trails – Until next time.

Rick

WSJ – Companies Are Spending On Software (ERP)

Hi there

This article in the WSJ today highlights that companies are starting to spend on equipment and software – Firms Spend More –  Carefully…
Sorry it’s just a summary (Subscription to read the whole thing)

This is good news for those of us that need to upgrade our aging systems. It appears that organizations are realizing that their equipment and systems are aging and now is the time to make some changes.

This is BAD news for those that get the go ahead due to the fact that vendors are not as motivated to give you the deal of the decade… that was two years ago… It told you so…

At any rate, if you can get the “green light”, do it while you can and ASK FOR THE MOON… If you don’t ask for more for less – you definitely WILL NOT get it. My #### 1 rule in negotiation…

Until next time…

Rick

How to Get “Buy In” On Upgrading Your ERP System

In my last post I discussed upgrading your system and specifically where to start..

Establishing a simple scope objective must be done very early. Understand the limits of your project…

BUT – there is really an earlier step than that. While you THINK you know what the scope of the project is. You really (if you are IT) know it more from the System side. But the flip side to that coin is the BUSINESS side.

I have discussed the concept of Justification Drivers in the past, but it’s worth revisiting… Business and System issues both drive a business system investiment and when push comes to shove, the geeks talk about the system and everybody else talks about business issues. So guess what?

If you are IT, you HAD BETTER get the Business Drivers from all other affected areas of the organization into the conversation, AND it’s going to take more time that you think. Try to push the initiative too hard and others will push back! NOT GOOD.

Here’s the approach that I use having been through this many times. While my systems guy and I worked the systems side of the upgrade and knew that it had to happen; key hardware compnents were starting to fail at an accelerated rate, I decided that I would pull the management team into a meeting for a brainstorming session.

I wrote “IS Issues ” in the middle of a big white board and then started going around the table until we ran out of problems and issues …kind of like spokes on a wheel… idea, linked to ideas where appropriate. NO BAD IDEAS and it looked like this when we got done…

IS Issues Rough 02.jpg

We then identified and agreed on the top 5 most critical issues. I went back to my desk and created a more presentable version of the mindmap using Mind Manager (Great brainstorming software) and it came out looking like this…

IS Issues MindMap 2010.jpeg

By going through this exercise I not only had buy in from key players, I also had firm agreement on the System and Business Drivers that mattered most to the team.

In my next post I am going to cover how I sold it to the boss.

Until next time – Rick

Upgrading or Implementing a New ERP System – Where do you Begin?

This post will be the first in a series on the subject of upgrade / or implementing a new system.

With recent changes in technology, aging systems, and the economy, there are conflicting forces that are pulling and pushing us to upgrade or to hold off….

It’s a crazy time to be in business and in IT with these factors in play.

One issue that comes to mind first and foremost is “scope”. What I mean by that is Project Scope.

I have devoted past posts and for that matter an entire book to the subject – Purpose Driven ERP that addresses system justification, requirements and specifications, however, Project Scope is a topic that I now feel deserves more conversation.

• How big is your project?
• How broad and how deep?
• What defines the beginning and what determines the end?

If you don’t have answers to these questions – FORGET trying to get buy off and for that matter, trying to nail down the general requirements and the detailed specifications of your implementation.

You need to carefully, but simply define your project scope; this does not have to be a rocket science project – Just articulate the beginning and the end to the upgrade or the implementation.

What does the completed project look like?

While this seems simple, as it in essence is, it can be a very powerful guide in mapping your course; making decisions; where to turn when two courses of action present themselves, etc.

The depth of the project is another dimension and aspect to the scope that requires thought as well. Once you know what the beginning and the end look like, what “layers” are there to the project? Hardware, software, the cloud, virtualization… you get the idea….

We will talk about virtualization and the cloud in later posts…

Again, a scope document can be as simple as a couple of paragraphs, but very foundational when moving into discussions with other stakeholders in discussing an upgrade or new system.

Do you have a scope document? If not – Write One Now!

Hope I provided you with some food for thought… until next time…

Rick

The Seven Steps to Implementing ERP – Step 1- Justification

Hi Folks … Rick here and sorry about the loooong delay in updating the blog…

Too many projects, not enough time – time flies….

So what are the 7 phases to implementing an ERP system?

Step 1 is Justifying the System and thoroughly Defining Requirements.

  • Without buy off from top management, don’t even think about moving forward with an implementation . With support you will be able to make it through the "rough spots".
  • Then take the time to define system requirements. By this I mean clearly outlining every need and want that you have in a new system. Take a look at all of your existing processes and those processes that you have yet to implement. Which ones would you "integrate" in to your new system.

And don’t think that this step only applies to a new system… it also is important when you are considering an upgrade.

While the emphasis on this site is ERP – this also applies to pretty much any major technology initiative – CRM, Supply Chain Management – even a new VoIP Phone System. So think about this long and hard – you will be glad that you did.

If you want to check out more of my thoughts and ruminations – go to www.implementerpfast.com and listen to my podcast on the subject of ERP implementation. I have multiple episodes that address Step 1 – Justifying and Defining Requirements on an ERP system…

Later….

ERP System Delay / Interruption Root Cause 2 – System Performance

SYSTEM PERFORMANCE

Does your current system perform as well as a state of the art ERP system?

Does your software, hardware or system in general perform to levels that you would consider less than state of the art?

Let me give you a couple of comparisons between a legacy system and a new ERP system that I implemented a while ago:

• After moving to a new ERP system, where running my production planning module, MRP used to take 6 hours, the new system now takes between 30 to 45 minutes.
• Where a cost implosion (or roll up) used to take 2 hours, it now takes 30 minutes.

You can become complacent in performing our tasks and duties and at times might not realize that your systems performance is substandard.

I have learned over time that if I think that a particular system or module is not running as well as it should, it is either time for a tune up OR my systems performance might just be behind the curve.

Your system is “wound out” at 8,000 RPM’s on all 8 cylinders and other systems are just passin’ you by…

A little benchmarking might be in order. If you find that in fact your system is lagging in performance regardless of what you do, it might be that Performance is yet another “”driver” that will contribute to the justification of a new system…

ERP System Delay / Interruption Root Cause 1

SYSTEM DESIGN

Is your existing ERP system, the user interface, the database platform and other aspects of your system built on industry best practices?

In this day and age you might ask – isn’t everyone?…Not really…

You can see it at the systems level where an ERP provider produced a system built with a proprietary API – if you don’t think they are out there THINK AGAIN.

The user interface (UI) is another area where non standard design in common.

And as time moves on it is really inevitable that your system will become less and less standard:

• The older your system, the less likely that your hardware and software will be compatible with current technology.
• Standards change and as they do, manufacturers and publishers have no choice but to follow them.

Non standard or outdated software design can be a huge problem where the software still performs the needed task, but does so in an inefficient or unusual way. Put another way, the need for change is not strong, but bad habits are being built every day!

An example of this would be a non standard menuing or icon system where the menu items and icon graphics are not easily recognized … minor example in comparison to some…

I have seen current ERP systems that do exactly that. While I am all for creativity, this type of design is more for the programmers and graphic designers benefit and not the end user.

Proprietary design – what else could they do… in late 1970’s and the 80’s during what I call the Wild West of Manufacturing Systems prior to Local Area Network technology (LAN) and the Client / Server model. At that time, existing technology was such that companies had to build their systems on the old mainframe, distributed data or the dumb terminal model.

Looking for a new system? Look for systems that are built on standard hardware and with industry best practice software tools. In the long run you will be better off.

If your existing system is not up to standard, use your existing hardware and software situation to drive your justification for a new system.

ERP System Crash – System Compatibility – Root Cause # 2

SYSTEM COMPATIBILTY

If your ERP system was not compatible with current technology, how much more difficult would it be to find appropriate hardware and software components and expertise to assist you in getting it back up and running? Would you be limiting your options?

How compatible is your current hardware and software with existing technology and standards? Maybe there are certain system components that fall into this category.

This can be very important when third party developers are creating tools for other, more current ERP systems and have ceased to develop for your system or version.

Is your system built on outdated technology, proprietary or on a non standard hardware and / or software platform?

If this is the case, then you can’t take advantage of the same tools and functionality that your competitors can.

Perhaps this would be another opportunity to discuss a new ERP system or upgrading to a current version?

ERP System Crash – Root Cause # 1

SYSTEM AVAILABILITY

Your system crashed this morning and you are having difficulty locating and acquiring hardware and software needed to get it back up…

It is no secret that as technology ages, production quantities are reduced and less frequently produced. Over years of working with aging legacy systems I have had power supplies, hard drives, disk controllers and mother boards among others fail without warning.

To compound the problem, one particular system that I was working with was not only old, it was built on proprietary technology and on more than one occasion, it took me more than 24 hours to locate the part and get my enterprise system back up and running!

Can you say “NO job security”…?

Hardware Availability

If key pieces of your system hardware are either no longer available or difficult to find and your system goes down, you are going to lose valuable production time. In extreme cases you might be forced to shut down operations for a prolonged period of time, you might have to send people home …

• Do you run hardware components that would be difficult to source and purchase quickly?
• How long would it take you get them in house?

Software Availability

While software does not usually pose the same challenge as hardware does, if your system is old enough, and you cannot put your hands on that special utilities disk, it can pose a real and present threat to your company.

The older the system is, the more difficult a particular application might be to locate.
• Do you have critical software components that if reinstallation were necessary you might find difficult to locate?

I have had the experience where as system administrator; I was not licensed to have certain utilities, so I would have to wait for a technician to arrive.

Here is another one…
• Have you ever lost the “dongle” or hardware key for a piece of critical, vertical market software?
• How long would it take to locate one?

While the days of the “serial port” dongle are gone, there are still USB based dongles.

If hardware and software are difficult to find for your existing system, it is not going to get any better…

Could the situations posed above start a conversation about system alternatives?

What is ERP?

ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning

An integrated series of software modules and applications designed to run end to end business operations including: Financials, Sales Management, Production Execution and Planning, Purchasing, Human Resources and many others.

What Makes an Enterprise System Different?

What makes an Enterprise System different is the way that it handles the flow of information. From the database tables, to the way that each table is joined to the information in each table, a well designed ERP system is going to put the right information in the right users’ hands at the right time.

Enter it Once, Use it Many Times

Data is usually not entered twice, rather only once and retrievable wherever and whenever it is needed: A one – to – many (infinite) relationship. Data entered becomes information and moved instantaneously across and outside the enterprise to support your business, marketing and manufacturing efforts.

The classic analogy of the old school business system is that of a series of “silos” where data is generated in various areas of the organization, often redundant and not merged to efficiently generate the needed information everywhere that it might be needed. Where these islands of automation exist, different parts of the organization are making decisions inefficiently and often at cross purposes with one another.

Needless to say entering information once and making it available where needed is a far better approach.

Many Names

The name given to such a system has changed over the years too. From Closed Loop MRP (Material Resource Planning) to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to what some refer to now as an Enterprise Business System (EBS), the concept remains the same. A system that will allow the front office, back office, the field, customers and suppliers to all trade information in a real time manner.

So that‘s it in a nutshell, a system that pretty much traverses the organization that minimizes data entry and utilizes that data where and when it is needed.

Are You Ready for a New ERP System?

Good Morning fellow ERP Champions and all around Risk Takers …

Rick Nielsen here, the host of the ERP Roadmap blog …. I wanted to comment today on how important it is to do a thorough justification of an ERP software system as the first step in the process…

Are You Ready for a New ERP System? …

While you might know the answer to this question off the top of your head, I contend that most people need to give it a great deal more thought…

And even if you know that you need a new system (or upgrade for that matter), who else needs to know with certainty? The boss maybe? … all top management maybe? … those people that are neither but influence others behind the scenes?

We all know that the effort required to get an ERP implementation to Go Live requires a great deal of resources (HARD DOLLARS!) and time. If you don’t have the commitment from top management, when the going gets tough, at least two things are going to happen … and maybe a third…

  1. The software implementation is going to get put on the back burner and …. and no less important…
  2. A dart board with your face on it will be used to explain why the companies financial position is not as favorable as it should be!
  3. And …hopefully you still have a job! (I did say Risk Taker didn’t I?

So spend the time to properly justify your system – the FIRST step in the ERP Roadmap*. It really has to be done before you do anything else. Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • Listen to your user base – what problems are they having? What capabilities do they require that they do not have in your current system?
  • What aspects of your system are preventing you from providing the capabilities and solving the problems that your user base has articulated?
  • Combine the list of problems and capabilities with the system issues – how do they relate?
  • By doing the above you will start a conversation. As you discuss these issues, consensus and support will start to build

Do you need a new ERP system? By simply following the above 4 bullet points, you will start to think more deeply about the question and will involve others in the thought process …

Rock on … Until next time … this is Rick signing off…

**********************************************************

If you are interested in listening to an interview / discussion with a seasoned veteran of systems implementations, and specifically on the justification issue, check out my latest podcast episode at Implement ERP Fast.

* Download my ERP Roadmap Visual Quick Guide by signing up for my newsletter – top of this page on the right.