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

What is ERP? … a Free eCourse

I have just completed and released a free internet based “eCourse” that answers the question “What is ERP”.

The reason that I did this is simple… I discovered that there are a lot of people out there that want to know! …

Further, if you are considering a new ERP system, are upgrading your existing ERP system or are somewhere in between – ERP Made Simple – an Introductory eCourse does not just define what ERP is, but goes further in explaining what ERP can do for your business, how it can add value, and how your older systems can prevent your company from accomplishing these goals.

If you want further clarification to the question “What is ERP?”, you should check it out..

Enjoy

Rick

ERP Implementation Success Strategy #1 – Leadership…

The ERP Roadmap blog is changing direction for a post or two…

We are going to be exploring the Success Strategies associated with a successful ERP implementation. A success strategy in is an approach and and intentional frame of mind that when followed will product a more desirable outcome …

Some of the areas that I intend to cover are…

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Time Management… just to name a few.

These “soft skills”  are so important to the successful implementation of an ERP system that they really should be discussed and revisited throughout the life of your ERP project… It really does take constant review and reinforcement of the right way to approach leadership, communication, time management and other aspects of the success mindset to develop habits and ultimately instinct that will keep you and your team heading in a positive direction.

Let’s take Leadership for example and specifically your approach in directing people and events on a large scale project to achieve desired results. You really want to provide an environment where your team as a unit can accomplish more that if all those involved attempted the their individual tasks on their own. While I tried to avoid using the word “Synergy”, I just could not help myself!

One approach that I have found very successful, is giving people specific desired end products – or deliverables, and then giving them reign to exercise their skills and capabilities – then stay out of the way! This is easier said than done, but when you do it, you WILL KNOW IT.

So – Give them direction, give them goals and dates and then GET OUTTA THE WAY and see what they can do.

I recently released an Implement ERP Fast podcast episode on this subject – you might want to check it out…

Until next time… Rick

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…

What Does the New 3g iPhone have in Common with ERP Software?

With the release of the new Apple 3G iPhone on Friday 7/11/.08, came an iPhone meltdown across the globe where not only new subscribers but existing first generation iPhone subscribers where not able to activate or use their accounts… Bummer…

While I am sympathetic to people that have to go through this type of frustration, I really feel that they have no one to blame but themselves…

Which lead’s to Rick Nielsen’s Number One Technology Axiom – Never Buy Bleeding Edge Technology – Software or Hardware – unless of course you have absolutely no choice.

The reason is obvious – I am not a genius (I am sure that you have figured that out by now!), but let OTHERS beta test the new stuff!

Give it a month or two to clean up the stupid things that no one ever thought about.

An iPhone is probably more complicated than any of us might think. It is really a well designed device, but it’s not THAT complicated… and look what happened!

Now think about a state of the art ERP system – ORDERS of magnitude more complicated than an iPhone. IF there was ever a reason to wait until the first service pack, the second release, buying a new ERP system would be it.

I completely understand that you dig software and really want the latest greatest version and features that maybe you have been waiting for, for a long time, but be patient…

Again – let someone else Beta Test the software – I mean really – you are spending hundreds of thousands, if not millions on a new Enterprise system.

You really don’t need the frustration – In the short term AND in the long run you will spend less time and money on your implementation…

Later…

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…

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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.

 

Major ERP Negotiation Tip – Don’t Divulge Your Budgeted System Cost

Providing the other side with your budgeted system cost provides them with a target price. While there are many aspects to a system purchase that you must be open and up front with the supplier, what you are willing to spend is not one of them. Oh, and by the way, if you do divulge your budgeted cost, you can be rest assured that YOU WILL spend at lest that amount.

Oracle vs. BEA – Not a One Round Fight

Larry Ellison is no dummy and while I am not an expert on Mr. Ellison let alone his negotiating skills, I have been a negotiator for many years. I cannot think of a time when I opened with my high bid.

Well according to the Wall Street Journal today, BEA has now issued a counter proposal at $21 per share.

And later in the day Oracle quickly responded, stating the no one else is offering $17 per share so the offer remains at $17. Whoa, playin hardball …

Things are heating up. If you are a student of negotiation this one could get interesting. Both of these companies are hungry, but at this point, there appears to be a lot of ground to cover before an agreement will be reached.

Oracle has drawn a line in the sand of 8 p.m. PST this Sunday…

It appears as though it’s BEA’s move …. Any predictions?

Battleground Mid-Market / Middleware 2008 – Oracle vs. SAP…

The big boys have been in acquisition mode for a number of years and from what I can see it is not letting up.

Acquisitions have centered on critical business applications such as ERP systems, SCM, CRM and now Middleware. What the heck is Middleware anyway?

At its most basic level it’s the glue that brings the database and the application layers together. It’s about delivering and deploying information in the context necessary to make good decisions. It is business intelligence or BI (Last week SAP acquired Business Objects) that serves up information on dashboards. It’s content or document management where you can store and find information in any format imaginable. And finally it’s process management – just today, according to Computerworld , SAP announced that it will be acquiring Business Process Management firm, Yasu.

And of course, this conversation would not be complete without dropping in the current darling of the Middleware space – SOA or Service Oriented Architecture.

This architecture allows “Software capabilities [to] be connected to one another easily, enabling the efficient movement of information between applications,” according to the document, Introducing Infor Open SOA.

It is no small wonder that Larry Ellison has his sights set on BEA, because in my opinion, a properly implemented SOA could be the killer middleware component. You really should ckeck out Oracle’s list of Middleware components.

Specifically, if a software company could take SOA technology and integrate it into its family of applications, a customer could literally implement an ERP system ONCE and just add capabilities as the company grows without ever having to implement an ERP system again. I know it’s a crazy assertion, but that’s where I see it going…

So the acquisitions continue to happen, database, enterprise system and middleware applications are owned by fewer companies and these now bigger companies are offering products that appeal to a larger audience.

It’s not like ERP companies that once exclusively sold product to the Fortune 500 / 1000 companies have a choice…

The largest companies have been saturated with enterprise solutions for a while. So the Small and Mid-Market sectors will continue to be where the software providers gain market share.

I am not yet convinced that SAP, Oracle and other Tier 1 providers are where Small and Mid-Market business should spend ERP dollars. Organizational / user needs, implementation and consulting models are entirely different for a smaller enterprise than for a larger company.

This consolidation has been going on for a while. Let the market decide.

While our choices might become fewer as to the company we select, my hope is that overall software capability will continue to provide us with greater business agility.

 

SAP Acquires Business Objects – Small and Mid-Market Benefits Are Not Crystal Clear

The wires were buzzing Monday with the news that SAP had acquired Business Objects  (aka Crystal Reports) for $6.7 billion dollars.

Crystal Reports allows someone with a basic understanding of how a database is constructed to turn raw data into useful information fairly quickly.

Crystal Reports is the Microsoft Word of the reporting industry. While there are other word processors out there, Word owns 90+% of the word processing market. That’s about the same market share that Crystal has in the reporting space

According to the Wall Street Journal  this acquisition is a move directed at small and mid-market business (SMBs) and because the emerging business intelligence market has good growth potential.

Personally from a technology standpoint, I think that this acquisition is a great move on SAP’s part. I guess if I had $6 billion dollars lying around I might have considered the purchase myself.

While this is a great move for SAP, I am not so sure it is for small mid-market business.

To begin with, Business Objects has been positioning Crystal for higher end ERP systems for the last 3 to 4 years.

The “data repository” for example, a Crystal feature that allows the user to store logic and reuse it, once could be utilized by someone with a stand alone license, but not anymore…Now features such as this require the purchase of a server license, as a result becomes more expensive and is more labor intensive to implement and administer.

In my opinion, the general direction of Crystal before the acquisition was toward the high end. With the acquisition … who knows what direction it will take?

Then there’s the issue of the scores of other ERP / Business Software publishers that have strategic partnerships with Business Objects.

Needless to say, SAP is not going to want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, but let’s face it … SAP, Oracle, Infor and many others are all in direct competition…I just can’t imagine that this acquisition is going to somehow strengthen these partnerships.

Finally, if there is one thing that SAP does not understand, it is small and mid-market business. Again, I just don’t see how this acquisition is going to help anything other than larger companies.

There are other reporting tools out there and I suspect that this acquisition will create a vacuum and build momentum for the competition. This might be prime time for another reporting and/or business intelligence provider to take the top dog seat in the mid market.

Time will tell…

The Most Important Factor in a Successful ERP Implementation

I was flying home from a conference the other day and happened to sit next to an ERP implementation consultant … funny how that works. For the next 60+ minutes we talked about implementing systems, what goes wrong, what goes right and as a result the flight was over before I knew it.

She pointed out some key things that go wrong with an implementation including the lack of clear policy and process definition and of course the lack of sufficient training…

I came away thinking that there was an underlying reason, a more basic cause to most implementation problems. What would be at the root of the project going wrong?

To me the answer was obvious… top management buyoff, support and direction, really the first step in the implementation process.

The reason that I point this out is not to blame top management for all our troubles; it’s actually the opposite of that. As the project manager / champion its part of your job to keep top management informed and keeps them abreast of the progress and challenges of the project.

If you do this, if you keep the brass not only informed but also updated on your progress, your forward momentum, you will keep them motivated as well. Some weeks this might not be much – but always have that win in your hip pocket, always encourage them.

What is most important is that you have ongoing support where and when you need it. You know it, everyone knows it.

To be honest with you this same strategy works with subordinates as well and in many cases is even more important. There is SO much that ALL those involved in the project can offer. I could tell you stories about this … and I will, but time is short.

The bottom line result of keeping top management informed, and remember this, is that when it’s time to make the tough labor and resource decisions, the ERP implementation will be given appropriate priority. It will “stay on the radar screen” and odds are you will continue to get the support that you need.

Life is a sales job and the influence that you have on others, good or bad, rests on one person’s shoulders.

Why Going to Your Annual ERP Conference Allows More Rapid ROI

It’s Thursday morning. Yesterday was a hard day of travel, but one that I know was well worth it. While I am somewhat anxious about my company’s annual off-site strategic planning event, I know I am prepared.

I am prepared because I just spent the last three days at the Infor ERP annual user’s conference, the ERP system that my company currently uses. From an Enterprise System standpoint, I know what strategies must be made a priority.

While attending a conference can appear to be an excuse to go to Las Vegas or Orlando, and it is fun to go to these places, it is vital that you go for some rock solid reasons.

First of all, your attendance puts you in that elite class of users that make a huge sacrifice of time and money to get to the conference.

If you look at the number of users who attend a conference when compared to the total number of companies that use your ERP system you are in a group that probably comprises far less than 1% of the user base.

As an example, this year, there were 400+ companies or 6000 registrants out of a total base of 90,000 companies!

So if you make it to your conference, you are in a select minority. As a result, you have a great opportunity to further your company’s goals and objectives.

Some of the concrete things that can be accomplished at your ERP provider conference are:

• To be the first to know what is coming
• To be heard
• To network
• To contribute
• Educate yourself

To Be the First to Know what is Coming
Enhancements and new products are many times announced first at the conference. This is invaluable information for strategic, tactical and operational planning purposes. The sooner you know what it coming, the more accurately you can layout the roadmap for your company.

To Be Heard
Most conferences are not only attended by the user base, but also by key executives of the ERP system or systems sponsoring the event. In my experience these individuals are there to listen to “the base”. Let there be no mistake about it, these men and women know that you have a choice, to be there or not, and they want to find out what’s on your mind.

To Network
This is the opportunity to get to know people in many roles, segments of industry and from many countries. In addition, in many instances, the conference is where user groups are formed,

To Contribute
We all have areas of expertise and experience that others could benefit from. Submit your proposal to deliver a session on one of those subjects. You will get to know a lot of people and will also learn a lot in the process.

To Learn
It goes without saying that you are going to build your knowledge on those subjects where you attend breakout sessions, but as cited above, also in networking and teaching others as well.

Usually the things that I learn at a conference come from a casual conversation over coffee, at lunch, while talking with sponsors. You need to make the effort to mingle, meet people and to go the extra mile…

By the way, the strategic planning session went great! I had the solutions needed to meet key objectives and to drive the company forward for the next few years.

So be sure to budget and plan for the conference early in the year and make it an annual event.

Oh, one other very important thing… write stuff down! I can’t tell you how many times I have not done this, and wish that I had. It is so easy to think that you will remember the key points of a conversation, but when the time comes to recall it …

Please feel free to make a copy of this post and use it as reference whenever you are having a hard time convincing your boss that it is worthwhile to attend your enterprise system conference.

What does it take to Go Live? Getting Over the Finish Line…

You are nearing the end of your ERP software implementation and then the big question comes to mind…

How good is good enough? Am I really ready to Go Live?

I don’t have every software module “optimized”…All processes and policies are not perfected… Everyone is not trained on every aspect of the new system that they could be…

However…

Critical, static data has been migrated and validated. Your network administrator is getting comfortable with SQL Server. Maintenance and support with your ERP software supplier seems to be working pretty well…

Processes have been documented, training materials have been developed and key users have been sufficiently trained to conduct business.

And as a result, we do have “a way” to accomplish every business critical task. It might not be the perfect way, but it will “get us off the runway”. We have tested these processes in as many of the day to day scenarios as we could think of.

Ooops! Don’t forget mission critical reports, you know the ones that the president and the controller rely on to run the business. There might not be that many of them, but you better have them done, tested and available.

And they are done…

So while you are nervous and there are so many details left before the big day… It’s been such a loooong haul…

But you ARE ready, you know it, and so does everybody else.

A successful implementation is when Go Live comes and goes and looking back… it was just another day.

ERP Software Negotiation Tips that can Save You a Lot of Money

When negotiating the price of your ERP system, there is an area that you can easily miss.

Most buyers focus on negotiating the cost of the software and consultant time for implementation.

Obviously these ARE two key areas of focus, but in the long run, and really not that long a run, you are going to surpass the money spent on software, hardware and implementation with maintenance and support.

Maintenance and support is usually based on software cost and guess what? … Many ERP suppliers don’t base it on the NEGOTIATED PRICE. They base it on the RETAIL price!

Let’s do the math…

  • Negotiated price of your software = $150,000
  • Retail price of your software = $200,000
  • Maintenance and support agreement is calculated at 15% of $200,000 so…
  • Your annual maintenance and support cost = $30,000 per year.
  • If it was based on your negotiated cost is would be = $22,500 per year.
  • A net difference of $7,500 per year. A lot of money to leave on the table.
  • Over a period of seven years your supplier can get your $50,000 negotiated discount back!

Negotiation Tip # 1
Negotiate your maintenance and support cost not on the RETAIL price of the software, but on your NEGOTIATED PRICE.

Negotiation Tip # 2

Another area where you can negotiate the maintenance and support, is in relationship to “When the clock starts ticking”, i.e. when will maintenance and support become billable?

In most implementations Go Live is a moving target. Many times this is due to delays caused by your supplier – Use this to your advantage. Base your agreed upon maintenance and support cost on your Go Live date, not your software installation date.

So this is another area that you might get some negotiating traction.

Remember, timing is everything; if you just lost a round in the negotiation, hit them with one of these tactics. But don’t hit them with both of them at once.

Save these negotiation tactics for when you feel the time is right.  If your supplier just “won a round”, their confidence will be high and they might feel obligated to “give” in the art of “give and take” negotiation.

Stay tunred for more sweet negotiating tips…

The 7 Essential Traits of a GREAT ERP Project Coordinator

In the middle of an ERP implementation it is not uncommon for the Project Manager to direct the efforts of between 5 and 15 people on a daily basis.

Things change so rapidly in an implementation that keeping track of every employees efforts in system configuration, testing, process definition and training can be very difficult. Or, put another way, implementation can be an activity akin to juggling cats!

The key is to effectively keep your team moving forward without making a rocket science project out of it.

In my last implementation, just one competent person helped the entire team continue making substantial progress on a daily basis. She was also of special assistance to me as project manager in dealing with the overall management of the project in its many details.

We all know that small and mid-market businesses don’t have a lot of money at their disposal to hire someone for a project that can be viewed as an “overhead” position. However, a justification for someone to coordinate the activities of your ERP implementation while key people tend to revenue generating activities can be made successfully.

The essential traits of a great project coordinator are as follows. I know when you review this list you are going to question whether someone exists that could possibly fit all 7 traits. But I have hired college people repeatedly that do indeed fit nicely into all 7 areas.

This individual must:

Be able to get along well with other people

  • We are definitely talking about a people person here, but more importantly someone that is sincere, unassuming and somewhat easy going. If you have someone like this in the ERP support role, even your team “bulldozer” will think twice about bowling them over.

Have a great work ethic

  • This is a person that comes in early and will work late whenever you ask and whenever they can.
  • This individual will always be able to find something constructive to do.
  • When working, this person will give you 110% of their personal effort.

Good communication skills

  • The ability to speak clearly,
  • Present ideas so that they are easily understood,
  • Someone that can write both formally, proposals etc, and informally in emails.
  • Someone that uses common sense in situations and keeps their head where someone else might get flustered or angry.

Be able to learn quickly and on the fly;

  • This one is pretty self explanatory, given the wild, no two days are ever alike in the world of an ERP implementation scenario.
Possess some trouble shooting skills

While you will help him or her develop these skills, here is what I look for in an individual;

  • The ability to clearly isolate a problem and then test one solution to that problem at a time.
  • The tenacity to not let the problem go.
  • The common sense ability to research the problem.
  • The discipline to document their progress and finally…
  • They will think about the problem day and night until it is resolved

Basic Office application skills including: Excel, PowerPoint, Word and Visio.

  • With a good grasp of these tools, they will be able to electronically create, analyze and communicate thoughts and ideas.

A semester of Project Management and a one each in General and Cost Accounting…

  • With a grasp of cost and general accounting, due diligence can be performed on aspects of the financial aspects of the system such as inventory valuation and product costing.
  • Having some exposure to formal project management will ensure that schedules and resources can be properly maintained.

Once you find this person, look out…here are some of the things they will be able to help you with…

  • Maintaining project and task lists,
  • Setting agendas and keep minutes,
  • Documenting processes, policies and training documents,
  • Testing application modules,
  • Update your new systems security settings and
  • Update “static” data, on and on – way too many to mention.

Where can you find a person like this? One great place is to contact the closest state university and talk to the head of the MIS program. Ask them for recommendations for someone that is either a senior or a recent graduate.

Many of these young people would die for an opportunity to play a key roll in an ERP implementation. What a great way to begin their work experience! This is how I have found all those that inspired this blog post.

The way to verify that a candidate is the type of person as I have described is to give them a try and some rein … let them run with an aspect of the project that you have not been willing to turn over to someone. It’s a leap of faith but something that you have to do.

They won’t understand your confidence in them and will doubt their abilities. Spend, no … invest time in and with them….

When they complete the task given to them, give them another, have more faith in them than they do; keep ahead of them with important tasks.

They will work for you like you have never seen someone work. It is a unique feeling for a young person to be valued, appreciated and trusted in an office environment.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not some super mentor, it’s just that a person like this will energize you as much as you energize them.

There is a symmetry where my coordinator complemented my activities and in many cases picked things up where I had left off. Further a synergy developed where the two of will routinely get more done than what you would have ever considered three people could have accomplished.

This time of year can be perfect in perhaps catching someone finishing up their last semester of their senior year. Don’t wait, contact your local university now.

Give someone a great opportunity and give your project a HUGE boost in productivity. You will never regret it!

 

You and Your ERP Implementation Team – One Is the Loneliest Number

It’s 7:05 a.m. on Monday morning and you’ve been staring at a blank yellow pad for the last 30 minutes.

You are in month 7 of your ERP software implementation.

You know the project…
The one that you fought so hard to get buyoff on,
The one that you stuck your neck out there for.

Perfect timing, your monthly budget vs. actual report was waiting for you when you walked into your office this morning. Not pretty, lots of red ink. You have been spending more than you projected. There is so much more to do…

You now have no doubt that you have to move Go Live out another 6 months.

You will be meeting with your implementation team in 55 minutes.

You know that these men and women are the ones that are going to make or break your implementation. You have that all too familiar sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. You don’t know what to do next; your mind is a blank…

The team needs direction and they need to be energized, you know you can’t bullshit them. They know you and they know the project. You have to be honest with them and tell them that you are going to recommend the move out…

What will they think? Will they agree? Are you sure you need to do this? You have the final say.

You told yourself and you committed to the team and the shareholders that no matter what … the company will not “Go Live Twice”, meaning that you and your team WILL get it right the first time. The software will work, processes will be defined and tested, people will be trained…

Then you realize for the 500th time…

You know that you can depend on the team for good feedback. You also know that they will set you straight if required… but you know this time that they will agree. The project is not moving as quickly as you and your team had planned.

All you have to do is be open and honest with them. This morning when you walk in to the meeting you will “follow to lead”. You will just give them the facts. Where we are in the project today, where we are supposed to be and where we need to be to Go Live.

As stated earlier, they know you; some of them will know what you are going to say before you say it.

Let them talk, and if the question is… should we postpone Go Live or not, the team will give you the guidance that you need. They have given you the guidance you need so many times before … you know they won’t let you down.

Depend on them; ask for their help in spoken and unspoken ways. You will not be disappointed and your team will be strengthened.

And “yes”, you will Go Live when the time is right.

And “yes” you have to answer to the board or the management team for cost overruns and project delays; there is no denying that fact.  

However, if you and your implementation team are on the same page, if the team “owns” the major decisions, there is consensus on the projects direction, you are on solid ground.

Keeping an ERP project on track is so much more about the people than it is anything else. I know it sounds cliché, but I have found it to be so true…

Its 7:55 a.m., whoa, time warp. You get up from your desk and head for the meeting.

Implementing ERP and Scarce Labor Hours – A Question of Balance

Many of you who work or run small or mid market businesses are all too familiar with the dilemma of balancing ERP system capabilities and scarce available labor hours.

Because to most small businesses, labor hours are scarce, revenue generation is everyone’s primary concern.

The thought of spending time operating and maintaining an ERP system is looked upon by many to be non value added activity.

At the same time streamlining business processes and automating tasks to tie your cherished labor hours more directly to revenue generation is a constant goal.

So a balance between labor and automation must be struck in conserving labor and optimizing an ERP system in supplying the right labor with the right mission critical information.

It would make sense that hours spent with your system in the optimization of core business processes would be a high priority. However this is where balance is important. A process is only as good as you have people implement it and to run it.

A highly sophisticated process, one with a level of detail not required in your smaller enterprise would be highly detrimental to revenue generation. In fact, taken to an extreme, a small business with too many such processes would cease to function altogether.

So when considering an ERP system or bringing a post implementation module on line, you must balance Enterprise System operations to your available labor.

Only you and your team have the vested interest, experience and knowledge to appropriately answer this critical question of balance, however, the time you spend in balancing these critical elements will pay your organization back many times.