ERP Service Contracts – Do’s and Dont’s

The Situation

Over the last couple of years, companies hit with down revenues and have a ERP or CRM system version that is old enough that it’s not longer supported, have made the decision to cancel maintenance and support until they are ready to upgrade.

I mean if your software is no longer being supported and your not going to upgrade anytime soon WHY IN THE WORLD  would you be paying thousands of dollars a year. If that’s your situation – CANCEL IT now…

The ONLY caveat I will make is that some ERP and CRM companies will threaten you.. “OK Mr or Mrs Customer, if you cancel, WHEN you renew your maintenance and support, we are going to not only hit you with a penalty, but will charge you ALL support fees that were unpaid!!!

I only have one thing to say about this… Bull S__t!.

Don’t take it…

I didn’t.  I negotiated a deal where I would cancel for one year and then renew without any penalties or back charges.

Then, dig this… I am just re upping tomorrow and it’s been 20 months (it took me a while to get the OK) AND they are more than happy to give me the SAME DEAL.

You know why?

I think you do… A lot of people have canceled and M and S revenues are WAY down!

Any here’s a little tip on when you do re up. They might tell you that they are going to give you a GREAT deal and not charge you in arrears BUT you are going to have to agree to stay on contract for 3 years and pay the first year UP FRONT.

DON’T AGREE to this. I didn’t. I negotiated and am paying quarterly. There’s a 2% surcharge, but that’s well worth it.

So in summary, don’t pay when there is not value, start paying when there is and negotiate from the beginning to the end…

Until next time ….

Rick
DreamHost promo code

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

The Seven Steps to Implementing ERP – Step 5 Process Integration

So if are implementing ERP – or any other large scale sofware system for that matter… Process integration In my opinion, is where your implementation either lives or dies…

Don’t short change yourself by skimping on the step! Or for that matter any step prior to integration…

If you are at the point where you are ready to integrate business processes with your new system, then you have completed the prerequisites…

Without these previous steps fully completed – Process integration will be impossible – so make sure that you have laid a good foundation… OK, I think I made my point…

Next lets look at the definition of ERP – A system designed to integrate business processes to eliminate waste, increase efficiency and effectiveness.

While I wrote this definition on the fly and crafted it to make a point – While there are other aspects to ERP, process integration is huge.

So huge in fact that I devoted 3 podcast episodes to it – them out at Implement ERP Fast.

I have developed a 7 step system to integrate business process into your new ERP System.
The steps are as follows:

1. Selecting Process Integration Team Members.
2. Selecting Business Processes to be Integrated.
3. Reviewing and Revising Business Policies Related to the Business Processes to be Integrated.
4. Listing Business Process Scenarios or the “flavors” of the processes to be integrated.
5. Detailing each Busienss Process flavoer to be integrated – Step by Step.
6. Testing Processes that have been Integrated.
7. Document Processes that have been Integrated.

If you follow these 7 steps, you will eliminate a lot of voodoo from an otherwise complicated phase of your project.

Take for instance Step 1 – At first, you might wonder if this really needs to be a step… Well let me tell you… Some people are not cut out to integrate business processes. You have to have what I refer to as a “systems mind”. You need to be able to “zoom in” and “zoom out” at appropriate times – focus on process in a disciplined way. If you pick the wrong guy or gal, you are going to go sideways FAST!

Next, Step 2 – What processes are you going to integrate in roll out? Most teams bite off more than they can chew and usually end up backing off as a result – give it SERIOUS THOUGHT.

Step 3 – Be real clear on what policies are going to drive process. Huh? Yeah policy – You know those guardrails that companies create to keep staff from driving off a veritable cliff in doing their jobs… For example, if you were integrating the Order Entry process, you would need to know what policies exist for “method of payment”. You take credit cards, or COD, BUT NOT open billing, So with a clear picture on this policy you won’t be developing process and setting up the system to accept 30 day terms. The beauty of this is that you can eliminate a lot of work and decrease frustration dramatically.

So that’s the first 3 steps – think through the last 4 and see what you come up with – Drop me a comment and let me know what you think.

By the way…

The Software Implementation Tracker – a 400+ page guide is just about ready to launch. If you sign up on my list (above) you will qualify for a “List Only” introductory price – I will email you a special offer. Spend MORE time focusing on nuts and bolts of your implementation and LESS time “managing” your project.

Next post will will deal with Step 6 of an ERP implementation – End User Training.

Until next time – Rick – Signing off…

The Seven Steps to Implementing ERP – Step 4 – Installing and Configuring an ERP System

Hi Folks – It’s been a while and sorry for that! I have been spending most all of my free time working on a new implementation guide, but that’s not why you read my blog!

So let’s get down to it… OK – Step 4, Installing and Configuring a new or upgraded ERP system.

The first thing that you need to know, is that YOU WILL need the help of one or more consultants on this one. Unless you are a serious propeller head, just setting up your database (SQL Server) is not for the faint of heart. And even if you are a geek, the "configuration" of SQL to optimize your ERP system’s performance is going to require some tweaking …. tricks of the trade that you would have no way of knowing.

Next, installing your applications software… If you are even a little bigger than about the smallest candidate for an enterprise system, you are going to run your applications on a separate server. Believe me, this is not the time to be a tight wad.

Migrating data… what data do you bring over from your existing system? While you might want to bring all your data… some, actually a lot of it makes NO SENSE to even try and migrate… I am talking about "history"… Order history, inventory transaction history, purchase order history … whatever.. Now you ask… Why Not! you have years of transactions and you don’t want to lose them! Read on …

Let me see if I can explain this in a couple of sentences … A transaction, like a Customer Order in an ERP environment consists of data usually coming from multiple places in the database – the customer master, the inventory master etc… and for that reason, the data is "related" right? That "Relationship" is the reason why it is extremely difficult if not impossible to bring it over… In order for the data to be properly related from one part of your system to another, it almost HAS to be transacted on your new system. If you just "dump" data in tables and hope that it properly relates, it ain’t gonna work! When a real transaction occurs, there are these "database triggers" that "fire" as the transaction is occurring – ensuring proper relationship.

I hope that makes sense… HOWEVER,  if you can’t bring over history, what can you bring over? Actually VERY IMPORTANT stuff … What I refer to as Master files … The customer master, the vendor master, the engineering master… Really key files right? You can’t do business without them…

Next is testing. At this stage, while you don’t know jack about the new system, you can still conduct basic tests, like … does a bill of material cost "roll up" produce the same results as your legacy system? Be kind of a bummer if you went live on your new system and your costing was completely different! I’ll bet there are other things you can think of that you can test at this early stage… believe me, it does wonders for your blood pressure and maybe your sleep patterns…

Well, that’s it for now and I hope I gave you a couple of things to think about. Be sure to check out my podcast at www.ImplementERPFast.com. I have hours of free audio on selecting, qualifying, negotiating, installing, configuring as well as intergrating business processes into your new system.

One more thing… what the heck – I will give a shameless plug for my new guide – "The Software Implementation Tracker": A 400+ page guide that takes you from the mere vision of maybe you are considering a new system alll the way to Go Live. This is a HANDS ON Guide that is kind of like a "Consultant in a Box" – Only YOU ARE in control and not paying a guy $250 / Hour!

The other part of this product that I am VERY excited about is an Excel application that I developed as a companion to Tracker – the Readiness Calculator…that will allow you to – without a bunch of project management gobbledygook – to visually track your progress… your "Readiness", every step of the way to Go Live. Easy and fast, so that you can attend to the real knowledge work of your implementation.

Until next time, this is Rick …. Signing off…

 

The Seven Steps to Implementing ERP – Step 3 – Purchasing

OK, so far we have covered…

Step 1 – You have Justified and Specified your ERP system – people are going to "have your back" if something goes wrong (and it will!).

Step 2 – You have Sourced, Qualified and Selected an ERP software package that is going to work for your business.

Now for Step 3 – Negotiating and Purchasing your ERP system…

I can say without reservation that negotiating and purchasing an ERP system is just about as complicated as a purchasing transaction can get. While you might have extensive experience buying capital equipment, few other purchases will have as many angles as an ERP system.

First, you have the software, OK, not a big surprise, then the hardware to run it … again not a shocker, then the network backbone upgrades, then come the consultants from perhaps 1, but more likely 2 or 3 different firms, then the maintenance and support, the internal personnel that you have to keep working on the project….

So there is a list of the major aspects to the purchase. Now negotiate the best price and terms for each one of them! This is not a cookie cutter deal. The sales people that you are working with, while they are probably ethical, are going to answer your questions, and you should be asking lots of them, are not going to volunteer everything that they know about the deal…

What do I mean by that, well let me give you an example… Let’s say that you are buying the Quality module that is offered by the ERP supplier, and you know that the Quality module" consists of 15 key applications. However, the quoted package only includes "Quality module essentials", which means that you are only getting 5 out of the 15 apps. Don’t laugh, this has happened to me and yes I did catch it before I bought a package… but this kind of stuff can happen all over the place.

So bottom line – Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware). I think you get the idea. Next … Step 4, Installation and Configuration…

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….

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 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.

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.

Time Management and Implementing ERP

As most of you know, successfully implementing an ERP system is a long difficult process. Time management is a huge part of it and you have to make every minute of the day count.

I am always looking for someone better suited than myself to perform a particular task. And all ego aside, there are many times that someone else is better, smarter or faster at getting certain types of tasks done.

If you can find someone else to do something that you were going to do, and you are not best suited to do it anyway, it frees you to do something that you REALLY should be doing.

So where am I going with this?

ONLY do things that PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS. As the well know Internet marketer, Alex Mandossian puts it – Strengthen Your Strengths and Outsource Your Weaknesses.

Think about this for a minute – if you focus on doing things that you are GOOD at, a couple of things happen…

  •  You are doing the things that you like to do.
  • You are probably going to do a very good job and …
  • If you are giving tasks to others that they are good at, they are going to take more pride in their work.
  • And finally they are probably going to do a better job at those tasks than you would.

Bottom line, more stuff is going to get done and everyone is going to be enjoy their jobs just a bit more.

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.

 

It’s Official – Oracle to Buy BEA

Boy did second round negotiations happen under the radar screen on this one!

Back in October of 07′  – IT WAS ALL OVER THE PRESS – Oracle made a bid for BEA that expired with a Sunday night deadline. At the time Oracle offered $17 and BEA said $21. No deal.

As I said back in October, Larry Ellison was NOT going to let this one go!

This morning according to the Wall Street Journal BEA accepted a bid from Oracle for $19.375. The area of middleware is HOT.

Oracle needs this acquisition to maintain an edge in middleware space.

 The promise of SaaS and SOA in ERP architecture could revolutionize ERP as we know it.

Middleware 2008 – Part 2

Middleware will continue to be an area of intense focus in 2008 and in the specific areas of …

First, Business Intelligence…

One
On the supplier side, the fact that billions have been spent in the acquisition of Cognos, Hyperion and Business Objects by IBM, Oracle and SAP respectively should make it crystal clear the tier 1 sees the writing on the wall.

Two
On the customer side, according to a recent discussion between Tony Friscia and John Hagerty of AMR Research, “getting more out of systems, getting better information for decision making is the number one strategic investment area for companies”. They further commented that this focus will remain regardless of where the economy goes … I would agree.

Three
My organization is no different with strategic emphasis on BI. I think that it is safe to say that more companies have an ERP system than ever before… Now let’s make sense out of the data and make better decisions!

Second, SOA…

This one is not quite the, “Here it is 1,2,3” as Business Intelligence.

While on the supplier side, marketing alchemy is alive and well AND market consolidation is seriously underway.

The Oracle and BEA deal fell flat, but serious money was spent in this space by IBM acquiring WebFly, DataPower and Bowstreet, HP acquired Mercury, there are others …

There is no question that the investment dollars are there.

I just don’t yet see the value proposition materialize for the average ERP system customer. It sounds good, but have yet to see it materialize.

SAP, Oracle, IBM, HP, Infor
All is quiet for the moment, but 2008 looks to be a lively year in this space.

And Finally … ERP and Web 2.0 – A Parting Note

Talk about the ultimate oxymoron, the marriage however of the two could provide strategic advantage in many different ways. There are hosted ERP systems utilizing SaaS up and running now, so this is not vaporware.

Until next time…

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?

Keeping ERP Project Management Simple

How do you keep track of what’s going on with your ERP software project on both a day to day and long term basis?

Traditional project management tools and techniques can allow you to keep track of complicated timelines, involving multiple departments at various stages of completion.

If however, you use project management software daily, a situation can exist where key people are spending more time updating the project software and feeding the system, than they are actively working on the project itself.

Further, in most companies the majority of the personnel working on an implementation project have “day jobs”; what they actually get paid to do.

At the same time, for long range planning purposes, project phase management and interdependent project activities, a well thought out project timeline is mandatory. A project plan is the only way for management to project the needed resources in people, time and money in the intermediate and long term.

So, use the fancy software up front and monthly or quarterly to update the big picture plan; to determine if your project is still on track to Go Live. The project plan is not then just a “chart on the wall”, not some stale dated piece of paper. It is a periodic review and reference of project status.

OK, so you have the big picture of the project created and routinely updated, but how do you handle day to day, week to week task management activities?

Talk to people!

Have a Weekly Team Status Meeting

Like most everyone else, I hate meetings. However, the best way that I have found to manage “next actions” or current tasks is a well run ERP status meeting.

I recommend that the meeting:
• Happens every week without fail.
• Be started on time.
• Occurs early in the week – preferably on Monday morning.
• Be documented in Word or Excel and made easily available to everyone concerned.
• Take no more than one hour – shoot for 30 minutes.

You must demand that everyone come to the meeting prepared to discuss the following:

• Last weeks completed tasks.
• Tasks being worked on this week.
• Challenges AND proposed solutions – don’t let this one get away from you – i.e. NO rabbit trails.

Minutes can be organized in any of the following ways but BE CONSISTENT.
• Person
• Process
• Or any other way that makes sense to you.

Optional
• New Business / Old Business – this can DRAG the meeting down so be careful!

This meeting can hold the team together, allow for efficient communication and keep things moving forward.

Coupled with a periodic project plan update, you can invest a minimal amount of time in project and task management and be confident that you know what’s going on with the project.

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.