Tag Archive: erp selection

Have You Thought About Whether You are Maximizing the Use of Your ERP System?

December 19th, 2019

Before jumping to conclusions and pursuing a system upgrade, should we explore whether we are maximizing the use of our current system? Or, is it just not modern enough to support our growth in a scalable, profitable way?

This is often the subject of a client call. After all, no one in their right mind would want to embark on an ERP upgrade unless absolutely necessary. The issue is that the situation can be quite complex. How do we separate what’s important vs. what’s not? In this case study, a client knew they had to upgrade because their system was long out of maintenance. The only question was how compelling was the upgrade to support their customers’ requirements and an efficient operation?

The Answer
Although they clearly required an upgrade to get into the current century, the question we explored is whether they could continue to improve performance using their current system to a degree large enough to delay the upgrade until they were better prepared. Unfortunately, since they had let their current system go for ‘too long’, it was highly dependent on current technical resources, partly tailored to their business processes and customized to their needs. At first glance, that doesn’t sound bad! However, the issue was that it was by no means scalable, would require significant education on concepts so that folks started thinking instead of following the process designed into the current system and they were highly dependent on resources that could leave or “get hit by a bus”. Doesn’t that sound like something you say but it doesn’t happen? Not so> One of my clients had that exact situation occur, even though it is just a phrase for a myriad of issues that could arise.

After digging into their business requirements (current as well as a few years into the future), we found ample opportunity to further leverage already existing functionality to meet customer requirements and delay the upgrade for several months. However, that still wasn’t enough. We also had to take actions to secure at-risk critical resources to the degree feasible (since we clearly cannot plan 100% for the ‘hit by the bus’ scenario). We were successful in proactively addressing the situation so that we didn’t have to leap before we knew if we had a net. Yet, we weren’t 100% comfortable, so we also put together an aggressive plan for ERP selection to find the best fit system to meet their needs (without customizing) and equally important a best fit partner that could proactively understand and think through their education needs (which were VERY different from training needs).

Food For Thought
Although we found a solution, the CEO was on pins and needles once he realized the extent of the situation. Don’t leave your infrastructure to chance. Even though all can seem quite fine at the high level, it is important to know whether you are being held up by a solid foundation or a nice-looking pile of straw. That is before considering what you’ll need at least 18 months into the future. You will not select the best system to support your plans or you’ll skimp on implementation. Every client that cut corners overspent by 20-100% and that is before considering the impact on customer service. Do you have a scalable ERP system to support your business growth and profitability? If not, start there!

 

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Systems Pragmatist



What is More Effective – On-site or Remote?

March 30th, 2019

Lately, I’ve had quite the mix of on-site and remote events.  So, it got me thinking about on-site vs. remote. Which is better?  

  • Manufacturers’ Summit – I introduced the innovation awards and announced the winners at the recent Manufacturers’ Summit. Could this be done effectively remotely? In my opinion, no!
  • Global Strategy Session – I also recently participated in a short check-in session with my global growth group. After resolving my video difficulties so that I wasn’t blurry,  it worked out perfectly. There is no reason I should go across the world for 3 hours!
  • The Society for the Advancement of Consulting –  My business partner, Linda Popky (in Northern CA) and I have participated on multiple Zoom calls with members from the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Pacific Rim to collaborate on increasing member value and related topics. We find these to be ideal remote settings yet we also have in-person regional and global events. You might find me sitting in my car prior to a client meeting on a Zoom call with Australia & Germany.
  • Client workshop with facilities across the U.S. and Canada to implement planning process upgrades – the reason I write this from Minnesota in sub zero temperatures is that this workshop is best done in person. With that said, we have weekly interactions remotely to implement successfully in-between these workshops (which occur about every 6 months). Since MN was chosen for March, perhaps AZ will be in August 🙂
  • ERP Demos – since I currently have several ERP selection projects, I have participated in several demos. Some need to be done in person to ensure project success and others would be a waste of time to attend in person. It depends!
  • Aerospace & Defense speech – the picture shows that clearly I presented in person. Although they record the session for members to listen to afterwards, the value is far more significant with in-person interaction!

One tip to implement this week:
Don’t just assume remote or in-person is always better. The answer is: “It depends”. If you are bringing together cross-functional participants in a workshop-like setting, perhaps you should invest in travel to get together. On the other hand, if there is an expert who can participate remotely to contribute as needed, that also can be value added and cost effective.

Don’t just do what you’ve always done. I used to drive 60+ miles each way to clients for a few hours frequently. Sometimes it was exactly what I should have done.  Other times it was because I defaulted to doing what I typically do. Then one day, I tried to call or do the meeting via Zoom, and I realized the value was equal yet the wear and tear was now non-existent! Thus, I always ask myself about what will achieve the desired outcome. Sometimes remote is better.  Other times, in-person is better. Use common sense.

Assuming you decide to test out the remote option, there are a few items to keep in mind:

  • Act as though you are sitting in a meeting, and don’t allow distractions to take over.
  • Make sure you keep ambient noise down
  • Use video to your advantage so that you can show each other items or emphasize your communications with non-verbal language.
  • Test out technology in advance
  • Just give it a try. What’s the worst that will happen?

And, keep in mind that in-person still provides value. The higher tech we become, the higher level of touch required!

 



ERP Project Success: How to Be Part of the 20%

December 1st, 2016
ERP success

Even as the value of ERP systems becomes more apparent successful implementation is still elusive. Companies that focus on people, design, and testing the limits have better results.

More and more clients are pursuing ERP implementation projects as executives realize they need better tools to support business objectives– growth, service, margins, cash and the like.

When implemented well, ERP systems can support substantial business growth without the additional investment in resources. Certainly, as the minimum wage goes up and workers’ compensation and healthcare are such significant issues, it is something many executives are thinking about! However, ERP systems can do much more – they can help collaborate with customers and suppliers. Those with the best-extended supply chains will thrive in the end, and so it makes sense to take a look at upgrading ERP.

Thus, finding a way to successfully implement an ERP system is of paramount importance, yet the statistics dictate less than stellar performance. Typically, 80%+ of ERP system implementations fail to achieve the expected results. As experts in this space, we can attest that several of these are due to unrealistic expectations without the associated resources and efforts to ensure success; however, either way, ERP success can prove elusive.

Therefore, understanding how to give you a leg up with strategies for success can be vital. Ignore all the best practice mumbo-jumbo and focus on what will really matter:

1. It’s all about the people: As with almost every business success, ERP success is no different. It goes back to the leader – and the team. Have you assigned whoever is available to lead the project team? Or have you put thought into it? Have you freed him/her up from their regular activities or made sure he/she can dedicate the time required? Are you saving your “A” players for growing the business and your day-to-day responsibilities instead of ERP? Sound odd? Well, we come across this on a daily basis in our consulting business. How about the software supplier’s project team? Why should you be worried about them? You shouldn’t unless you are interested in success.

For example, we’ve been involved in several ERP selection projects lately and have stayed involved to ensure the process designs would support business objectives in the best way possible, and, unfortunately, we can convey countless examples of the 80% that run into issues with people. For example, in one case, the project leader was on top of things – truly much better than the average project leader for the size company, yet the project still struggled due to people issues. The software supplier ran into trouble with their project manager. You never know what can go wrong and so it’s smart to remember to keep your eye on the importance of people.

2. Focus on design: The reason we often stay involved with the design process is that this is one of the critical success factors to ensuring ERP implementation success. The quandary is that this type of role requires a broad and diverse skillset, rarely found in project managers.

The skills required include a broad, cross-functional process expertise, an understanding of database design, an understanding of down-the-line impacts of typical system transactions, an understanding of report writing/ programming and the ability to communicate effectively and bridge the gap between the technical and application resources. In our experience, we run across this type of resource 5% of the time in our clients. On the other hand, we run across this type of skillset perhaps 30% of the time with the ERP resources; however, the really bad news is that even though the capability exists 30% of the time, it is used perhaps 10% of the time. The ERP supplier does not want to dictate the design as it will be “their solution” instead of the “client’s solution”, and it is a trick to communicate effectively enough such that the client believes it is their idea or is accepting of the information.

Is it any wonder ERP projects fail miserably?

3. Focus on what could go wrong: It is often rather difficult to keep the ERP project team positive and moving forward because they are causing disruption to the day-to-day success of the business and pushing the envelope with new ideas (sometimes perceived to be threatening or ill-conceived) and process changes which might or might not be accompanied by organizational changes (another key issue with ERP success). Thus, no one wants to create more havoc by deliberately creating tension, thus, forcing practice when mistakes are made and transactions go awry is overlooked. However, this is exactly what must occur to ensure success. Deliberately try to screw up the system when testing. It is not to be a “naysayer” (which can sometimes be the perception) but it is to make sure the team knows how to back out of bad situations. It is far better to “break” the system in test than with your #1 customer!

We cannot tell you how much nonsense we’ve heard about “system XYZ” is set up to perform best practices and so the team just doesn’t want to deal with change. In 95% of the situations, this statement isn’t true. Instead, forget about all the hoopla about best practices and focus on these 3 keys to success; results will follow.

 

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Project Success Is All About the People

August 18th, 2016
people

Project success starts and ends with people. Give your project a head start with a top leader to guide the cross-functional tasks along the way.

In reviewing project successes and failures, it turns out that project success has little to do with the technical aspect of projects. Instead, it is all about the people.

Within the last year, we’ve been called by clients struggling with issues ranging from poor delivery performance to sagging margins, while other clients want to ensure they are prepared for strong revenue growth. Every one of these clients required some sort of project to deliver the intended results – growth, profits, margins, cash flow, and efficiencies. Company sizes ranged from $7 million to $50 million to $250 million dollar facilities of multi-billion dollar companies. Industries ranged from building products to aerospace to food. Project scopes ranged from SIOP (sales, inventory, and operations planning) to a dramatic improvement in customer service levels to ERP selection to support the company strategy. Yet despite these differences, every project boiled down to people.

It is commonplace to think that project success has everything to do with whether the technical elements “add up” or whether best practice processes are utilized. Although these can be important, they are not the key driver to project success. Instead, it boils down to people.

Recently, we went into a new client to evaluate a group that was perceived to be struggling so that we could straighten out the challenges. Although there is always something to improve, this group alone was not the root cause of the challenges. There definitely were some technical challenges to resolve; however, the 80/20 related to connections and perceptions – in essence, the people element.

In another client, we have been working on an ERP project with multiple parties. It certainly hit some bumps in the road along the way. Some are typical bottlenecks with these sorts of projects, and some were atypical. What is sure is that 100% of the challenges resulted from the people equation, even though it was a technical project. Miscommunication and the lack of communication abound. Thus, our role became one of connector among several diverse roles and people. Again, the people aspect drove the “80/20” of success.

So, what are a few strategies to keep your project in the “green” when it comes to people?

  • Project leader: Since success begins and ends with leadership, start here. Project leadership is always harder than is originally thought and can be a thankless job. Be upfront and stay in front of this danger!
  • Don’t bother creating a team: Radical but true. A true team will sink or swim together. Unless you can affect each individual’s salary, bonus and workload (which is an extreme request in 99.9% of projects as they are cross-functional in nature), don’t expect your group to work as a team with the expectation that everyone has the same goal from their day-to-day manager. Instead, find a way to use these diverse backgrounds to your advantage. Bring the group together on specific tasks, engage individuals in a way that works for their particular situation and day-to-day manager.
  • Communicate the why: No matter what else happens, the number one priority should be to communicate the why behind the project. One way to bring this group of individuals together for a common purpose is to make sure the purpose is crystal clear – and the why behind the project is understood and energizing.
  • Follow up selectively: Since we know that cross-functional project teams run into many conflicting objectives and challenges, it is important not to waste precious energy on non-essential tasks. Focus selectively on what will move the project forward and ensure success – in essence, ignore everything but the critical path.
  • Celebrate successes: Don’t wait for the project to be completed successfully. Instead, look for wins along the way. If success or failure boils down to people, it is wise to think about what will keep people motivated. Ignoring them while they overcome daily obstacles might be commonplace but it won’t equate to success. Catch people doing right.
  • Get rid of poor performers: One of the most important things a leader can do is to address poor performers. It gives your top performers hope that you understand what’s required for success and that you appreciate top talent.

Without people, there are no projects. Since projects can drive substantial results, it is worth figuring out how to stack the odds in your favor. And, the great news is that there is no deep, technical understanding required to lead a project effectively. Instead, your ability to ask good questions and lead people are the keys to success as a project leader. Give us the best leaders with mediocre technical skills any day vs. mediocre leaders with excellent technical skills. Undoubtedly, the project will deliver dramatic improvements to your business instead of continually struggling.

 

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Serving up an ACE in Your ERP Selection and Design

April 19th, 2016
ACE for ERP selection and design

ACE(SM) is a tested proprietary process that helps companies align critical success factors with business processes and supplier partnerships to achieve endgame results through improved ERP selection and design.

Our most successful clients are constantly thinking about where they are headed. They think about why they are going there — how does it fit with their vision? How does it have meaning for their customers? Employees? Supply chain partners?

They also think about emerging trends — what is most likely to impact their business? What do they have control over? What opportunities can they leverage? Can they turn lemons into lemonade? How?

Our role is to stay ahead of the curve so that I can help my clients achieve dramatic results. Thus, we’ve incorporated the following best practices and thinking into the development of our proprietary processes:

  • Best practices across industries (ranging from aerospace to building products to food & beverage to distribution) and company-sizes (from small, family owned businesses to facilities and divisions of multi-billion dollar, global enterprises)
  • Expert advice from our collaborations and alliances of clients and colleagues inclusive of top-notch trusted advisors, communities of executives and business owners, and trade association experts and professionals.
  • And, most importantly, we’ve bounced these against “what works” and is immediately pragmatic.

ACESM is our proprietary process that serves up an ace and “hits the spot” with ERP selection and design.

Since I played tennis in high school, I particularly enjoy this proprietary process. Serving an ace can be as hard in tennis as it is in business. You have to hit the ball with the “right” strategy vs. your opponent, in the “right” spot, at the “right” speed, at the “right” angle and at the “right” time.

Our ACESM process hits the bull’s eye by matching the critical success factors of the business in combination with best practice business processes, unique system differentiators and supplier partnerships to achieve endgame results with ERP selection and design. Endgame results include:

  • Scalable infrastructure to support business growth
  • Improved profitability
  • Accelerated cash flow
  • Superior customer service
  • Increased productivity and automation
  • With dramatically reduced risk!

Please refer to our webpage to learn more and contact us if you are interested in leveraging ACESM at your organization

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