Tag Archive: system implementation

Unscrambling a Challenged System Implementation

October 18th, 2016
business man figuring it out

When faced with a challenging system implementation, take a step back and reassess instead of devoting more resources to a plan that may not work out.

From time to time, we receive a call from a client dealing with a challenged ERP implementation. Unfortunately, “challenged” is a nice word for most of these! Of course, by the time the client calls, they have spent a lot of money and are frustrated which isn’t a great starting point because unscrambling the situation is never an easy endeavor — assuming you want to provide service and make money.

Unscrambling these scenarios requires a unique combination of skills:

1. System thinking – as odd as it sounds, there is NOT a need for experience in the specific system. Certainly, it might add value but the most important skill is system thinking — connecting the dots in terms of how systems work, down-the-line impacts, how they’ll integrate with other process steps, etc.

2. Business process expertise – we find that this is a critical component. There are always several ways to perform a certain role or accomplish a task. Some of the ways will create positive down-the-line impacts while accomplishing your goal and some will work perfectly well for you (and might even be faster) but will create negative down-the-line impacts. The complication is that no documentation will tell you about these. This is where having “been there and done that” with multiple systems and process combinations is required.

3. Timing/sequencing – even if you have good system thinking and good process expertise, if you don’t “see” the various outcomes with different sequences and timing impacts, you’ll still end up in a jumble.

4. Project management expertise – unscrambling several moving parts requires a deep project management expertise. Organizing and tracking several moving parts and related impacts (prerequisite steps, concurrent steps, etc.) requires a skill in project management.

5. Relationships/communication – one would think we are asking for too much when we throw this topic into the mix but it is a key component. Often, there will be some technical capability required to resolve certain aspects. Thus, communicating effectively across applications and technical capabilities is a must. Additionally, your ERP and system partners (or lack thereof) might need to be addressed, improved and/or changed out. After all the frustration already incurred, it is essential to know quality resources.

6. Training/application understanding – this is an easy one to outsource once you know what is needed. Our clients typically think it is #1, yet it is the least critical aspect. Once the solution is known, it is easy to provide training.

Yes, it is one of those situations where there are no easy solutions. The fix itself could seem simple yet putting together a plan and executing the plan will turn complex. Our best advice is to take a step back and assess your situation. After spending a lot of money (that has become a sunk cost), the key will be to remain focused on what the best long-term solution will be to maintain and grow your business successfully. It will require more money than you hoped but you’ll “right the ship” so that you have a sustainable solution.

As an aside, if you happen to employ resources with many of these skills, hang on to them. Follow the advice of one of my best clients who hired top notch engineers during the recession when he didn’t need them. He now has them and will sail past his competition.

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

How Challenging ERP Can Be!

5 ERP Selection Pitfalls

 



Unscrambling a Challenged System Implementation

September 20th, 2016
complex systems implementation

When executing a complex system implementation that is difficult, remember to step back occasionally and assess where you are and whether you remain focused on the overall objectives.

From time to time, we receive a call from a client dealing with a challenged ERP implementation. Unfortunately, “challenged” is a nice word for most of these! Of course, by the time the client calls, they have spent a lot of money and are frustrated which isn’t a great starting point because unscrambling the situation is never an easy endeavor — assuming you want to provide service and make money.

Unscrambling these scenarios requires a unique combination of skills:

  1. System thinking – as odd as it sounds, there is NOT a need for experience in the specific system. Certainly, it might add value but the most important skill is system thinking — connecting the dots in terms of how systems work, down-the-line impacts, how they’ll integrate with other process steps etc.
  2. Business process expertise – we find that this is a critical component. There are always several ways to perform a certain role or accomplish a task. Some of the ways will create positive down-the-line impacts while accomplishing your goal and some will work perfectly well for you (and might even be faster) but will create negative down-the-line impacts. The complication is that no documentation will tell you about these. This is where having “been there and done that” with multiple systems and process combinations is required.
  3. Timing/sequencing – even if you have good system thinking and good process expertise, if you don’t “see” the various outcomes with different sequences and timing impacts, you’ll still end up in a jumble.
  4. Project management expertise – unscrambling several moving parts requires a deep project management expertise. Organizing and tracking several moving parts and related impacts (prerequisite steps, concurrent steps, etc.) requires a skill in project management.
  5. Relationships/communication – one would think we are asking for too much when we throw this topic into the mix but it is a key component. Often, there will be some technical capability required to resolve certain aspects. Thus, communicating effectively across applications and technical capabilities is a must. Additionally, your ERP and system partners (or lack thereof) might need to be addressed, improved and/or changed out. After all the frustration already incurred, it is essential to know quality resources.
  6. Training/application understanding – this is an easy one to outsource once you know what is needed. Our clients typically think it is #1 yet it is the least critical aspect. Once the solution is known, it is easy to provide training.

Yes, it is one of those situations where there are no easy solutions. The fix itself could seem simple yet putting together a plan and executing the plan will turn complex. Our best advice is to take a step back and assess your situation. After spending a lot of money (that has become a sunk cost), the key will be to remain focused on what the best long-term solution will be to maintain and grow your business successfully. It will require more money than you hoped but you’ll “right the ship” so that you have a sustainable solution.

As an aside, if you happen to employ resources with many of these skills, hang on to them. Follow the advice of one of my best clients who hired top notch engineers during the recession when he didn’t need them. He now has them and will sail past his competition.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

How Challenging ERP Can Be! 

The Value of CRM

 



Resurrecting a Struggling System Implementation

August 16th, 2016
struggling system implementation

Take the necessary steps and dedicate resources to review processes and think more broadly about specific steps and functions before the purchase of a new ERP system.

We received a call this week from another frustrated CEO who is struggling with a system implementation. What we hear frequently from executives is the following: “It took more time and more money than I ever imagined!” And, worse, sometimes we hear that customers are being lost or are in danger of slipping away. Enough said as we can’t imagine anything worse!

 

Over the years, we have helped several clients with these types of situations. We are not experts in any particular software (although we know most of the popular ones) yet we are able to help clients with these issues. Little has to do with being an expert in the particular system. Instead, based on our experience with these types of projects, several of the pitfalls to avoid include:

1.  Lack of process understanding – just understanding system steps is not enough. What if those system steps don’t add up with the daily processes? What if we know all the system steps but have no idea how to perform our job function? This is one of the most common causes of mass frustration and ERP system issues.

2. Thinking in a silo – almost everything “works” if you are in a silo. If you are thinking about what you need the system to do and not aware of impacts on anyone else, it can appear that the system is functioning just fine when it isn’t. For example, if you enter production and are able to move the inventory to the next step in the production process, all seems good. However, we’ve seen that two steps further in the process, the last production step cannot be performed or the item cannot be shipped if certain fields were not checked or steps followed. Unfortunately it creates havoc later on, and it might not be caught until it is too late. Unscrambling this mess can be tricky.

3.  Lack of education – notice I did NOT say lack of training. 99% of my clients start by telling me the issue is a lack of training. Although additional training might be required, it is rarely the issue. Instead the lack of education can be a problem. Education includes training on specific steps and functions but it is a broader topic. Do you understand WHY you are performing these steps and what they mean?  

 

Upgrading or implementing a new system can be a significant undertaking that will greatly impact your business and your resources — in a positive or a negative way. It is your choice. Don’t underestimate the importance and complexity of this process. Dedicate the appropriate resources and focus to the undertaking, and success will follow.  

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

Common Pitfalls to ERP Project Success 

The Power of Databases

 



The Value of Implementation

August 5th, 2016
change initiative

Successful project implementation requires leadership and hard work to pick up the pieces when something goes wrong – because something always will.

Strategy and plans do not fail in formulation; they fail in implementation.  Time and time again, my clients prove this statement.

Although I am an expert in helping clients select the best ERP system to meet their objectives (and have developed a proprietary process for just this process – ACE), system implementations go awry during implementation. I also happen to be an expert at significant change initiatives in complex organizations (whether merger and acquisitions or culture change) – undoubtedly, they go off the rails during implementation; not formulation.  Thus, it is quite critical to consider the value of implementation.

Because these initiatives are core to success, it is worth thinking about what has the most impact on results. The problem with implementation is that it requires hard work and leadership. There aren’t short cuts on this path to success. For example, when going through a merger, acquisition or selling the business, it is important to think through how you’ll handle issues that arise.  If there is one certainty with these types of projects, it is that issues will arise.  If you haven’t figured out how to address them so that the team aligns with the path forward, damage will be done. Synergies will disappear. Margins will decline. Morale will drop. Customers might hit the road. Thinking through how to handle these scenarios in a way that aligns with “what you said you’ll do” and the company philosophy is important.

If nothing else, consider “thinking before you act” when it comes to implementation. It is easy to slide to the 80% fail rate to meet expectations.  You must be on your toes, proactive and fully understanding the value of implementation for success to consider following you.

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to strengthen your Eagle Eye:

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5 ERP Selection Pitfalls

June 25th, 2013

Don’t get lost in the functionality; Follow these five selection tips.

I get “too many” calls to help resolve problems associated with system upgrades and/or new system implementations. How can some of these be avoided during the selection process?

1. The good salesman – ERP software suppliers have to be some of the best salespeople I’ve seen. Even when you are careful, they’ll likely focus more on the bells & whistles of their system than is desirable.

2. Standard functionality – Standard functionality is the downfall of ERP selection projects. In my experience, 20% of the time should be spent on standard functionality as almost every core supplier will have it. Reverse the order and spend 80% on unique functionality.

3. Lopsided team – Although there will be some functions more interested than others in the selection project, if they decided for everyone, you shouldn’t be surprised if you end up with a great system in that particular area with the rest left to luck.

4. Immediate feedback – Although it seems as though it’s obvious while sitting in the demo, it becomes amazingly difficult to figure out which feature went with which software a few days later. Talk immediately following the demo.

5. Focusing solely on functionality – Don’t get lost in functionality and forget that the software supplier will be your business partner. Do they conduct themselves as you’d expect for a long-term partner?

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:

Lisa’s Tips: Software Selection