The implementation of a new ERP or BMS for a business is a mammoth undertaking. There is always a significant cost both financially, as well as on your people. Most businesses are ill-equipped to deal with an extraordinary event like this and don’t have on tap the skill sets required for an implementation that is a process change project at the same time. The cutover deadline is often only reached by dragging everyone along for the ride, whether they are keen or kicking and screaming. The process becomes quite traumatic and inevitably, all the big plans and dreams you had for business transformation are abandoned along the way.
The end result is that you have a new ERP system, but there’s a good chance it hasn’t given you the business improvements you initially had in mind.
Time passes and the business keeps moving (because it has to survive). By now, your ERP might be holding the business back, with your staff complaining of “clunkiness”, slowness and time wasting. People start to say things like “the best system we ever had was the last one, this is useless,” of course forgetting that your last system had big problems, which was why you replaced it! However, chances are that those issues are still there and they are still crippling the business. So where do you go next? Is it time to replace the system? Or is this an opportunity to get your hands dirty and tune up your current ERP until it’s humming?
Step 1 – Match processes back to ERP
As a basic starting point, if you’ve never mapped your business processes, now is a very good time to start. There’s a lot of industry jargon on the internet regarding process mapping which can be very confusing, often making it seem like it could potentially be a long-winded process that costs a lot and doesn’t deliver a lot except some colourful charts and slick Power-point presentation.
The truth is that process mapping may take time, depending on the size of your organisation and yes, that will give you a day rate consulting charge. However, the benefit of having an end-to-end, easily digestible image of how your business runs, day by day, is priceless. The first thing it will give you is instant visibility of your “doubled” or “tripled” processes, where your staff carry out the same task multiple times. It will help you to give them a common, simple method, ultimately saving time and money.
A good process map will also give you a bird’s eye view of current time-wasters, or key business drivers. This will help you to focus on the right features in your ERP.
Step 2 – Rediscover your ERP system
Take a step back and review the basics of your ERP/BMS with fresh eyes. Don’t rely on your software vendor to do this for you, because they often won’t be as interested in the benefits to your business as you are – their drive is to keep their customers current so support is simpler for them.
Perform this review objectively and without trying to match it back to your business. What are its strengths and weaknesses, both from an infrastructure and a functionality perspective? Does it do some tasks really well, like service scheduling or process manufacturing? Does it have any glaringly obvious gaps? Does the future vision of your ERP/BMS vendor fit with the future vision for your business? Will they grow and change as you grow and change?
Finally, if you haven’t already done this, do a quick review of any version changes from when you first implemented to now and take note of any functional changes you may have ignored previously.
Step 3 – Compare and contrast
Using your process map from Step 1 and your analysis from Step 2, do a comparison of your business needs back to your current ERP/BMS. Start with the easy questions. Does the ERP/BMS functionality “tick off” cover all your key business needs? If not, are there modules or components of the ERP/BMS that you already own and don’t use, or that you could buy, that will help you bridge the gap? Or is it possible to minor customisations to the system to easily and simply add functionality? If you’ve answered yes to these questions, chances are your current ERP/BMS system can still be made to work for your business. You can build your case for an improvement project, tailored to optimise your ERP/BMS usage.
If not, then you have some big decisions to make. Sometimes your business grows and changes too fast for your ERP/BMS, leaving you with not much choice other than finding a better fit. Yes, it’s going to be expensive and time-consuming, but does that stack up against the issues you currently have that are preventing your business from running profitably and efficiently? Your secret weapon will also be the fact that you now have all this detailed business knowledge that will ensure that your next implementation is different.
Changing Business Systems is a big decision for many businesses. Always make sure it’s not a knee-jerk reaction to business pain and that you’ve investigated ways to get more value from what you have. If you do go down the path of change, make sure you are armed with business process knowledge and a good project program. Your second time round can be much easier if you’ve learnt from the problems of the past.