Recently another ERP blogger we frequently reference, Eric Kimberling of Colorado, wrote about some of the lessons he’s learned from 12 years of guiding clients in their ERP pathways and decisions.
Given our thirty years of experience, we thought we’d take a few of Mr. Kimberling’s comments and splice them with our own to provide a few thoughts on some of the key lessons we’ve all learned about what he likes to call “digital transformations” or broadly speaking, ERP implementations and workflow improvement initiatives. For the most part, the topic points are his, and the advice following is ours.
- Here we are in unanimous agreement: It’s more about the people and processes than it is about the technology. Identifying key processes, establishing the right workflows, seeking to make users comfortable with change… and mapping all these efforts into a suitable software solution that removes redundant efforts, eliminates disparate information silos, streamlines peoples’ jobs and ultimately serves your customers more efficiently – these people- and process- focused initiatives are the real key to digital transformations.
- There is no one-size-fits-all answer. There’s a lot of good software out there. Just as there are a lot of good implementation consultants. Unfortunately, there are also a lot who know the technology but not the business processes. Why would you hire anyone that’s not a subject matter expert in your chosen field? Ours expertise is manufacturing and distribution — so don’t hire us to install your dental practice management software (or fill your cavities) — and vice-versa.
- Your business should drive your software and transformation needs – and not the other way around. That also means that if your software cannot be matched to the way you work, then you need to find different software. (Another reason for hiring implementation consultants that know your territory, i.e., business.)
- Take the hype and the jargon with a major grain of salt. Tech is notorious for having a million buzzwords. Cloud, SaaS, big data, XML, agile… the list goes on forever. Once again, what’s best for the business? At the end of the day, where your system is located (local, cloud, etc.) is less important than whether the tool you choose is going to be the right one for the way you work, and be up and running over 99% of the time. The buzz words and the tech, while sometimes important, always matter less than the interests and flow of your business.
- The best technology will not fix broken business processes. We always insist on making the business process analysis the first item on our agenda. Identifying process flows, both the current ones and what they should look like in the end, is what creates the road map to everything that follows. Involve all the key stakeholders and users in your project in this crucial step from the very beginning. That will ensure you’re starting from the right foundation.
- Failures, like successes, don’t happen overnight. Usually, win or lose, there is a trail of decisions, events and actions – all driven by people – that determines the success or failure of most ERP projects. These occur along a timeline. So when you see something going off the rails (and we always tell our own consultants this), be the first to pull the cord and stop the train. Run towards the fires (issues). It will usually only get worse if you don’t stop, pivot, re-evaluate and take corrective action to fix the flaws in your foundation sooner, rather than later.
Both Kimberling and we could list more, but today’s list should provide any company about to embark on a digital transformation or process and software upgrade with the key lessons they’ll want to know – before they begin the effort.