This month, Kath, one of our consultants, talks about her experience of buying a new ERP. Whilst not everyone will have the same experience as Kath, we know many clients who have! We are lucky, in that most of our team have had some first-hand experience of how not to implement an ERP, which makes them much more aware of any issues our clients may face.
Over to Kath…
Off to a good start?
My first experience of selecting a new ERP system in a previous role several years ago didn’t start well. I thought I knew exactly what we wanted so I got in touch with a multitude of vendors all of whom were more than eager to fix our current issues.
I was a little surprised that virtually all the vendors I’d contacted said that they could meet the requirements that they’d been sent but took them at their word and arranged to meet up with some of them for demos. It soon became apparent that whilst they could meet our requirements, in many cases, this would only be possible through some major modifications at significant extra cost and so I needed to go back and do some serious thinking about what to do next as I knew that our budget wouldn’t stretch that far.
I started by looking at the requirements which were going to need modifications. I had to make sure that any changes to the proposed system were going to give some real benefits in terms of efficiency gains or supporting the business objectives. Were they really requirements, just what we did already or simply nice to have? In some cases, I wasn’t sure. I then went back to the head of each department to find out more, only to discover that they weren’t all that sure either, so my next step was to talk to the people who were doing the work on a daily basis and discovered it was a mix of all three.
We need to write things down
My next issue was that almost nothing was written down in terms of how they did things because in many cases they had been trained on the job so it was all in their heads, but the vendors would really need process maps or operating procedures to check against. It was clear that we just didn’t have the resources to put all these together ourselves and so it was actually one of the potential vendors who suggested we contact Gradient to see if they could help.
One of Gradient’s consultants came to the site and spent a week on the shop floor getting to know all the processes inside out and was then able to create detailed process maps for the warehouse and assembly areas. From there they then created a report explaining which they believed were working well and which might be more efficient if done differently. At first, our team were suspicious as they assumed the objective would be to reduce headcount if quicker ways of working were found, but with some careful reassurance and explanation, they were soon on board and more than willing to help.
Once this stage had been completed, we could then repeat this process across the organisation. This put us in a position to create a much more accurate statement of requirements and, as a result, the conversations with vendors were more meaningful this time around.
Our top tips
Had we gone ahead with the selection and implementation without this preparation the whole project would have been a complete disaster, so here are just a few tips that I learnt from my experience to help prevent you from falling into the same trap.
- Whether you’re looking for a new ERP system for the first time or replacing an old one, make sure you fully research the options available.
- Know your current processes inside out – if you don’t know them then you can’t expect a vendor to either.
- Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to ensure you prioritise the right processes for improvement.
- Be flexible – just because it’s how you do it now doesn’t mean it’s the only way it can be done.
- Keep your employees involved throughout the process – they will be much happier with the new system if they’ve been contributing to how it should work.
- Don’t try to re-write the rule book – companies like Gradient have vast experience in selecting and implementing ERP systems, they can help you prepare a meaningful and unambiguous statement of your system requirements and even assist you with managing a successful ERP implementation.
If you have any questions about this article please feel free to contact us.