The perfect analogy to describe what an ERP system’s function is for a business is the heart to a human body. If the ERP system is the heart, then data is the blood moving from one part of the business to another – all flowing from and returning to the ERP system.
When data issues exist in your system, there are several ways this can cause ERP failure. Like the importance of blood in the human body, data cleanliness and integrity are essential for a successful ERP implementation.
Unfortunately, many ERP vendors exclude data migration from their deliverables. As such, it’s not surprising that 41% of respondents in our 2019 ERP Report reported that data issues caused their ERP project to run over-schedule. We also have seen data issues contribute to budget overruns.
2019 ERP Report
This year's report delves deep into the data to analyze what ERP industry trends mean for organizations now and in the future.
How do Data Issues Cause ERP Failure?
1. Your Integrations can Fail
If your business operations rely on partner data, such as shipping information, gift card balances or currency exchange rates, you probably have a few integrations to your ERP system. When the data being passed back and forth between your ERP solution and a third party is unclean, it can cause your integrations to fail.
For example, let’s say your shipping methods are “Next Day” and “Standard Ground.” However, your shipping carrier has methods called “Next Day Air” and “Next Day Air Freight.” If your ERP system’s data is too specific (or in this example, not specific enough), the carrier might send back data that your system cannot accept. This will cause any records attempting to be created to error out. Your integration might attempt once more to create the failed records, and the cycle repeats itself. This can cause system performance to decrease and can slow down your ERP implementation making it run over-schedule. Even though you’ve already gone live, the project recovery process still counts toward your total implementation duration.
We help organizations avoid integration issues by preparing them for data conversion before implementation. This preparation involves developing a data strategy, defining the scope of data conversion and determining a data conversion approach.
2. ERP System Performance can Slow
Whether it’s from integrations attempting to repeatedly create records or from batch jobs running and erroring out, bad data can take a toll on your ERP system’s resources. This system lag can be amplified if your transaction volume is large, like during peak times in your business operations.
For example, data issues can cause a batch job to error out. Let’s say that your business runs both its master planning operations and point-of-sales operations through the ERP system. Master planning is a system-intensive process as it accounts for many different variables like current sales, future orders and current stocking levels. For your point-of-sales operations, your registers and the ERP system need to communicate via a series of batch jobs to push the data back and forth. If some of your future orders don’t have dates on them, the master planning job can error out. Your ERP system will continue to run the job, allocating more resources to it to balance the load. If your point-of-sales batch jobs start running at the same time, there will be minimal resources allotted to those jobs. As a result, cashiers may experience slower response times or no response at all.
Returning to the analogy of ERP software as the heart of business operations and data as the blood, when a person has a blood clot or blockage, the heart must pump even harder and expend more energy to deliver blood to the body. Sometimes, this can be fatal to a human body (or to a business).
3. Your Customer Satisfaction Could Take a Hit
When your system has data issues, your customers notice. This is a data issue that has several prime examples. Consider a returning customer shopping online on your e-commerce site. She wants to buy running shoes to break in for a 5k she is running at the end of the month. She can’t remember what size in your brand fits her, so she looks up her order history to see what size she ordered in the past. Using her name and email she attempts to recall her profile, but the ERP system has duplicate records for her.
Let’s say the customer remembers her size and is ready to order. She checks the inventory levels that your site displays because a quick delivery is a key factor in her buying decision. The product seems to be in stock, so she makes the purchase.
However, it turns out the inventory levels displayed on your site were incorrect because of bad data in your system – your customer will not get her order for another two weeks. If you put yourself in her shoes, would you be a repeat customer?
Once a customer loses trust in your system’s data integrity, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. Consumers today rely on social media and review sites to determine where to spend their money. Disgruntled customers are more than happy to share their unpleasant encounters with the world, preventing you from gaining new customers without even interacting with them.
Improving the customer experience is an important business benefit for many organizations. However, some organizations do not cleanse their customer-facing data before migration. We recommend discussing data during business process management so you can understand the various data sources and entry procedures.
If your business hopes to improve the customer experience, you should outline this goal before ERP selection so you can align every component of the project around this goal, especially the data component. Our ERP implementation methodology focuses on organizational alignment as this ensures the ERP software (and its data) support the organization’s goals.
4. Your System can Become Corrupted
Invalid data can cause your ERP system to become corrupted. Whether the data is invalid from a user error or from an automated system update, bad data can wreak havoc on your ERP system and cause functionality to behave unexpectedly.
For example, let’s say your business captures physical dimensions for products in various units of measure. You sell milk in liters and cheese in kilograms. Your ERP system has two item groups – one for liquids and another for solids. If your products are mistakenly assigned to the wrong item group, your cheese could be sold in liters, costing you money by charging much less than the quantity provided is worth.
This single mistake of assigning the wrong item group can cause a chain of downstream issues. When goods are shipped, the system may prompt the user to capture the weight in liters. As a result, all customer- and vendor-facing documentation may display orders for cheese in liters, making it confusing and even a little embarrassing to correct your ERP system’s data mistake.
5. Business Users can Make Bad Decisions
Arguably, the biggest failure that data issues can cause is allowing users to make key business decisions based on bad data. When users believe the system is correct, they don’t hesitate to order ten dozen more corrugated boxes because the warehouse inventory says they have zero on hand.
With bad data being the foundation of user decisions, inventory can be depleted or inflated. The same check to a vendor could be cut twice or not at all, causing your account standing to be damaged. Customers on an “opted out” list could be accidentally emailed by your marketing department and your company could be the target of a lawsuit. While some of these examples sound dramatic, they can be a reality if your ERP system is receiving or pumping out bad data.
Along these lines, once your business users distrust the data in the system, they will forever second guess your ERP system’s accuracy. For example, if a human resources manager denies a pay increase request for an employee because the data in the system says there is no budget, the employee might leave the company. If the human resource manager finds out later that the budget was incorrect, he or she might lose trust in the system’s data integrity.
In some organizations users distrust the data so much that they do their own data validation before making a decision, like exporting data into Excel and doing their own data massaging. This extra step of data validation outside of the system can cause inefficiencies in business processes and lead to low benefits realization.
Our ERP consulting services focus on change management during the data migration process. Designating process owners and data owners not only increases system buy-in, but it improves data integrity as these “owners” are accountable for ensuring data cleanliness and reliability.
How to Avoid Data Issues
Unreliable data leads to technical challenges, customer dissatisfaction and low system usage. If these challenges aren’t bad enough, consider their impact on your project budget, timeline and benefits realization.
Data migration is an important step of ERP implementation. Focusing on data migration as early as possible ensures your ERP software provides reliable data to all stakeholders from the minute it goes-live until it is retired. Panorama’s ERP consultants can help your organization develop a data migration strategy that reduces the risk of ERP failure.