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As an ERP Expert Witness, I constantly review cases of ERP failures. My biggest takeaway is that organizations tend to ignore warning signs, and sometimes, they just don’t care.

This behavior repeats itself before, during and after a failed ERP implementation. Common sense doesn’t seem to prevail, and people tend to lose sight of the end goal – what the ERP software is supposed to accomplish. Minor issues are compounded when mistakes are ignored, missed or deliberately hidden.

Obviously, ERP failure is undesirable. It’s a bummer for executives, end-users and customers. Whether you’re in the private or public sector, the customer (or citizen) should be your primary concern throughout your ERP project or digital transformation.

As a citizen myself, I have experienced the inconveniences of poor deployment of technology within the public sector. Recently, I was getting a passport for my son. I have dual U.K./U.S. citizenship which I can pass down to my children, so I decided to get my son a U.K. passport. I had to gather a number of documents, which I was able to obtain on the U.K. GRO’s website for minimal cost, and I received them within ten days – from overseas. Easy!

Dealing with the Hong Kong Immigration Services was another matter entirely. Since I was born in Hong Kong, I had to go through the Hong Kong Immigration Services to obtain my original birth certificate. You’d think that such a technologically-sophisticated, progressive territory would have a user-friendly process, but I soon realized their process was an example of a bureaucracy gone wrong.

While there is an easy online form for Hong Kong residents, this is not so for non-residents – you must do everything by mail. You also do not have the option to pay by credit card and must buy a bank draft in Hong Kong dollars. After much ado, I completed and mailed the application. Three months later . . . nothing. What happened?

I tracked the package – they had received the application. However, I had no case number – as it wasn’t an online application – so I couldn’t track the status of the application itself. To make matters worse, they had no email address for submitting inquiries, and I couldn’t get assistance via phone as the line only provided a recording saying, “Go to the website.” The website was equally unhelpful.

Here is my point – the system is broken. It has not been fully thought-out and is not user-friendly. Either the Hong Kong Immigration Services had never encountered my situation before (unlikely), or their original ERP implementation was a mess. When the system was designed and the requirements gathered, they probably didn’t view the processes from the citizen’s point of view. Or maybe they did realize the system was unusable, but they didn’t care because they didn’t recognize the importance of user experience (also known as ‘Return on Citizenship’ in the public sector).

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The lesson learned is that when your organization gathers requirements and designs an ERP system, you should conduct adequate testing, and solicit feedback from both users and customers/citizens. Be careful – if the system isn’t user-friendly, users may discuss their frustrations in a ‘Speakers’ Corner!’

Thanks for listening. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

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