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What is Human Capital Management Software?

What is Human Capital Management Software?

Human capital management software is a powerful tool for any company pursuing digital transformation. The main component that sets human capital management (HCM) software apart from other HR software is the emphasis on appreciating workforce value by means of training, tools, compensation, rewards and other methods.

The value of HCM solutions is significantly increased when integrated to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. This allows companies to seamlessly operate with integrated end-to-end processes.

For example, HCM integrated with ERP software can allow production controllers to assign qualified technicians to production orders or allow store managers to assign training to cashiers on the point-of-sale.

Many of the ERP vendors in our 2020 Top 10 ERP Vendors Report have HCM functionality within their solutions.

2020 Top 10 ERP Vendors Report

This report provides ERP selection guidance to organizations across all industries that are evaluating ERP systems. The vendors featured in this report were chosen based on the strength of their functionality across a variety of products.

​In the past decade there has been a shift in the way companies manage and value their workforce. Because of this, the popularity of human capital management (HCM) systems, human resources management systems (HRMS) and human resources information systems (HRIS) has been on the rise.

Let’s talk about the key features that popular HCM systems typically have.

5 Features of HCM Systems

1. Workforce Management

This may seem like a simple feature, but there are several benefits to centralizing all your human resource information in a single system. Workforce information like employee information, positions, titles and reporting structures can live in the same system as performance and payroll information. This consolidation of data (especially within enterprise software) can allow for advanced analytics that help you make better hiring decisions based on business need.

Here’s an example of how significant value can be added when HCM software is integrated with an ERP system: Your ERP system provides several metrics relating to your build to order time (i.e., your total turnaround time from order placement to shipment is five days). To remain competitive in the marketplace, you want to trim this down to three days. You suspect that picking the raw materials for the production order is the slowdown in the process due to the limited number of hand trucks in your warehouse.

However, workforce analytics show that warehouse workers’ pick times are quite fast. The data instead reveals the bottleneck is in completing the production of the finished goods. Upon further investigation, you realize that you only have two technicians with the skills to complete these production orders.

Without the combined production data from your ERP system and the personnel data from your HCM system, you might have ordered additional hand trucks instead of hiring additional skilled workers.

2. Learning and Professional Development

Continuing from the previous example, there is an alternative solution to the problem. Instead of hiring more skilled workers, how about training other employees via online or on-the-job training?

A key feature of HCM software is the ability to grow your current workforce’s skillset by providing training. Imagine your HCM software had a mentorship tracking program. You could pair one of the seasoned technicians (in a mentor role) with another employee who wants to learn while on the job. Although the end user training is happening outside of the system, tracking their meetings and progress can keep the momentum and help determine when the goal has been met.

Some HCM software vendors also offer out-of-the-box integration to popular e-learning programs to help track employee progress and suggest additional courses based on their learning interests. These courses can be aligned with business needs for specific skills training, or even used for companywide compliance training. These tools can also be leveraged to onboard new employees in an accelerated fashion.

HCM software helps provide continuous learning opportunities to a modern workforce that has come to expect it. As companies compete to attract top talent, on-the-job career development is becoming a key differentiator. Many companies highlight this offering during recruiting campaigns, and HCM software is the backbone of it all.

3. Performance Management

The ability to support employees in improving their performance is another key feature of HCM software. Human resources can define and publish role responsibilities and promotion criteria in a centralized system that employees can also access to ensure promotion progress is fair and easy to track. Using this defined list of responsibilities, managers can leverage HCM to create and facilitate performance reviews with their direct reports.

Rewards management is a sub-category within performance management that HCM software typically handles, as well. Setting up compensation and benefit plans that are competitive in the industry help retain the top talent.

How do you know what salary range and benefits are considered competitive? Business intelligence within HCM software can help you determine this based on several factors.

Another component to rewards management is goal attainment setting and tracking. For employees in sales, the ability to see their progress towards meeting quotas can light a fire when they are behind or give them piece of mind when they are on track.

HCM software can also help proactively plan for workforce adjustments when changes in leadership and promotions occur. For example, imagine that you have a high performing store manager who recently applied for a regional manager position. It’s likely that he/she will get the role. When this happens, a gap will be left in that store’s management structure. HCM software can preemptively notify you so you can take steps to prepare another employee to fill the role.

4. Expenses and Time Management

If there’s one thing that can bring business to a grinding halt, it’s not paying your workforce. A complicated expense tool is a huge burden for both the employee who incurred the expenses and the accounting clerk tasked with reconciling them.

What do employees typically do with burdens? They avoid them. Adding impediments between the time it takes employees to incur an expense and get reimbursed will not improve employee morale.

Submitting, tracking and approving or rejecting expenses are common HR business processes that are traditionally met using PC-based tools. In fact, with modern HCM software, processes like submitting expenses or entering a timesheet can done via self-service time and attendance tools.

Employees now have the ease and convenience of performing their daily job functions on their mobile devices, away from the office and their computers. Giving employees this flexibility of self-service expense and time management usually results in more on-time expense reports and timesheets.

Some aspects of expense management can even be automated. For example, some HCM software offers a mobile app that allows users to take photos of expense receipts. The picture can then be scanned to extract the information a user would normally have to type into an expense report. Then, an expense report can automatically be generated, and a new line is added for the expense – all triggered from a simple photo.

5. Recruiting and Talent Management

Companies pursuing business transformation are also looking to update the way they attract and recruit new talent. Modern HCM software can help with this. Popular HCM systems offer a variety of features relating to recruiting, such as applicant tracking and artificial intelligence (AI).

Here is a use case for how HCM software can help find the right candidate for your open position: Your most senior product manager has recently been promoted, and you need to fill his/her position immediately for a new product launch. You need the same level of experience for the task and none of your other employees have that level of experience, so you turn to external recruiting.

With your HCM software keeping records of past candidate information, you won’t have to start from scratch with a new recruiting campaign. Instead, you can leverage AI to narrow the candidate pool down to those who have the needed skillset for a product launch, as well as the level of experience your previous product manager had.

Even if you did not find a valid candidate in your existing recruitment database, HCM software makes creating and tracking a recruiting campaign simple. Modern HCM tools allow candidates to interact with hiring managers via video chat or internal email. This helps to reach a broader talent pool instead of being limited to local candidates.

Investing in Your People

HCM software is much more than a tool to operate your HR department; it’s an instrument for helping your company invest in one of its most valuable assets – people!

Need help navigating the different HCM software options? Panorama’s ERP consultants can help. Request a free consultation below.

Top 10 ERP Software to Consider for Your 2020 ERP Project

Top 10 ERP Software to Consider for Your 2020 ERP Project

Potential buyers of ERP software have hundreds of systems to choose from. In fact, we track more than 250 systems in our internal ERP vendor database to help our team provide data to clients.

The evaluation process can be daunting, which is why we created our 2020 Top 10 ERP Vendors Report. Based on our experience with hundreds of ERP systems, our list of top 10 ERP software highlights the vendors that our ERP experts have found to be strong in functionality across a variety of industries, including manufacturing and distribution, professional services, retail and more.

2020 Top 10 ERP Vendors Report

This report provides ERP selection guidance to organizations across all industries that are evaluating ERP systems. The vendors featured in this report were chosen based on the strength of their functionality across a variety of products.

Overview of the Top 10 ERP Vendors

The report provides details on these vendors’ strongest products but following is a brief overview of our Top 10 list:

SAP

SAP is designed for large, enterprise type companies across the globe. While the solution set can be the longest in duration to implement, it is often built specifically for the company’s needs.

Oracle and NetSuite

Oracle also has made its mark on a global scale. The platform is a complex set of applications that can be leveraged in basic and advanced ways. The acquisition of NetSuite by Oracle is proving beneficial for both sides. NetSuite is able to develop and offer add-on advanced functionality from the Oracle product suite, while Oracle is benefiting from NetSuite’s leading SaaS methodologies and market presence.

Microsoft

Microsoft has strong products for small to mid-sized companies. It is typically a good fit for companies that are already leveraging the Microsoft technology stack (i.e., Microsoft Dynamics). Microsoft is emerging and gaining market-share with many pre-configured business processes.

Infor

Infor is still emerging as a global, enterprise solution. The platform is a set of applications that can be configured to meet companies’ needs. Many large enterprise type companies are matching up well with best practice implementation accelerators.

IFS

With an emerging US market, IFS has strong end-to-end functionality. The product is a good fit for large consumer packaged goods companies with a global footprint.

Workday

With strong human capital management features, as well as a focus on financial management, the Workday solution is a robust SaaS product that is growing into an end-to-end ERP.

Epicor

Epicor’s focus for research and development is on future-proofing the investment. Their partnership with Microsoft makes for an innovative solution available to the small-medium cap market.

abas

The abas ERP system has broad capabilities for small- to mid-sized manufacturers in the assemble-to-order, make-to-order and engineer-to-order environments. abas listens to the needs of their customers and makes adjustments to their releases to meet these needs.

Deltek

Deltek is a steady-paced vendor experiencing growth and cloud consolidation of their products. This vendor offers a varied set of solutions for small to large companies and has flexibility in their basic versus advanced functionality.

Sage

Sage Enterprise Management has solid end-to-end functionality. Our clients have been pleased with its intuitive user interface, and the product has high adoption rates across the market overall.

Tips for Selecting an ERP System

1. Outline Specific Benefits Your Company Wants to Realize

ERP projects often deliver minimal ERP business benefits because they are not aligned with the company’s strategic goals. This is because clearly defined goals help you evaluate software based on its functional fit.

For example, if your company wants to improve its customer service, one of your ERP requirements might be the ability to automatically order inventory when it reaches a certain level and automatically update this information for the sales department. With this functionality, the sales department would be able to quickly and easily provide customers with a realistic delivery date, thus improving the customer experience.

It’s important to find customer relationship management (CRM) functionality that improves the customer experience. If you’re determining what CRM functionality your company needs, you may find our ERP vs. CRM blog post helpful.

Many of the vendors in our report provide ERP software systems with strong reporting capabilities that ensure data consistency across departments and enable real-time data insights. While scheduling ERP demos, we recommend asking vendors to demonstrate their reporting functionality in a test case, using your data.

Whatever functional areas you’re hoping to improve, you should define these with the executive team before selection. This preparation is essential for many reasons, one of which is minimizing ERP customization.

2. Understand ERP Market Lingo

This is especially important when you’re talking about buzzwords like, artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT because different vendors have their own definitions of these terms.

While some vendors may consider AI to be a system that autonomously learns and solves problems, other vendors may simply consider AI to be an automated workflow.

It’s important to understand what a vendor means by AI because the most advanced AI in ERP systems is typically expensive and complicated to fully integrate. Large enterprises with the money and resources to invest in AI may achieve long-term ROI, but smaller companies may not be able to wait this long for a payoff.

For these companies, integrating a niche application – such as robotic process automation (RPA) technology – with their main ERP, may be a better option.

Another niche application example, besides RPA, that many small to mid-sized companies benefit from is specialized cash applications. These applications can automate financial management processes, like the process of receiving a payment from a customer, applying it to the most recent invoice, entering it into the system and processing checks for validation. These applications are designed to learn and improve overtime.  

For example, Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations integrates machine learning and AI into its finance applications giving finance leaders better insight into the business.

While AI is exciting, it’s not right for every company. We recommend only implementing the technology that aligns with our short-and long-term enterprise strategy.

3. Seek External Guidance and Support

Many companies face resource constraints when building an ERP project team to assist with ERP selection. There are several ways to address this challenge depending on your unique situation:

 

  • If your company doesn’t have sophisticated internal IT resources, consider hiring external IT resources.
  • If your company already has sufficient internal IT resources, focus on backfilling these roles with temporary contractors.
  • If your company has identified an ideal ERP project manager but he is having difficulty balancing his day job with the ERP project, you may want to backfill his previous role. Strong ERP project management is important, and an internal project manager has the intel necessary to make difficult decisions when your team faces challenges.
  • If your company lacks ERP selection experience, then hiring an ERP consultant is beneficial. They have lessons learned from implementing ERP systems for companies across a variety of industries.

What Does This Mean for You?

These tips are only a few of the secrets to selecting the right ERP system. More ERP selection tips can be found in our ERP Selection Guide.

Your company ultimately needs to decide what section criteria are most important, then narrow down your options based on these criteria. This may or may not lead you to consider one of the top systems from this year’s list. No matter which systems you’re evaluating, the ERP selection advice in this blog post and our report is essential for finding a solution that supports your organizational goals.

Panorama’s ERP consultants have helped hundreds of companies select the right ERP system and develop an effective ERP project plan. Request a free consultation below and be sure to download our 2020 Top 10 ERP Vendors Report for vendor details and ERP selection advice.

7 Tips for Creating a Change Management Plan

7 Tips for Creating a Change Management Plan

Change is like the family minivan. It’s not the fancy sports car everyone wants to drive, but it’s necessary to accomplish your goals.

When the need for change presents itself, business leaders must understand that they have a long road of resistance ahead of them. Before starting down this road, the project team must create a detailed organizational change management plan.

Types of Organizational Change

There are two main types of change that can occur within an organization: incremental and transformative. It’s important to understand which change your company is going to implement as one of these is more difficult than the other.

Incremental Change

Incremental change is based on the current state and is implemented to improve the existing way things are done. This level of change is easier to implement than transformative change because there is a baseline off which to adjust. An example of incremental change is a manufacturing environment modifying standard operating procedures, such as having employees use a different tool on a production line.

Transformative Change

Transformative change is more difficult to implement because it is based on a future state that is mostly theoretical—it is a vision of where a company could be versus where it is today. Transformative change takes time to implement and is often met with resistance because of its focus on changing organizational culture and shaping behavior. An example of transformative change would be a company undergoing a merger that would restructure departmental information flow.

What is a Change Management Plan?

A change management plan is an outline that informs the use of processes and tools for managing the people side of change. The importance of change management lies in the fact that your employees – or end-users – determine the success of your project.

Some of the key aspects of an effective change management plan include a communication plan, a sponsorship roadmap, a resistance management plan, a coaching plan and a training plan. More specifically, a change management plan should fulfill the following purposes:

 

  • Provide a case for change
  • Facilitate communication
  • Manage implementation barriers
  • Manage resistance
  • Show progress
  • Provide reinforcement

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Transformation

What are the 6 secrets to digital transformation that are helping organizations build competitive advantage?

7 Tips for Creating a Change Management Plan

1. Assess Proposed Changes Against Business Goals

It’s important to ensure that organizational changes are aligned with your digital strategy and business goals. In other words, changes should support the financial, ethical and strategic goals of your business.

2. Develop a Strict Timeline

You need to detail the who, what, when and how of your proposed change in a specific timeline. When will the specific aspects of your change be implemented? Who will implement them? How will they be implemented? Who and what will be affected?

3. Create an Airtight Communication Plan

A change management communication plan should have a singular goal: to ensure that your goals are transparent and your business leaders are open in their discussions about change. This includes discussion of what’s changing and why. Once you have established transparency and open dialogue, you should schedule times when you will communicate specific aspects of change.

4. Train Employees to Adjust to the Proposed Changes

It’s important to provide training for your managers and employees so they can learn new processes and technology. This training will likely require external resources experienced in customizing training materials based on job roles and designing refresher training at key intervals.

5. Select Change Leaders

Change leaders are the individuals charged with championing the project from start to finish. You should select people from your management team who are outwardly supportive of project goals, are articulate communicators and are eager to share a positive message with employees.

6. Measure the Plan’s Effectiveness

It’s important to define change management KPIs that you can use to measure the ongoing effectiveness of the change management process. These goals should be very tactical. For example, “all employees and team members verbally agree that the change is worth the expense.”

7. Don’t be Afraid to Make Changes

The test of an organization’s ability to accomplish its mission lies in its ability to navigate obstacles. If, once, you have made your plan, and you find that your plan is not effective, modify the plan and continue to confront change resistance.

People are the Lifeblood of Your Company

If leaders are able to influence employees’ perspectives and provide them with the tools to accomplish change, your company will be able to achieve its goals.

According to the authors of the book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard​ , people have two independent systems at work in their brains at all times: the rational side and the emotional side (some call this the left and right side of the brain).

Project managers must be aware of the impact change will have on their employees’ rational and emotional sides of their brains and use this knowledge to inform their change management plan.

Think of the rational side of the brain as a horse and the emotional side as the rider. Without the horse having emotion, there will be no motivation or energy to get things done, and similarly, without the rider having the ability to think there will be no plan to accomplish the task.

Navigating change is much like a rider navigating a horse to the finish line during a race. To accomplish change three things must be done:

1. Direct the Rider

Riders tend to contemplate and analyze information before deciding which path to take. The rider must be given clear instructions as to where he should go, or there is a chance he could lead the horse in the wrong direction.

2. Motivate the Horse

It is very difficult to motivate a horse to go a direction it doesn’t want to go. Even if a rider is able to temporarily encourage the horse to cross a river once, that same behavior is not guaranteed the next time the horse arrives as a river. However, with the proper motivation, the horse will always find a way to cross the river.

3. Shape the Path

To direct the rider and motivate the horse, the path must be shaped by narrowing the focus on a singular goal. For example, on a racetrack, this is done by placing barriers along the edge of the track. In writing a change management plan, this is done with clear and consistent communication.

Successful Change Requires Proper Planning

People have a difficult time adjusting to change, so you must consider the impact change will have on employees and how they will react to it. Analyzing the impact of change will help you develop a change management plan that reduces fear and uncertainty among employees and ensures employee engagement.

Panorama’s understand that change can’t be forced. Their methodology helps companies introduce change at a pace employees can absorb without slowing down your project.

Sound impossible? Request a free consultation below to learn how we help companies remove barriers to change that are wasting precious time.

8 Technical ERP Project Management Tips

8 Technical ERP Project Management Tips

ERP implementations are massive undertakings with notoriously high failure rates. As a project manager, how do you set you and your team up for a successful ERP implementation?  

Based on our experience, we’ve put together a list of technical ERP project management tips. These tips are technology and industry agnostic. They are a good jumping off point for project managers to then add their own style based on the ERP system being implemented and the dynamics of the ERP project team.

ERP Project Management Tips

1. Squash Scope Creep Early

You might be thinking to yourself that this tip is project management 101. True, but have you ever experienced how quickly it can rear its head in a software implementation?

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.

​Here’s a simple example of how something deemed out-of-scope can suddenly find its way into your ERP project plan: The statement of work (SOW) outlines that all accounts payable business processes are in scope for the project. A list of business processes is included in the SOW, and “settle vendor invoices” is a process that makes the cut. In the SOW, it is also noted that automated workflows are out of scope. Now imagine the team conducts an ERP requirements gathering workshop and notices that several of the requirements are related to workflow. These requirements are valid as they are required to complete their business process. The business analysts or ERP consultants on your team may go ahead and configure these requirements if the ERP software can handle the requirements.

What’s the issue here? While it is admirable of the team to configure the ERP system to meet the business requirements, what is not immediately apparent is the impact this has on the project timeline. Introducing workflow to the project scope now has added hours for testing and regression testing (see tip #4). This is why quelling scope creep early on is so important and can save you from being weeks behind on your project plan.

2. Be Realistic About the Timeline

The classic project management constraint triangle of scope, time and cost is infamous for a reason. One cannot increase or decrease a factor without proportionately doing the same for the others.

Unfortunately, since time is based on predictions of the future, it is usually the factor that is frequently underestimated. That said, when creating your project timeline, it’s important to be realistic about the schedule. If your project sponsors are adamant on having all requirements gathered in two months, but you have 12 weeks of workshops to get through, it’s time to have a reality check with your leadership to either increase the timeline or reduce the scope.

For many implementation projects, the need for more resources is common. However, adding more resources does not always solve timeline issues. In many scenarios, there are a handful of project resources (i.e., subject matter experts) that are required to attend all critical meetings. Just because there are four ERP consultants for a workstream, doesn’t mean that four workshops can be conducted simultaneously.

3. Build in Time for Regression Testing

Creating a timeline for software requirements gathering, design and development is fairly straightforward: You can estimate the complexity of a feature in terms of design and development, and based on this complexity, you can determine approximately how many hours or days of testing is required once the feature is delivered.

However, one element almost always forgotten when building the project timeline is regression testing. Regression testing is retesting all test scripts previously passed to ensure any new development has not impacted the results. Regression testing for ERP requirements can sometimes take even longer than testing the new feature itself.

Lately, there has been a trend of automating regression testing using predefined test scripts. While this automation may save you time in executing the regression testing, it’s still important include time in the project plan to build the test scripts to program the tool.

4. Use Templates for Design and Integration Documents

There’s a good chance that multiple team members will be writing design and integration documents, but only a few will review and approve them.

To bring some consistency to the reviewers and approvers, we recommend sticking to a standardized template for design and integration documents. This will allow reviewers to quickly review large documents and help them zero in on complicated sections needing extensive review. This also saves time for the authors of the documents, as they will be reminded of what elements to include, such as performance considerations, security requirements and test scripts.

5. Leverage DevOps Tools to Track the Status of Deliverables

A weekly, or sometimes even daily, requirement for ERP project managers is to report out the project status. Since project managers cannot possibly attend all workshops and meetings, the data for these reports are provided by other project team members.

Asking for daily or weekly updates from each member of your team is time consuming for all parties involved – the business analysts and ERP consultants have to set aside time each day to write up a report, and then you as the project manager have to combine all these individual reports.

However, if your project is leveraging a DevOps tool, you can simply extract the needed data on demand to put in a report. This eliminates the need for your project team to do double work since they will already be completing and updating their tasks in DevOps.

DevOps tools have become increasingly advanced when it comes to reporting. With some tools, you may not even need to extract the data as the internal reporting capabilities may suffice.

6. Build a Solid Cutover Plan

One deliverable often overlooked or rushed through during an ERP project is a cutover plan. A cutover plan is a list of activities required to prepare the production environment for end-user use. Examples of cutover tasks include loading user IDs into the system, kicking off batch jobs, connecting hardware components to the ERP solution and starting any integration services.

Cutover plans are extremely important as there are many tasks required to get an ERP system production ready, and many are dependent on one another. As an example, consider the task of starting integration services. Most ERP systems require a user ID to identify any records created or updated via an integration. However, if the user IDs haven’t been loaded yet, this task can’t be completed. Part of creating a cutover plan is to sequence all tasks in order of dependency.

Another key success factor in building a cutover plan is building it while the system is designed. During a six-month (or longer) ERP project, you risk forgetting activities if you wait until the month before go-live to create your cutover plan. It’s best to seek input from all team members throughout the project.

7. Set Expectations for Team Availability

Setting expectations up front with the entire team that there will be some weeks where the team works remotely prevents disagreements in the future. Ask your ERP consultant to provide a calendar of when they will be on or offsite so that critical meetings and activities can be planned accordingly.

It’s also important to establish a holiday schedule across all teams. Between your internal group, your ERP consulting partner and your ERP vendor, you may all have different holiday policies. This may seem like a trivial thing, but when it comes to supporting a live ERP system, knowing your resourcing capacity is crucial.

8. Schedule in Some Fun

Employee burnout is real. All work and no fun can really bring the morale of the team down, along with the health and motivation of individual team members. It might sound counterproductive to take time away from work to get out of the office and have some fun, but there is extensive research that happier employees produce better results.

In fact, team bonding activities can help break down barriers that exist in the workplace. Team members that wouldn’t normally interact can get to know each other and what their responsibilities are on the project.

What About Organizational Change Management

Many ERP project managers wouldn’t notice that organizational change management was left off our list, so if you did, you likely are way ahead of your competitors. Now that you understand the technical components of project management, you may be interested in one of our blogs about change management, such as How to Coach Managers to be Change Leaders.

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help your company manage the people, process and technology aspects or your ERP project. Request a free consultation to discuss different project management strategies with our ERP experts.

5 Facts About Employee Engagement

5 Facts About Employee Engagement

Imagine you are a vice president at a leading sales company. Your CEO just charged you with spearheading a project that will fundamentally change the way your business operates. You know that many projects involving large-scale change fail on the first attempt and are nervous about the prospects of success. 

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.

​You fully understand that one of the reasons business transformations fail is because of a lack of employee engagement during the planning, implementation and follow-through phases of the project. However, you know you have a phenomenal team you can rely on to execute a successful project.

With that said, you’ve concluded that your most pressing need is to determine how to engage your team to facilitate a smooth project. This leads you to wonder . . .

 

  • “What is the best way to engage these employees before, during and after the project?”
  • “What project planning activities should they be involved in?”
  • “How can I leverage their skills to make this project a success?”

What is Employee Engagement?

​To define employee engagement in the context of a business transformation, it is important to first define what it is not:

 

  • Employee engagement is not employee happiness. Happy employees are not necessarily engaged employees.
  • Employee engagement is not employee satisfaction. A satisfied employee might just be one who is comfortable doing the bare minimum.

 

Fact: Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to the company and its strategic goals.

In other words, to be truly engaged in a project, employees must exhibit an emotional connection to the project goals. This means that they care about the project and it is not just done for a paycheck, but for their pride and the company’s benefit.

3 Types of Employees

  • ​Engaged – These are employees who work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company and its goals. These employees drive the company forward with innovative thinking and creative problem-solving.
  • Not Engaged – These employees are essentially “checked out.” They are just going through the motions and putting in the time, but not with the passionate energy required for the project to succeed.
  • Actively Disengaged – These employees are not just unhappy or dissatisfied at work, but they are actively displaying their unhappiness during the workday. They intentionally and unintentionally undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.

 

Every company has a percentage of each of these types of employees. However, the most successful companies have a disproportionate number of engaged employees.

Why is Employee Engagement so Important?

​To paint this picture, let’s draw from Psychology 101. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, people value five fundamental pillars of themselves. From the bottom pillar to the top pillar, people require the following:

 

  • Physiological Needs (i.e., air, water, food, shelter)
  • Safety (i.e., personal security, employment, health)
  • Love and Belonging (i.e., friendship, intimacy, sense of connection)
  • Esteem (i.e., respect, status, recognition)
  • Self-actualization (the desire to become the most that one can be)

 

Fact: Employees are people with needs and the ultimate desire to become the most that they can be.

Therefore, it is our job to engage their need for safety, belonging and esteem, so they can achieve a level of self-actualization that delivers incredible project results.

The Impact of High Employee Engagement

​Poor employee engagement practices cripple companies. When employees do not feel engaged at work, they are less inclined to deliver their best work.

In 2016, Gallup conducted an employee engagement survey of over 339 research studies focused on the relationship between employee engagement and performance outcomes. This analysis found that only 13% of global employees feel like they are engaged at work. In addition, it found a striking positive correlation between effective engagement and the attainment of performance objectives.

Work units in the top quartile were compared against work units in the bottom quartile, and it was found that those scoring the top half of the employee engagement ratings nearly doubled their odds of company success.

In addition, the analysis concluded that companies with effective employee engagement were . . .

 

  • 70% less prone to safety incidents
  • 41% less prone to absenteeism
  • 40% less prone to produce products with quality defects
  • 28% less likely to experience shrinkage
  • 24% less likely to experience high turnover
  • 21% more profitable
  • 20% more likely to achieve sales goals
  • 17% more productive
  • 10% more successful at meeting customer metrics

 

Fact: Employee engagement is essential to both the overall success of a company and the success of its business transformation initiatives.

How do You Engage Employees?

​Here are five ways to improve employee engagement during your business transformation:

1. Provide the Right Tools to Employees

​There is nothing more frustrating to an employee than not having the tools they need to succeed.

Fact: Ensuring your company provides the right tools to employees is one of the top drivers of engagement.

 This can be as simple as sourcing the proper hammers and wrenches for automotive work or as complex as ensuring security protocols are not inhibiting the workflow of a programming team.

2. Provide Training to Employees

Just as you must provide the proper tools for your employees to succeed, you must also provide the proper end-user training on those tools.

In an era where continuous improvement is required to stay afloat in the business world, companies must remain at the forefront of advancements in their field. This can be accomplished by developing a training program that focuses on developing employee skills and knowledge.

A simple, yet effective training method is cross-training employees of different business processes throughout the company. This creates a more empowered workforce and ensures employees understand the goals of business transformation.

3. Give Individual Attention to Employees

Did one of your employees recently have a baby? Are they going through a tough time at home? Are they are asking you for guidance on a project?

As a leader of people, you must focus your attention on the individual nature of your employees. Everyone has unique experiences, both personal and professional, and you must recognize this by conversing with individual employees in a manner that makes them feel valued.

4. Recognize Employees Loudly and Proudly

It’s no secret that employee recognition programs inspire employee engagement. In fact, the same Gallup poll discovered that when a manager focuses on someone’s strengths, the likelihood of that employee becoming disengaged drops to 1%.

Conversely, when a manager focuses on an employee’s weaknesses, the likelihood of disengagement rises to 22%. In addition, when an employee is ignored by his manager, disengagement potential is upwards of 40%.

Fact: Recognition programs do not have to be complex or even painstakingly developed. Recognition can be delivered through conversation or even just simple certificates of appreciation.

The key is to focus on employee strengths and highlight their accomplishments that drove the business forward.

5. Develop an Organizational Change Management Plan

Without an organizational change management plan, you have no roadmap for engaging employees at key points throughout the project. A change management plan helps you understand employee needs and develop messaging that informs employees of the impact of change. This strategic communication reduces change resistance. Communication is also essential when it comes to employee training.

Employee Engagement is Key to Business Transformation Success

​Throughout your business transformation, you must focus on engaging employees before, during and after the project. This is essential because you need to understand their pain points and how the project will truly impact their work. You will only get honest answers from your employees if they feel highly engaged and genuinely care about your company’s performance.

Once you’ve established a culture of engagement, it’s important to include employees in your initial planning sessions. This allows them to provide honest feedback and ensures they have clearly defined roles throughout the project.

Panorama’s business transformation consultants can help your company build a change management plan that enables an effective employee engagement strategy. Give us a call! We’re happy to help.

How to Establish an Effective Enterprise Strategy

How to Establish an Effective Enterprise Strategy

An enterprise strategy (AKA corporate strategy) is a broad term used to describe a company’s “big picture” strategy. The development of this strategy deals with issues that affect a company and is typically developed at a high level in the company (i.e. the board of directors, top management team, etc.).

To develop an effective enterprise strategy, understanding what it involves, along with common obstacles you may face, is beneficial. This is especially true when you’re considering embarking on an ERP implementation. Keep reading to learn more.

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.

Common Obstacles Facing the Development of an Enterprise Strategy

Before diving into how to create an enterprise strategy, it’s important to know what challenges you are likely to face. Knowing what these challenges are enables you to develop an ERP project plan designed to avoid or overcome challenges with little downtime.

1. Overcoming the Uncertainty and Opposition to Change

If your corporate strategy team or ERP project team doesn’t adopt innovative strategies, they may fall behind market rivals. This typically occurs because there’s a bias that favors the way things have always been done.

Strategy is all about change, and you must have a change mindset to achieve this. You must plan to deal with the hesitation or opposition to change you may face.

Some strategies to reduce change resistance include finding, hiring, developing and rewarding strategic thinkers who embrace and exemplify the mindset of change. We help clients prepare for change by ensuring their project plans include critical organizational change management activities.

2. Not Planning to Meet Aggressive Timelines​

​An enterprise strategy team usually faces tight deadlines because of the scheduled release of board meetings or earning reports. While these have little to do with the underlying challenges of the project, they impose stressful deadlines.

The externally driven deadlines may make delivering optimal results challenging. To overcome this issue, we recommend assembling teams from several sources to deliver strategic goals that meet these deadlines. You’re only agile when you develop the ability to blend and assemble the assets needed to meet goals and deadlines.

Developing an Enterprise Strategy: What You Need to Know

While the challenges above only represent a few of the obstacles you may face, they are two of the most prevalent that enterprises must overcome. After planning for the challenges, it’s time to develop your strategy, which, for some, is a new challenge to deal with.

Here are some tips to help you along the way:

1. Determine the Goals of the Strategy

​Part of an enterprise strategy is determining short- and long-term goals for the company to meet. They can be financial goals, such as increasing company revenue by 15%, or intangible goals, such as improving company-wide morale.

By determining goals, you create a direction for everyone in the organization. After the goals are set, you can develop the strategies that can help you meet the goals. This includes what needs to be done to achieve goals and who completes them.

This planning stage provides a focused blueprint for your management team to guide the rest of the company.

2. Fuel Your Planning Process with Research​

​It’s important to use research to fuel your planning process. Gather information about the weaknesses and strengths of your competitors to create a strategy that gives you a competitive advantage.

To create an effective enterprise strategy, you need a comprehensive understanding of your industry’s state so you can find emerging opportunities. Market research is also essential. By understanding your customers, you’ll find it is easier to attract and serve them.

All consumer needs and tastes change. For example, what customers will pay for services or products changes depending on the current economic environment.

3. Strategically Allocate Resources

At the core of any enterprise strategy is resource allocation. This is when difficult decisions are made regarding where to spend money and how to use the time of staff members to achieve goals and beat the competition. It’s important to allocate your resources in areas you believe offer the best opportunities.

Make sure you regularly look for new opportunities, too. The best opportunities result from a combination of your business capabilities (what it does better than the competition), and what the most critical customer needs are. You need to ensure the services or products you offer match well with a customer’s needs.

4. Create the Right Enterprise Strategy Team

The team you assemble for the creation of your enterprise strategy is crucial. As the CEO or top-management official, it’s up to you to ensure the right people are gathered to create a strategy that helps the company achieve success.

Remember, as your company grows, business operations become more complex and may expose weaknesses in your management team. Anticipate these changes and bring in new talent while building the skills and abilities of your current team members with ongoing training and education.

While this is true for your strategy team, it also applies to all areas of your business if you want the opportunity to achieve your long- and short-term goals. For example, the right team can help you maximize ERP business benefits.

Developing an Enterprise Strategy that Works for Your Business​

The development of an enterprise strategy, regardless of your industry, is a challenging and complex process. Many business teams cannot do this without outside help due to the complexity of the process.

If you find the development of this strategy is too difficult for your existing team, or if you aren’t sure your efforts will provide the desired growth and success, contact us. Our ERP consultants provide new customers with a free consultation to discuss your needs and begin to develop a strategy that helps you achieve and even exceed your goals.

How to Conduct a Focus Group

How to Conduct a Focus Group

ERP projects and business transformations are exciting ventures for executives. However, this excitement is almost always accompanied by apprehension. With this apprehension comes questions like: Will my employees reject the proposed changes? Will managers support me in this venture? Will this initiative be successful? 

ERP Boot Camp

Join us November 6th and 7th in Denver, CO to learn how to optimize your supply chain and transform your organization. 

For many companies, answers to these questions will only be answered days or weeks after the project begins. However, among the many items in an executive’s repertoire exists a powerful tool that can help them answer these questions before the project commences: focus groups.

Before we talk about how to conduct a focus group, let’s take a look at the definition of a focus group and some of the pros and cons.

What is a Focus Group?​

​A focus group is a gathering of stakeholders who are selected to participate in a planned discussion intended to uncover perceptions about a particular topic in a non-threatening environment. Taking a deeper look at this definition, there are some key terms that should be clarified:

Stakeholders

This includes employees, managers, executives, customers and anyone who might be impacted by the topic of interest.

Planned Discussion

​Agendas and relevant training materials must be created in advance. In addition, the meeting date must be set at a time that encourages maximum participation from the stakeholders.

Uncover Perceptions

The objective of the focus group is to pull information from stakeholders. There should be an open floor for discussion to encourage maximum participation.

Non-threatening Environment

This is one of the most important aspects of the focus group definition. The focus group must be designed in a way that allows participants to feel free to discuss potential pain points. One way to ensure this is to conduct different focus groups for employees at different levels to ensure they are not filtering their opinions due to their managers being present.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Focus Groups

​Much attention has been given to focus groups across the change management community. This is because, if orchestrated correctly, focus groups can yield valuable and actionable information. Following are some advantages of using focus groups:

 

  • They help obtain information about personal and group opinions.
  • They provide the opportunity to ask follow-up questions.
  • They can save time and money when compared to the cost of individual interviews.
  • They can provide a broader range of information than individual interviews.

 

While there are distinct advantages to conducting a focus group, there are some disadvantages, as well:

 

  • Disagreements between group members and irrelevant discussion can distract from the main topic.
  • Focus groups findings can be difficult to analyze.
  • Some participants might not be willing to share their opinions due to fear of backlash.

How to Conduct a Focus Group

In order for a focus group to be most impactful, it’s important to adhere to the following six-step process:

Step 1: Define the Purpose (Project Team)

  • Clarify the purpose of the focus group.
  • Define the expected outcomes.
  • Verify that focus groups are the best way to gauge employee perceptions.

Step 2: Select the Participants and Leader (Project Team)

  • Select participants based on who will be most impacted by the change.
  • Select no less than four people but no more than 12 people. The ideal group size is 6-8 per focus group.
  • Invite participants with a positive message and inform them of the benefits of participating.
  • Select a focus group leader who is outside of the organization, so employees aren’t fearful of backlash.

Step 3: Manage the Atmospherics (Project Team)

  • Select a meeting location appropriate for discussion to avoid outside interruptions.
  • Develop and produce the required materials for the meeting, including training pamphlets, project one-pager, etc.
  • Assign a note taker for the focus group.

Step 4: Develop the Questions (Project Team)

  • Determine the number of questions necessary to fill the duration of the meeting.
  • Develop deep-dive questions focused on the why, how and what.
  • Ensure the questions are open-ended and do not lead participants to certain answers.
  • Design a session agenda.

Step 5: Conduct the Session (Focus Group Leader)

  • Clearly state the scope, purpose and desired outcome of the focus group.
  • Emphasize that anonymity will be paramount when sharing results with executives.
  • Focus the discussion on the key topics.
  • Utilize the deep-dive questions to probe into pain points.
  • Listen for comments that are vague and seek clarification.

Step 6: Analyze the Results (Project Team)

  • Review the minutes and reach a consensus on the top priorities.
  • Identify patterns in responses and general themes.
  • Identify reasons for disagreement and agreement.
  • Develop a summary report of the key findings to share with executives.

4 Tips for Finding a Focus Group Leader

As mentioned earlier, the focus group leader should be someone outside your organization. Often, this is an ERP consultant. Following are some tips for finding the right person to conduct your focus groups:

1. Find Someone Unbiased.

The atmosphere of the focus group is set by the focus group leader. It’s important to find someone unbiased who will seek to create an atmosphere where participants feel safe to speak freely.

The ideal leader never dismisses comments as “bad ideas” or “illogical” because they understand that the goal of focus groups is to gauge perceptions.

2. Find Someone Organized.

There must be a clearly established closing time for discussion, so all participants know they have a specific window in which to share their opinions. This is why it’s important to find a focus group leader who is organized enough to plan and adhere to a schedule. For example, they should be willing to interrupt (politely) and redirect tangential topics to focus on the topic of discussion.

3. Find Someone Experienced.

The focus group leader must be well-versed enough in the topic of interest to react to participants’ comments. The leader must listen deeply, think carefully and be empathetic to each participants’ opinion.

4. Find Someone Who Understands Group Dynamics (i.e., the Vividness Effect).

The vividness effect is a well-researched phenomenon in cognitive psychology that describes how peoples’ opinions are often shaped by highly graphic and dramatic situations. This phenomenon can directly impact focus group observations and conclusions.

An example of this can be seen in group sessions where there is a very animated and emotional participant. Often, this individual can rally opinion to align with his beliefs, thereby skewing the potential for accurate conclusions.

The focus group leader must be prepared to quell this type of behavior and redirect emotion into productive conversation.

How Will Business Transformation Impact Your Employees?

If you’re wondering how your ERP implementation or business transformation is going to impact employees, focus groups are one way to find out. This is just one of many organizational change management tools companies can use to anticipate change resistance.

Readiness assessments also are helpful. The insights revealed from using tools like this can be used to convince executives to invest in critical change management activities, such as communication planning and end-user training. These activities will help you address the concerns you uncover.

Change is never easy, but with guidance from business transformation consultants, like Panorama, you can minimize change resistance. We’ll help you prepare for and conduct focus groups, enabling you to understand and address employees’ fears.

10 Ways ERP Can Improve Loan Process Management

10 Ways ERP Can Improve Loan Process Management

​As veterans in the mortgage lending space and as operational efficiency experts, we have seen firsthand the benefits of fully integrated ERP systems. This technology can replace a patchwork of disparate systems to make complex loan processes streamlined, while dramatically improving customer service.

The name of the game in loan process management is to drive down the cost to produce because margins can be thin. Increasing the number of files-to-employee (FTE) efficiency measure, while decreasing loan cycle time and achieving best price execution creates a more profitable lending platform and increases customer satisfaction.

Leveraging industry best practices to incorporate your loan process flow and integrate compliance, secondary marketing, risk management, delinquency analysis, payment collections, marketing and sales into one seamless platform will have a dramatic impact on your profitability.

The Importance of ERP

​When we speak of ERP systems, we use it as a general term for a cohesive integration of best-of-breed systems spanning the entire enterprise.

Deployed correctly, an ERP system provides the necessary data management tools to perform actionable data analysis, automate accounting processes and inform predictive analytics for secondary marketing, model repayment and default risk.

An ERP software solution also can improve customer service and optimize what and who you’re marketing to in your customer portfolio. This flexibility is important as changes in interest rates and other macroeconomic factors continuously impact the lending landscape.

Essentially, ERP effectively streamlines lending operations, reducing human error by automating many tasks and considerably reducing a lender’s cost to produce.

ERP is for All Types of Lenders

We have worked with many types of lenders, from federal and state-chartered banks and credit unions to retail mortgage bankers with call center origination channels. This includes traditional brick-and-mortar retail lending operations, wholesale and correspondent mortgage lenders, and even B2B “FinTech” (Financial Technology) companies.

Based on this experience, we are here to tell you that the next iteration of successful lenders will be those who can effectively automate to increase their FTE efficiency measure, decrease their loan cycle time and achieve best price execution.

Lending is a commodity business, and after all is said and done, borrowers want the best terms, the lowest rates and the fastest and least painful borrowing experience.

10 Benefits of ERP for Lenders

1. ERP Consolidates Disparate Systems

An ERP system can bring a lender’s disparate technology applications into one integrated system with a single source of truth (consolidated data). Having disparate systems decreases visibility into your pipeline and finances, which often prevents lenders from achieving best price execution.

We can count on one hand the number of mortgage bankers that can tell us on a loan-by-loan basis what their cost to produce is. This indicates most mortgage bankers lack loan-level accounting detail and therefore visibility into which loans are the most profitable and why.

For example, the mortgage banking industry has historically been slow to adopt cutting-edge technology. In fact, most mortgage lenders use standalone systems as their mortgage loan origination system (LOS).

In other words, they have separate systems for accounting, payroll, human resources, customer relationship management (CRM), marketing, secondary marketing, hedging, risk management, quality control (QC) and servicing or interim servicing systems.

ERP takes all of these functions and creates an end-to-end, fully integrated enterprise system. Integration enables companies to streamline employees’ workloads, which increases productivity and efficiency. Having a fully integrated end-to-end enterprise system allows all processes to be fluid with less error, leading to more closed loans and higher profit margins.

2. ERP Improves Loan Processes

​Before embarking on an ERP implementation, lenders should first improve the business processes of the entire organization by focusing on business process reengineering. This is important because most lenders have a patchwork of manual processes, causing inefficiency and an inability to detect and reduce risk in their lending operations.

Although an ERP system streamlines loan process and reduces manual entries, loan processes should first be documented and improved according to industry best practices. However, it is not possible to deploy best practices in a “one-size fits all” manner because lending operations vary dramatically in structure and complexity.

This variation in lending operations is why it is important to work with an experienced consultant, like Panorama, who understands all facets of the lending industry and has worked with a variety of different lending enterprise structures. We can help design your lending operation for maximum efficiency before guiding you in ERP selection.

3. ERP Optimizes Accounting Operations

There are many different ERP systems with powerful accounting suites, and these are among the most mature modules for many lenders.

A good ERP accounting module includes the following features:

  • General ledger functionality
  • Income analysis
  • Expense analysis
  • Liquidity analysis
  • Profitability analysis
  • Automated payroll
  • Budgeting
  • Financial reconciliation
  • Investments
  • Loan and warehouse interest calculations
  • Hedging costs and revenue
  • Invoicing and servicing

A good ERP accounting module provides loan-level accounting detail that enables lenders to measure and manage the KPIs (key performance indicators) that matter most.

4. ERP Improves Data Management

​ERP systems are rich with data analysis tools that allow you to generate extensive reporting and deploy data learning tools that provide predictive analytics.

Imagine being able to more accurately forecast your pipeline gestation periods and default risk! This would enable better pricing execution while minimizing pipeline fall-out risk and decreasing loan defaults.

Solid data management tools allow you to improve loan performance and overall lending platform performance. Further, better visibility into loan collateral and loan pools can improve relationships with entities providing primary funding facilities, such as investors and warehouse lenders.

5. ERP Optimizes Marketing Processes

Marketing done right in the lending cycle can give your business a huge competitive advantage. An ERP system helps you create effective strategies that catch customers’ attention, with the added benefit of analyzing effectiveness and strategy-related returns over time.

ERP’s marketing management capabilities help you design, implement and analyze your marketing strategies and techniques. Marketing ERP modules also can help you determine the best course of action with both new and tried-and-true campaigns and messaging.

In addition, these modules enable you to analyze ad expenses and returns as well as gauge overall effectiveness of a given campaign.

6. ERP Improves Secondary Marketing

Modern ERP systems can turbocharge a lender’s secondary marketing operations, having a significant impact on transactional efficiency and the lender’s bottom line.

For example, loan pricing applications can move a lender’s secondary marketing team from the dark ages of pouring over manually updated spreadsheets when determining final loan pricing for retail, wholesale, correspondent and institutional customers alike.

Loan pricing applications move teams from this scenario to the more ideal scenario of relying on real-time pricing engines powered by live credit market data feeds. These applications accomplish this by factoring in a myriad of different loan level pricing adjustors. 

In other words, customized channel- and customer-specific rate sheets can be configured to update in real-time. This allows sophisticated lending operations to stay in-sync with every tick of the global credit markets. It then allows them to maximize profits and avoid losses from those nasty repricing events, like an immediate parallel shift in yield curves.

ERP applications for secondary marketing departments also enable lenders to achieve best price execution on loan sales. This is done by determining best price execution on single or “flow” loan sales. It can also be achieved by enabling efficient sale of loan production in “bulk” loan sales of pools of loans with common loan attributes that the system determines will achieve the best pricing.

The most sophisticated systems also have functionality that allows lenders who bifurcate their loan assets and servicing assets (servicing rights) to determine if they should sell their servicing rights to the same buyers as the loan assets or sell the servicing rights to different buyers for better price execution.

The system can even enable lenders to decide if they should retain the servicing rights for the lender’s internal servicing or subservicing platform based on a myriad of different inputs. These inputs are related to how the lender values servicing rights. The system considers factors such as assumptions about the lender’s own servicing operation costs and efficiencies, projected portfolio prepayment speed and credit defaults.

And did we mention that today’s secondary marketing ERP software can make the hedging process a snap? Hedging for lenders involves the purchase and sale of financial derivatives in capital markets. These transactions offset gains or losses in the value of the lender’s loan production pipeline or loan portfolio with the goal of locking in profits and preventing losses caused by price changes in the credit markets. Determining the optimal blend of derivatives to buy or sell to achieve these hedging goals on an ongoing basis is easy with modern day ERP technology.

7. ERP Improves Compliance

Regulatory compliance is typically one of the most burdensome topics for lenders and arguably one of the factors that significantly affects your cost per loan all the way from loan origination through loan servicing or sale into the secondary market.

We can all surely remember when, for example, mortgage lenders were simply doing post-closing audits on loan samples as required by the GSEs (Government-Sponsored Entities). Then, TRID (the Truth In Lending Act – Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act Integrated Disclosure) came along, putting any lender that produced an inaccurate disclosure at risk. This was followed by the new HMDA (Home Mortgage Disclosure Act) requirements, which made the burden of compliance on mortgage lenders even greater.

Mortgage loan quality is now a loan-by-loan event that a fully integrated ERP system can monitor from beginning to end, alerting management to events of non-compliance at any point throughout the process. 

Lenders that do not enjoy the real-time visibility provided by such advanced compliance monitoring will soon find that relationships with their credit providers, investors and secondary market partners have deteriorated when compared to those lenders who have implemented fully integrated, modern ERP solutions.

This can have significant negative impacts on a lender’s operations and profitability – from less favorable credit terms on the lender’s primary funding facilities, to impaired pricing in the secondary market. It also impacts legal and regulatory costs and can lead to fines and fees or worse!

8. ERP Improves Loan Origination Processes and Customer Service

In today’s world, competition among lenders is fierce. Everyone is fighting for borrowers and loan originators. On any given day, other lenders can offer better pricing to borrowers, but not all lenders know the value of providing automated tools to loan originators to attract and retain the best talent.

Depending on a lending operation’s structure and business model, lenders who are looking to increase their lending volume can typically do so by adding additional loan origination staff, call centers, or wholesale or correspondent lending channels. At the end of the day, more loan originators and origination channels can result in more growth and profit as you leverage your infrastructure and achieve economies of scale within your lending organization.

Today’s ERP systems makes this process easier by allowing for loan originators of all shapes and sizes to do more with less. Automated systems that manage customer information can greatly improve customer service, sales, marketing and loan originator workflows. This results in increased loan production and higher employee and customer satisfaction.

9. ERP Optimizes Loan Servicing

ERP provides extensive customer service management capabilities. From integrated call center automation to providing customers with online access to their accounts, ERP helps lenders create and integrate customer service functions with customer satisfaction analysis tools.

Here’s an example of the impact of ERP software combined with best-in-class business processes: A company breaks down siloed thinking to achieve operational efficiencies. This enables the company’s servicing department to alert loan originators and help them refinance borrowers at optimal times. Ultimately, this leads to mitigating the company’s portfolio run-off risk.

This may seem like a simple and common-sense practice, and while most of us in the MBA (Mortgage Bankers Association) discuss it extensively, a staggeringly high number of financial institutions, banks, non-bank lenders and servicers do not even bother with this function.

10. ERP Improves Organizational Culture

While culture is one of those “soft” business topics, it is arguably one of the most important. In lending businesses, culture is important in that lenders must operate as some of the most precise manufacturing operations. They must operate this way because every loan is a truly a unique person or business and potentially presents significant risk to the lender.

This need for precision means lenders often strive to achieve a delicate balance of customer service and due diligence for every loan originated and serviced.

Ethics play a major role in providing borrowers with information, such as loan program terms, that enable them to make informed decisions. This due diligence ensures that the lending process from origination through the sale or servicing of each loan is 100% above board.

With the right ERP system, many checks and balances can be built into your lending process to guarantee that your corporate culture values transparency to customers.

Automating Your Lending Operations

ERP enables lenders to easily streamline their business operations and lending processes, resulting in overall reduction of risk. This, in turn, maximizes profits as well as customer and employee satisfaction.

Every organization is different, and there is no perfect single solution that fits all lenders. Therefore, it is important to objectively assess how your business stacks up in terms of key performance indicators relative to other lenders in your market.

In other words, an ERP system alone is not the sole answer to transforming your lending business. After analyzing your current state performance and processes, you can start designing and moving toward an optimal future state.

There are many different ERP systems for lenders to evaluate, and most are very specialized. This is why it is important to work with an experienced ERP consultant with business transformation experience who understands all facets of the lending industry.

Look for someone who has worked with a variety of different lending enterprise structures and someone who can design your lending operation for maximum efficiency before looking at ERP systems.

Need a health or reality check on your lending operation? Looking for a sounding board that “gets it” when it comes to the lending business and lending solutions? Give Panorama Consulting Group a call and ask for Vanessa or Calvin – we love chatting about this stuff!

 

About Vanessa Davison, CMB

Vanessa co-founded several financial firms and served as a turnaround executive for three additional firms. She began her career 25 years ago, serving as President and CEO of a mortgage lending platform. She formulated and executed the corporate strategy successfully growing the organization from 36 employees to over 600 employees, while maintaining profit margins and diversifying the company’s sources of revenue within 36 months.

Her career has a rich history in the financial sector with many notable accomplishments in consumer and auto loans, small business loans and mortgage loans. She has worked for banks, credit unions, REITS, mortgage banks with call centers, retail, wholesale and correspondent channels. Vanessa successfully turned around CityMutual Financial by reworking the entire loan portfolio, restructuring operations and originations channels, which returned the company to profitability.

She is known in the industry for her strong acumen in lending origination, operations, compliance, underwriting, technology deployment and effective management of investors and warehouse lines. Due to her notable accomplishments in the industry, she lends her time serving as an instructor at the Mortgage Bankers Association’s School of Mortgage Banking.

She is a graduate from UC Berkeley and has completed advanced graduate programs at Harvard Business School and George Washington University.

 

About Calvin Hamler, AMP

Calvin is a former Wall Street finance professional turned entrepreneur, with proven results building and leading organizations of significant size, scale and complexity. He has managed both horizontal and vertical growth initiatives, and personally orchestrated and negotiated strategic mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures.

Prior to joining Panorama’s senior management team, Calvin started a de novo mortgage banking firm which grew to more than 600 employees generating $2.6 billion in financial asset production. He built an industry-leading capital markets trading operation at the heart of the firm, utilizing financial derivatives for pipeline and balance sheet hedging. During this time, he delivered the company’s loan production into the secondary market via bulk and forward sales, AoT (Assignment of Trade) and loan securitization.

Additionally, Calvin oversaw the firm’s IT staff in both the development of proprietary ERP systems and the selection and implementation of off-the-shelf ERP solutions. This ultimately orchestrated a joint venture with a startup software development firm to build proprietary middleware designed for the banking and financial services industries that is still widely used today.

Calvin is a Summa Cum Laude graduate, earning his degree in finance with emphasis in economics from the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. He has held a myriad of different securities licenses, including Series 7 General Securities Representative; Series 63 Uniform Securities Agent; Series 55 Equity Trader; and Series 24 General Securities Principal. Calvin is also a graduate of the Mortgage Bankers Association School of Mortgage Banking, having earned his AMP (Accredited Mortgage Professional) designation, and is a former board member of the Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association.

 

How to Select a Tier 1 ERP System

How to Select a Tier 1 ERP System

​Every year, we conduct an independent analysis of the Tier 1 ERP vendors. The report, called Clash of the Titans, is based on data we collect from organizations implementing an SAP, Oracle, Microsoft or Infor product. This data typically includes project cost and duration metrics as well as metrics on implementation approach.

As we release our latest Clash of the Titans analysis, our readers are probably wondering which selection advice is most applicable to these “titans” of the ERP market, or as we call them, Tier 1 ERP vendors.

Clash of the Titans 2020

This report analyzes some of the notable differences between SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and Infor.

While Tier 1 ERP vendors provide systems suited for a variety of company sizes, their flagship offerings typically are designed for companies with more than $750 million in annual revenue. Most companies of this size have complex processes or complexity around consolidation and entity management.

Because of their wide reach across industries and brand recognition, these vendors have a large customer base. Examples of Tier 1 ERP vendors include SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and Infor.

Findings from 2020 Clash of the Titans

SAP Compared to Other Tier 1 Vendors

  • The most customers using a best-of-breed strategy
  • The most customers focusing on MES functionality

Oracle Compared to Other Tier 1 Vendors

  • The most customers focusing on CRM functionality
  • The most expensive ERP projects

Microsoft Compared to Other Tier 1 Vendors

  • The most customers focusing on eCommerce functionality
  • Customers using a high percentage of external resources
  • The least expensive ERP projects and shortest project durations
  • The most customers pursuing business transformation

Infor Compared to Other Tier 1 Vendors

  • The most customers using a single-ERP strategy
  • The fewest customers pursuing business transformation
  • The most customers focusing on EAM functionality
  • Customers using a high percentage of internal resources
  • The longest project durations

5 Tips for Tier 1 ERP Selection

If one of these vendors is on your long list or short list, we have some specific ERP selection advice for you:

1. Consider Whether the Vendor Would be a Good Implementation Partner

​Your ERP consultant will not be your only implementation partner. Your ERP vendor will also be involved in helping you strategize, implement, manage change and support the system after go-live. Some key criteria to look for in an implementation partner are vision, dedication and expertise.

What is Your Implementation Partner’s Vision for Your Organization?

Let’s look at an example to understand what we mean by vision. Let’s say you have a business requirement to print shipping labels from various logistics services before shipments leave your warehouse.

A vendor solely focused on winning the bid might tell you their software can meet this requirement, but a vendor with vision will ask related follow-up questions: Have you considered an integration with carrier services directly to your ERP system? Are you utilizing dock management to best schedule your logistics partners for pick up and drop off times?

Follow-up questions like these can mean the ERP vendor has a greater vision for what you could achieve with your ERP software. In this example, they are envisioning an integrated ERP system that not only prints shipping labels for your warehouse but also talks directly to your logistics services to know when they are coming and ensures your docks are available for when they arrive.

How Dedicated is Your Implementation Partner?

Dedication is a criterion that’s a little harder to determine. You want an implementation partner that will dedicate time and resources to you when you encounter an issue, despite how many other customers they are supporting.

While Tier 1 ERP vendors have thousands of customers, they still offer reliable, long-term support. You can gauge their dedication by thinking back to the RFP process – did you have a dedicated account manager or one whose attention seemed divided?

How Much Expertise Does Your Implementation Partner Have?

The most straightforward consideration in a partnership with an ERP vendor is expertise. Even though Tier 1 ERP vendors have a wide breadth of capabilities that are likely normalized throughout industries, it’s good to ask if they have any specific expertise related to your business.

An example of this is when a vendor teams up with an ISV (independent software vendor) that seamlessly integrates into their ERP system to provide out-of-box, industry-specific processes.

How Trustworthy is Your Implementation Partner?

Partnerships rely on trust and communication, so it’s important to reflect on your RFP process with each vendor. Were they transparent in their pricing? Did they communicate clearly and follow up in a timely manner? If you have difficulties with trust and communication before you’ve gone all in, imagine the challenge after you’ve already paid the bill.

2. Evaluate the Vendor’s Implementation Approach and Post Go-live Support

​While some companies prefer to assemble a team of all internal resources, most companies rely on a certain amount of external resources due to these resources’ expertise.

Independent ERP consultants can provide expert resources and so can your vendor. This combined expertise can lead to successful project. However, this requires that both consultant and vendor have a practiced and proven approach.

When evaluating your vendor’s implementation approach – often influenced by your consultant’s implementation approach – it’s important to ensure it will work for your organizational goals and company culture.

What Support Options Does Your ERP Vendor Offer?

Post go-live support is another important consideration. While it may seem early to think about post go-live support before you’ve selected an ERP system, support services can make or break your ERP selection.

An ERP vendor should offer several options (including a dedicated one) when it comes to support plans. With Tier 1 ERP vendors, a first level of support almost always is included with software licenses. Therefore, a more apples-to-apples comparison is to look at the first level of paid support. How many hours come with it? What are the typical SLAs (service level agreements) that come with opening issues?

3. Consider Customization and Integration

​ERP vendors with a wide range of capabilities tend to have industry-standard business processes built into their software. This is how they were able to gain so many customers and build their brand.

For example, in 2020 Clash of the Titans, we talk about how Microsoft’s channel partners are expanding their client base with more pre-configured, niche functionality. This likely is a contributing factor to the shorter project duration among Microsoft customers.

What if a Business Requirement Isn’t Met Out of the Box?

This is when it becomes important to ask about your ERP vendor’s customization route.

Today, ERP vendors closely monitor the customizations and integrations their customers build because their SaaS customers get regular, automatic updates that require compatibility. To prevent compatibility issues during an automatic update, it’s crucial for the updates to not overwrite any code developed for specific customers.

This is why you should ask each vendor what their customization and integration policies are and what this means for you when it’s time to upgrade.

4. Look at the Vendor’s Other Offerings​

A unique advantage that Tier 1 ERP vendors have over smaller vendors is that Tier 1 players tend to have other applications in their portfolio that complement their main ERP system.

For instance, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft all offer internally developed cloud services to host the cloud version of their ERP solutions. This makes deploying and managing your environment streamlined as you only have one vendor to deal with.

Other examples include the Microsoft Office suite of products that can send emails to and from your ERP system and Infor’s artificial intelligence solution that can help analyze the massive amount of data coming from your ERP software.

What Other Systems Will You Replace in the Future?

When selecting an ERP system from a Tier 1 vendor, consider what other business applications you may replace in the future. Do the ERP vendors under consideration offer those business applications? Would it be beneficial to replace legacy systems as part of your ERP project plan? What is my digital strategy, and can this vendor be my partner for the long haul? These types of questions may help you narrow down your list of potential ERP vendors.

5. Consider Case Studies and References

​Since Tier 1 ERP vendors tend to have thousands of live customers, they should have plenty of case studies and references for you to consider. Ask the vendor to provide a reference for one of their customers of a similar size and industry. Better yet, ask if there are any case studies on your competitors.

Leveraging these references and case studies, you can determine the kind of implementation partner the vendor is, what their implementation and support process is like and what other applications within their portfolio may add value to your ERP implementation.

Implementing a Tier 1 ERP System is Challenging

Since Tier 1 software solutions have a long implementation time and often require business process changes, it’s smart to select an ERP vendor that will give your company the attention it needs.

It’s also important to find an ERP consultant that can help your company select and implement your Tier 1 system. Independent ERP consultants, like Panorama, can work with your vendor to develop a project plan that includes success factors like business process reengineering and organizational change management.

For more generalized ERP selection advice for any software tier, check out our ERP Selection Guide.

How to Prepare for Post-merger Integration

How to Prepare for Post-merger Integration

Going through a merger or acquisition can be an exciting and emotional time. There are many questions surrounding new roles, business channels, production, compensation and sales territories. Think of it as driving a race car and changing the engine at the same time with the driver not knowing where the road ends.

Successful M&A planning requires swift execution within the first 100 days. During the M&A integration process, there is no magical one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, we recommend a tailored approach that focuses on the desired results based on the synergies of the group. 

One Possible Pre-merger Readiness Approach

We often begin working with clients before the merger takes place. Typically, private equity (PE) firms or investment bankers work with us as we help clients determine their readiness to go through an M&A event. 

1. Internal Capability Analysis & Pre-merger Readiness

When assessing readiness, we look at the reason the company wants to merge or acquire. For example, the organization may realize a smaller competitor has better agreements with vendors and therefore a pricing advantage.

While looking at reasons, we also determine key performance indicators and conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).

Once we have a good understanding of where the organization is, we document the current state and conduct a gap analysis.

During the final steps of this phase, we create a roadmap and playbook with a clear path forward for internal cleanup. This roadmap sets up the post-merger integration framework.

2. Due Diligence Phase

Many times a merger or acquisition is opportunistic in the sense that two companies come together organically and decide they may want to merge. In other words, there is no formal search for an acquisition target.

Other times, a company will spend time searching for an acquisition target with the assistance of a PE firm. In cases like this, we have found that defining strategic objectives before looking at acquisition targets helps the organization effectively assess each potential acquisition.

While the organization is defining its strategic objectives, the PE firm typically performs financial, legal, compliance and valuation due diligence while we focus on evaluating the capabilities of the organization. We assess its ability to achieve its goals, the effectiveness of its current processes, its organizational structure and its technology. 

We then compare the SWOT of the acquisition target to the SWOT of the acquirer, analyzing where there are synergies and how the two entities can grow and increase enterprise value.

3. Operational Alignment & Planning

Taking the time to perform a pre-merger readiness assessment and conduct due diligence on the acquisition target, gives clients a head start on putting a post-merger integration framework in place.

During this time, a determination is made about the type of synergies to be achieved. We also determine the speed, extent and spirit of the integration, as well as the starting point of integration, the composition of the integration team and the decision-making approach.

We then determine the amount of change management necessary by conducting a change readiness assessment and considering the degree of change.

This phase allows us to seamlessly move from planning to operationalizing the plan to swift implementation.

4. 100 Day Integration Plan Execution

Following are seven tips for executing an integration plan:

 

  1. On Day 0, hit the ground running with extensive readiness checklists, and identify quick wins for the integration team to focus on.
  2. Chart a communication roadmap showing who will be informed at which times about which issues.
  3. Depending on the results of the change readiness assessment, determine the implementation approach in terms of phases of execution throughout the divisions of the company.
  4. While much information is lacking in this phase and an extensive amount of uncertainty exists, communication must be constant. Concerns among employees can be quickly dispelled through frequent and clear communication.
  5. Both companies must exchange all relevant information and quickly make individual integration concepts ready for implementation.
  6. Break down the expected synergies by region and department, and consolidate your business processes, personnel and systems by evaluating gaps, synergies and skillsets.
  7. Build a project management office to coordinate all activities and increasingly integrate the line organization.

Summary of an Effective Pre-merger Readiness Approach

​Below is a general framework of the phases we have discussed and a sample of specific tasks during the lifecycle of a pre-merger and post-merger integration plan:

Click image to enlarge.

Do You Have a Post-merger Integration Team?

Many private equity firms do not have post-merger integration teams. If this describes your company, Panorama’s business transformation consultants can help you achieve a successful integration with our process integration work and our change management philosophy of looking at all areas of your business.

How to Coach Managers to be Change Leaders

How to Coach Managers to be Change Leaders

Before embarking on an enterprise-wide project, senior management should be aware of the challenges they might encounter. Some of these challenges include employee resistance to change, ineffective communication practices and poor prioritization of new initiatives.

ERP Boot Camp

Join us November 6th and 7th in Denver, CO to learn how to optimize your supply chain and transform your organization. 

Most companies are in a constant state of change, so developing and executing a change management plan should be a priority for senior executives. In fact, an organizational change management plan can increase the success of your large-scale transformation in several ways:

  • Ensuring active and visible executive sponsorship of the initiative
  • Dedicating specific change management resources and funding
  • Ensuring frequent and open communication about the change and the need for change
  • Encouraging engagement, support and participation from employees, middle managers and project managers throughout the initiative

One of the most effective of these strategies is seeking engagement, support and participation from managers. In other words, managers must be coached to become change leaders within their workgroups.

The Role of Coaching in a Change Initiative

​​Change is a very broad term. It can be simple or complex. It can impact multiple departments or only one department.

Moreover, change can be seen as non-threatening or threatening. To this end, many leaders are resistant to change. Fear of change due to the unknown implications is a common reason why managers are so resistant.

To coach fearful managers to become confident change leaders, you’ll first need to understand some definitions:

Change Management Initiative

Any project or task that applies a structured approach to transitioning a company from a current state to a future state in order to achieve expected benefits.

Coaching

Partnering with employees in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to reach their full potential within the context of the project.

Change Leader

A manager who creates awareness of upcoming organizational changes and encourages employees to move beyond their comfort zone.

Internal Coach

A professional coach practitioner, who is employed within a company and has specific coaching responsibilities identified in their job description.

External Coach

A professional coach practitioner, who is either self-employed or partners with other professional coaches, to form a coaching business and is hired by a company.

Once these definitions are internalized by the project team, they can begin to coach leaders to champion change leading up to an ERP implementation or a business transformation.

Leadership’s Role in Change Management

Leaders often struggle to understand their role in change management. Below are some examples of this confusion:

The Role of the Executive Team

Executives should not just view change as a “set-it and forget-it” project. Instead, they should actively and visibly participate throughout the project, so employees at all levels can witness executives supporting change.

It’s also important for executives to communicate to front-line employees the “why” behind the change. This is essential because employees are more likely to support a change if they understand the benefits to the company and themselves.

The Role of Managers and Supervisors

In the eyes of their employees, managers are the face of the change initiative. Therefore, managers should embody four specific roles throughout the project:

 

  1. Communicator – Managers should leverage their interpersonal relationships with their employees to communicate face-to-face.
  2. Advocate – Managers should be an advocate for the change initiative and motivate employees through their actions and words.
  3. Liaison – Managers should maintain a feedback loop between employees and executives and/or the project team.
  4. Resistance Manager – Managers should quell any resistance among their employees by responding with positive messaging.

How to Coach Managers to be Change Leaders

We recommend coaching managers to ensure they have the skills to effectively advocate for change. This coaching can take many different forms.

It can be an internal practice, in which internal coaches, or “company coaches,” use the specific coaching responsibilities outlined in their job description to educate managers on best practices, techniques and procedures to implement change. These internal coaches can be the managers’ direct supervisors, or they can be a subset of employees within a company’s HR department.

Alternatively, coaching of managers can be performed by external coaching sources, such as change management consultants. External coaches, like Panorama, are experienced in implementing change across multiple business domains.

Using external coaches is a particularly great option for a company that is seeking to train internal coaches as well. Hiring external coaches to train internal coaches can create long-term self-sustainability within a company—something that yields significant ROI when mapped-out for year-over-year objectives.

Educating managers how to be effective communicators and resilient leaders is the best way to instill confidence in their own ability to lead change. As most managers have experienced (or been a part of) unsuccessful change management throughout their careers, they must be provided with tools to successfully implement change.

Essential Tools for Change Leaders

  1. Communication Training – Managers must be able to effectively communicate with superiors and direct reports. More specifically, managers must be able to clearly articulate to their employees the “why” of the project.
  2. Resiliency Training – Change in business means there will be impacts on employees’ daily work and managers’ management practices. To navigate these impacts, managers must be provided with training in resiliency. Resiliency training teaches the mental, physical and emotional coping skills required to handle difficult work situations.

Why is Coaching so Important?

Being an effective change leader means knowing how to actively listen to employees, understand employees and ask questions to elicit important feedback. This type of leadership ensures employees support change and adopt new processes and/or ERP software.

Panorama’s change management consultants can help you coach managers to be change advocates who break down barriers impeding your project goals. Contact us to learn about all our change management strategies that enable faster benefits realization.

How to Become a Digital Government: 7 ERP Selection Tips

How to Become a Digital Government: 7 ERP Selection Tips

Selecting the right ERP solution for your organization is a monumental task for any industry. For public sector organizations, this is a particularly tall order.

It’s difficult to earn the support from project leadership who are changing every election, or to mobilize an aging workforce who has no appetite for change. Other challenges include documenting requirements and ensuring the chosen solution meets specialized needs.

Top 10 Public Sector ERP Systems

Public sector organizations must modernize their processes and technology to meet the demands of citizens.

We recently published a report on the Top 10 Public Sector ERP Systems to provide ERP selection advice to states, cities, agencies and tribal governments. Before you dive into the specific technologies in the report, let’s talk about the do’s and don’ts of public sector ERP selection on the path to becoming a digital government:

7 ERP Selection Tips

1. Don’t Start Meeting with Vendors Until You’ve Achieved Strategic Alignment

What is strategic alignment? For ERP selection, strategic alignment means the alignment of all stakeholders around project goals and timelines.

Let’s look at an example of how not reaching strategic alignment can sabotage the ERP selection process:

Let’s say the Chair of the county school board wants to implement a new time and attendance tracking system. She believes that teachers are spending too much time entering attendance records because their outdated system is difficult to use. She sees this as a minimal risk, high reward project that can be completed in the short term.

However, the Vice Chair wants to implement an entirely new e-learning system for all schools in the county. Both ideas are perfectly fine and will make a positive impact in the long term, but imagine how discussions with potential ERP vendors would go if these two stakeholders are not in strategic alignment.

2. Don’t Aim to Overhaul Your IT Ecosystem in One Phase

A memorable proverb says this in a different way – “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

When implementing an ERP system, it’s best not to overhaul your entire IT ecosystem in a single roll out. Phasing out one system or business segment at a time minimizes the amount of risk introduced to your organization during an ERP implementation.

Throughout the process of becoming strategically aligned, you should have determined an overall goal and a corresponding timeline. To reach your overall goal, smaller milestones should have been discussed with their corresponding timelines.

During the ERP selection process, it’s important to share these milestones and timelines with potential ERP vendors. Some ERP systems are modular and make it simple to implement a little at a time. Others are more invasive and require a huge lift and shift to go-live.

3. Don’t Only Think of Your Immediate Needs

In the public sector, processes may seem like they’ve been the same forever. However, don’t let this mentality blindside you into only thinking of your immediate needs when selecting digital technology.

An ERP system and ERP project are huge investments both in time and money. Selecting the right system with your future in mind will set your organization up for streamlining processes and adding new capabilities down the road.

For example, today you might be looking for ERP software that can handle your payroll, HR and accounting. You choose an ERP system that has limited functionality to only meet those needs. However, a year later, your organization wants to move their customer record management into the same ERP system but discover it’s not possible without heavy modifications.

We don’t advise organizations to select the most robust ERP solution in the off chance a capability will be needed in the future. Instead, we recommend narrowing your scope down to the processes you currently support, especially if the systems supporting those processes are inefficient or outdated.

4. Do Give Small Vendors a Chance

When most people think of ERP software, one of the big vendors come to mind. SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics are all easily recognizable. These vendors built their brands over time by implementing their software in a variety of industries. To ensure their product was versatile, they established standard business processes and incorporated those as flows into their modules.

For example, in the procurement module of an ERP system workflows often can be created to gain approvals based on specified thresholds related to purchase orders. These thresholds tend to be universal, such as total amount and line amount. Other factors like the vendor on the purchase order or the buyer can also be used to determine workflow requirements.

In a public sector organization, stricter or more complicated workflows may be required. Your workflows may be dependent on the segment in the organization in which the buyer works, or the types of items or services on the purchase order.

For a non-public sector specific ERP system, this would involve some customization. For niche vendors that work in the public sector industry, this may be something already designed. In fact, smaller ERP vendors tend to specialize in one or only a few industries. These ERP vendors have extensive industry-specific experience on their resume and likely have a set of standard operating procedures designed with your industry in mind.

5. Do Document and Map Your Business Processes

To ensure an ERP solution will meet your organization’s needs, you’ll need a list of business processes that will be performed in the new system. Along with that list, high-level process maps are required to give ERP vendors enough information to perform a demo.

At public sector organizations, this can be difficult as most processes are executed based on long-time employees’ tribal knowledge. Workers with the tribal knowledge may feel it’s to their advantage to keep this knowledge to themselves, whether it be for job protection or pride.

One way to lessen this resistance is to include these workers as part of the ERP project team in the selection process. This increases information sharing and employee buy-in.

5. Do Enlist the Help of a Third Party

In the public sector, it can be difficult to choose a vendor without being influenced by bias. Even if your ERP selection process is completely fair and impartial, we’ve unfortunately come across vendors protesting to continue in the request for proposal (RFP) process because of accusations of favoritism. When this happens, your RFP process can be sidelined while any investigations take place.

This risk is one of the many reasons why more and more organizations are leveraging third party consulting firms to handle the vendor RFP process. As an independent party, the consulting firm assumes the liability in rejecting some vendors’ proposals.

For example, when we work with public sector clients, we highly advise that everything related to the ERP selection process be documented. The dates, attendees and agendas for all meetings and demos should be captured. The conditions in which you evaluate each vendor should also be documented to prove that each vendor was held to the same evaluation standards.

Mitigating risk is not the only reason you should enlist the help of a third party during your ERP vendor selection. Independent ERP consultants, like Panorama Consulting Group, are technology-agnostic, so we investigate all possibilities to find the right ERP system for your organization.

5. Do Consider Return on Citizenship

In the private sector, it’s common for organizations to calculate their ROI before an ERP project. However, with no profit margins and lack of competition, public sector organizations have a difficult time measuring ROI for a new ERP system.

Instead, there is another goal that public sector groups can strive for: return on citizenship (ROC). ROC can be described as the return on government services and social value to the citizens.

With this goal in mind, you should ensure that each ERP system considered can help you to achieve it.

Modernizing Your Organization

Our Top 10 Public Sector ERP Systems not only highlights ERP vendors suitable for public sector organizations, but it examines some of the challenges the public sector is facing that are creating a need for modernization.

If you are wondering how to modernize your own organization, you will find our report useful as it provides guidance on how to prepare for software selection and navigate selection challenges.

Panorama’s ERP consultants are experienced in digital government and digital transformation best practices. We can help you more efficiently and effectively deliver services to citizens.

How to Change Your Organizational Culture

How to Change Your Organizational Culture

The term “strategy” is one of those buzzwords that excites organizational leadership. It’s a word that lights up board room presentations and dazzles investors. However, when a company’s culture is not aligned with a company’s strategy, leaders will almost always fail to deliver on their strategic objectives.

To be most successful in ERP implementations and/or business transformations, leaders must understand how to change their organizational culture to align with their company’s strategy and related digital strategy.

ERP Boot Camp

Join us November 6th and 7th in Denver, CO to learn how to optimize your supply chain and transform your organization. 

Implications of a Misaligned Culture

When a company’s culture is not aligned with its strategy, the company is susceptible to the following:

1. Poor Hiring Decisions

Each employee is a critical member of the organization. This is especially true when employees are asked to participate in strategic initiatives in addition to their day jobs.

Unfortunately, when the organizational culture is not clear to the hiring manager, or it is misaligned with the company strategy, the wrong types of employees are hired.

Our clients that have made poor hiring decisions, often experience challenges when building an ERP project team or business transformation project team. This often creates an imbalance of external resources versus internal resources.

2. Lack of Performance Management

Performance management is about coaching employees towards excellence. For example, progressive discipline policies enable managers to give feedback and warnings to employees.

However, when an organizational culture is misaligned with the company’s strategy, project team members may ignore feedback from managers and continue working toward disparate goals.

3. Employees do not Understand the Value They Bring to the Company

A properly aligned organizational culture recognizes employees who contribute to the achievement of strategic objectives.

However, when a company’s culture is not aligned with its strategy, employees are not recognized properly, or in some cases, not recognized at all. This leaves employees marching to the beat of their own drum, pursuing objectives that may not be aligned with those of the project.

Ultimately, this type of environment leaves the company at risk of paying employees for work that doesn’t directly contribute to strategic goals.

Leadership’s Role in Organizational Alignment

The ideal organizational culture should encourage openness to change, foster trust in leadership and enable teamwork. Ultimately, it is the leaders of the company who must set an example of these values for employees.

In fact, each level of leadership plays a different role in the alignment of culture and strategy:

Senior Executives

The executive-level leadership team bears the burden of establishing company culture. These leaders define the company mission, vision and values and communicate them to employees.

Middle and Senior Managers

Next in the line of leadership are middle and senior-level managers. These managers enable their departments to meet strategic objectives, and they also help determine key performance indicators. This role is helpful when it comes to being a sounding board for the executive team and communicating company goals to the front-line managers.

Front-line Managers

The last in the line of leadership to have a measurable impact on organizational alignment is front-line managers. These managers monitor the overall performance of their departments and ensure employees are achieving their assigned metrics. As this leadership group is most removed from the executive team (and sometimes, geographically, even further removed) this is where the greatest communication challenge lies.

How to Align Organizational Culture with Strategy

In order for a company to change its culture, communication must be structured as a continuous feedback loop throughout all levels of leadership. This means that from the executive level through front-line managers, everyone is fully aware of organizational goals and project goals.

Following are three steps for using communication to drive cultural change:

1. Define Objectives

To start this continuous feedback loop, the executive team must ensure the company mission, vision and values of are clearly defined. These items should be reviewed at no less than an annual basis and reworked if the strategic direction changes.

2. Communicate with Middle and Senior Managers

Once the mission, vision and values are defined, they must be directly communicated to mid-level and senior-level managers. This communication should happen not just through flyers and email but in person.

This allows for a dialogue to occur in which critical questions can be asked. More specifically, this discussion allows executives to receive feedback from mid-level and senior-level managers regarding any cultural blockers to the achievement of project goals.

Here are some examples of culture- and strategy-related questions that executives and mid/senior-level managers might discuss:

 

  • Which internal processes need improvement in order to achieve strategic objectives and maintain our competitive advantage?
  • What are our customer expectations and are we successfully meeting them with our products or services?
  • Are our employees trained in the skills required to meet our objectives?
  • Do employees generally trust the management team?
  • Are we able to measure, in real-time, the performance of our company at a financial level?

3. Communicate with Front-line Managers

The final piece of the alignment mission is the transfer of the strategic direction and culture from mid-level and senior-level managers to front-line managers. This discussion must happen in-person and should be aimed at translating strategy to execution.

To accomplish this, it’s important to enumerate strategic objectives and define tactical priorities for front-line managers. It’s also important to listen to feedback from front-line managers when they are asked, “What is the most effective way to achieve our goals?”

It’s All About Communication

When an employee understands the purpose of his job function and how it ties into the strategic positioning of the company, he is more apt to pursue excellence in that domain. It is this intimate understanding of one’s purpose in a company that must be attained before a company can successfully implement new ERP software or pursue business transformation.

Panorama’s business transformation consultants can conduct organizational assessments to help you understand your corporate culture and its readiness for organizational change. These assessments evaluate employees’ understanding of strategic goals and help us develop a change management plan to achieve organizational alignment.

How to Determine ERP Customization and Configuration Needs

How to Determine ERP Customization and Configuration Needs

At the beginning of an ERP implementation, your company might be of the mindset that your ERP system will go live with out-of-the-box settings. In fact, many businesses start their ERP journey with this goal in mind and with good reason – staying out-of-the-box will significantly reduce implementation cost and can keep your upgrade path free of compatibility issues.

While implementing a “vanilla” ERP system sounds easy, it’s actually very difficult to achieve. Most companies end up with customized ERP solutions, or at the minimum, a specifically configured system and several integrations.

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.

While ERP systems are built to meet industry standard business processes, many companies find the need to customize because standard ERP functionality doesn’t always align with their company’s unique business processes.

So, how do you determine which of your ERP requirements can be met out-of-the-box, which need configuration and which require customization? Based on our experience evaluating ERP systems across a variety of industries, we have outlined some guidelines to help you make these tough decisions. But first, let’s clarify some terminology:

ERP Customization vs. Configuration

A configuration is a setting, parameter or personalization built natively into the ERP software. A setting or parameter could be a simple flag or field or as complex as a table defining a list of rules. A personalization could be rearranging the order in which fields are displayed on a form or changing the label of a field. No coding typically is required to enable or disable these settings.

Customization, on the other hand, almost always requires changes to the system’s source code. Customizations can be new features that enhance the core software, they can be custom reports, or they can be integrations between the ERP solution and third-party applications.

Making the Decision

While every company has unique requirements, there are two things all businesses have in common: they want projects under budget and on schedule. Based on these goals, we created the below decision tree to help you decide whether a requirement should be met via out-of-the-box features, configuration or customization:

How to Use the Decision Tree

We recommend selecting an ERP system with functionality requiring minimal customization. Your RFP responses and ERP demo results can help you determine this for each of your requirements. Ultimately, though, some requirements may entail software customization, so you will need to weigh the costs and benefits of customization versus business process reengineering.

That said, let’s walk through each branch of the decision tree:

Does an out-of-the-box feature meet the business requirement?

To answer this question, it’s important to schedule an ERP demo. Business users can then determine if the demoed functionality truly meets each requirement.

For example, a business requirement may be “the ability send vendors an invoice displaying both the company billing address and the delivery address after purchase orders have been received.” If the demo reveals that the out-of-the-box invoice document only displays the billing address, then the business requirement would go through the next step in the decision tree.

Does a standard configuration meet the business requirement?

To know every setting in an ERP system and what outcome it drives is nearly impossible. This is why it’s important to write demo scripts for ERP vendors to encourage them to show exactly how their system fulfills a requirement even if it means they must demo the steps required for a configuration.

If the vendor does not demonstrate how their system can be configured to meet a requirement, there may be enough time for a question and answer session at the end of the demo.

Depending on the extent of the configuration, a follow up demo may be necessary, so the vendor can demonstrate the system with the software already configured. If the business is satisfied with the way the requirement is fulfilled, then the configuration should be documented so it can be put into testing environments and eventually production.

If the business rejects the configuration, then the next question is . . .

Do you have the budget for customization?

The answer could be a simple yes or no, but it likely will depend on several factors.

In your ERP project budget, you may have set aside some funds for customization. Depending on your customization budget, you may need to determine which requirements needing software customization are the highest priority.

Regardless of budget, how much customization is appropriate? While tailoring your new ERP software to exactly match your needs sounds desirable, it also has some consequences.

Besides the fact that customization requires design, development, deployment and testing work, customization also puts your upgrade path at risk.

For example, if you are using a cloud ERP solution where upgrades are automatic, then customizations can cause compatibility issues. In fact, upgrades may overwrite or conflict with your custom code.

If you are using an on-premise ERP solution, upgrades of customized software also are challenging. Performing capability checks and addressing issues will be another hurdle to add to the already arduous on-premise upgrade process.

If these upgrade risks don’t scare you, the customization process itself might. The development effort and rounds of testing are both time-consuming.

If you decide not to customize the software to meet a particular requirement, you have one more option:

Can you reengineer some of your processes?

While you may already have reengineered many of your processes before ERP selection, more opportunities for improvement may present themselves throughout your evaluation. This is especially true if you find that some of your requirements are not worth the time and effort of customization.

Many companies like to avoid process improvements because they know their employees will resist change. However, when the alternative is going over budget with customizations or not meeting a requirement at all, then process improvement starts to look a lot more attractive.

After all, organizational change management is always an option. Change management helps prepare employees for new processes and technology, and it is essential even for companies that perform extensive customization.

Revisit the requirement and ensure its validity

If it seems a requirement cannot be met out-of-the-box, through configuration, through customization or through process improvement, it’s time to reevaluate why the business has this requirement to begin with. Is this a requirement because it’s a restriction of the legacy system? Will there still be a need for it after go-live?

Select the Right System to Minimize Customization

Ultimately, if you’ve spent the time preparing for ERP selection, you will have clear business requirements that reflect your business’s competitive advantage and strategic goals. As a result, you won’t waste time evaluating a system that ends up needing extensive customization. Ideally, all the systems you evaluate will meet most of your requirements either out-of-the-box or through configuration.

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help your company narrow down your list to only the systems that align with your organizational goals. Contact us to learn how clear business requirements can serve as your secret weapon during ERP selection.

4 Tips for Managing Large-scale Change

4 Tips for Managing Large-scale Change

As companies become more globally interconnected, the reach and impact of their operations have scaled up to become global, as well. As a result, organizational change management projects are often no longer limited to just one region, but instead span multiple global offices.

While large-scale change management projects are fantastic opportunities to lead high-impact ventures and shift focus at a strategic level, they can prove challenging. Some issues unique to global projects include:

 

  • Managing local culture and language differences
  • Securing high-level sponsors to champion the change
  • Building a common methodology
  • Training local experts to build up core competencies

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Transformation

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With large-scale change efforts, it can be difficult to share a consistent message with all stakeholders. Following are four tips for introducing new business processes and/or ERP software to your global company:

Tips for Global Change Initiatives

1. Designate Regional Leaders to Champion Change

When a company operates on a global scale, it’s essential to find leaders in each region who can sponsor and champion change for their respective regions.

This is important because a change champion who isn’t accustomed to a region may fail to capture important messaging. There could also be unforeseen cultural challenges, such as the emphasis on age within Korean and Japanese cultures. Sending a very young manager to communicate and affect change with executives twice his age can prove ineffective.

If your project team has a regional leader helping your project team communicate important messages, it can greatly streamline change management communication. For example, the regional leader may help translate messaging and adapt it to their culture, which not only increases employees’ awareness of the change but their support of it, as well.

While it’s true that a local champion can help share information more effectively, it raises another issue. How do you ensure all region leaders are on the same page? We recommend establishing organizational alignment. This means the company has agreed on a strategic direction, and the project team is ensuring all project decisions at a region level support the company’s goals.

2. Build a Centralized Roadmap

A sponsorship roadmap can bring together all your regional sponsors, so they communicate cohesive, consistent messages to their companies. This roadmap is used to outline stakeholders the sponsor needs to meet with, events the sponsor needs to attend and deadlines that must be met.

While this is a centralized document, sponsors can adapt messaging in a way that is best suited for their location. When culturally adapting messages, some of the most important messaging that must stay intact includes:

 

  • Why the change is occurring
  • The implications for the company and particular location
  • How progress is going to be enforced
  • A sense of urgency
  • What happens if change management is not pursued now

3. Establish a Common Methodology

It’s important for each region to see change management resources and tools as built for their benefit rather than a hand-me-down from another hemisphere. However, it may not be feasible to convert all documentation from one language to multiple other languages and mediums.

A regional sponsor likely doesn’t have enough time to sit down and translate hundreds or thousands of pages of documentation and training materials. This can become expensive very quickly, especially if each region has unique business jargon they employ.

This is why it’s important to establish a common change management methodology and terminology that’s shared among all regions. Sponsors will find change management resources more beneficial if their region already has a baseline understanding of the change management methodology.

4. Encourage Knowledge Sharing

For global companies that operate with tens of thousands of employees, a regional leader may not be enough to affect change at a local level. Getting more regional leaders on board is not always a feasible solution, either, since regional champions need specialized training.

Instead, we recommend relying on regional trainers to build up core competencies at all levels. Having a local resource who can educate employees equips the local workforce with the tools and knowledge to more efficiently implement large-scale organizational change.

Successful Change Management at a Global Scale

It’s clear that global projects involve a group of stakeholders comprised of multiple cultures and languages. Sharing information with these stakeholders involves far more effort than simply translating it via Google Translate.

Panorama’s business transformation consultants can help your company account for all of the regional variances you’ll encounter during a global ERP implementation or change management initiative. Contact us to discuss your global organizational needs – we’re here to help!

How to Measure ERP Benefits Realization After Go-live

How to Measure ERP Benefits Realization After Go-live

At the beginning of your ERP journey, you’ll probably discuss with several ERP vendors and consulting firms the costs associated with different ERP systems. Then, during ERP implementation, project managers will monitor business benefits and costs.

Once you’re live on a new ERP system, the measuring and monitoring does not end. This is the time to get a post go-live measurement of ERP benefits realization and return on investment.

While ROI may seem subjective, you can actually use a generic formula and common guidelines.

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.

What is ERP ROI and How is it Measured?

The classic definition of ROI is a percentage or ratio of the value of an investment to its cost. Here is a simple formula to calculate ROI as a percentage for any investment:

ROI = [(Value of investment – Cost of investment) / Cost of investment] * 100%

Since the value of an ERP project is subject to a variety of factors, let’s first discuss how to calculate the cost of an ERP project.

How to Calculate ERP Costs

During the ERP selection process, different ERP vendors will quote total cost of ownership based on factors like licensing and implementation costs. These amounts are estimated before implementation, so once you go live, they might have change.

Some of these early discussions may not include factors such as hardware expenses and change management costs. After go-live, we recommend looking back on the actual expenditures from purchasing through implementation and go-live. Here are a four cost factors to consider:

1. Licensing

The number of licenses needed is probably the one area of expense that won’t change much from initial quoting. However, during implementation you may stumble across scenarios where you need a different type of license than initially thought.

For example, let’s say you’re implementing a retail ERP solution for your brick and mortar stores and your headquarters. Initially, you may estimate for a more restricted license for the stores, as the thought is users will access the ERP system via a point of sales terminal for simple actions like performing sales and issuing returns.

As business processes become more defined, you discover that the stores actually need a full license to access modules such as inventory management to help customers determine the availability of product. This change in access required likely will increase your licensing costs.

2. Hardware

If your ERP software is deployed on-premise, the bulk of your hardware costs will come from acquisition of new servers and networking equipment. On the other hand, if your ERP system is hosted in the cloud, your hardware costs will be minimal. With cloud ERP systems, most hardware costs are associated with peripheral devices such as new POS terminals, payment devices, warehouse scanners, scales or printers.

3. Technical Implementation

Whether you implement in-house or outsource some heavy lifting to a consulting firm, your costs will include hours billed for activities like requirements gathering, configuration, customization, deployment and testing. Be on the lookout for less obvious expenses, like travel dollars for consultants or overtime pay for your full-time employees.

4. Change Management

Money spent preparing employees to use the new ERP system and new business processes is also a factor in total ERP cost. The hiring of external trainers or change management experts will fall into this category. Any kick-off assemblies, training classes or promotional materials – no matter how small the expense – should be included in the total cost.

How to Calculate ERP Business Benefits

Now for the more subjective part of the ROI equation: the value of your ERP project. There are many ways to measure the value of an ERP project. It varies from business to business. However, there are a few factors that are commonplace across most industries:

1. Reduced Operating Expenses

One easy metric to find while measuring your ROI is your new monthly operating expenses post go-live. Operating expenses can include a variety of factors, from the real estate and utility expenses for housing physical servers, to hourly rates and benefit compensation for your workers.

Your accounting department probably has this number on hand and is monitoring it regularly, but if you want to get a detailed understanding of how an ERP system can reduce operating costs, it’s worthwhile to dig into the specifics.

After you’ve determined the cost of each of the following three categories, add them together to get your latest operating cost. Compare this number to the operating expenses on your old system and you’ve got your first metric for the value of your ERP project.

1. Labor

Tasks and processes that used to take skilled manpower to complete can be automated or extremely streamlined with a new ERP system.

2. Logistics

One of the most common ERP business benefits is having all modules, from sales to manufacturing, integrated and pulling from a single set of data. This especially is important when it comes to logistics.

For example, imagine your old system did not have dock management functionality. Delivery drivers were showing up at your warehouse at different times throughout the day, sometimes even having to wait for an open dock.

If your new ERP system has dock management features, you can schedule pick up dates and times with your carriers and better plan your picking and shipping labor throughout the week. This can lead to less pickups which will lead to lower shipping costs.

3. Utility Costs

If you move from an on-premise ERP system to a cloud-based ERP solution, your utility costs will probably decrease. Without the need for excess physical space for servers and networking equipment (and the AC systems to keep them cool) your utility bills will decline. It may seem like a small drop in a large bucket, but every drop counts!

2. Shorter Sales Cycle

After implementation, you may notice a decrease in duration of your sales cycle. Quicker lead to sales time due to enhanced tools provided by your new ERP system is most likely the cause.

Some ERP software solutions come with enhanced customer relationship management capabilities. These capabilities are tightly integrated with the marketing, sales and logistics modules within the ERP system, making the quoting and sales process more efficient.

3. Streamlined Supply Chain and Lower Cost of Goods

Another value measurement to consider is decreased cost of goods due to a streamlined supply chain.

For example, say your veteran purchasing agents know which vendors give quantity discounts for certain types of products. This information might not be in your old system because your purchasing team considers this tribal knowledge and is difficult to input in the system.

However, if with your new ERP system purchasing agreements can be easily managed, it would be to the benefit of all buyers (newbies and veterans alike) to use the system to get the best deals.

Do the Math

Now that you’ve calculated your total ERP cost and value, it’s time to measure your ROI. Returning to our ROI equation, plug in your findings below:

ROI = [(Value of investment – Cost of investment) / Cost of investment] * 100%

Is your ROI less than expected? It could be in the way you’re measuring your total ERP value or perhaps there are potential ways to increase certain business benefits, like saving on operating costs. Maybe there’s a factor specific to your industry that’s not covered here. Also, keep in mind that ROI increases over time, some companies see the biggest return within five to ten years.

We help companies measure ROI after go-live by preparing them before implementation. We help them define key performance indicators and create a benefits realization plan. This makes calculating ROI much easier for our clients, and it can even lead to a higher ROI since it enables them to design their project plan to achieve specific goals.

Whether you’re in the early stages of your project or ready to go-live, Panorama’s ERP consultants can help your company measure (or prepare to measure) ROI. Request a free consultation to learn more.

3 Tools for Reducing Change Resistance

3 Tools for Reducing Change Resistance

Change resistance and other roadblocks can delay a change initiative– or worse yet, cause it to fail. This is why companies about to embark on a business transformation or ERP project should use change management assessments to anticipate and mitigate roadblocks.

These assessments can help you understand the impact of change, your employees’ readiness for change and what change management activities to include in your project plan. We use change management assessments to help companies reduce risk and ensure an on-time, on-budget project with a high ROI.

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.

We have found that the ability to identify employee resistance early in the project leads to faster ERP benefits realization. Essentially, the more time employees spend using new ERP software instead of resisting it, the more the software will benefit your bottom line.

While there are many different change management assessments, three of the most common assessments we use are listed below.

3 Common Change Management Assessments

1. Change Impact Assessment

A change impact assessment gives insight into the potential effects of a proposed change. Knowing what people and processes will be affected by change enables your team to develop a change management plan.

More specifically, a change impact assessment evaluates the impact of a change from three perspectives:

  • Consequences of making the change
  • Mandatory resource modifications
  • Effort and tasks to complete the change

The main purpose of a change impact assessment is to minimize the negative impacts of change. It accomplishes this by allowing the project team to anticipate issues, such as resource constraints, before they occur.

There are two major benefits of using a change impact assessment:

Minimizing Ripple Effects

A change impact assessment is especially beneficial for projects where quality and safety are paramount. In these projects, a small change can cause huge issues down the line.

We recommend continuously monitoring the impacts of change during the project. This will help you address issues while they’re still small.

Controlling Project Scope

On a complex project that has hundreds or thousands of intertwined processes, a change impact assessment can prevent the project scope from expanding.

How does scope expansion occur? Imagine if a developer on your team promises a change to an end-user, fails to perform a change impact assessment and ends up spending months on a single change order.

2. Organizational Readiness Assessment

The willingness of employees to support change determines on how quickly you can implement change. That’s why we use readiness assessments at our client engagements – the client needs to know if their employees will be supportive of organizational changes.

Some of our clients find that their culture is either resistant to change, or it doesn’t align with the specific changes being proposed. This knowledge helps clients develop a plan to adjust their culture and prepare employees.

There are two main reasons companies use readiness assessments:

To Identify Root Causes

Oftentimes, change resistance does not stem from ill intent, but rather poor internal communication, distrust of senior leaders or extreme organizational silos. Once you understand these aspects of your culture, you can begin overcoming resistance.

To Gain Employee Buy-in

Employee buy-in is important both during and after a change initiative.

After a project, for example, employee buy-in can mean increased ERP system usage and higher benefits realization.

During a project, employee buy-in can mean increased insight into employee needs and the ability to design business processes that benefit employees. As you can imagine, prying knowledge out of an employee worried about job security is quite difficult.

3. Stakeholder Analysis

Typically, stakeholder analysis refers to the techniques or tools used to identify and understand the needs of major interests outside the immediate project environment.

The goal of this assessment is to understand what individual stakeholders care about and what relationships exist between stakeholders. This allows the project team to avoid stepping on toes and implement changes that benefit stakeholders.

Here are two reasons to conduct a stakeholder analysis:

Stakeholders are a Key Source of Information

Stakeholders’ ideas and suggestions can help guide team members in their process improvement efforts.

Stakeholders can be Change Champions

Stakeholders who visibly support change will naturally elicit buy-in from other employees.

You Will Encounter Roadblocks

We have a yet to see an ERP implementation that hasn’t encountered organizational roadblocks. While the most noticeable roadblock is change resistance, there are usually several root causes.

Change management assessments not only identify sources of resistance but help you develop a more effective change management plan – and overall project plan.

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help you conduct change management assessments and use the resulting insights to adjust your company culture and gain employee buy-in.

Most employees have a fear of the unknown and a fear of job loss when presented with the prospect of organizational changes. Let us help you alleviate employees’ fears and fast-track your ERP system usage.

ERP Implementation Success Factors for Each Phase

ERP Implementation Success Factors for Each Phase

Successful ERP implementations are executed in phases. With each phase comes a set of deliverables, exit criteria and best practices.

Depending on the ERP implementation methodology chosen for your project, you may have more or fewer phases than what we have listed below. In our experience, there is no “one size fits all” approach.

However, there is a basic structure most successful projects follow. At a high-level, most ERP projects require a six-phase strategy: plan, design, build, test, deploy and optimize.

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.

Regardless of how many phases your project timeline has, or what you choose to call them, each phase has one or more critical success factors that define them. Planning for and monitoring each success factor is one way to ensure ERP success.

ERP Implementation Success Factors​

Phase 1: Plan​

One of the phases often taken for granted, the planning phase, contains the most critical success factor – KPI validation. This is where you review the business benefits and key performance indicators (KPIs) you defined prior to ERP selection.

While reviewing KPIs, you should ensure they are realistic and measurable. It also is important to ensure that your KPIs are relevant. In other words, are you measuring the right things, or just measuring something for its own sake?

These KPIs are a project management tool that will help you continuously monitor whether your project is on track to realizing expected benefits.

Phase 2: Design

The design phase is one of the more analytical phases of an ERP implementation and involves activities like business process blueprinting.

If you’ve already gathered your ERP requirements during ERP selection, then you have a good foundation for creating a business blueprint. While your list of requirements didn’t consider specific ERP functionality, your blueprint should be based on specific functionality since you’ve already selected a system.

While you may have already seen an ERP demo addressing your business requirements, it’s important to reaffirm the technical feasibility of these requirements. How do you do this? Provide your business blueprint to your ERP vendor, so they can use it to configure the ERP system in the next phase of implementation.

Phase 3: Build

During the build phase, the ERP software is configured to meet your business requirements and code is deployed to bridge functionality gaps. While quality code is an obvious success factor, there is another element that is just as important: unit test cases.

Unit test cases should be thorough and encompass not just the best-case scenarios but also the exceptions. The more unit test cases that new code passes through, the less likely bugs will be reported later in the project.

These test cases can be written by developers, ERP consultants or business analysts to test key features, but in the end, it’s the business stakeholders that must sign off on the test cases to ensure they are valid and provide accurate coverage.

Phase 4: Test​

Quality test cases are also a success factor in the testing phase. This rings true for all types of testing: process testing, systems integration testing, user acceptance testing and performance testing.

Whether you have one hundred or ten thousand test cases, the percentage of passing cases is the main success factor for this phase. The amount of high severity bugs that are remaining prior to go-live can determine your go/no go decision.

Also in this phase, performance metrics should be captured and reported. The better the performance of the ERP system, the more likely users will adopt it.

Monitoring system performance throughout the implementation (and even after) is recommended and shouldn’t only occur in the testing phase.

Phase 5: Deploy​

A solid cutover plan addressing ERP data migration is a crucial success factor in the deploy phase.

Listing all the steps required to prepare the production environment is necessary to help your team prepare for go-live. The more detailed the cutover plan, the more likely it is to succeed. We recommend including details such as who is responsible for the action and when he or she should complete it.

Another success factor in the deploy phase is end-user training. When users are prepared to use new ERP solutions, they are more likely to adopt them and less likely to report “bugs.”

It’s common that untrained users will report many bugs that aren’t bugs at all – they are instead incorrect procedures or missed training steps. Even if the incidents the users are reporting are not actually bugs, it can still be frustrating to the end-user to continually have to call the help desk.  

Phase 6: Optimize

An important success factor for the optimize phase is performance benchmarking. While you probably did performance testing in earlier phases of the project, it’s not until real users are acting in the production environment with real data that true performance can be measured. Continuing to monitor and improve performance after go-live is crucial to maximizing ERP business benefits.

Other ERP Implementation Success Factors

While we did not mention all the success factors for each implementation phase, this post should give you a high-level overview. Many of the success factors we didn’t discuss are activities that span the entire project and cannot be confined to a particular phase.

For example, organizational change management should be a continuous focus throughout selection and throughout each implementation phase. ERP benefits realization development is another continuous activity that should not be overlooked.

To learn more about phase-specific or continuous project activities, you can chat with our business transformation and ERP consultants. We have helped companies successfully execute both the technical and business aspects of their ERP projects.

(Technical) ERP Go-live Readiness Checklist

(Technical) ERP Go-live Readiness Checklist

After many months of meticulous planning, building and testing you may come to a point where you think to yourself, “We’re ready for ERP go-live!”

While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of completing major milestones, it’s important to be completely prepared before flipping the switch.

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.

We recommend using an ERP go-live readiness checklist to help you decide whether your company is truly ready for go-live. While the following checklist is not exhaustive, it does cover the technical aspects of go-live readiness:

ERP Go-live Checklist​

1. All Test Cases are Executed and Passed​

There’s a reason why ERP project plans contain several iterations and types of testing. Unit testing, process testing, systems integration testing and user acceptance testing are all designed to ensure your customizations, configurations and integrations are ready for production. Having a high pass rate on all these tests is a good indicator that you may be ready for go-live.

It’s not just the number of test cases passed that’s important – it’s also the quality and coverage. For unit testing, usually an ERP consultant or developer can create the test cases, but for the other types of tests, test cases should be approved by the business. This ensures that no surprise scenarios come up after end-users get their hands on the new ERP system.

2. There are no Remaining Severity 1 or 2 Bugs Outstanding​

If your team decides to wait until all bugs lower than severity 2 are addressed, you’ll never go live. It’s OK if you still have a few lingering bugs out there, as long as they are not severity 1 (showstopper) or severity 2 (high business impact). Even if workarounds are in place to continue executing business processes, leaving a severity 1 or 2 bug in production can create a mess of data.

For example, let’s imagine a severity 2 bug exists for advanced shipping notices (ASN). In this case, a QA tester notices that some ASNs are being rejected and not finding their way into the ERP system. As a result, a workaround is recommended to monitor the queue of rejected ASNs and trigger a resend of the failures.

Even if this workaround allows ASNs to be imported, the real issue could be that the delay in processing these ASNs is causing the financial receipt date to be off by a day or more. At month or quarter end, this could create a mess for the finance team.

That being said, you must have a plan to address any severity 1 or 2 bugs that crop up close to your go-live date. Without a mitigation plan for these types of last-minute bugs, you risk significantly delaying your go-live date.

3. Data Migration and Cutover Activities Have Been Practiced

In theater, a production never dives right into opening night without a few dress rehearsals. These are common practice because they help actors become comfortable with their lines while in costume and full stage lighting. During a dress rehearsal, issues may become apparent, which gives directors the opportunity to address issues while there’s still time.

Practicing ERP data migration and cutover activities on a pre-production environment is like a dress rehearsal.  The actors are your project team, the lines are the business processes and the costumes and lighting are the production data and environment.

While practicing data migration, you might find corrupt or duplicate data that, if it had been imported directly into production, would have contaminated the pristine environment.

4. Production Data is Staged and Ready to be Migrated

Data doesn’t always play nice. Even if you’ve practiced the migration from legacy to the new ERP software several times, it’s best not to wait until the night before go-live to perform the actual migration.

We recommend defining a cutoff date and time for when legacy transactions will no longer be considered for migration. Any new transactions past the cutoff date can be migrated over in a separate wave.

5. Your Production Environment is Ready

This one sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many different definitions of “ready” you’ll find amongst a project team.

The best definition of “ready” is:  the infrastructure for the production environment is in place and tuned to maximum performance. This means configurations are enabled, users are loaded and security roles are turned on. It also means integration points are defined and checked for responses.

In some cases, “ready” may also entail the purchase and configuration of any required hardware, like printers, scanners, scales, registers or payment readers.

6. The Rollout Strategy is Defined, Scheduled and Communicated

For phased rollouts, the schedule should be communicated to the impacted business units. It should never come as a surprise to users when they can no longer access their legacy tools.

For example, imagine you’re a retailer with a hundred stores across four time zones. The schedule for the first phase of your rollout might look something like this: East Coast stores are delivered new hardware on Saturday night, the hardware is configured and installed on Sunday night and they are live with the new software on Monday morning. Then, after a week in production, feedback is gathered and analyzed before the next phase.

If your East Coast stores are aware of this schedule, they will be more prepared for go-live.

7. The Support Team is Prepared

When incidents come up (and they will), you’ll need a support team equipped with all the necessary resources. This team should have access to ERP experts, business analysts, process specialists and change management champions. This ensures that whatever ticket comes through the help desk can be addressed without scrambling to find the right resource.

The process for creating and managing incoming tickets is also important to define before go-live. You don’t want added stress during post go-live because this is already a busy time.

Are You Ready for Go-live?

In addition to the above checklist, you’ll need a checklist of the people and process aspects of your project. We have seen projects fail even with a fully functioning enterprise system.

If you’re curious how our clients determine the readiness of their people and business processes, give us a call. Our ERP consultants can speak with you about our experience guiding companies through business process reengineering and organizational change management. We understand all the components of go-live success.

How to Achieve ERP Business Benefits

How to Achieve ERP Business Benefits

During ERP selection, companies typically see limitless possibilities in terms of potential improvements for their businesses. However, somewhere along the way, many projects fall short of expectations and ERP business benefits underwhelm executive expectations.

In fact, in our 2019 ERP Report many companies reported low benefits realization for benefits related to reporting, competitive advantage and technology enhancements.

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.

In our experience, low benefits realization is often due to a failure to define expected benefits and align the company around common goals early in the project. In other words, organizational alignment is not a priority for many companies during software selection. More often, companies are desperate to quickly find a new ERP system that addresses their pain points, so they lose sight of their business goals.

While staying focused on benefits realization is not easy, we’ve found several strategies that help companies realize significant benefits from their ERP projects. These strategies are most effective when initiated before or during ERP selection.

Contents

8 Strategies for Realizing Business Benefits

1. Understand Your Current State

You can realize many business benefits by addressing pain points in your current processes. This is why we help clients map their current state before beginning ERP selection.

During process mapping, it’s important to capture the right amount of detail. For example, you’ll need to document how long a current process takes in order to measure improvements post go-live.

As you identify pain points, you’ll find opportunities for improvement. This is the time to start thinking about how to both fix broken processes and innovate mediocre processes.

2. Outline Expected Benefits and ROI

When embarking on ERP projects with clients, we typically help them clarify their overall business goals, so they can determine how ERP software can support these goals. This leads to a discussion about business benefits – what benefits can technology deliver that support the company’s big picture strategy?

The only way you can answer this question with any specificity is by designing future state processes based on the improvement opportunities you identified while mapping your current state. We recommend designing future state processes based on both your business goals and your pain points.

While business process reengineering is a time- and resource-intensive undertaking, it enables you to quantify expected business benefits. For example, it enables you to quantify the time and cost difference between a current state process and a future state process.

Once you’ve estimated all expected business benefits, it’s time to document your findings. One of the most effective tools for documenting business benefits is an ERP business case. This tool is more than just a means to justify the project to executives. It also is used for setting key performance indicators (KPIs) and tracking them throughout the project and post go-live.

The first step in successful use of KPIs is to understand one core concept: every KPI is a metric but not every metric is a KPI. Essentially, KPIs are the metrics which best define the success of a process or function.

For example, we had a client that defined preventative maintenance on their critical equipment as the percentage of the following ratio: (Number of preventative hours performed per machine) / (Number of hours recommended by the manufacturer of the machine). They were shooting for a score above 95%, and they crafted a concise and meaningful KPI that would help them predict the future performance of critical machinery.

In addition to KPIs, a business case also should focus on estimated costs as well as expected ROI. While you can estimate ROI without focusing on a particular ERP vendor, many companies will re-calculate expected ROI once they’ve evaluated several enterprise systems. Ultimately, though, your ROI will depend more on your project execution than your choice of ERP vendor.

In fact, your ROI depends most heavily on the quality of your business case. The most effective business cases outline specific, measurable ways a new system will improve the business.

In contrast, we see many companies justifying their ERP purchase by pointing to issues with their legacy system, such as a lack of scalability or a decrease in vendor viability.

While these are legitimate reasons to implement a new system, they must be accompanied by more ambitious goals. You don’t just want to maintain the status quo – you want to innovate!

3. Ensure Organizational Alignment

Your company not only needs clearly defined business goals and project goals but also an understanding of how they tie together. Everyone in the company needs this understanding, especially executives.

To achieve this understanding, we recommend using your business case to gain executive buy-in, and then forming an executive steering committee. This committee should be highly involved in the project, especially when it comes to communicating project goals across the company and holding process owners accountable for achieving these goals.

When executives communicate how project goals tie into business goals, business benefits become more achievable. For example, a common, business-related reason that companies implement ERP software is to improve their data insights. When executives explain how technology can enable this business goal, your team is more likely to select the right software and migrate the right data. In addition, your employees are more likely to follow procedures that promote data accuracy.

4. Develop a Realistic Project Plan

One of the key lessons from our dozens of software expert witness cases is that unrealistic expectations often is one of the main causes of low benefits realization and ERP failure.

Many companies inaccurately estimate the time, budget and resources required to effectively implement an ERP system – and so do their ERP consultants, system integrators and VARs.

The best way to avoid this pitfall is to leverage an independent consultant, such as Panorama, to help define a realistic project plan. One of the ways we help clients develop realistic project plans is by benchmarking against other companies similar to theirs.

We also ensure companies include overlooked activities in their project plans, such as change management and business process management. These activities help companies realize more business benefits.

5. Focus on Change Management

You can’t realize business benefits if end-users aren’t prepared to use the new software. This is why it’s essential to communicate with and train employees as early as possible.

We use organizational readiness assessments to help clients identify resistance to change early in the project, so they can proactively address it. The organizational readiness assessment leads to the development of a change management plan that reduces change resistance and helps employees understand how their individual processes support project goals.

6. Think Twice About Changing Your Goals

Every change order, request for customization or scope adjustment must be viewed through the lens of your project goals. If it can’t be justified within the parameters of those goals, either the goals or the request must be adjusted. In most cases, you should adjust the request.

For example, you wouldn’t want to change a goal from “Standardize all accounting and finance functions across all sites,” to “Make sure A/P can access the approved vendor lists.” After all, with all the time, money and effort that goes into implementing an ERP system, you should at least try to maximize your ROI.

When you start getting internal pressure to customize your system, let your business case and ERP project plan be your guide.

7. Continually Measure Benefits Realization

Identifying gaps between projected benefits and actual benefits throughout the project helps managers understand what they are doing well and how they can improve.

Root cause analyses can identify the causes of these benefit gaps. A common root cause is end-users using workarounds because they don’t understand the importance of using the new technology. In cases like this, follow-up end-user training and enhanced communication can bridge benefit gaps.

Many companies designate KPI owners as the people responsible for measuring benefits, identifying root causes and implementing corrective action. The ideal KPI owner is familiar with the processes being measured, has a stake in their success and has the leverage to address lagging performance. In general, department managers are the ideal candidates for overseeing performance metrics for their respective departments. 

In addition to ownership at the functional level, executive ownership of aggregated KPIs at the organizational level is necessary to achieve a holistic view of performance and drive accountability.

It’s also important to measure benefits post go-live. While the ERP project team will most likely be tired and ready to move on with their lives, successful ERP projects never end.

8. Continually Improve

If your company is focusing on business process management as part of your ERP project, you likely understand the importance of continuous improvement.

Business process management is an ongoing process that continues after go-live, so your ERP system should continue to evolve, as well. This ensures long-term alignment between your people, processes and technology.

If you’ve implemented a scalable ERP solution, then long-term alignment should be achievable. However, it is not easy.

One of the ways we help clients ensure long-term alignment is by creating an ERP center of excellence focused on continuous improvement.

 

Now that you know how to maximize benefits realization, you’re probably wondering what type of benefits you should expect. The remainder of this post will discuss some common ERP business benefits and provide advice on how to achieve them.

How ERP Software Improves Process Integration

Within any company, there are bound to be organizational silos. Whether your company has data silos or cultural silos, implementing ERP software may be one of the best ways to break through these isolating barriers. In fact, many companies pursue ERP projects to better integrate siloed functions like customer service, production, accounting and sales.

Silos often are created is when different departments and job sites use different technology and processes for inputting and analyzing data. This inconsistency creates silos of unstandardized, unreliable data.

However, implementing an integrated ERP system enables shared data from any department to be immediately synchronized across all departments and locations. For example, if the sales department signs a contract to sell 500 units, ERP software can communicate this to manufacturing ensuring inventory can be checked and the job can be scheduled.

Silos are not just a problem in terms of data, but they can also slow down an ERP project. If your company is siloed, then different departments, workgroups and locations likely will struggle with key activities, like outlining business benefits that make sense for the whole company.

Therefore, it is essential to begin breaking down organizational siloes before ERP selection. While ERP software will help further break down silos, the foundation you lay during business process management is critical.

Following are three tips for beginning to break down organizational silos:

1. Standardize Your Processes

Your company’s different locations will have different business processes, some of which will need to be standardized. Other processes should be localized to fit the needs of each separate entity.

Striking the right balance between standardized and localized processes is crucial when a company wants to maintain its competitive advantage, which may differ slightly depending on the geographic location.

In general, though, standardization is beneficial for many business processes, especially financial processes.

2. Integrate Your Processes

We recommend an approach to business process management, called value stream mapping. This approach helps our clients depict the interaction between functions and eliminate non-value-added processes.

When improving your processes, you should involve employees from across departments to gain an understanding of the upstream and downstream interdependencies between processes.

3. Ensure Employee Buy-in

Employees are more likely to adopt processes that eliminate silos when they understand how these processes benefit them personally and the company overall.

Therefore, it is important to communicate to employees the value of cross-departmental collaboration. This ERP communication should be informed by a comprehensive organizational change management plan.

How ERP Software Improves Your Competitive Advantage

Most modern ERP software has innovative functionality in areas such as manufacturing, business intelligence and analytics. However, this functionality is likely to get watered down if your primary goal is to simply replace your current system.

How can you ensure you’re gaining competitive advantage from your ERP software? The answer is business process reengineering.

Business process reengineering is most effective when conducted before ERP selection. This ensures you don’t blindly adopt an ERP vendor’s industry best practices but only adopt them where they improve your competitive advantage.

In many cases, industry best practices may decrease your competitive advantage because your competitors who’ve implemented a similar system may be using the same best practices.

While improving your processes, it’s important to look for inefficiencies in your customer- and revenue-related business processes to identify opportunities to improve your competitive advantage.

Once you’ve documented your future state and gathered your ERP requirements, you can begin contacting ERP vendors. When helping clients evaluate vendors, we ensure clients have clear goals and priorities, so they know what to look for in a system.

For example, if a client knows that customer experience transformation is a priority, they’ll know to focus on ERP vendors’ CRM and advanced demand planning functionality.

If you’re hoping to improve your competitive advantage through ERP software, then it’s important to focus on CRM functionality and other functionality related to the customer experience. In fact, competitive advantage is a high-level business benefit that is typically achieved through more specific business benefits, like improving the customer experience.

How ERP Software Improves the Customer Experience

Good customer relationships don’t just happen. They are a byproduct of strategic processes at several stages of the engagement continuum. Each of these processes should be managed by an integrated ERP system.

Here are five ways an ERP system can improve the customer experience:

1. Customer Management

Managing customer relationships is a vital component of the order-to-cash process. The best way to handle customer relationships, especially for mid-size and large companies, is to look for an ERP vendor that incorporates master data management (MDM) and customer relationship management (CRM).

While the MDM and CRM can be used together, they could also be two different modules with two distinct purposes.

An MDM module can ensure consistent and reliable customer information is gathered, housed and retrievable by internal stakeholders. That information can include key pieces of data such as order history, company history, credit information, locations, key contacts, annual revenue and more. It can be thought of as a catalog of all relevant data about that customer.

The challenge many companies have when implementing an MDM module is compiling all necessary data from each customer. The information may already exist in some form but could be scattered in various locations and formats.

If information is scattered, then identifying and consolidating that information into a single resource is necessary. Once consolidated, that information is available to all internal stakeholders and modules through integration.

While MDM compiles overall data about a customer, a CRM solution enables sales staff to track prospect and customer interactions in order to identify opportunities. For companies that have more than a handful of customers, manually tracking of every interaction is nearly impossible.

Only a CRM system can consolidate trends, opportunities, preferences and financial data. This allows companies to better plan revenue projections and budgets.

Many of our clients are seeking better data insights that they can use to improve the customer experience. We often walk these clients through business process reengineering to ensure their processes are aligned with their digital strategy.

2. Order Management and Fulfillment

An order management system (OMS) allows companies to track the status of every customer order at every stage. By understanding when orders are being entered as well as how and when they will be fulfilled, a company can better manage customer relationships.

An OMS can also help a company manage different shipping options, warehousing and multiple currencies. During ERP selection, be sure to look for a system that can . . .

  • Improve customer relationships – The customer experience can be greatly enhanced by enabling a better ordering process, faster delivery and more accurate invoicing. The more enhanced the experience, the more confidence customers will have when placing an order. If an issue with an order does occur, an OMS allows staff to quickly identify and correct the problem.
  • Maximize working capital and cash flow – An OMS reduces errors, increases the speed of order fulfillment and enables more accurate billing. As a result, a company can experience improved cash flow and greater working capital.
  • Enhance supply chain efficiency – An OMS can provide valuable insight into inventory, workflow, pricing and market trends. This can lead to greater organizational efficiency and facilitate proactive decision making. From a supply chain perspective, an OMS may help reduce costs due to leaner inventories and an understanding that products and materials can always be sourced quickly from other reliable providers.
  • Improve staff management – By allowing customers to place orders online in a way that is connected to an ERP solution, the company can better manage its staff. Automating the ordering process will funnel customer requests into the operation where resources are then allocated to ensure the operation is properly staffed. Handling orders this way enables companies to better meet customer expectations.

3. Credit Management

Incorporating a credit management component into your ERP system allows for transparency, helping you adhere to an approved set of terms for each customer. Without such a credit management policy and overall credit philosophy incorporated into an integrated ERP solution, companies put themselves at greater risk by possibly extending credit terms to customers that may be unable to pay.

While many companies mistakenly place the responsibility solely on customers for unpaid debts, quite the opposite should be true. It is often the lack of a clear credit policy within a company that results in late or unpaid invoices.

In the same way that fences make for better neighbors, a clear and actionable credit policy incorporated into an ERP system makes for better customer engagements.

4. Invoicing and Accounts Receivable

When submitting invoices to customers, leveraging technology and incorporating some form of automation is preferred over manual submission. Automation allows for better tracking and helps companies get paid more efficiently.

A robust ERP solution should incorporate some form of invoice automation, ideally via a method that submits the invoice directly into the ERP software. This helps eliminate errors and delayed payments.

ERP solutions can provide comprehensive accounts receivable reporting, tracking the progress by which invoices are submitted and ultimately paid. This capability can help companies identify and eliminate possible invoicing errors well before they get to the customer.

5. Payment and Cash Application

Almost no other segment of the order-to-cash process requires more attention than customer payment and cash application. These two processes are vital to the health of every business. Leveraging ERP software that can manage these two areas will go a long way in ensuring on-time customer payment and accurate application of that payment to a customer’s account.

While the payment process may sound straightforward, it’s a challenge for many companies. Even after a new system is implemented, optimized processes may be difficult to maintain. This is because employees often resist new processes and cling to the old way of doing things. We employ change management techniques to help clients mitigate this challenge.

 

Here are three ways to ensure your new ERP software improves the customer experience:

1. Understand How Data is Shared Across the Company

If the sales and marketing departments are “out of the loop,” they are missing key metrics that can be used to engage customers and drive sales.

We recommend collaborating with key stakeholders to ensure they provide input on the data they need and can devise ways to make the most of this data.

2. Ensure Data is not Just Focused on Existing Customers but Also Potential Ones

Modern ERP systems allow you to track how potential customers are engaging with your company across a variety of platforms. Using this information, you can deduce how that engagement is leading to sales.

In an ideal world, this information wouldn’t be trapped in the marketing department but available across the company via an integrated ERP system. This data visibility would allow your company to improve processes to best meet customer needs.

3. Track and Communicate Metrics That Differentiate Your Company

It’s important to look at metrics not just in terms of how they impact your company but how they impact customers.

For example, metrics like time and cost of production or customer service response times directly impact customers. Communicating these metrics to customers should be a priority for your marketing, sales and customer service teams.

How ERP Software Improves Operational Efficiency

Many companies have a hodgepodge of inefficient business processes and legacy systems. New ERP software can often fix these problems, but only if you define and improve your processes before ERP selection.

Defining your future state – along with performance metrics and transition plans – will ensure you realize business benefits related to operational efficiency.

Here are just a few examples of areas where companies often increase efficiency as a result of their ERP project:

1. Data Entry

ERP software can automate data entry. This is beneficial because manually entering data not only takes copious amounts of time, but it puts companies at risk for several other inefficiencies. These include data inconsistencies, data silos and difficulty providing timely compliance reports.

2. Inventory Cycle Times

If you’re holding too much inventory, ERP software can help you more accurately predict demand. This can help maximize resources and cash flow.

3. Customer Relationship Management

When you implement an integrated ERP system, many functions are combined into one platform. This means employees spend less time researching questions for clients, less time switching between systems and less time tracking down invoices and payments.

 

Overall, the automation of manual tasks and the improvement of inefficient processes can result in significant labor cost savings.

In addition, efficiency can increase employee morale. While this seems ironic considering employees’ fears that they will be automated out of their jobs, it actually makes a lot of sense.

In fact, instead of reducing headcount as a result of automation, many companies reallocate employees to higher-level tasks. In other words, mundane tasks become faster and easier giving employees more time to focus on more engaging work.

While employee morale may be a bit tougher to measure than most business benefits, you can always measure your turnover rate and absentee rate to get an idea of employees’ work satisfaction. A reduction in both of these areas equals cost savings. This is not to mention that happy employees are more productive, leading to additional efficiency gains.

How ERP Software Improves Regulatory Compliance

While Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and regulatory compliance are often one of the last things on the minds of CIOs, it becomes very important when it’s time for that first audit of your business operations and systems. For this reason, it is important to design processes that promote compliance, and find an ERP system that can support these processes.

Fortunately, most ERP systems are pre-configured with best practices for the regulatory needs of a variety of industries. However, an ERP system alone will not ensure compliance. Your company also needs to focus on business process management.

Here are three tips for ensuring your ERP system meets your compliance needs:

1. Consider Compliance When Mapping Your Processes

Business processes need to be defined in a way that ensures that financial oversight, segregation of duties and other compliance needs are addressed.

We’ve seen too many companies treat SOX and regulatory compliance like an afterthought, only to have their auditors raise red flags after the system is already in production.

This challenge is further magnified by the fact that most modern ERP software solutions are very flexible and can perform business functions several different ways. Some of those processes are going to be compliant with your compliance needs, while others are not.

2. Focus on Change Management

Contrary to popular belief, ERP systems can’t always force compliance. While they can make it easier to enforce segregation of duties, financial oversight and approval workflows, they can’t close off every possible loophole.

Fortunately, there are several change management activities that can help employees understand the need for compliance and help enforce new processes.

Our clients have found their business processes to be much more efficient and compliant as a result of the change management guidance we provide.

3. Involve Your Auditors Throughout the Project

Just as executives and employees need to support the project, your internal and external auditors also need to have buy-in.

For example, auditors should validate key process controls during the testing and user acceptance phases of the project. In addition, auditors should perform a formalized compliance audit as part of a post-live benefits realization audit.

How ERP Software Improves Business Intelligence

Many ERP systems provide business intelligence by gathering data and organizing it into actionable analytics. This business intelligence can provide better insights into your company’s financial position and help you make informed decisions. Not only does this result in increased capital, but it can create a company culture of visibility and trust.

We recommend looking for business intelligence functionality that ensures data integrity and increases data visibility between departments.

How do you make the most of business intelligence? Following are five tips:

1. Develop a Data Migration Strategy

Many companies focus on simply migrating old data from their legacy systems to the new ERP system. However, it’s important to ensure that the data in the new system supports new business intelligence capabilities. This is not possible without a strong ERP data migration strategy.

Developing a data migration strategy helps you identify and locate essential data that doesn’t exist in your legacy system. For example, your legacy system may not have the historic sales information in the format required to support advanced demand planning.

2. Understand What Insights Different Stakeholders Need

When deciding what data to migrate from old systems, we recommend focusing on both business- and technology-related data.

This is important because CIOs often have a very different vision of business intelligence than other executives. While CIOs focus more on internal support types of metrics, such as average system downtime, CFOs and COOs are more concerned with inventory levels and other more business-driven metrics.

3. Focus on Business Process Reengineering

Just because business intelligence capabilities deliver more possibilities doesn’t mean the capabilities themselves will deliver the actual results. In fact, business process reengineering is the real key to driving data insights.

Business process reengineering is important because it ensures processes are designed to ensure the right data is being captured and utilized. 

While real-time data can help you optimize your supply chain management, it can only do so if the right data is flowing to the right people.

4. Focus on Change Management (Again)

This bears repeating a third time because it’s that important. When it comes to business intelligence, change management is important because employees need to adopt new processes to enable new data insights.

For example, if you want data to drive better customer insights, then employees touching the customer experience need to be equipped to take advantage of these insights.

5. Carefully Evaluate ERP Vendors

It is important to understand whether your ERP system has robust business intelligence capabilities.

Some ERP vendors have light reporting capabilities that they oversell as true business intelligence tools. Other vendors have strong capabilities enabled by bolt-ons. Still, others have built-in business intelligence.

What Benefits are You Expecting From New ERP Software?

Most of our clients pursue ERP projects to address inefficient business processes, ineffective technologies and subpar customer service. These challenges are especially ubiquitous in companies that have experienced organic growth or growth through acquisition.

Whatever challenges your company is facing, it’s important to determine if these challenges warrant an ERP implementation. In other words, you should quantify your expected business benefits to determine if they outweigh the costs. You also should set KPIs and measure business benefits throughout the project to continually ensure the project will deliver a high ROI.

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help you develop a business case, align your company around expected benefits and measure benefits realization. We’ll help you maximize your ROI by ensuring a strong focus on benefits realization early in the project.