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How Artificial Intelligence Improves ERP Software

How Artificial Intelligence Improves ERP Software

While artificial intelligence (AI) is a relatively new technology, it has already demonstrated its disruptive potential and created a buzz in the software market. In fact, according to Gartner, as much as 80% of emerging technologies will have artificial intelligence as a key component by 2021.

Artificial Intelligence Within ERP Systems

AI allows ERP vendors to improve ERP systems using machine learning and natural-language interfaces. The AI in ERP systems provides actionable data insights enabling companies to improve their operational efficiency.

A good example of an AI-driven ERP solution is SAP Leonardo, which includes a number of microservices integrated with a cloud platform. Oracle also has introduced a number of AI-based tools for its ERP solutions, including digital assistants, advanced access and financial controls, and smart supply management.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

Another example of an AI ERP solution is Coleman AI from Infor. You can ask this bot to suggest the next offer for a certain customer, create a requisition for a particular item and help you with many other tasks.

9 Ways AI Improves ERP Software

1. Advanced Analytics

AI’s ability to work with massive amounts of data enables real-time, accurate data insights. For example, AI can analyze the buying behavior of different categories of customers, enabling you to tailor your products or services to the needs of a certain audience.

2. Warehouse Management

Artificial intelligence can test countless demand forecasting models with precision, adjusting to different types of variables, including changes in demand, supply chain disruptions and new product introductions.

For instance, BMW uses learning algorithms to track an item from the manufacturing stage until the moment it’s sold, monitoring 31 assembly lines in different countries.

3. Forecasting

AI-driven solutions can process historical data and make predictions for the future. These tools identify seasonal patterns in your business, offering suggestions on whether you should decrease or increase production.

Not only does AI reduce the costs of forecasting, but it also makes forecasting much more accurate. You can significantly reduce the risk of underproduction or overproduction, when you manufacture the right amount of inventory.

4. Financial Management

AI can automate quarterly and monthly processes and closing operations by verifying reports for accuracy and comparing account balances between independent systems.

For example, AI can categorize invoice data into different accounts and discern the difference between a phone purchase and a monthly phone bill.

5. Interdepartmental Processes

Connecting sales, inventory and accounting is not an easy task. However, AI is not afraid of massive amounts and various types of data, making it the perfect solution for creating a centralized platform.

6. Customer Service

If your company does field service, AI can use information about performance evaluations and employee qualifications to schedule service calls and assist with planning.

7. Production Processes

When integrated with an ERP system, AI can detect inefficient processes and suggest a solution that will cut costs.

AI also can identify processes that use too much energy. It enables predictive diagnostics, minimizing the waste of resources.

8. Human Resources

Another advantage of AI-enabled ERP software is that it can be proactive. For example, it can detect what employees need a raise. In addition, it can analyze data on the skills and experience of applicants, expediating the recruiting process.

9. Sales Automation

Chatbots powered by AI not only help customers but also conduct the whole sales triangle. Now, bots can cope with segmentation and provide responses in real time.

Should You Select an ERP System With AI Capabilities?

While ERP systems have always been able to integrate various functions within an organization, AI takes this integration to the next level. It does this by analyzing large amounts of data, making predictions and suggesting next steps.

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help your company select an AI-enabled ERP system that increases your operational efficiency and improves your customer experience.

About the Author
Ester Brierley is a competent QA Engineer in a software outsourcing company. Also, she is a virtual assistant and a seasoned content creator for College-Writers, and knows the secret for balancing freelancing and her full-time job.

Note: The inclusion of guest posts on the Panorama website does not imply endorsement of any specific product or service. Panorama is, and always will remain, completely independent and vendor-neutral.

The e-Commerce Conundrum: In-house vs. Third-party Shipping

The e-Commerce Conundrum: In-house vs. Third-party Shipping

As the e-commerce industry shifts from global to international, efficient shipping processes become vital for business success and continuity. If you’re looking to expand your shipping and delivery infrastructure, choosing the right e-commerce shipping model can help you lay a steady business foundation that promotes a positive customer experience.

In-house Shipping vs. Third-party Shipping

In-house shipping is a delivery model that places all shipping responsibilities on the business. Any task that relates to the delivery infrastructure is managed in-house by the personnel of the company. Often, companies that opt for the in-house shipping model operate their own storage facilities and vehicle fleets.

Third-party shipping is a delivery model that enables companies to delegate some or all delivery tasks to a third-party provider. From delivery fleets, fulfillment centers, packing and storage, to technological solutions—third-party delivery companies provide products and services designed to make shipping operations easier for business owners.

2019 Top 10 Distribution ERP Systems Report

Find out what ERP vendors made the Top 10 list this year!

If you are equipped to handle in-house shipping, you may reap the sweet fruits of your labor. Otherwise, you might benefit from delegating the responsibility to those that can make it profitable for you.

Know Your Supply Chain

Supply chains are the foundation of the delivery ecosystem and can either make or break a business. Unfortunately, supply chains are also very complex to create. The supply chain contains every aspect of making a sale, from the raw material of the product, the design process, the storage facility, the wrapping, delivery and any stage in the process until the product reaches its ultimate destination—the consumer.

Delivery is present at many stages of the supply chain. Any delay in the delivery, even the smallest, may disrupt the entire process and the supply time. To keep customers happy, supply time should be as promised with an emphasis on fast and scheduled delivery.

In-house Shipping—Control Your Supply Chain

Pro: Ultimate Control

Keeping shipping in-house enables companies to create their own delivery infrastructure. When you create every aspect of your supply chain, you are better able to improve business operations. You can continually improve deliveries and ensure that logistics are managed in accordance with the needs of the company.

Con: Operational Complexity

There are many things that can go wrong with in-house shipping. Inadequate delivery personnel can cause delivery losses or bad customer experience—which often result in monetary loss for the company. Inefficient management can turn daily delivery operations into a nightmarish mess in which orders get lost, forever buried in a poorly managed email account or incompatible CRM software.

Third-party Shipping—Monitor Your Supply Chain

Pro: Increase Efficiency

Prioritizing tasks can help you ensure each aspect of the business is run at capacity. You can do that by evaluating the company resources. If you don’t currently have the experience and skills needed to run a delivery operation in-house, you can hire an expert or choose among the many third-party service providers.

Nowadays, there is a third-party solution for almost any delivery need—from drop shipping, fulfillment centers, delivery trucks and storage facilities.

Con: No Flexibility

Most third-party shipping services come at fixed models and fixed prices. You have no control over the design of the delivery infrastructure, and you’re paying to use the service as is. While this model provides a solution for companies looking to scale slowly without incurring setup overhead, it doesn’t allow for much modification, if any.

Know Your Tech

It is almost impossible to run a business efficiently without the use of advanced technology. The technology you choose should fit your company’s unique business processes. Your ERP software should support you and not the other way around. Technology, after all, is intended to make life easier for people.

In-house Shipping—Design Your Tech

Pro: Ultimate Flexibility

One of the pluses of an in-house shipping model is the ability to customize the delivery technology solution according to your current IT infrastructure, or to choose a suite of solutions that integrate well with your existing ERP systems.

When you have control over the technology, you have control over the data. Data can be analyzed and turned into insights that improve business continuity and drive more sales.

Con: IT Overhead

Technology doesn’t manage itself. It needs professionals who understand it and have the skills to monitor, maintain and manage it. While IT talent doesn’t come cheap, it’s often an investment that pays off in the long term. Outsourcing IT often results in long wait lines to get proper support and fixed solutions that may not be right for your company.

Third-party Shipping—Use Their Tech

Pro: Enhanced Functionality

The technology provided by third-party shipping services usually comes with all the bells and whistles. These companies have a lot of experience and have spent substantial resources on efficient technologies. From delivery route optimization for faster delivery to smart tracking and live alert for customer convenience, third-party shipping services provide the full delivery experience.

Con: Fixed Infrastructure

While many third-party shipping providers can integrate with existing systems, they are usually ready-made technology products. You can’t make any changes to the system or customize it to fit the needs of your company. For better or worse, you can only use the system as it is offered by the third-party provider.

Know Your Budget

The budget is the heart of the company. It’s in every company’s best interest to ensure the budget supplies money efficiently to all departments. The importance of a budget for delivery purposes can be determined according to the type of business and the volume of deliveries the business is estimated to draw or currently sustains.

In-house shipping is a hefty undertaking that adds lines over lines to the delivery budget. The total monthly expense of in-house shipping is made up of many variables—from vehicle costs such as insurance and maintenance, employees costs such as wages and training, and storage facility costs such as space and equipment.

In-house Shipping—Govern Your Budget

Pro: Cheap at Scale

By managing shipping operations in-house, you gain full control over your budget. Yes, there’s a level of control in choosing a third-party provider. The difference lies in the ability to make changes at every level of the delivery infrastructure.

If a certain vehicle is proving to be expensive in lease and maintenance, you can replace it with another model to reduce costs. For example, a vehicle running on a hybrid engine can reduce fuel costs. In-house shipping enables you to improve every aspect of the delivery budget and continually reduce costs.

Con: High Set Up Costs

Before you can get to a point in which you’re running a profitable and efficient delivery machine, you need to set it up. As with every endeavor, the initial costs of getting the operation up and running can be expensive. The exact sum varies from business to business, so be sure to create a comprehensive estimation of the initial capital needed to set up your delivery operation. While online research is always good, it doesn’t replace an individual evaluation of the numbers as they apply to your company.

Third-party Shipping—Maintain Your Budget

Pro: Scalable Costs

If you have no experience in delivery operations or no desire to take part in that aspect of the business, you can take advantage of the services offered by third-party shipping providers. Often, third-party delivery providers help e-commerce owners start small and scale slowly by eliminating the need for setup capital. Often, third-party delivery services help e-commerce owners run a one-person business, further reducing the costs usually allotted for staff.

Con: No Transparency

When you outsource delivery tasks, you aren’t able to control how the budget is handled. You pay a monthly fee for the use of the service. You can’t know how much of the money goes towards training the drivers, vehicle costs or administration. You forfeit that right in favor of using a pre-existing infrastructure. Be sure to choose a third-party provider that can be a trusted partner for the long term.

Bottom Line—Know Your Business

Choose a delivery model that fits your business. Consider your business resources—including talent, tech and money. If you’re running a one-person e-commerce show, third-party providers can help you clear time for more important priorities. If you’re looking to improve your existing delivery ecosystem, you can integrate to a third-party solution. You can also go with a hybrid model that incorporates the strengths of both.

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help your company determine a delivery strategy that continually improves your bottom line.

 

Written by Limor Wainstein. Limor is a technical writer and editor at Agile SEO, a boutique digital marketing agency focused on technology and SaaS markets. She has over 10 years’ experience writing technical articles and documentation for various audiences, including technical on-site content, software documentation, and dev guides. She specializes in big data analytics, computer/network security, middleware, software development and APIs.
Note: The inclusion of guest posts on the Panorama website does not imply endorsement of any specific product or service. Panorama is, and always will remain, completely independent and vendor-neutral. If you are interested in guest blogging opportunities, click to read more about our submission guidelines.
ERP Data Migration and Cleansing Tips

ERP Data Migration and Cleansing Tips

What’s one of the most important questions to ask before beginning ERP implementation?

Is our data clean?

If your answer is no, you’re not alone. Most companies have data spread across multiple platforms and formatted in various ways. Our advice to these companies is to cleanse and import data before implementation to ensure their ERP software delivers accurate, real-time data. Proactive data migration also ensures minimal downtime at go-live and reduces the duration of operational disruption.

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.

However, ERP data migration is easier said than done. Most ERP vendors do not take responsibility for data migration or cleansing because it’s extremely costly. Therefore, your ERP project team must take on this responsibility.

Contents

5 Ways Data Issues can Cause ERP Failure

The perfect analogy to describe what an ERP system’s function is for a business is the heart to a human body. If the ERP system is the heart, then data is the blood moving from one part of the business to another – all flowing from and returning to the ERP system.

When data issues exist in your system, there are several ways this can cause ERP failure. Like the importance of blood in the human body, data cleanliness and integrity are essential for a successful ERP project.

Unfortunately, many ERP vendors exclude data migration from their deliverables. As such, it’s not surprising that 41% of respondents in our 2019 ERP Report reported that data issues caused their ERP project to run over-schedule. We also have seen data issues contribute to budget overruns.

So, how do data issues slow down an ERP implementation and propagate unexpected costs?

1. Your Integrations can Fail

If your business operations rely on partner data, such as shipping information, gift card balances or currency exchange rates, you probably have a few integrations to your enterprise resource planning system. When the data being passed back and forth between your ERP solution and a third party is unclean, it can cause your integrations to fail.

For example, let’s say your shipping methods are “Next Day” and “Standard Ground.” However, your shipping carrier has methods called “Next Day Air” and “Next Day Air Freight.” If your ERP system’s data is too specific (or in this example, not specific enough), the carrier might send back data that your system cannot accept. This will cause any records attempting to be created to error out. Your integration might attempt once more to create the failed records, and the cycle repeats itself. This can cause system performance to decrease and can slow down your ERP implementation process making it run over-schedule. Even though you’ve already gone live, the project recovery process still counts toward your total implementation duration.

We help companies avoid integration issues by preparing them for data conversion before implementation. This preparation involves developing a data strategy, defining the scope of data conversion and determining a data conversion approach.

2. ERP System Performance can Slow

Whether it’s from integrations attempting to repeatedly create records or from batch jobs running and erroring out, bad data can take a toll on your ERP system’s resources. This system lag can be amplified if your transaction volume is large, like during peak times in your business operations.

For example, data issues can cause a batch job to error out. Let’s say that your business runs both its master planning operations and point-of-sales operations through the enterprise system. Master planning is a system-intensive process as it accounts for many different variables like current sales, future orders and current stocking levels. For your point-of-sales operations, your registers and the ERP system need to communicate via a series of batch jobs to push the data back and forth.

If some of your future orders don’t have dates on them, the master planning job can error out. Your ERP system will continue to run the job, allocating more resources to it to balance the load. If your point-of-sales batch jobs start running at the same time, there will be minimal resources allotted to those jobs. As a result, cashiers may experience slower response times or no response at all.

Returning to the analogy of ERP software as the heart of business operations and data as the blood, when a person has a blood clot or blockage, the heart must pump even harder and expend more energy to deliver blood to the body. Sometimes, this can be fatal to a human body (or to a business).

3. Your Customer Satisfaction can Take a Hit

When your system has data issues, your customers notice. This is a data issue that has several prime examples. Consider a returning customer shopping online on your e-commerce site. She wants to buy running shoes to break in for a 5k she is running at the end of the month. She can’t remember what size in your brand fits her, so she looks up her order history to see what size she ordered in the past. Using her name and email she attempts to recall her profile, but the ERP system has duplicate records for her.

Let’s say the customer remembers her size and is ready to order. She checks the inventory levels that your site displays because a quick delivery is a key factor in her buying decision. The product seems to be in stock, so she makes the purchase.

However, it turns out the inventory levels displayed on your site were incorrect because of bad data in your system – your customer will not get her order for another two weeks. If you put yourself in her shoes, would you be a repeat customer?

Once a customer loses trust in your system’s data integrity, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. Consumers today rely on social media and review sites to determine where to spend their money. Disgruntled customers are more than happy to share their unpleasant encounters with the world, preventing you from gaining new customers without even interacting with them.

Improving the customer experience is an important business benefit for many companies. However, some companies do not cleanse their customer-facing data before migration. We recommend discussing data with all departments, so you can understand the various data sources and entry procedures.

If your business hopes to improve the customer experience, you should outline this goal before ERP selection so you can align every component of the project around this goal, especially the data component. Our ERP implementation methodology focuses on organizational alignment as this ensures the ERP software (and its data) support the organization’s goals.

4. Your System can Become Corrupted

Invalid data can cause your ERP system to become corrupted. Whether the data is invalid from a user error or from an automated system update, bad data can wreak havoc on your ERP system and cause functionality to behave unexpectedly.

For example, let’s say your business captures physical dimensions for products in various units of measure. You sell milk in liters and cheese in kilograms. Your ERP system has two item groups – one for liquids and another for solids. If your products are mistakenly assigned to the wrong item group, your cheese could be sold in liters, costing you money by charging much less than the quantity provided is worth.

This single mistake of assigning the wrong item group can cause a chain of downstream issues. When goods are shipped, the system may prompt the user to capture the weight in liters. As a result, all customer- and vendor-facing documentation may display orders for cheese in liters, making it confusing and even a little embarrassing to correct your ERP system’s data mistake.

5. Business Users can Make Bad Decisions

Arguably, the biggest failure that data issues can cause is allowing users to make key business decisions based on bad data. When users believe the system is correct, they don’t hesitate to order ten dozen more corrugated boxes because the warehouse inventory says they have zero on hand.

With bad data being the foundation of user decisions, inventory can be depleted or inflated. The same check to a vendor could be cut twice or not at all, causing your account standing to be damaged. Customers on an “opted out” list could be accidentally emailed by your marketing department and your company could be the target of a lawsuit. While some of these examples sound dramatic, they can be a reality if your ERP system is receiving or pumping out bad data.

Along these lines, once your business users distrust the data in the system, they will forever second guess your ERP system’s accuracy. For example, if a human resources manager denies a pay increase request for an employee because the data in the system says there is no budget, the employee might leave the company. If the human resource manager finds out later that the budget was incorrect, he or she might lose trust in the system’s data integrity.

In some companies, users distrust the data so much that they do their own data validation before making a decision, like exporting data into Excel and doing their own data massaging. This extra step of data validation outside of the system can cause inefficiencies in business processes and lead to low benefits realization.

Our ERP consulting services focus on change management during the data migration process. Designating process owners and data owners not only increases system buy-in, but it improves data integrity as these “owners” are accountable for ensuring data cleanliness and reliability.

11 Data Migration Tips

1. Assign Responsibility for Data Cleansing

There is a general misconception that the IT team can handle all the data cleaning. While there is data cleansing software, these packages can only help identify potential areas to be cleansed.

Someone still needs to know, for example, out of two different address records for a company, which one is correct. Also, someone knowledgeable needs to verify that a closing balance is in fact correct.

In most cases, the person who should cleanse these records is not in the IT department but is within the specific department that owns these records. These are called data owners, and they are critical for establishing standards and guidelines to maintain quality data.

IT staff should assist data owners by identifying the data flow, integration points where the data is being updated and what data sources exist.

Examples of Data Needing Cleansing

  • Duplicate customer or supplier accounts
  • Master data that isn’t classified with a common taxonomy
  • Blank description fields for products
  • Old product codes no longer in use
  • Data for a customer that has gone out of business
  • Critical data in Excel that is not in your system of record

2. Remove Duplicate Data

Duplicate items can be identified in two main ways: 1) Direct duplicates include two or more items possessing the same manufacturer name, part number and description. 2) Fit-form-function duplicates include two or more items that possess different manufacturer names and part numbers but have the same fit, form and function.

3. Don’t Migrate All Your Data

Companies continue to persist in the idea that they can migrate all the data from the legacy system over to new ERP software, and the software will somehow magically scrub and standardize it. That’s just not the case.

If you’re moving to a new house, would you put trash and clutter in the moving truck? Probably not, so when you’re moving to a new ERP system, you don’t need to bring over every single piece of data. Some of this data is unclean, unnecessary or pure junk.

The more useless data you bring over, the harder time you will have finding the data you really need, which can delay go-live.

Companies tend to hoard data, believing that someone, somewhere down the line just might need that one nugget of information. An ERP project is a great opportunity to clean house.

4. Determine What Data to Migrate

This can depend on what industry you’re in and your forecasting needs. Determining what data is important should be a collaborate effort that involves all departments.

5. Determine Resource Requirements

You will need developers to convert data and data owners to review and cleanse data. In addition, you may need executives to review certain types of data. Most likely, this will include data elements that relate to the core of the organization’s culture. These may be items your organization has avoided because they seem too hard to address.

Other resources you may need include resources for change management and business process management as you likely will need to train employees on how to input, manage and analyze data once the new system is implemented.

6. Consider Industry Regulations

Different industries have different regulatory requirements. For example, some regulations restrict the ability to change and/or export certain kinds of data records, such as HIPAA with electronic medical records.

You should carefully consider your method of data cleansing (e.g., in-system vs. Excel) if your company has industry-specific regulatory requirements.

7. Consider the Data Complexities of Global Projects

In global ERP projects, you’ll encounter different systems speaking a variety of ERP languages layered on top of cultural and language differences. It is vital to identify these complexities early and communicate to your project team where you see the need for executive decisions. This will eliminate slow periods in the data conversion, allowing developers to stay engaged.

If your project is global, you also will need a signed document from the executive steering committee stating who is responsible for data at the global, regional and country level for both master and transactional data.

8. Define Taxonomies and Attributes

Most ERP systems use some sort of taxonomy to classify items. Master records must be classified correctly, completely and to a level of detail that makes the record easy to identify for search and reporting functions.

While it is not necessary to choose one particular taxonomy, it is necessary to have a taxonomy that supports your company’s business initiatives. Therefore, you should ensure your ERP consultant has experience with taxonomy selection and deployment.

Item record attributes play a similar important role. Attributes define the item and are important for successful parametric searches. Incomplete or incorrect attributes prevent items from being found, resulting in proliferation of parts and bloated inventories.

To ensure a successful ERP data migration project, we recommend extracting, normalizing and completing item attributes beforehand. Because of the sheer volume of attributes to be extracted and enriched, an automated approach is the only practical way to execute this.

9. Develop New Processes

Once the initial data cleansing is complete, you will have more data to cleanse – unless you ensure employees adopt new processes that enable data accuracy. Even though these processes may be designed for legacy systems that will soon be retired, these processes are still worth developing. Consider the fact that most ERP projects last years. Can you endure two more years of dirty data?

We recommend that companies redesign their business processes and train employees both for the future state and this interim state. Both business process reengineering and organizational change management play a critical role in maintaining data cleanliness.

10. Test Before Migrating

Discover if you’re on the right track with your data by moving data to test environments. This will be time consuming and typically requires the development of unique code. Don’t make the mistake of leaving it until the last minute.

11. Use Your Data to Make Business Decisions

With your data migrated, your new processes established and your employees on board, you can almost breathe a sigh of relief – but not quite yet. Now, you must figure out what to do with your data insights.

Companies that have their eye on realizing business benefits from their ERP systems tend to address this issue early with change management and business process management. Knowing that an ERP software solution will enable increased data visibility, forward-thinking companies take advantage of this benefit by establishing data analysis processes. These companies also spend time training employees on these new processes.

Conclusion

Data migration is not usually a priority at the beginning of an ERP project. Instead, the focus is often on planning and design, while data migration is a muddled topic that people tend to avoid.

When companies avoid or delay data migration, their new system will provide unreliable data leading to technical challenges, customer dissatisfaction, low system usage and low benefits realization.

While data migration and cleansing may add cost to an already expensive ERP project, the effort will pay for itself almost immediately through the identification of excess inventory, reduced equipment downtime and improved data insights.

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help your organization develop a data migration strategy that ensures your ERP software provides reliable data to all stakeholders from the minute it goes-live until it’s retired.

5 Tips for Prioritizing ERP Requirements

5 Tips for Prioritizing ERP Requirements

When your organization decides to implement a new ERP system, it can be an exciting time for employees. There is hope on the horizon that the tedious workarounds or functional gaps within the current system will be replaced with a better and more advanced system.

It’s likely that your employees started making wish lists as soon as you announced the ERP project. These wish lists will continue to grow until someone (likely project management) reminds the team of the project constraints.

Anyone experienced in organizational change management will tell you that excitement around a new ERP implementation is a key success factor in user adoption. While turning away employees’ wish lists due to budget or time limitations may dampen the excitement, you also must control project scope.

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.

So, how do you implement a new ERP solution while ensuring both project feasibility and employee engagement? The answer is prioritization of ERP requirements before ERP selection.

Prioritizing ERP software requirements may sound like a simple task, but when all parts of the business believe their functional requirements are the most important, you may find yourself in a stalemate. Luckily, there are several strategies you can use to help your team reach a consensus and ensure a successful ERP project:

1. Clarify the Project Goals and Scope

You may be familiar with the “project management triangle” or “triple constraint” where scope, time and cost are depicted on each corner of a triangle with quality in the center. Usually, before an ERP project has begun, all three of these constraints are already decided. While time and cost are easy to quantify as the project progresses, scope can run amok – especially when it comes to meeting business requirements.

It’s because of this scope ambiguity that project kick-offs are important. With all team members (business users, analysts, ERP consultants, stakeholders, etc.) present, you should clearly define the business objective of the project and identify items that are definitely out of scope.

The goal of your project could be as simple as moving off your legacy system due to end of support or as complex as overhauling your e-commerce experience to modernize your customer service. Whatever your goal, make certain that all team members understand it, as this will minimize the amount of non-critical business requirements that arise during ERP requirements gathering.

2. Define Baseline Business Processes

Identifying the business processes that will be impacted by the ERP project helps you define project scope. In addition to identifying these processes, your team should document them as they exist in the current system. This will help establish a list of minimum requirements needed to keep the business operating.

When documenting business processes, the ERP project team should focus on business needs and not confuse current system limitations with what is truly needed. This is not the time to define future state processes but just to listen to employees’ needs.

3. Improve Your Processes

If you need to increase efficiency, break down silos or achieve another important business benefit, then business process reengineering is your new best friend. We recommend conducting business process reengineering before considering standard ERP functionality. Why before? It’s because functional areas that bring competitive advantage – such as customer service or supply chain management – should not be standardized.

Once you’ve improved the processes that differentiate your company from competitors, you can begin looking at ERP functionality. This will help you determine how to improve processes that may need to be standardized. These might be processes related to finance or human resources.

While differentiated processes should not be standardized, this is not to say that standardized processes can’t bring competitive advantage. In fact, ERP vendors spend countless dollars and hours refining system capabilities to meet the most frequently asked for features to appeal to the widest customer base. Taking advantage of a process recommended for your industry can help you to stay competitive.

4. Perform a Fit Gap Analysis

Now that you’re looking at ERP functionality, you can perform a fit gap analysis. This helps you identify where a new system fits your company’s requirements and where it doesn’t. Basically, for each requirement gathered, you should determine if each ERP system on your long list can meet the requirement natively (fit) or requires a modification (gap).

Requirements that are considered “fits” and can easily be configured are usually no-brainers when it comes to priority. Fit requirements that involve some additional effort, like a data conversion for example, can also be prioritized as these are usually easy wins for the project team.

Gap requirements, however, should be put lower on the priority list. Having a long list of gaps makes prioritization challenging, so you may want to weed through the erp requirements list to determine if the system can support these requirements in a different way than anticipated.

If there are any remaining gaps, you can justify these gaps by conducting a cost analysis. Here are some questions to keep in mind when justifying gaps:

  • What is the business impact if this requirement is not met?
    • Additional labor requirements?
    • Dollars lost?
    • Customer satisfaction impact?
    • Compliance issues?
  • Will this impact the project timeline?
    • How many hours are required?
    • Does the project have the appropriate resources to complete the work?

Based on this analysis, a cost can be associated with each gap requirement to determine if it can remain as a lower priority.

5. Classify Business Requirements

Now that all valid requirements are on the table and the gaps have been justified, the project team can classify each requirement into one of three categories: must have, value added and nice to have.

Must-have

Any requirement that falls into this bucket is mission critical. Classifying a requirement as a must-have, signifies that the business cannot operate without it.

The dollar amount determined during the cost analysis of this requirement should be subtracted from the project budget since it is assumed this requirement will be met. Continue to subtract from the overall budget as requirements fall into this category as seeing the dollar amount decrease will help the team keep perspective as to which requirements are really a priority.

Value-added

Value-added requirements are not mission critical. However, requirements that fall into this category could greatly enhance the business.

For example, let’s say your project mission is to simply replace the legacy system with new ERP software. As such, you are not designing new business processes that don’t already exist in the current system. If the current system does not have the ability to send customers an email when their online order has shipped, then this requirement is not technically within the project scope and is not a must-have requirement.

Considering that email confirmations are pretty standard in the e-commerce industry, meeting this requirement could add a lot of value to your company if you operate within this industry. That’s why this is an example of a value-added requirement.

Nice-to-have

Requirements that are classified as nice-to-have are often addressed in a later phase of the project. These types of requirements are those that are neither mission critical nor add a great amount of value to the business.

For example, a business user might want the ability to request a report that identifies the amount of late deliveries per vendor. While this data is readily available in the system, the user wants a report that provides a summary view. This would be considered a nice-to-have requirement.

When classifying requirements, we recommend keeping the project budget, timeline and scope top of mind. Also, it’s important to ensure collaboration among all departments and stakeholders, so you have a well-rounded perspective on what the business should prioritize.

What ERP System Fits Your Company Best?

The only way to answer this question is to prioritize your business requirements. This calls for organizational alignment around project goals, a clearly defined scope and, more often than not, process improvement.

Panorama’s ERP consultants are experts in business process reengineering and software selection. We can help your company find an ERP software solution that meets your highest priority requirements as well as several value-added and nice-to-have requirements.  

How Much Does it Cost to Implement an ERP System?

How Much Does it Cost to Implement an ERP System?

If your company is beginning ERP selection, you’re probably thinking a lot about cost. How much does system A cost compared to others? Does this fit within our budget? As important as these questions are, they miss the bigger picture – the total cost of ownership. In other words, how much will the implementation cost in addition to the cost of the technology itself?

A company’s unrealistic expectations regarding total cost of ownership is often the first domino to fall in an ERP failure. This leads to failure because companies end up cutting corners on activities that are critical success factors.

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Inaccurately estimating ERP project costs is more common than you might think. In fact, ERP vendors typically outline a one-dimensional estimate of implementation costs. These estimates often fail to include hidden expenses, like internal resources, external consultants and hardware upgrades.

Further, a software vendor will usually estimate implementation costs to be a 1:1 ratio between software licenses and technical implementation costs. This technical implementation cost is woefully low for most companies.

So, why do vendors make such low estimates? Sometimes, sales reps are trying to lowball their estimates to get the deal closed. Other times, sales reps do not truly know the costs required to make an implementation successful.

Contents

Common ERP Project Costs

Below are some common project costs, beyond the cost of the software itself. We recommend carefully quantifying these costs before investing in ERP software.

While these are not all the costs associated with an ERP project, they are the ones that are most likely to be overlooked during the budgeting and planning process.

1. Change Management

Many companies assume that the ERP vendor or systems integrator will handle this, but many don’t. Those that do, still require involvement from your internal employees.

Training, for example, is one component of organization change management that requires internal resources. Vendors and systems integrators will typically train the internal core team on how to use the “vanilla” software, but rarely customize the training to reflect the company’s unique software configurations and customizations.

As a result, your internal ERP project team must take charge of training activities. Not only should they customize training materials for software configurations, but they also should customize them for employees’ unique business processes.

In addition, there are a host of other change management activities that the internal ERP project team should be responsible for, including communication planning, business readiness assessments and focus groups, to name a few.

2. Business Process Management

Enterprise resource planning software presents an opportunity to standardize your operations across multiple locations and redesign processes that need improvement. This requires internal time and resources.

Don’t assume that the software will provide all the answers on how to run your business. Instead, recruit an internal team to help design your future state.

3. Resources for Backfilling

This might include contract or other employees you hire to manage the day-to-day activities of project team members who are no longer able to commit to their usual jobs.

4. Hardware and Infrastructure Upgrades

It is rare that an organization can implement a modern ERP system without a modern IT infrastructure to support it. Servers, databases, bandwidth, PCs and other components of an organization’s IT infrastructure often need to be upgraded to support the new enterprise system.

In addition, IT staff often need to be augmented with additional resources, training or outside consulting to support the new environment.

These costs are significant. Many companies implement cloud based solutions to save money on resources and infrastructure.

5. Longer Than Planned Implementation Duration

Given the amount of resources, time and money dedicated to an ERP project, even the slightest delays will affect the budget. To avoid delays, be sure your project plan includes overlooked activities, like requirements gathering, system design, testing, data conversion and interface development.

How to Scope Your ERP Project

Your project scope directly influences your project budget. While many organizations scope their project based on number of modules or number of users, we recommend considering other factors, such as the scope of change required to achieve business goals and your employees’ level of change readiness.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when scoping your ERP project:

1. Account for the complexities of your business.

Is your business relatively simple, or is your business a complex set of business processes supporting a diverse line of products? Be sure to get an independent view of your organization’s complexity when planning your ERP implementation. In other words, seek input from someone besides the person selling you the software.

Many complex businesses need a full ERP software solution that addresses all of their functional areas (human resources, supply chain management, etc.). Less complex companies may be looking for a point solution to address one specific area, like customer relationship management.

2. Focus on people and processes.

Technical activities are rarely the cause of project scoping issues. Instead, the primary causes are related to business process reengineering and change management activities. For example, failing to improve your business processes before selection can lead to unexpected costs during implementation.

3. Benchmark against other organizations.

We have all heard the anecdotal stories about what to expect from ERP projects. However, these isolated examples are rarely indicative of what the average project looks like. We recommend looking at broad sampling of organizations similar to yours to gain an understanding of what your project costs may be.

For example, our 2019 ERP Report reveals that SMBs use an average of seven full-time internal resources, and large enterprises use an average of 24 full-time internal resources. This does not necessarily mean that these people were committed 100% to the project. While some organizations may have had seven people spending half their time on the project, other organizations may have had 14 people spending a quarter of their time on the project.  

How to Control Costs

There is a fine line between cutting costs to save money and undermining the success of an EPR project. Cuts to ERP budgets that look good on paper can have disastrous consequences in the long-term.

Here are a few tips to help you control project costs without cutting essential activities:

1. Set realistic expectations.

More often than not, ERP vendors and their system integrators mismanage expectations on what total costs will look like. This makes it difficult for your company to set realistic expectations. As a result, you may end up presenting an inaccurate business case to executives.

When you realize your mistake, you may find that executives aren’t willing to increase the budget. While you may still encounter executive resistance if you have realistic expectations upfront, this is much less painful than losing your job because you set unrealistic expectations that resulted in a botched implementation.

Our ERP selection methodology helps clients develop a realistic business case. A business case should be used for more than just convincing executives to approve the project. It should also be used to prevent budget overruns.

2. Detail each of the cost components.

Setting realistic expectations requires an understanding of all essential project costs. This includes the obvious costs as well as the hidden costs: hardware upgrades, maintenance, internal resources, external consulting support, customization and a host of other budgetary items that companies often overlook or underestimate.

If you’re not sure what costs to include, we recommend developing a project plan. When we help clients develop project plans, they typically avoid incurring unexpected costs.

Once you have identified all the major cost components, you can then benchmark these line items to actual costs for companies similar to yours. Our 2019 ERP Report can be a good starting point for setting realistic benchmarks.

3. Respect the “untouchables” of your ERP budget.

There are certain, critical elements of an ERP project that should never be considered for the chopping block. One example is organizational change management. On paper, it may appear that you could save millions of dollars by removing all change management activities from your project plan. However, this doesn’t reflect the financial impact of employee resistance, project delays and other common risks of neglecting change management.

On the flip side, you will want to identify the areas that you can remove from your budget if necessary. For example, customization is one area that many companies decide not to spend too much money on, and this usually has few, if any, consequences.

As a general rule, if you want your project to be successful, then your budget should reflect a heavier focus on the business aspects of the project rather than the technical aspects.

4. Take your time during ERP selection.

Too many companies rush into ERP as if the world is going to end without it, and they don’t take the time to clearly lay out their business requirements. We recommend involving employees in requirements gathering sessions to ensure your potential ERP solution can support the most important processes from each functional area.

One of our recent clients saw significant cost savings during implementation by investing in a thorough selection process. The CFO of the organization commented that the investment in selection did not increase the total project budget because money that would have been spent later in the project was simply spent earlier.

5. Negotiate with ERP vendors.

Did you know vendors may give you a discount if you negotiate with them? It’s true!

However, this is easier said than done, so most companies that want to negotiate their ERP software contract, hire an expert. When we help clients negotiate with vendors, we provide a total cost of ownership analysis that helps clients compare software contracts. In addition, we typically conduct three to four rounds of negotiation to reduce licensing fees and implementation costs.

How Much Does ERP Implementation Cost?

If you want an accurate estimate for your project, be sure to accurately scope your project and account for some of the most overlooked costs. Panorama’s ERP consultants can help you set realistic expectations that won’t scare executives nor get you fired for causing budget overruns.

10 Communication Tools for Change Agents

10 Communication Tools for Change Agents

Although both organizational change management and innovative communication tools have been around for some time, many organizations don’t combine them. As a change agent, you can pick and choose which tools work best for you, and you can adjust them to suit the needs of your ERP implementation

First, let’s lay down some ground rules for what makes an effective communication tool for change management:

  1. The tool must help the people involved understand the change.
  2. The tool must minimize disruption without dismissing concerns.
  3. The tool must instill accountability and delivery clarity.
  4. The tool should be able to boost employee morale and drive involvement.
  5. The tool should captivate your audience and promote buy-in.

Ultimately, communications tools should help tackle common challenges of implementing new ERP software, such as resistance to change. Following are ten traditional and modern tools you can add to your change toolkit:

Traditional Communication Tools

Traditional communication formats cultivate trust with most employees as something is comforting about interacting on a non-digital level.

In fact, if you’re in the early stages of business transformation, traditional communication tools might be most effective tools you have.

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1. Bulletin Board

Put up a bulletin board where employees can post questions. Make it clear that questions will receive answers, and statements will be read and recorded.

Some companies issue different colored index cards or pins to identify which department a question comes from. This helps you provide more relevant answers.

2. Town Hall Meetings

Failing to communicate the project vision is one of the common struggles in an ERP project or business transformation. Hosting town hall meetings allows you to effectively communicate with employees at all levels of the organization.

During these meetings, clearly explain the project vision in a compelling manner. Several times throughout the meeting, open the floor to questions. If you make people wait until the end, you’ll lose them.

If employees express frustration during the meeting, offer to meet with these individuals face-to-face. This may come as a surprise to some employees – according to Forbes, less than a third of employees believe that there will be any changes based on their input.

When our clients conduct town hall meetings, they typically find that these meetings increase alignment among executives, the ERP project team and the change management team.

3. Playbooks

Playbooks help coaches guide their teams to victory, and they can help you too. Essentially, you’re telling your employees what changes are coming and how they can prepare.

The playbook should be high-level and easy to skim. It should include:

  • The project’s one-sentence goal
  • The vision statement
  • A list of the people and systems directly impacted
  • A list of the people and systems indirectly impacted
  • A list of new technology being implemented

4. One-on-one Meetings

When our consultants work with change agents, we help them develop elevator pitches appropriate for each stakeholder group. The elevator pitch can be used in one-on-one meetings to explain why the change is happening and what specifically is changing.

These meetings should occur at key milestones throughout the project. They should be two-way conversations that encourage employees to share feedback.

In our experience, one-on-one meetings can be more emotional than team meetings, so we typically help change agents develop key messaging to address various emotional responses.

Mobile Communication Tools

While you may have security concerns about mobile apps for the workplace, these apps are specifically designed with security in mind. Here a few you should consider if you want to improve your change communication:

5. Slack

Slack is well-known for its desktop software that works as a team communication hub. In Slack, you can create different boards for anything and everything.

You can tag people in conversations, nudge them and mark certain statements with a tag making them easy to find later. The nudge and tagging features can make a big difference when it comes to addressing key issues with employees.

6. Troop

Troop allows individual communication and can store the entire history of a conversation.

This app also allows you to set administrators or moderators for group chats, so you can allow teams to discuss the project but have their manager moderate the discussion.

Software Communication Tools

Innovative software usually doesn’t have too much pushback when you try to integrate it into your change program. Most of these tools are reasonably priced and require no training.

7. Calendly

It’s more of a service than a software solution, and the only person that has to do anything is you. Create an account, and then use your unique code to direct people to your calendar. If someone wants to schedule a meeting with you, they must select from one of your open time slots.

8. Gensuite

A software solution specifically for change management teams, Gensuite focuses on the impact of change. Teams can use Gensuite to plan and manage risk while working towards legal compliance.

The system is flexible and allows stakeholders to engage in different steps of the change plan. You can customize controls, restrict certain users and automate communication.

9. Redbooth

Redbooth uses a task system to restrict and direct communication. The goal with Redbooth is to restrict communication to that which is relevant to the task or project. Employees must sort, organize and tag moveable tasks to keep communication concise and avoid repetitive questions.

10. Blogin

One of the biggest struggles that change agents face is helping employees work through deep-set feelings of uncertainty. A lot of this uncertainty comes from not having access to information.

Blogin acts as an internal company blog where you can archive company knowledge. It allows staff and team members to share information, search through the information, make suggestions for additions and ask questions.

Blogin keeps information flowing without disrupting the project. It’s a great place to put meeting minutes, your change management playbook and more.

Which Tools Will Work Best for You?

Change agents know that each project requires a different approach, which is why it’s critical to have more than just a few tools on hand.

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help you build a change activation toolkit that incorporates some of the tools mentioned here and provides guidelines for developing messaging. We’ll help you proactively lead and inspire your employees to embrace change.

16 Tips for ERP Implementation Planning

16 Tips for ERP Implementation Planning

We recently hosted a webinar reviewing our 2019 ERP Report. In this webinar, Chris Devault, Panorama’s Manager of Software Selection, and Vanessa Davison, our Managing Partner, share advice based on their client experience and findings from the report. You can watch the webinar below or read the transcript below that:

Webinar Transcript (edited)

This is one of the most comprehensive reports we’ve ever done. There’s just no way we can address this whole report and the content within the hour time frame.

That said, let’s dive into the independent research we’ve done based on our benchmark survey. We’re going to provide you an overview of some of the trends we’ve seen, not only from our survey results but also from what we see while working with clients.

A Wide Range of Industries

Respondent companies represent industries like manufacturing, IT and professional services.

Some ERP consultants are very industry-specific. In contrast, Panorama focuses on a wide variety of industries, which gives clients exposure to a wider range of ERP vendors and allows us to glean best practices across industries.

For example, we have some public sector clients that operate like a business – The City of Pembroke Pines made it very clear to us that they don’t operate like a public sector entity but more like a business.

Contents

ERP Selection Tips

1. Understand Why

It’s important for companies to understand why they are going through ERP selection. One good reason to do an ERP project is to leverage technology as a competitive advantage within your industry. This is a better reason than, “Our support is ending on our current product, and we need to switch.”

Once you understand your reasons for implementing ERP, you need executive sponsorship around these reasons, and you need buy-in all the way down to end users.

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2. Document Requirements

It’s important to do requirements gathering upfront as opposed to doing it after you’ve selected an ERP vendor. At that point, you’re on the vendor’s dime, and you’re rushing to define your business requirements.

From our project recovery experience, we have found a common theme is companies waiting too long to begin requirements gathering. It’s painful work, but it ensures you implement successfully. In fact, one of our clients’ CFOs told us that spending money upfront decreases expenses during implementation.

3. Prioritize Functional Areas

Your choice of ERP software will depend on what functional areas you prioritize. Maybe you want to focus on financial management and operational management since you’re aiming to optimize your supply chain and manufacturing processes. Or you might focus on financial management and omni-channel since you’re trying to improve the customer experience within with an e-commerce platform.

Depending on your focus and the size of your company, ERP vendors have a different mix of solutions – some stand alone, some fully-integrated. Do you just want a workforce management solution, or do you want human capital management, as well? Do you want your system to include payroll, or do you want to continue to outsource it?

If your organization is prioritizing the customer experience, you’ll need a system that handles marketing and customer relationship management. Some of these systems also handle configure-price-quote.

When you’re talking about meeting customer expectations, you probably need an e-commerce platform that integrates with a core ERP system. This allows you to integrate customer data, dynamic pricing information and other real-time data with your supply chain. The retiring of Baby Boomers and the increase of the Millennial workforce is a major reason why a lot of companies are integrating e-commerce.

Some of our clients want a permanent solution, while other clients know their business is going to change and want a solution that lasts five to ten years. This decision also can influence what functional areas you prioritize.

4. Understand the Software Tiers

  • We define Tier I as systems suited for companies with $750 million or more in annual revenue. Tier I vendors target enterprise-level companies with multiple entities and complex operations.
  • Upper Tier II vendors still serve companies with multiple industries and business units, but these companies are slightly smaller.
  • Lower Tier II vendors play well with small- to mid-sized businesses that typically serve one industry with a single entity.
  • Tier III vendors include point solutions suited for startup companies.

5. Align Your People, Processes and Technology

Another important aspect of selection and implementation is strategic alignment. A clearly defined digital strategy is essential. It’s important to have a strategic roadmap with KPIs to ensure executives and middle management are aligned around the same expectations.

People and processes also must align with the defined strategy to ensure a successful project. Successful ERP projects are those that focus on improving operating processes and helping employees develop digital competencies. All too often, companies think that technology leads the project, and that’s not necessarily the case.

Organizational Change and Business Process Management Tips

1. Focus on the Customer Experience

We typically use a top-down approach to business process management, called value chain mapping. This allows companies to see processes across functional areas and business units to eliminate redundancies, improve the customer experience and generate ROI.

Amazon is a perfect example of improving the customer experience. Unfortunately, not every organization has as much to spend on technology as Amazon, but you can certainly look at them as a model.

2. Standardize Some of Your Processes

Our clients often struggle with determining what processes to standardize and which to differentiate. All too often, companies evaluate ERP solutions based on their current state, which typically is a handful of workarounds and limitations. In cases like this, companies should consider standardizing some of their processes based on best practices.

3. Define KPIs

From an operational standpoint, it’s critical to define project goals because you need some sort of success measurement, not only during implementation, but after you’ve gone live.

4. Move Beyond a Communications Plan

The way we look at change management is we meld the traditional approaches with modern times in order to enable the digital worker. A lot of traditional change management is about communicating with employees from across the organization throughout the project.

If we go to the next slide, you’ll see what our respondents did as it relates to organizational change management activities. You’ll see that communication plans are at the top.

Integrating people and processes is challenging and requires more than a communication plan. So, in addition to helping companies develop a communication plan, we help them conduct focus groups and business readiness assessments.

ERP implementations and business transformation initiatives fundamentally change an organization’s key processes and operations. As such, companies should develop a full change management plan that views change from different perspectives such as culture, structure, workflows, processes and digital awareness.

We had a client whose executives initially said, “We don’t meet change management. Please don’t mention change management activities.” Four years later, they’re behind in their implementation, so they decide to focus on change management.

ERP Implementation Tips

1. Avoid Budget Overruns

Why did respondents’ projects have budget overruns? Some of the main contributing factors relate to a lack of planning upfront – scope expansion, underestimated consulting fees and unanticipated organizational issues. Project managers and team members need to account for all of these things before ERP evaluation.

We can’t tell you how important it is to get the proper requirements gathered as you’re documenting your current state and future state. Many companies don’t have the proper requirements, and they can’t tell the story well enough to the vendor to have the vendor properly design the system.

2. Avoid Timeline Overruns

Why did respondents go over their original timeline? The timeframe was the unrealistic, and that really goes back to not properly gathering requirements. Also, respondents experienced data issues, scope expansion and organizational change management issues.

Both timeline overruns and budget overruns can be considered an ERP implementation failure.

3. Focus on Benefits Realization

Many companies think they need all this advanced functionality in order to receive benefits. However, in our experience, as companies are implementing basic out-of-the-box functionality in phase one, they are receiving all sorts of benefits. Because of the new technology, users are figuring out how to leverage information and data differently.

An example of basic functionality that delivers benefits is workflow automation. The ability to automate processes, such as a purchase order approval, makes your organization more efficient.

After a year or two of basic functionality, our clients then start to pick and choose where they want to implement advanced functionality. That’s when they’re going to realize benefits tenfold of what they’ve already seen.

4. Focus on Change Management

The key lesson learned from these project results is to focus on change management. This is because . . .  

  • Employee adoption determines the success of the ERP project. In many of our software expert witness cases, we’ve noticed that this was a key ERP failure
  • If team members are not engaged in the project, they find ways to work around the system. You don’t want to invest in technology, take the time to implement it and then have users do workarounds.

5. Determine Your Ideal Implementation Approach

Many companies in our study are choosing a phased approach by module. Another popular approach is the big bang approach. Companies with multiple locations that use this approach typically don’t go live with all locations at once but choose one or two locations with similar functionality. Many of these companies implement basic functionality all at once, which accounts for most, but not all of the ERP system.

There’s not one right approach. What we do with our clients is determine the best strategy based on unique factors, like culture and ERP project team dynamics.

6. Use ERP Consultants

The report indicated that most companies do use ERP consultants for ERP projects. Working with a consultant is like having a fresh pair of eyes since the consultant is a third party.

ERP consultants can walk into companies and ask, “Why is it being done this way?” Companies will often answer, “It’s just the way it’s always been done to work around certain people or give certain people certain positions.”

Many respondents did not use consultants for process and change management, which is interesting because in my career as a CEO, that’s what we usually used consultants for. In my experience, consultants were useful because they taught us “how to fish,” and left us with deliverables and documents that could enhance our team’s performance in the future.

7. Define ERP Success

How should you define success? That’s a very interesting question because there’s many different perspectives, and every organization is going to define success differently.

For executives, success if often about creating value for the customer, remaining competitive and achieving ROI. When you think about achieving ROI, you could achieve it from a financial perspective, but you can also achieve it via innovation and employee retention. Technology is just an enabler to all this.

From an end-user perspective, success might look like the ability to do your job more efficiently. Once people are trained on the systems, they realize the importance of data and the upstream and downstream effects.

For example, it’s very important for the sales team to capture the right amount of data around pricing. The proper input of this data has a ripple effect throughout the organization. If end users take the extra minute to populate more data fields, then other parts of the organization, like operations or finance, will benefit.

Webinar Questions and Answers

Once you choose a vendor, how long can you negotiate on pricing?

ERP Contract Negotiation is a service we provide to our clients. You can certainly take the time that you need to negotiate.

I always say that you really need to understand what software you’re purchasing. You want to make sure you’re getting a fair market price for that software and that functionality. Then, you need to line that up with your statement of work.

There are certainly negotiations that could be done around pricing and terms of service, but what our negotiation processes really flesh out is a complete understanding of the statement of work and how each of those functional areas are going to be implemented.

What amount of training is expected per employee?

One of the things that we help establish that differentiates us from the vendors is a training strategy. Many vendors have great training methods – they have videos, recordings and documentation, but these may not be specific to your application. For example, if you have some customizations or some user-defined fields, vendors’ training materials are not going to cover that.

We conduct assessments to understand the change readiness of the organization. These assessments tell us how much training is needed per employee. This could be anywhere from ten hours per employee to a full month’s worth of training. It depends on the culture and the aptitude of employees.

User training is not just training on the system. You also need training on the unique workflow of each employee.

Do you have experience working with nonprofit companies?

We actually have a lot of experience working with various nonprofit companies. If you want more information, feel free to give us a call. Public sector is absolutely one of our key strengths.

What does success look like at the different levels of an organization?

A business owner may say, “We implemented the system and went live in nine months as we anticipated.” However, an end user may say, “We went live in nine months, but I didn’t get all the functionality that I was promised during the sales cycle.”

Do ERP vendors handle product disassembly?

Most companies are building things, so most of ERP software solutions are not necessarily geared for disassembly. There’s all sorts of nuances that come into play. For example, when you’re disassembling and refurbishing an engine, you need to be able to schedule and forecast on what parts are going to be good, what parts need to be refurbished, what parts need to be scrapped and where else these parts can be used.

While it’s difficult for ERP systems to handle reverse billing materials because of the complexity, there’s certainly a handful of vendors that handle it out-of-the-box or with extended solutions.

What would success look like for somebody in finance and somebody in purchasing?

I would say somebody in finance wants access to real-time data. He wants to be able to look across the organization at what orders are coming in, what’s shipping out and so forth.

For a purchasing manager, success is about establishing best practices and automating business processes to make more optimal purchases. Some companies carry a high value of inventory, but they can achieve cost savings by reducing this inventory.

Some of our distribution customers carry a little bit more inventory because they want the ability to service their customers as a one-stop-shop. For example, when a national emergency arises, and their customers are asking for more than usual, that’s when they see the benefit of carrying a little bit more inventory.

Do you offer formal training for implementation teams that are about to embark on an ERP project?

The answer is yes, we do have formal training. If you go to our website, it’s called ERP University, and we can customize it for you. We can train you on anything from change management to process management to what to expect during an ERP implementation project.

Conclusion

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help your company set realistic expectations for its upcoming ERP project. You can gain insights from the benchmarks in our 2019 ERP Report, or you can contact us for a free consultation.

Panorama Consulting Solutions Merges With VEER Group

Panorama Consulting Solutions Merges With VEER Group

Combined Entity to Operate as Panorama Consulting Group

Denver, Colorado, June 4, 2019 – Leading independent business transformation and ERP systems consultancy Panorama Consulting Solutions has merged with VEER Group, a crisis management and corporate restructuring consultancy that specializes in working with venture-funded companies around the world. The combined company will operate as Panorama Consulting Group, broadening Panorama’s well-respected management consulting and M&A integration practice to include corporate turnaround services, financial and operational restructuring, and interim management.

Daniel Frydenlund, Founder and CEO of VEER Group stated, “The merger of these two intelligible and strong teams will lead the firm towards expansion that I have long wanted for VEER Group. I formed VEER Group with one, single goal: To help equity and debt investors in a niche market. As we work through turnaround and M&A strategies with debt and equity investors in distressed companies, the topics of disparate data and software systems, the need for selecting and implementing the right ERP software, organizational change management and business process management always surface as key focal points. Panorama brings unbiased, world-class expertise in all of these areas, and we are excited to partner with the Panorama team to leverage their expertise.”

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to add VEER Group’s services to our own client service offerings,” said Vanessa Davison, Managing Director of Revenue and Operations at Panorama Consulting Group. “Dan’s many years of experience in the private equity world are invaluable. The combination of our two firms enables our team to maximize the value we are able to add to our M&A integration and management consulting engagements. Our shared values of family-oriented culture and passion for providing organizations around the world with transformative results creates a solid and effective partnership.”

Calvin Hamler, Managing Director of Finance and Marketing at Panorama Consulting Group added, “Few things are more satisfying than helping a struggling company navigate financial and operational crises to get back on a trajectory of growth and prosperity, while maximizing returns for the debt and equity investors involved. Dan has built an amazing company, succeeding in a niche market for many years, doing just that. Our combined team will enter more vertical markets and continue to broaden our scope both domestically and internationally, which is something we’re all excited about!”

About VEER Group

Veer Group is a crisis management and restructuring consulting firm that specializes in working with venture-funded companies around the world. VEER Group provides analytical and advisory services to equity owners and lenders of distressed borrowers, as well as crisis management and turnaround services to help clients overcome complex business challenges.

VEER Group is a nationally recognized professional services firm providing merger & acquisition and business consulting services to public and private clients locally, nationally and internationally. Our commitment to client service has resulted in sustained growth. Working diligently, the best measure of our success is the success of our clients. Learn more at http://www.veer-group.com.

About Panorama Consulting Solutions

Panorama Consulting Solutions is an independent, niche consulting firm specializing in business and digital transformation and ERP system implementations for mid- to large-sized private- and public-sector organizations worldwide. One-hundred percent technology agnostic and independent of vendor affiliation, Panorama offers a phased and integrated top-down strategic alignment and a bottom-up tactical approach, enabling each client to achieve its unique business transformation objectives by transforming its people, processes and technology. Panorama’s services include ERP Selection, ERP Implementation, ERP Contract Negotiation, ERP University, Digital Strategy, Technology Assessment, Change Management, Human Capital Management, Business Process Management, Business Process Reengineering, Value Stream Mapping, M&A Integration, IT Staffing, Project Auditing, Project Recovery and Software Expert Witness Testimony. Learn more at https://www.panorama-consulting.com.

How to Assess ERP Software Scalability

How to Assess ERP Software Scalability

ERP projects can be lengthy. Depending on the scope of the project, implementation can last anywhere from six months to three years. After implementation, ERP software should support an organization for at least five to ten years. As you can imagine, choosing an ERP solution to scale with your business is an important consideration when selecting an ERP system.

Software scalability refers to a system’s ability to keep pace with your businesses’ trajectory. This means that an ERP solution should be able to take on new markets and handle exponential increases in transactional volume, workload and amount of data.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

When looking for a scalable ERP solution, we recommend asking ERP vendors about factors, such as global functionality, infrastructure options and integration capabilities. Most importantly, ask them how they address the latest technology trends, and how they can adapt to your future business needs.

To help you get started, we’ve outlined four questions to consider during ERP selection:

1. Does the ERP System Have Global Capabilities?

One way that many businesses expand is through globalization. If your company currently is in the US market but plans to expand to the rest of North America and eventually to Europe and Asia, you may want to consider an ERP system that offers a global solution out-of-the-box. Here are some considerations:

Taxes and Regulations

There are some countries for which many ERP systems have difficulty complying with their tax rules and government regulations.

For example, Brazil has one of the most complex tax systems in the world, and oftentimes ERP consultants will need to specialize in – or at a minimum – have experience with Brazilian implementations to be successful. Knowing this challenge, some ERP vendors have come up with “localizations” specific to countries to help companies doing business in other countries stay compliant.

Another example is the data localization laws in Russia. The laws require that data relating to Russian customers must reside on servers within the country. This poses a challenge for companies beginning a new ERP implementation or expanding an existing ERP system.

Other countries, like China, are adopting similar data localization laws, forcing many ERP vendors to build localizations for their customers.

Languages

If your business wants to compete in the global marketplace, it must advertise and transact in a multitude of different languages.

For example, vendor-facing documents, like requests for proposal (RFPs) or purchase orders, must be in the local language. Customizing reports for different languages can be costly and time consuming.

The same thing can be said for customer-facing documents, like sales orders and invoices. If your business maintains an e-commerce presence, this adds another layer of complexity regarding languages and translations.

Many ERP vendors today provide out-of-the-box language translations to support global customers. When assessing if an ERP system is the right fit for your business, make sure to ask about language options to prevent an unwelcome surprise when you scale your company in the future.

2. Does the ERP System Have a Scalable Infrastructure?

As your business grows, you want your ERP system infrastructure to be able to grow with you. This may look different depending on your IT infrastructure:

Cloud Scalability

It’s easy to change the specs of your underlying cloud infrastructure by talking with your cloud service provider (CSP). Some CSPs, like Microsoft or Amazon Web Services, offer different subscription plans based on your business needs. They can also see your transactional volume and tune your virtual machines accordingly to give you high performance.

The ability to scale has become even easier today with SaaS ERP systems. The CSP assesses your unique situation to determine how many database servers you need with what specs. This is just one of many advantages of SaaS ERP systems.

On-premise Scalability

If your organization must keep its technology on-premise, there are still some scalable ERP solutions available. Consider ERP systems that tune performance based on the number of servers dedicated to it. This allows your business to procure additional servers to accommodate larger transactions sets.

Scaling on-premise infrastructures is doable but more costly compared to scaling cloud solutions. Data storage, for example, is more costly in an on-premise system, especially when you’re dealing with a large amount of data.

3. Does the ERP Vendor Have a Futuristic Outlook?

The ability for employees to perform tasks from mobile devices is becoming the norm, and if your company doesn’t already allow this, there’s a high chance it will need to in the future. ERP systems that offer mobile solutions and integrate with IoT and machine learning are considered on the visionary end of Gartner’s scale.

Even if an ERP solution does not have these capabilities built in, an ERP vendor should at least have these ideas on their roadmap. If an ERP vendor can’t speak to their future vision in relation to these technology trends, it is a red flag that their software might not be scalable for your business.

Many companies we work with have a futuristic outlook, so they are looking for an ERP vendor that does, as well. We recommend conducting business process reengineering before ERP selection, so you know what the future state of your business looks like and can find an ERP vendor that meets your needs.

4. Does the ERP System Have Adaptability?

During ERP selection, adaptability is a key factor to keep in mind. Even though your organization may not take advantage of all the features offered by the software immediately due to budget constraints, there may come a time in the future that you will.

ERP software that has feature sets across a wide variety of industries can be helpful in the future, as you may be able to use some components to meet your new requirements – as opposed to purchasing a third-party software for a specific need.

If you plan to expand your company’s business model and offer different products or new services, here are some ERP selection considerations:

Business Model Expansion

Perhaps your current business model is only for the manufacturing and sales of a certain product, but in the future, you want to expand to offer installation services, as well. Your current ERP system may not have a services module or feature set that will allow you to take advantage of this without disrupting your current manufacturing processes. You could purchase another software package to handle selling and providing the installation services, but eventually your disparate systems will need to exchange data. This requires a custom (and expensive) interface and an internal or external IT team dedicated to database management.

The ability to add new features or modules without affecting current business processes is a key indicator of whether an ERP solution will scale with your business.

Easy Integrations

Another feature to keep in mind when selecting an ERP system is the ease of integration. Luckily, ERP vendors today often partner with third parties to build “plug and play” connectors that provide holistic solutions to customers, especially for certain industries.

For example, several ERP systems that cater to the retail industry have pre-built credit card payment connectors that allow businesses to accept credit card payments. If your business doesn’t accept credit card payments now, but you have plans to in the future, then asking about potential connectors is a wise choice.

Realistically, every ERP system will not have pre-built connectors for every interface requirement. Asking about the ease of building custom integrations is important, as it’s very likely you’ll need to build one in the future. You might bring a new vendor into your business environment, or your reporting requirements may change from sending PDFs to a form of electronic exchange. Whatever the need is, finding an ERP solution that will allow you to easily integrate with outside systems will help you to scale in the long term.

Workforce Expansion

If your company plans to make any acquisitions or push for a big hiring campaign, you’ll need to determine if the ERP system can handle a large increase in users.

Every ERP vendor markets their software based on the size of the business supported. For example, Workday caters to giant enterprises, while SAP Business One targets small- to medium-sized business.

When vetting your ERP choices, it’s good to be realistic in your predictions of the future. You don’t want to pay for hundreds of extra licenses if you will never use them.

What Can Change in Ten Years? A lot!

An ERP system should last your organization at least ten years. During this time, your company likely will go through some major changes. It’s important to determine if an ERP system can support these changes, before you select and implement it.

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help your company assess the scalability of various ERP solutions based on our experience working with growing, innovative companies.

The Truth About ERP Project Teams

The Truth About ERP Project Teams

If you’re considering an ERP implementation, you’re probably not enjoying the process of obtaining budget approval. Executives have a litany of questions, some of which you aren’t prepared to answer.

While you can’t anticipate all of their questions, we will help you answer one of executives’ most common questions: “Who needs to be on the ERP project team, and how much time will they need to dedicate to the project?”

Providing a detailed answer will require an understanding of what it takes to build a winning core team.

Contents

Who Should be on Your ERP Project Team?

Depending on the size of the organization and the scope of your project plan, your team might range anywhere from 15 members to just a few. At minimum, you need representation from each of your organization’s functional areas. Look for people who understand multiple parts of the business, not just their own little world.

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Transformation

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

If you’re using ERP consulting services, the consultants likely will recommend that you secure a certain level of commitment from certain internal groups in order to augment external resources. Leveraged appropriately, the following groups can facilitate a more effective ERP selection, implementation and/or business transformation:

1. Executives

Every successful ERP project needs an engaged executive team. Executives must be ready and willing to kick-off the project and remain active participants.

It’s important to have an executive sponsor for your ERP project. This person will be heavily involved in the selection and implementation process, giving guidance when difficult decisions arise. Executive sponsors will encourage employee buy-in by displaying unwavering commitment to the ERP project.

2. IT Team

Your IT team will be essential, not just in implementation, but also in maintaining your ERP system. An ERP project should be a collaborative endeavor, where your IT team is heavily involved. If your IT team is lacking in the skills or knowledge necessary to handle this responsibility, consider training opportunities to bring them up to speed.

3. HR Team

You might not know it, but the human resources professionals that you employ might be some key contributors to your ERP project. HR professionals can help you obtain external resources for the ERP project. Many companies need external resources for backfilling.

In addition, HR has their ear to the ground and will often know about the roadblocks employees encounter. This is helpful for identifying pain points as well as processes that are redundant or inefficient. Your HR department also can be of great assistance with organizational change management.

4. Employees who can Help With ERP Selection

ERP selection involves requirements gathering. Your project team can prepare employees for requirements gathering sessions by developing workshop guides, which get employees thinking about their processes. The project team also is responsible for conducting requirements gathering sessions and ensuring all essential requirements from all departments are documented and prioritized.

ERP selection also involves business process reengineering and ERP vendor demonstrations. Your project team can ensure the right people are involved in these activities. While these people may not be project team members, they should be heavily involved in the selection process. Involvement facilitates project buy-in and organizational alignment.

5. Employees who can be Change Agents

Change agents are team members across the organization who support your ERP implementation strategies and goals. The most important change agent is the project manager. This point person should be capable of leading the project team and demonstrating accountability and transparency.

Change agents are responsible for communicating goals and status updates to employees. Change agents create excitement and help diffuse rumors by being accessible and willing to answer questions.

6. Employees who can Manage Training

Other change agents are the team members responsible for training. They often take on the role of the “super user,” – people who not only buy into the change, but who also know how to make the most of the new system.

Super users might host workshops or provide personalized instruction and assistance to ensure employees are ready and able to operate the new ERP solution. While super users don’t replace formal training, they make it comfortable for employees to ask questions.

Project Team Personality Traits

Organizations must identify skill sets and personality traits that contribute to business transformation success. Professors Kenneth Benne and Paul Sheats published a study, Functional Roles of Group Members, in which they identified key personality traits that contribute to strong teams. Here are five of those personality traits:

1. The Cheerleader

This team member should encourage other project team members to participate and recognize them for their contributions. This role is useful for encouraging engagement on both the project team and throughout the organization.

2. The Peacemaker

This member helps project team members reach a consensus when compromise is necessary. Peacemakers focus on the success of the organization as a whole. This role is useful when defining and prioritizing business processes.

3. The Sergeant-at-Arms

This member ensures the project team meets deadlines and expectations while adhering to the organization’s core values. This role can help develop strong project controls and governance and gently remind team members of these guidelines.

4. The Good-Humor Man

This member helps relieve the tension and anxiety of business transformation. The right amount of jest can lighten the mood and reenergize team members.

5. The Contrarian

This member is a critical thinker and innovator who is not afraid to share their opinion. This role can challenge project team members to think about the project from a people and process perspective instead of a technical perspective. The contrarian can also ensure that the project team preserves the organization’s competitive advantage during business process management. They are long-term thinkers who can help align the ERP project with the organizational vision.

How to Build an ERP Project Team

It is important to start building your ERP implementation team before ERP selection to avoid falling into the trap of poorly resourced teams, lack of representation from key business areas or low accountability. Below are a few things to consider when assembling your project team:

1. Seek Executive Sponsorship

Executives can have a strong influence on who is selected to serve on a project team so it’s critical that executives are on board with the goals of the project. The project manager is responsible for ensuring that executives are well-aware of project scope, project budget and project resource requirements – and aligned in terms of overall goals and project priority – so that executives can make informed decisions when helping project managers choose team members.

2. Look for Strong Communicators

Some organizations build their project team based on who they believe to be the smartest or most technically skilled. While technical expertise and operational knowledge are important, communication skills are also valuable, especially when the project team must execute a change management plan.

Communication is also essential during requirements gathering. Team members will need to be vocal during this phase to ensure the business requirements from their department are represented. Ensuring all business requirements are met in the new ERP system is essential for ERP selection.

3. Make the ERP Implementation the Team’s Top Priority

At key points throughout the project, your project team may need to devote their entire focus to the ERP project rather than their day jobs. In a perfect world, the project team would be fully dedicated to the project during these times, but that’s not feasible for most organizations.

Project managers and executives must help the project team prioritize work, so the project is a top priority. Some organizations staff their project teams with a certain amount of external resources to ensure project team members can more fully focus on the ERP project.

If your organization’s communication about the project have been sparse, your project team probably doesn’t understand the importance of the project’s success. Overcome this hurdle by taking the time to talk to address concerns on an individual basis before assigning responsibilities. If some of your staff are already up to their ears in another major project, respect the preexisting situation and try to limit their involvement in the ERP project until the time is right.

4. Clearly Define Roles, Responsibilities and Accountability Measures

Project team members should be assigned responsibilities in accordance with their strengths, experience level and bandwidth. Begin defining roles and responsibilities at the beginning of the project to ensure accountability and representation from key business functions. Responsibilities can include anything from process definition to end-user training.

You can use a project charter to assign responsibilities for each phase of the project. The project charter defines exactly who is responsible for what as well as how decisions should be made and how issues should be resolved.

In addition to defining what team members are responsible for, you also should define what they’re not responsible for. For example, final sign-off on future state business processes and decisions about the organization’s operational model should not be driven by the project team but the executive steering committee. In several of our expert witness engagements, we have seen steering committees delegate everything to the project team.

5. Avoid Bad Hires

Not only can a bad hire derail an ERP project by not performing their duties, but they can impact the attitude of other employees. These employees may already be on edge because of organizational changes when a bad hire comes along and gives them another reason to resist change.

Many companies don’t know how to hire for an ERP project. They don’t know what questions to ask, how to evaluate technical skills or how to assess cultural fit. Panorama’s IT Staffing services help organizations overcome this hurdle. We offer a flexible array of contract, contract-to-hire and permanent placement services.

How to Find a Good ERP Project Manager

If a company has a weak project manager, no one knows who is responsible for what or whether progress is being made. Here is a list of five qualities a project manager must possess for your ERP project to succeed:

1. Organized

People waste time when they are hunting for lost emails or switching between devices to find what they need. Being organization not only increases efficiency but helps make and reinforce good impressions.

Every workplace has at least one desk that is heaped with files. If keeping a desk tidy is difficult for your project manager, how are they going to handle more complex tasks?

2. Punctual

Punctuality sets the tone for organizational conduct. If a project manager is late to meetings or misses deadlines, this sets the tone for all employees. The best project managers are always early. “I didn’t have time,” is never an unacceptable answer unless there was an extenuating circumstance.

3. Transparent

When project managers are upfront with employees about the status of the ERP project, it helps build trust between management and employees. Additionally, making information available to all employees empowers them to make better decisions and produces a product of higher quality.

Closely related to transparency is receptivity toward the thoughts and opinions of employees. The best project managers listen to the people who are in the weeds, performing the details of a much bigger picture.

4. Experienced in Your Industry

Given the choice between a fledgling project manager with deep industry knowledge or an experienced project manager with shallow industry knowledge, choose the former.

A project manager must have industry experience in order to ask detailed questions about business processes and methodologies. Project managers with no industry experience may have a high-level understanding of how things operate but almost everyone in the company should possess that knowledge anyway. When a project manager understands the inner-workings of an industry, fewer blind spots exist.

5. Communicative

When people do not know what is expected of them, this indicates the project manager is not doing their job. For a successful ERP project, every employee needs to understand their role and should be held accountable.

The best project managers hold status meetings to keep tabs on the progress of various tasks. If a team member needs help completing a task, they can ask during these meetings. Status meetings are also helpful in keeping everyone motivated because employees can see how the project is progressing towards its goals.

What Other Internal Resources Will You Need?

1. Executive Steering Committee

This group includes executives and members of the board of directors. The steering committee communicates the importance of the project and explains how it supports the organization’s mission and vision. The committee also participates in milestone meetings regarding software recommendations, organizational alignment and organizational change management.

In addition, the committee helps select project team members in accordance with the project scope, budget and resource requirements. The steering committee has a good understanding of project goals and organizational vision, so their input is valuable when choosing project team members.

While some department managers may be resistant to lending resources, your steering committee can work with them to ensure the right resources focus on the ERP project when necessary.

2. Subject Matter Experts

Much like the project team, this group includes representatives from each functional area. Subject matter experts participate in requirements gathering, requirements validation and vendor demonstrations. These are your “super users,” “change agents” and advocates for your project.

3. Change Management Team

Without the contributions and encouragement of a change management team, the ERP project team would most likely be overwhelmed by project fatigue and conflicting priorities. The change management team is responsible for working with third-party implementation partners to develop strategies that address communication, training and benefits realization.

5 Roles of a Change Management Team

1. Leading by Example

The change management team should not only communicate that the ERP project is a priority, they also should demonstrate this in their actions and decisions.

There’s no doubt that the team will have to make tough decisions, such as postponing or suspending another initiative outside of the ERP project. In order to make such decisions, the team needs to understand the pressures of competing priorities and be able to communicate their concern to the project team.

2. Recognizing Achievements

When the project team loses sight of priorities, reinforcing these priorities through recognition of effort goes a long way. The change management team should regularly acknowledge and celebrate the work being done and sacrifices being made by the project team, SMEs and end-users.

3. Promoting Accountability

Speaking to project team members about their responsibilities will reinforce their accountability to each other and to the organization as a whole. The change management team should encourage team members to hold each other accountable and to voice disagreements constructively.

Regular meetings are a great way to lay everything on the table for discussion and to encourage the project team to come to a consensus. Once a consensus is reached, the change management team should ensure everyone understands the shared responsibilities and reinforce overall expectations.

4. Including Change Agents

Change agents may be a part of the change management team, or they may just serve as liaisons between the project team and end-users. Either way, change agents can redirect employees’ attention to what really matters – the goals and objectives of the organization as a whole and their individual role in the success of the project.

5. Communicating Effectively

Organizations should staff their change management teams with strong verbal and written communicators. Team members should be empathetic but persistent.

What About Outsourcing?

Project managers walk a fine line between the use of internal resources and external resources. A lack of external resources can mean limited expertise. On the other hand, a lack of internal resources can mean poor project ownership and a lack of organizational alignment. Only internal stakeholders can make the ultimate decisions on how your business will run going forward. 

It’s no secret that ERP projects require a dizzying array of skills and competencies. Organizations embarking on business transformations are hard-pressed to assemble project teams that have a vision for how the business can evolve, have business process reengineering and change management competencies, and have a host of other skill sets that are difficult for most organizations to develop internally.

Because of the challenges associated with assembling such a rare and broad set of collective skills, many organizations turn to outside resources to augment their internal skills. Here are a few considerations to help you determine when it may be most appropriate to outsource your ERP project:

1. Focus on People and Processes

It can be easy to take a myopic view of ERP projects, focusing almost exclusively on finding external pinch-hitters with software-specific functional and technical expertise. While these skills are important, they are also somewhat of a dime a dozen. Let’s face it: compared to the people and process aspects of an implementation, configuring and implementing ERP systems are fairly cut and dry propositions.

The business components of implementations – such as change management, project management and business process reengineering – are much more difficult. These skill sets are harder to find. When looking for outside help, it is critical to find a partner that has a comprehensive skill set and a strong ERP implementation methodology.

We’ve found through our implementation and expert witness experiences that ERP success and ERP failure typically has very little to do with how well technical aspects were handled during the project.

Instead, success or failure is more commonly determined by how the business components of a project are handled. While the technical skills may seem more specialized and therefore more important – especially if you’re a CIO or IT manager – it’s actually the more intangible areas that will determine your project’s success or failure.

2. Don’t Outsource Everything

Some companies take more of a hands-off outsourcing approach. While you certainly want to rely on outside assistance wherever it makes sense, you won’t be successful if you don’t step up to the plate to provide a minimum level of internal support and skill sets.

For example, outside consultants – no matter how talented they may be – can’t make decisions about how to run your business for you. In addition, they can’t tell you if the designed and delivered enterprise resource planning system does exactly what you want it to. Only people within your organization can provide these inputs.

Therefore, it is important to identify and recognize those skills and responsibilities that your internal team should provide versus those that can be outsourced to outside parties.

3. Look for the Biggest Gaps

It can be helpful to conduct a gap analysis of the required skills versus the skills you currently possess in-house. The biggest gaps are going to be the ones that you’ll want to outsource to ERP consultants and other external resources.

An independent ERP consultant can be a smart addition to your team. A consultant will often see trends or risks before other members of the team, since they are not caught up in day-to-day activities. Often, teams with previous experience implementing an ERP system, may have a false sense of security. The world of ERP software is dynamic and ever changing.

What’s Your Project Scope?

Your project team structure mostly depends on the scope of your project. Is it simply an ERP implementation or is it a broader business transformation?

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help you determine the scope of your project and the degree of organizational change entailed. This insight will guide the structure and size of your project team.

Cloud vs. On-premise ERP Security: The Advantages and Disadvantages

Cloud vs. On-premise ERP Security: The Advantages and Disadvantages

In a matter of a few years, IT departments across most industries have fully embraced cloud computing and its benefits. While cloud computing is popular, is it secure?

It is often a huge headline in the news when an organization’s ERP software is comprised due to a cloud security breach. This negative press was once the motivating factor for organizations to stay on-premise, but with the overwhelming advantages of moving to the cloud, businesses are making the move in order to stay competitive.

While moving from an on-premise infrastructure to a cloud-based one shifts some of the responsibility from the organization’s IT department to the cloud service provider (CSP), security remains a focal point for which both parties should bear responsibility.

Understanding who is responsible for which security measures is crucial to keeping your organization’s data safe in the cloud. According to Gartner, “In nearly all cases, it is the user – not the cloud provider – who fails to manage the controls used to protect an organization’s data.”1

This is similar to what we’ve found in our ERP implementation experience – people, not technology, determine the success of an ERP project. We’ve seen all different aspects of ERP implementations – including security – fail based on a lack of organizational alignment between people, processes and technology.

In fact, our 2019 ERP Report shows that more than a third of organizations experienced budget overruns due to organizational issues, and more than half of organizations experienced timeline overruns due to organizational and/or training issues.

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.

Whether you are currently using cloud computing, are planning to a move to the cloud or are staying on-premise, it’s important to know the difference in security design. Below we’ve outlined the key differences between on-premise and cloud security, as well as some of the advantages and disadvantages to both.

Differences Between On-premise and Cloud Computing

1. Ownership of Responsibilities

The biggest difference between on-premise and cloud security design is the amount of responsibility that rests on the organization itself. With an on-premise infrastructure, a business is responsible for ERP system security from end to end. They procure the servers where the data will be housed, build and manage the firewalls used to control access to the network and control the ability to query and extract data from the system.

In a cloud world, these security responsibilities are shared between the organization and the cloud service provider (e.g. Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure). This is often referred to as the “shared responsibility model.” Depending on what type of service a cloud customer is subscribed to, the security responsibilities of the customer differs:

Infrastructure as a Service

In the case of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), cloud customers are not responsible for physical elements, such as the actual hardware that applications are hosted on or data centers. Instead, they need only to manage the provisioning of virtual machines, secure the virtual network and monitor all applications and interfaces within the network.

Platform as a Service

When it comes to platform as a service (PaaS), the cloud service provider inherits additional security responsibilities. Since the customer is now paying for an entire platform, as opposed to only the cloud infrastructure, the CSP now manages the duties listed for IaaS as well as the provisioning of virtual machines and securing the virtual network. The cloud customer is still responsible for their data, monitoring their interfaces and securing their applications.

Software as a Service

For software as a service (SaaS), the CSP is responsible for all the previously mentioned duties for IaaS and PaaS, plus they are responsible for the application itself. This makes sense as now the cloud customer is paying to use the CSP’s application hosted on their platform and cloud infrastructure. In this case, the cloud customer is responsible for the security of their data and all interfaces.

In all cases, it is the sole responsibility of the customer to ensure that their specific security requirements are being met. If your organization is planning a move to the cloud, it’s helpful to list all your security requirements. When meeting with potential CSPs, give them the list of your requirements, and let them vet how their service can meet your requirements.

It’s extremely important to note – even though in a cloud-based environment many of the responsibilities now lay with the CSP, the cloud customer must follow the appropriate processes and procedures and hire knowledgeable personnel in order to maintain the integrity of a secure cloud. Designing and documenting processes around ERP security can help the organization prepare its IT staff for new roles and responsibilities. A strong business process management methodology is essential when defining new business processes.

2. Points of Access

Another key difference between on-premise security and cloud security considerations is the means in which the network is accessed. On-premise ERP systems only exist on the devices they are installed on. When business users need to access their company data in an on-premise environment, they need to be physically in the office (on the company’s network).

For example, an employee could have SAP installed on their work laptop, allowing them to view company data from that device (on the company network, of course). The same employee could also have a personal laptop that does not have SAP installed. This makes controlling access to applications and data simple, as there is only a single access point.

While this may pose challenges for employees working remotely, they can always use a virtual private network (VPN) to log into their in-office device. VPNs are secure because they require a security key or other means of identity management

In a cloud-based environment, employees can access company applications via a web browser. This means that any device with internet access becomes an entry point to business critical data.

Cloud-based environments also allow the use of application program interfaces (APIs). While APIs can be used with applications running on-premise, their use didn’t become normalized until cloud service (and software) providers began pre-building them into their platforms. Now, interfacing with third party software applications is as easy as exposing the appropriate API and allowing third party access to your environment.

This ease of interfacing has its benefits but adds an additional layer of complexity when it comes to security design. In an on-premise environment, interfacing with outside systems is usually driven by the IT department, and the communication channel must be built in collaboration with the third party. With this approach, security considerations can be designed into the communication channel up front.

When utilizing an API to create, read, update or delete data in another system it is crucial that proper planning takes place. Not all permissions are typically needed by an API to perform its designated function. Identifying proper permissions and their repercussions is just as important. We always advise against taking the easy road and just giving full permissions to an API.

When creating the API, you should investigate the security of the system you are interfacing with. One question to ask when interfacing is this: “If this system security is breached how can it affect our data?” Developing your connector or API with this in mind can save you headaches and potential lawsuits down the road.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of On-premise and Cloud Computing

Whether you have an on-premise infrastructure or are already in the cloud, there are some strong advantages to both in terms of security:

Advantages of Cloud Security

A huge advantage when it comes to security in the cloud is the accessibility of security tools built by the cloud service provider or ERP vendor. Usually, for an additional fee, CSPs like Amazon, Microsoft and Google offer built-in security tools that help your IT department identify and remediate network vulnerabilities and provide suggestions on how to improve your security design.

Cloud service providers have a lot riding on the security of your data – namely, their reputation. Even if a data breach is the fault of a cloud customer, the reputation of the CSP also takes a hit. Because of this, CSPs have heavily invested in machine learning to help identify weak spots in your system and notify you immediately in case of an attack.

Another benefit of security in the cloud is the level of automation that can be achieved leveraging APIs. These APIs make it simple to orchestrate incoming and outgoing messages between your company’s network and third parties, ensuring that the proper authentication methods are in place each step of the way.

Disadvantages of Cloud Security

While the use of APIs can be considered an advantage in terms of automation, it can also be seen as a disadvantage when looking at the amount of access points to manage. If you have several third parties automatically accessing your environment, it can be difficult to monitor all the inbound and outbound traffic. In the case of a breach, it is even more problematic to find out where your security issues lie.

Advantages of On-premise Security

An obvious advantage of an on-premise security design is the clarity of responsibilities and ownership around security requirements. With a physical data center, it’s easy to see that access to the facility must be protected by the customer. The ownership of security requirements falls 100-percent on the organization.

As long as the organization prepares its people and processes, its data security will be strong. An organization must not only prepare its IT department but its end users, as well. While end users have a very different set of security responsibilities, their role is no less important. Some organizations develop an organizational change management plan to prepare employees for the security considerations of a new ERP system.

Disadvantages of On-premise Security

With the ownership of the data center resting solely on the business, the amount of security responsibilities given to your IT department is more than double that of cloud-based security.

Additionally, in an on-premise environment, there is usually little to no automation in terms of communicating with third parties. This means your IT department must securely build and manage a channel of communication each time a new vendor is added to your ecosystem.

Lastly, as if your IT department doesn’t have enough on its plate, the majority of security tools made for on-premise environments are outdated. With new ways for cybercriminals to access sensitive company data, security tools must constantly evolve to keep up with new threats. When the defense is no match for the threat, IT professionals must be even more diligent in monitoring your network’s security.

The most common form of attack on company networks is not so much a virus or brute force hacking. It is social engineering and elevated permissions granted to individuals or groups not requiring full access.  This is the result of not having a solidified IT plan and documentation.

You can address social engineering by having official training for all staff on the attackers’ methods and tactics. Non-essential security permissions can be audited and refined by your in-house IT security professional or an external IT auditing firm.

Where Should You Host Your ERP System?

During ERP selection, cyber security is a concern for many organizations. Ultimately, security depends less on technology and more on your people and processes.

For example, cloud hosting may be more secure than on-premise hosting if your internal IT department is not large enough, skilled enough or prepared enough to manage the full security of an on-premise ERP system. However, a cloud environment still requires internal security responsibilities, so a strong internal team and clearly defined processes are still essential.

Panorama’s ERP consultants take the time to understand your organization’s unique situation. We can help you prepare your people and processes for the challenges of either cloud or on-premise security.

  1. Gartner, Is the Cloud Secure?, https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/is-the-cloud-secure/, March 2018
5 Tips to Avoid Change Management Failure

5 Tips to Avoid Change Management Failure

Many organizations launch organizational change management programs that fail to fully transition employees into the desired future state. These organizations often focus on developing a communication plan while forgoing many other change management activities.

According to Panorama’s 2019 ERP Report, a communication plan is the most common change management activity respondents used for their ERP projects. While a communication plan is important, it’s not enough for most ERP implementations and business transformations.

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.

Signs of Change Management Failure

Change management failure takes many forms, but it is most apparent at the completion of an ERP project. At this point, you’re expecting to begin realizing business benefits, but instead you’re facing low employee morale, low user adoption and low productivity.

It’s important to identify the signs of change management failure sooner rather than later. Signs might include:

  • The project manager does not understand the needs of the end-user.
  • The change impacts people who aren’t aware of or involved in the project.
  • Management or executives are resisting change.

Fortunately, there are many change management activities you can employ to mitigate these challenges. Following are five change management tips that incorporate some of the most overlooked change management activities.

5 Change Management Tips

1. Be Proactive and Start Early

Change management often fails when the project manager does not understand the needs of the end-user.

Before selecting ERP software, you should assemble a team to assess employees’ needs. We recommend conducting focus groups. These are useful for several reasons:

 

  • During focus groups you can document employees’ pain points with the current system. Exposing these pain points can help you to convince executives to invest in new technology.
  • Focus groups are effective in gaining employee buy-in. When communicating the reasons for change, you can use the insights from the focus groups to align your message with employees’ needs.
  • Focus groups help you select a system that addresses employees’ pain points. This is important because when employees’ needs are fulfilled by a technology solution, they are likely to respond more positively to your change management efforts.

2. Start at the Top

The most effective change management strategies start at the top. This is because people model the behavior they see. If executives appear fearful of change, employees will fear it as well. Inconsistency erodes employees’ trust in leadership and increases change resistance.

For example, one of our ERP selection and implementation clients achieved strong executive buy-in, which they used to gain employee buy-in. The communication from management was consistently supportive of change and focused on a clear, unified message that employees easily understood.

3. Provide a Big Picture View

You have probably heard a manager ask why they need to move to a new system when the existing system is fine. Additionally, executives may regularly remind you that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

A big picture view is the best way to address executive and management concerns as they are typically big-picture thinkers.

What Executives Want to Know

  • How the project will cut costs or mitigate risk.
  • How the project will impact multiple departments.
  • How the project will address the pain points of key stakeholders.
  • How the goals of the project align with business objectives.

Executives like specifics, so be sure to provide details. What specific business benefits will the ERP implementation bring? Will it improve communication and integration between departments? Will it improve the company’s ability to serve customers? Quantify these benefits as accurately as you can.

For example, one of our process manufacturing clients wanted to improve the efficiency of their sales function. They demonstrated to executives how the new system would provide better insights into their customer service function, allowing them to automate many aspects of it. They showed how this would free up time for employees to focus more on outbound calls. This appeals to the executive’s desire for efficiency and increased revenue.

Our ERP consulting services include a benefits realization plan, which allows clients to track the realization of the benefits they’re using the promote the project. This provides further validation to employees that the benefits being promoted are on track to be achieved.

4. Customize Your Training

As ERP systems and CRM systems prove their worth across industries, many companies are happy to implement new technology without a thought. They are confident that their “tech-savvy” staff will quickly and painlessly learn the new system.

However, even truly tech-savvy employees don’t innately know how a new system operates. When you consider your less tech-savvy employees, a technological change seems hopeless.

The good news is that you have many resources available to educate your staff. In addition to the ERP vendor’s training materials, you can design customized training based on the new business processes in each department.

For example, it’s important to train your accounting department on their unique processes within the ERP system. Additionally, you should train your customer service reps on their functions and help them understand upstream and downstream processes.

What Does Change Management Success Look Like?

Whether you’re beginning an ERP implementation or a business transformation, change management requires more than communication. It requires a full change management plan that ensures executive support, employee buy-in, and most importantly, benefits realization. This is what change management success looks like.

Panorama’s ERP consultants can ensure your change management initiative is successful. We’ll help you plan for and execute all of the activities that companies tend to overlook.

What is Value Stream Mapping?

What is Value Stream Mapping?

When organizations want to increase efficiency and run a lean company, many turn to value stream mapping.

Value stream mapping is a proven Lean Six Sigma technique that provides high-value information and a bird’s eye view of different factors within an operation. It optimizes processes by focusing on the actions, timeframe and people involved.

You might be familiar with a process map, but a value stream map can provide a much broader view of your processes. It is especially useful during an ERP implementation or digital transformation. Why? Well, according to our 2019 ERP Report, the top reason for ERP project budget overruns was scope expansion. In our experience, a major cause of scope expansion is a failure to define business processes before ERP selection.

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.

Overview

Value stream mapping is a tool that helps organizations understand the flow of information or materials.

Value stream mapping should:

  • Provide a broad range of information.
  • Cover the value stream from end-to-end.
  • Include a high-level view of a business process.
  • Account for management and information systems support.
  • Identify decision making flow.

While this may seem like a lot to expect from a simple pen-and-paper tool, the idea is to take a process that might seem complex and simplify it as much as possible.

Value stream mapping plays a significant role in reducing cycle times, eliminating decision-making blocks and reducing unnecessary information transfer or approvals. It’s a tool meant to remove steps that waste time and resources.

Ultimately, value stream mapping should align business process with the organizations’ overall goals or their goals for a specific product or service. 

Value Stream Mapping vs. Value Chain Mapping

While companies may use the terms value stream mapping and value chain mapping interchangeably, these two tools provide very different functions.

Example of a Value Steam Map

“Value Stream Map Parts” by Daniel Penfield is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

A value stream map is a high-level view, documenting a business process – usually, the manufacturing of a product, service or task. The map serves to reduce waste and help management choose the paths that provide the highest value to customers and other stakeholders. The map outlines processes, key people and the business architecture involved in delivering a product or service.

Example of a Value Chain Map

“SCHH Value Chain” by Pan491 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

A value chain map shows a business function with its performance metrics. The map shows the current process and the aspects of each step that contribute to success. The map is very direct and focuses on the smaller, but still important, aspects of a process.

How Does Value Stream Mapping Add Value?

A value stream map adds value in the same way that many other Lean or Six Sigma tools do – it eliminates waste. Saving company resources, not just money, can have a positive impact on the culture, processes and eventually the bottom line.

A value stream map provides:

  • Easy assessment of bottlenecks.
  • A useful resource for management and executives.
  • A way to initiate countermeasures in a visual manner.

Unlike other tools that aim to increase efficiency, a value stream map illuminates immediate options for process improvement. On top of everything else, a value steam map is simple to understand and easy to modify.

While obtaining buy-in for process improvement isn’t always easy, many organizations hire ERP consultants to help align stakeholders around common goals. For example, many of our clients’ project teams know that the project budget allotted by leadership isn’t enough, so we take the time to educate executives about the importance of success factors like business process reengineering and organizational change management.

Practical Uses

How can you put a value stream map to use in your organization? Historically, the value stream map has thrived in manufacturing settings since Toyota began to implement this type of system in the early 1950s. Today, value stream mapping is proving useful across a variety of industries.

When it comes to manufacturing the practical uses are clear. Each product that has a value stream map can increase the efficiency of manufacturing and eliminate the risk of overproduction.

In healthcare organizations, a value stream map can show doctors where a patient is in their recovery plan. These maps also can eliminate unnecessary testing, reduce wait times and lead to more cost-effective treatment without compromising the quality of care.

Administrative staff are learning to love value stream mapping as it eliminates duties that overlap or are blatantly unnecessary. A value system map can reduce quality control to one step rather than multiple quality checks that often bottleneck administrative work.

Value Steam Mapping During an ERP Implementation

If your ERP implementation isn’t resulting in as many business benefits as you expected, you should consider value stream mapping.

Maybe you have yet to select an ERP system. In this case, a value stream map is especially useful during the early stages of selection when you’re conducting business process management activities.

During this time, a value stream map can show employees how and when they become vital to a process. You can also use it to identify when performance metrics become available and use the ERP system to leverage this data. 

One of our recent clients, a large supply company undergoing an ERP implementation, found process mapping helpful in identifying aspects of their company culture that could impede change. Documenting pain points and sharing their findings with executives allowed them to establish project buy-in.

This week has been outstanding! Kim and Christi are an excellent cultural fit for our company, and they did an incredible job of facilitating our [Value Stream Mapping] Workshop. Honestly, I’ve participated in activities like this many times over the course of my career, and this was the best one ever!

Dan Callari

Director, Information Technology, Bob Barker Company

Challenges

Every good thing comes at a price, right? Don’t worry – the challenges of value stream mapping lie in the initial time investment.

Creating a value stream map usually takes several weeks. It depends on how stasis your current processes are and the scope of the map. While the time investment may be intimidating, recruiting the right people for your project team can make the effort less taxing.

When creating maps, you of course want people who are intimately familiar with the processes being mapped. However, you also want to include people who have no day-to-day familiarity with the processes. You need people who will question small steps and why certain restrictions are in place. A third-party, like an ERP consultant, can be helpful since they will look at your processes with a fresh eye.

Best Practices

There are a few key components that play directly into the success of value stream mapping. First of all, you should ensure the map is realistic. The map of the current value stream cannot be optimistic when it comes to time aspects, such as how long it takes to receive goods from a vendor. Additionally, your future state map must strive to both restrict the ability of overproduction, while also removing constraints.

Does Your Organization Need a Value Steam Map?

Enabling organizational change and improving efficiency, this tool is well worth the time and effort spent creating it. Whether you’re having problems with a supplier, struggling to meet customer demand or trying to make the most of your ERP software, a value stream map can provide actionable insights.   

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help you create a value stream map that provides the insight necessary to make smart decisions during ERP selection and throughout your ERP project.

Dynamics AX vs. Dynamics 365: Comparing Microsoft’s ERP Versions

Dynamics AX vs. Dynamics 365: Comparing Microsoft’s ERP Versions

Many organizations that are using Microsoft Dynamics AX are considering an upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (D365). If your organization is considering this upgrade, you may be interested in learning more about the differences between these two systems before you commit to an ERP project.

Before delving into these differences, we’d like to share one caveat:

Before beginning an ERP project or digital transformation, we always recommend that organizations take a step back and evaluate their business goals. According to our 2019 ERP Report, less than half of organizations find the technology aspects of their ERP projects to be difficult. In contrast, more than half of organizations find the business aspects of their project to be difficult. These findings show the importance of focusing on organizational alignment before technology.

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 that businesses align their organization and conduct a comprehensive ERP selection to determine if an upgrade is preferable to moving to a completely new ERP vendor. Evaluating multiple ERP vendors allows organizations to see which systems align with their business goals.

Nevertheless, we recognize that an upgrade to a D365 is a popular choice for many Dynamics AX customers, so in this post, we’ll focus on these two systems. First, we’ll provide a brief history of how AX has evolved over time, and then we’ll review the key differences between AX and D365.

A Brief History of Dynamics

Originally developed in 1998, IBM Axapta was created through a collaboration between IBM and Damgaard Data to fulfill the need for a computer-based accounting program geared towards enterprise-level businesses.

A few years later, Damgaard Data merged with Navision Software A/S to create the company Navision A/S, which Microsoft later acquired. During this time, the ERP system was known as Axapta.

Over time, Microsoft further developed Axapta to cater to businesses across a variety of industries, including financial services, manufacturing and retail. Axapta then became known as Dynamics AX.

Several versions of Dynamics AX were released by Microsoft, each continuing to establish the business software as a contender in the market – from AX 4.0 to AX 2009 and finally AX 2012. The ERP system was widely adopted, and many customers are still using a version of Dynamics AX as their means of operating their businesses.

Fast forward to 2019, and Microsoft is proudly marketing and implementing D365 as the greatest version of their ERP software to date. The transition started with moving AX into the cloud, allowing users to access the application via a browser. Briefly, the name of this version was AX7. Later on, when Microsoft was rebranding their product line, they changed the name to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations.

Dynamics AX vs. Dynamics 365: 5 Differences

Although they are essentially two different versions of the same business solution, there are a few key differences between the two ERP solutions. For the sake of this post, we will compare Dynamics AX 2012 to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations.

1. Infrastructure

The biggest difference between Dynamics AX and Dynamics 365 is the infrastructure the systems are built on. When Microsoft committed to putting cloud technology first when CEO Satya Nadella took over in 2014, they moved the Dynamics products into the cloud, as well. This meant that Microsoft’s cloud service, Azure, would host D365 and any other applications from the Dynamics 365 suite of products. In contrast, Dynamics AX 2012 can still be run on-premise, meaning that customers can host the application on their own servers that are physically onsite.

Initially, there was some resistance to the cloud-driven model. Organizations were used to storing their production data locally and having the ability to access it at any time. For example, with an on-premise ecosystem, a system administrator could write a SQL query to view data in real-time.

Customers who had a production environment of AX did not want a cloud based application, as they would have to request copies of their production database from Microsoft to pull from the cloud.

The process for code deployment to production was also changed in the cloud. System administrators could no longer promote code to production on-demand, and instead, had to schedule a deployment, which Microsoft would do on the customer’s behalf.

Despite the initial resistance, cloud based infrastructure has become an accepted and, oftentimes, preferred method of managing an ERP system. Creating and maintaining an on-premise ecosystem is an administrative project on its own – you must acquire the necessary hardware, build the network in a way that allows employees around the globe to access it and plan for disaster recovery. All of this can be extremely costly and a headache to maintain.

With Microsoft Azure hosting your software system, these steps are done by Microsoft in collaboration with the customer, making environment management convenient and simple.

2. Custom Development

Another key difference between Dynamics AX and D365 is the method in which custom code is written and implemented.

With any ERP implementation, there is bound to be some software configuration or customization needed to meet specific business requirements. With Dynamics AX, custom development can be applied using the over-layering method. Over-layering is a concept that allows the core product, customer code and any value-added reseller (VAR) code to be separated from each other in different layers. The different sets of code are then layered on top of each other within the ERP system. Sometimes, when the code is merged, compatibility issues arise, and developers must adjust their code before it can be deployed.

D365 requires the use of the extensibility model as opposed to over-layering. This means the core code of the ERP system is locked down, not allowing any customizations. Developers must customize the software through built-in extension points.

Only objects that have extension points can be customized, but if a customer has a need for a new extension, they can request it from Microsoft. Microsoft often provides extensions directly to customers or includes them in future releases. When it comes to upgrading, the extensibility model is highly preferred as it causes significantly fewer compatibility issues than the over-laying method.

While Dynamics products are easier to customize than many other vendors’ products, it should be noted that extensive customization is a key failure point we see in many of our software expert witness engagements. We recommend that organizations carefully manage customizations by developing project governance and controls to ensure customizations are made only when absolutely necessary.

3. Upgrade Model

Upgrading to a newer version of Dynamics AX – like AX 2009 to AX 2012 – often requires a new implementation. Many AX customers considering an upgrade find that they first need to evaluate the business impact of the upgrade and improve their business processes. This requires a new implementation because new processes often require new configurations and/or customizations.

Other AX customers see the need for a new implementation when they realize that their custom code conflicts with the code delivered by Microsoft in the new software version. In these cases, developers must change and sometimes entirely rewrite their customizations.

Upgrades from AX 2012 to D365 can typically be done without a new implementation, depending on the amount of custom code involved. However, upgrades from AX 2009 to D365, require a new implementation since there is no direct upgrade path from one to the other.

With the move to the cloud came the opportunity for Microsoft to adopt a new upgrade model, similar to the upgrade model of modern applications consumers are familiar with today.

This model, used in D365, does not require a new software implementation. Instead, monthly updates are pushed out to customers on the ERP application. Large feature changes are delivered as parameters or configuration keys, allowing customers to decide if they want to turn on the new functionality. For customers with custom code, the chances of conflicts with the upgrade are drastically reduced.

4. User Interface

A very apparent difference between Dynamics AX and D365 is the user interface. With Dynamics AX, a user can launch the application from a desktop and perform their work within the program. Dynamics AX has the aesthetic of most ERP systems, which is, to be honest, a little out of touch with today’s typical ERP user.

With D365, a user can launch a web browser and enter a URL. Within the browser, the user can perform his or her work and open additional tabs if necessary. D365 can be launched from desktops and mobile devices alike – anywhere with an internet connection. The look and feel of D365 is more aligned with Microsoft’s branding and matches the style of other Microsoft products, like the Office 365 suite.

In Dynamics AX, the homepage defaults to an area called Role Centers. Here, users can create custom queues and links that make performing their daily functions easier.

In D365, the homepage defaults to an area called Workspaces. While similar to Role Centers, Workspaces are prebuilt queues, links, lists and graphics that are related to specific modules and security roles.

An unfriendly user interface can exacerbate the user adoption challenges inherent with ERP implementations. When organizations experience user adoption issues – user interface-related or otherwise – they often seek guidance from ERP consultants. If user adoption issues are severe enough, this can be considered an ERP failure. ERP consultants, like Panorama, have extensive experience recovering ERP implementation failures caused by variety of factors.

5. Navigation

Navigational differences, though minor, are worth noting.

A common theme across ERP systems is that certain screens can be launched from several different places in the system. In Dynamics AX, a user must know the menu path to a specific screen. For example, to create a new sales order, a user can navigate to Sales and marketing > Sales orders > All sales orders. However, this is not the only place to launch the sales order screen, which makes it difficult and time consuming for users to memorize any particular path.

In D365, a new search capability was added to allow users to type in the name of the screen they are looking for and click from the results to launch the page.

Should You Upgrade Your AX System?

Now that you know the basic differences between AX and D365, you may be more confident that you need to upgrade to D365. This is a wise decision for organizations seeking a more manageable production environment, easier customizations and upgrades, or an improved user experience.

However, an upgrade from AX to D365 is no easy task. Our ERP consultants can help you understand the business impact of an ERP upgrade. We will guide you through organizational change management activities and other essential project activities that make upgrades smoother and more beneficial to your bottom line.

What Does our 2019 ERP Report Reveal About the ERP Industry?

What Does our 2019 ERP Report Reveal About the ERP Industry?

Since 2008, Panorama’s ERP consultants have been monitoring the ERP industry for trends relevant to organizations’ ERP projects. Our analysis has been vendor-neutral and thought-provoking, providing organizations with realistic expectations for their ERP implementations.

The 2019 ERP Report delves even deeper into the data to analyze what these trends mean for organizations now and in the future. The findings from this year’s report point to one important concept: ERP projects are most successful when focused on integrating people, processes and technology.

This concept has proven true in our ERP consulting experience, and it also is supported by several findings from our report:

1. Many respondent organizations found the technical aspects of their implementation easier than the process and organizational change aspects.

Organizational changes are difficult because people naturally resist change. Employees may refuse to learn new processes, or they may speak negatively about the ERP project amongst coworkers.

The most difficult part of organizational change management (OCM) is identifying and eliminating the barriers preventing employees from using new ERP software. This involves extensive communication and training aimed at developing new organizational digital competencies. We recommend developing an organizational change management plan before you begin ERP selection.

Don’t let technology challenges distract from people and process challenges. Focus on all three components of ERP success, while paying close attention to people and processes, in particular.

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.

2. The most common ERP selection scenario among respondents is an ERP upgrade.

How is this relevant to the “people, process, technology” paradigm? Well, an ERP upgrade usually is not as technically-demanding as a full ERP implementation. By upgrading your current ERP system instead of completely replacing it, you can dedicate more focus to people and processes.

As outlined in the report, most organizations are focusing on change management, and most are improving key business processes. This indicates that organizations understand the importance of people and processes, and the reason they’re pursuing ERP upgrades may be that it allows them to more easily dedicate an intense focus to these success factors.

With a more dedicated focus on change management and business process management (BPM), guided by an ERP consultant, these organizations likely would have achieved the business benefits they expected and avoided budget and timeline overruns.

While an ERP upgrade is not the best choice for every organization, it’s an option that every organization should at least consider. While weighing different options, you have the opportunity to define organizational goals and determine what software functionality you need to achieve these goals. Oftentimes, organizations find that the newer version of their current software provides all the functionality they need to acheive their organizational goals.

When organizations are focused on bells and whistles offered by other ERP systems and ERP vendors, this often foreshadows a very technology-focused ERP project. While evaluating other systems and vendors is wise, you should ensure your business needs are what’s actually driving the evaluation.

3. Almost all organizations improved their business processes as part of their ERP implementations.

This likely indicates that many organizations understand the importance of aligning new technology with future-state business processes.

In our experience technology delivers the most benefits when it supports efficient processes. When organizations do not optimize their processes, or they select technology that can’t support optimized processes, their new ERP software cannot enable business transformation.

4. The most popular implementation approach among respondents is implementing ERP in phases.

When implementing ERP software, large global organizations often face more organizational change management challenges than smaller organizations. Implementing ERP in phases gives large organizations more time to address any lingering people and processes issues experienced by individual business units or locations. If they went live with all business units and locations simultaneously, they would need to address all of the people and process issues at once. They might not have enough time to dedicate the level of focus necessary.

This consideration may be one reason so many organizations in our study are using a phased implementation approach.

While change management and business process management are typically addressed before implementation, there are always lingering issues – or new issues – that emerge once the system goes live. Some of the people and process issues we’ve seen in organizations post go-live include residual resistance to change and the need to reinforce process and system training.

One of our recent clients began their phased implementation with the business unit that was the most enthusiastic about the ERP implementation. This energized the rest of the organization and facilitated project buy-in.

5. Less than half of organizations used ERP consultants for either OCM or BPM services, and by no coincidence, few organizations realized expected business benefits.

For example, only 19% of the organizations that expected to realize benefits related to growth and competitive advantage actually realized these benefits.

We have found that a lack of benefits realization is often related to inadequate change management and business process management. While most organizations in our study improved their business processes, many of them likely followed an ineffective methodology – or no methodology at all – since they didn’t seek the guidance of ERP consultants.

The BPM methodology we use engages stakeholders from across the organization, which encourages collaboration and enables cross-functional efficiency. We ensure organizations focus on business process reengineering before ERP selection so they can select technology that aligns with their future state business design.

People, Process, Technology

While many organizations in our study appear to at least have a basic understanding of the importance of integrating people, processes and technology, they do not seem to have a full understanding of what it really entails. Organizations can increase their understanding of ERP success by working with an ERP consultant, like Panorama, to build a holistic project plan. We ensure your project plan includes all essential activities at the right stages throughout your project. To learn more about ERP success, download Panorama’s 2019 ERP Report.

4 Reasons to Replace Your ERP System

4 Reasons to Replace Your ERP System

Whether your business operates on a collection of homegrown applications, a select suite of products designed for specific business needs or a full ERP system that does it all, there are several reasons why your organization might benefit from new ERP software. Some reasons hit close to home, like losing out on new customers who prefer a modern shopping experience. Other reasons are out of sheer necessity to keep your business going.

Determining your organization’s motivations is not a small task. Your motivations could be based on a mixture of different factors. To help you determine if your organization might need a new ERP system, we’ve defined some of the major reasons organizations implement or switch to new ERP software, along with some tips, best practices and disclaimers for each:

1. Replacing Your Legacy System

The most obvious reason for an ERP implementation is simply to replace your legacy system. There comes a time in the trajectory of every organization when the CIO or other executives recognize that their current software isn’t cutting it anymore. There are several reasons behind this:

Your Current Software is Outdated

If the business processes that your current system supports have changed, users may be relying on workarounds to perform their daily functions. Workarounds are exactly what their name implies – extra steps performed in a system to work around missing functionality required to complete a task. Workarounds cause inefficiencies, and in turn, can increase costs and create unhappy employees.

Along the lines of employee happiness, a younger workforce may find it difficult to learn the existing application and find newer software more attractive and even familiar. Newer technologies follow similar design patterns to consumer applications of which younger generations are already experts. Retention of the best talent is important to stay competitive in any industry, and keeping your workforce engaged has a direct correlation to employee retention.

Most importantly, the modern consumer is looking for convenience. When a customer transacts with your organization, he or she wants a simple and efficient experience. With older ERP software, sometimes the entry point for customers is extremely dated. For example, a system that accepts sales orders via fax, but not online can turn potential customers away and towards a more accessible competitor.

Your Organization is Going Through Digital Transformation

The phrase “digital transformation” can be heard often when CEOs address stakeholders or VPs give a keynote at internal conferences. But what does it mean? According to the website CIO.com, a digital transformation is the “application of digital capabilities to processes, products, and assets to improve efficiency, enhance customer value, manage risk, and uncover new monetization opportunities.”

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Transformation

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

One of the biggest shifts in the IT paradigm related to digital transformation is accepting that business applications can live in the cloud and don’t need to be on-premise to be serviced. When an organization decides to transform its IT infrastructure from in-house to a cloud-based setup, most applications require a major upgrade or need to be retired and replaced.

Another shift related to digital transformation is organizations acquiring new, modern applications to perform ancillary functions. For example, suppose an organization implements a new expense tool. Both employees and management alike are loving the new tool as it allows an easy way to submit, view and approve expenses from any kind of device. This scenario may not seem like it has anything to do with needing new ERP software, but what if the organization has several of these examples and none of the applications integrate with the current ERP solution without heavy customization? A new system would most likely be more efficient and beneficial than creating all those custom interfaces.

Your Legacy System has Issues

The most dire of reasons for replacing your legacy software is the need to address issues with the current platform. Workarounds alone may not be enough to solve a business problem created by your system. If your legacy system simply cannot handle real-time inventory updates and your sales depend on this, it’s time for new ERP software.

The worst crime any business application can commit is to provide bad data to its users and customers. If your legacy system is providing inaccurate data to customers (for example, current pricing on items) or faulty data is being used in demand forecasting, it’s time to part ways with it. In an era where consumers have a wide-reaching platform to share their mishaps with the world (a.k.a. social media and review sites), it’s critical to have a system you can trust to provide accurate and relevant information to your customers.

2. Scaling Your Business

When business is good, it grows – and with growth comes a need for a more robust enterprise backbone. There are some ERP systems that are built for small to medium sized businesses and others that are built for large enterprises. If your organization has substantially expanded since you implemented ERP, you may be outgrowing your system. Here are some telltale signs that your business could benefit from new ERP software to scale your business:

Performance is Slow in the Current System

Due to increased transactional volume, the performance of some ERP solutions may slow depending on their architecture. This will become apparent when users submit tickets for reports taking longer to run than normal or when batch jobs are not completing in the time they are allotted.

Users Experience Intermittent Issues and Outages

If your ticketing system is constantly filled with users reporting outages and issues, your ERP system likely is not keeping up with the business demand. A key indicator is time-out related issues. Once you start seeing an influx of these, you’ll know it’s time to make a change.

If a new ERP solution is implemented for this reason, it’s a smart idea to pay particular attention to performance requirements and load testing throughout the implementation.

3. Cutting Costs

Commonly, one of the first places an organization looks to reduce costs is to the IT department. After some analysis, a CIO or business leader could find that moving to a new ERP system would save the company a significant amount. Cost savings could come in the form of lower cost licensing and savings on custom support fees:

Lower Licensing Costs

Different vendors have varying licensing models – some can be considered a premium while others are in the affordable range. Comparing your licensing cost for your current ERP solution to others in the market requires reaching out to the sales teams of different ERP vendors. It may seem too early when you’re simply trying to analyze the costs, but bringing in different vendors can actually save costs in the long run as the sales teams are fighting for your business.

If this seems a little intimidating, Panorama offers ERP selection and contract negotiation services to help you through the RFP process and to be your advocate in meetings with vendors. Our experienced team can help you make the right decision for your organization when selecting a new ERP solution.

No Custom Support Fees

If your organization is currently paying vendor fees to support custom applications, this may be another place to save. Implementing new ERP software provides the opportunity to realign your business processes with industry standards, allowing you to drop custom support and utilize out-of-the-box capabilities of the system.

4. Upgrading Your Existing ERP

Another reason for implementing a new ERP system is the need for a software upgrade. There are a few key reasons for performing an upgrade, each with slightly different implications:

The Current Software Version is Sunsetting

Software vendors can’t support all versions of a product indefinitely, and with that constraint comes the need for customers to upgrade. Typically, when a vendor has a major version of their software approaching the end of its life in terms of technical support, they will proactively reach out to customers to help them through a transition plan. During this communication with the vendor is the right time to make your ERP selection to the appropriate version, or new product, for your unique needs.

Bug Fixes are Included in the new Release

As mentioned previously, oftentimes users will be resourceful and find workarounds to system shortcomings to complete vital tasks. If an upgraded version has fixes to these workarounds, the justification for upgrading is satisfied immediately.

Contrary to the previously mentioned scenarios, upgrading your existing ERP solution can be handled differently than a brand-new implementation. Users are already familiar with the software and communication can be adjusted to excite users about coming improvements. Your organizational change management strategy will look different for an ERP upgrade, as users are more open to improvements than large-scale changes.

ERP Selection Help

No matter your reason for implementing (or upgrading to) a new ERP system, having an experienced team in your corner will make any project less stressful and more productive. Our ERP consultants are experts in ERP selection and can ensure you invest enough in the selection process to save time and money during implementation.

6 Benefits to Expect From an ERP Center of Excellence

6 Benefits to Expect From an ERP Center of Excellence

If your organization is implementing an ERP system, then you understand the benefits it can provide to almost every business process. Improving business processes by implementing ERP software, may seem like a huge accomplishment – and it is – but it’s only the beginning of achieving operational excellence. 

In fact, benefits realization should continue many years after go-live as new organizational goals are identified. As soon as you begin the journey of selecting an ERP system, we recommend establishing an ERP center of excellence.

What You Need to Know About an ERP Center of Excellence

A center of excellence is not only relegated to ERP systems. Centers of excellence are born out of a need to establish areas of expertise for certain business functions, such as project management, business intelligence, IT or research.

This begins with the concept that there are people, facilities and other resources that can provide leadership and best practices for a particular area or discipline within an organization. If those resources can be pooled to maximize efficiency and return on investment, then your new ERP software will have the longevity to support a digital transformation.

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An ERP center of excellence is designed to support continuous improvement after an ERP implementation. For example, it can ensure alignment between changing business requirements and ERP system design. It also can proactively identify potential process improvements.  Other roles that an ERP center of excellence might play include management of system upgrades and deployment of end-user training to develop new organizational capabilities.

Organizations should ensure their ERP center of excellence touches every area of the operation where the ERP software has functionality. They also should designate business process owners within the center of excellence to ensure continuity and continuous improvement.

6 Benefits of an ERP Center of Excellence

Extends the Life of Your ERP Solution

An ERP system is an investment your organization makes with the intent of receiving a significant return. Aligning ERP system design with new business requirements ensures you attain a high return on investment. 

No one buys a laptop computer with the intention of discarding and replacing it six months later. There are operating system upgrades, new software and additional peripherals you might add in order to extend the life of the computer. In the same way, your ERP system should support your organization in the long-term, even though your organization likely will look different five years from now than when the system was first implemented. 

A center of excellence ensures a continual focus on business process management after go-live. This is critical if you want your ERP system to support future business needs.

Reduces Long-term Reliance on ERP Consultants

Using ERP consultants when selecting and implementing an ERP solution is wise, as it provides external expertise and an outsider’s perspective to help your organization understand what to expect. 

However, once consultants have helped you establish a center excellence and develop organizational capabilities, you will have the tools and expertise to continually make effective use of new digital technology.

Allows Greater Flexibility When Adapting to Change

The adage that no one likes change is especially true when organizations implement a new ERP system. A center of excellence allows you to anticipate organizational changes while being mindful of your organization’s culture.

A organizational change management plan is easier to develop when you have in-house expertise dedicated to the ERP project. These team members have intimate knowledge about the organization’s culture and can use this to assess employees’ readiness for change.

Ensures Organizational Alignment

Another benefit derived from a center of excellence is the alignment of operational areas in terms ERP project goals, resource allocation and prioritization.

Operational silos are a natural byproduct of a lack of proper communication and collaboration.  A center of excellence encourages cross-functional collaboration, which ensures alignment between operational needs and technical capabilities.  

Ensures Resource Optimization

Once stakeholders are on the same page, you can determine what areas resources should focus on to provide the greatest return on investment. 

Many organizations unwittingly waste resources because they don’t prioritize functional areas.  A center of excellence can be charged with making decisions that allocate resources in a way that provides the most benefit.

Promotes Accountability

A center of excellence promotes accountability by ensuring all business demands are balanced in relation to available resources, business values, commitments and future needs.

When held accountable, project team members are more likely to address issues with an understanding of resource allocation needs and organizational objectives.

Is it Worth the Investment?

While centers of excellence can be used for several different organizational functions, a center that is dedicated to the longevity of an ERP system is certainly worth any additional investment.

Panorama’s ERP consultants are experienced in establishing ERP centers of excellence as part of organizations’ ERP implementation plans. We help organizations develop the capabilities to evolve their ERP software and business processes as their organization grows and changes.

Oracle’s Shift in Focus: From Oracle JDE to Oracle Cloud Applications

Oracle’s Shift in Focus: From Oracle JDE to Oracle Cloud Applications

Most organizations would agree that evaluating ERP software is as enjoyable as being stranded in a blizzard. There are so many ERP vendors in the market today that it’s hard to see the details while there’s a flurry of snow blowing around you.

If you’re about to begin ERP selection, a good place to start digging into the details is with some of the more well-known ERP vendors. While these vendors are a good fit for many organizations, they may not be right for yours. Then again, one of these vendors’ products might be just what your organization needs to reach its strategic goals.

Why not find out for sure by looking at some of the product details that most organizations aren’t privy to until the later stages of selection? Our ERP consultants have in-depth knowledge on hundreds of ERP vendors, but today, let’s look at some insider information on Oracle JDE and the Oracle Cloud Applications.

Oracle Overview

Founded in 1977, Oracle is a $39 billion-dollar company that develops enterprise software and other technology for mid- to large-sized organizations. Oracle’s primary strength is developing and acquiring robust product lines, such NetSuite, that provide flexible functionality to a variety of industry niches. We have evaluated and/or implemented Oracle products for organizations across various industries and verticals and found Oracle’s products to be very versatile.

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Insider Information on Certain Oracle Products

Oracle JD Edwards (JDE)

Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne has always been a good fit for manufacturing companies and professional services companies. However, in our experience, JD Edwards software is not as good of a fit for consumer-packaged goods companies that have extensive distribution, supply chain management and transportation needs. Typically, Oracle’s JD Edwards works best for larger organizations with complex manufacturing and service management processes.    

While JD Edwards products are robust, they aren’t receiving the same R&D funding they once did. Oracle has significantly reduced the amount of development and minimized the research component of JDE funding. Our recent experience with Oracle at client engagements has confirmed the fact that little to no new development of JDE will be performed. This was stated by numerous Oracle representatives at multiple levels.

This trend is mostly due to the fact that Oracle has decided to focus on its Cloud Applications. This shift in focus means that it will only be a matter of time before a vast majority of JDE system integrators and resellers will no longer focus on JDE.

Typically, in these times of transition, an ERP vendor shifts internal resources to its new product. We have found this to be the case with Oracle, as they are decreasing JD Edwards resources for technical support in order to focus on training and certifications for its Cloud Applications suite.

So what is Oracle’s long-term plan for JDE? Oracle will continue to release updates, but they likely will only include functionality that has already been developed by the channel or include minor bug fixes. Many vendors follow a similar process when starting to sunset a product line.

The sunsetting of JDE doesn’t just affect organizations in the long-term, but in the immediate term as well. Organizations using JDE may find the user interface difficult to navigate. This is because Oracle has not made any significant improvements to the JDE user experience in many years, and they don’t intend to make any improvements in the future. It’s not surprising that JDE has historically had a low rate of user adoption. This is not a challenge that cannot be overcome, however, as we have used organizational change management activities to increase user acceptance of new enterprise resource planning software.

All technology that Oracle is currently developing is designed for the cloud model. Development kits, integration toolsets and other integration technologies are being built on a common cloud platform. Fortunately, JDE can be embedded onto this platform, and we hope that it will eventually be integrated so customers don’t have to be responsible for their own system maintenance.                   

Despite the lack of research and development, JDE is still a very functional product. Based on RFP summaries from our recent client engagements, we have found that JDE can meet most clients’ financial, manufacturing and professional services requirements. If you’re considering an ERP implementation in one of these industries, JDE may be a good fit.

Oracle Cloud Applications

The Oracle Cloud Applications are designed for organizations across industries with at least $750 million in annual revenue. Smaller organizations can run the application set but are often resource-constrained, which leads to less functionality being adopted or implemented.   

Oracle started developing its Cloud Applications seven to eight years ago. While rebranding Oracle Fusion into the Cloud Apps and broadening the scope of functional areas has benefited Oracle’s cloud ERP offering, it still lacks some functionality. This is slowing down their new sale and cloud conversion rates.

The intent of the product is to bring best practices from their other products (CRM, Manufacturing, Financials – Seibel, JDE and EBS). However, not all complex processes and functionality have been built into the new application, and Oracle is relying on system integrators for heavy configuration or product extensions to supply basic functionality. Many organizations, including Panorama clients, see the Cloud Apps as too risky and too expensive.

However, the Cloud Apps do have an intuitive user interface. Historically, separate applications, like Transportation Management or Demand Forecasting, had different user interfaces and were difficult to navigate. With the Cloud Apps, Oracle has done a nice job of combining functionality of these separate applications while updating and harmonizing the user interface.

Despite the intuitive user interface, we have found that user adoption rates for the Cloud Apps are behind the curve when compared to other leading vendors regarding innovation, deployment methods and overall maturity. For example, Oracle has been developing their artificial intelligence platform for many years, but it has lagged in functionality for production and distribution environments.

Another challenge for the Cloud Apps has been Oracle’s recent change in leadership. Last year, Thomas Kurian, Oracle’s President of Product Development in charge of the Cloud Apps, left the company, leaving the focus of the future development of the Cloud Apps unclear. Kurian wanted Oracle to be more public-platform-agnostic, inclusive of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. This conflicted with Oracle co-founder, Larry Ellison’s desire to continue to operate solely on the Oracle platform.

What does this mean for Cloud App customers and potential customers? For the time being, the Cloud Apps will only operate on the Oracle platform and not the Azure or AWS platforms. This may pose challenges for some organizations as full dedication to the Oracle platform, including toolsets and services, is often too much to ask for mid-sized organizations. Platforms like Azure and AWS make it easier for customers to source experienced resources to support their ERP systems.  

Oracle’s dedication to the Oracle platform has also affected customers’ ability to automate certain business processes as some functionality is still in development. While Oracle continues to develop functionality, it is hesitant to tie future releases to specific dates. As a result, many system integrators are developing their own extensions as a bridge until Oracle releases the necessary functionality.

During ERP implementation, organizations often become frustrated with products that lack certain functionality as this can mean a longer time to full benefits realization and return on investment. However, this does not need to lead to ERP failure, as long as the organization sets realistic expectations and has a plan for continuous improvement.

Despite slow product development, the Cloud Applications is headed in the right direction, with new functionality emerging every day. Based on RFP summaries from our recent client engagements, we have found that the Cloud Apps can meet most clients’ financial, manufacturing, consumer-packaged goods and supply chain management needs.

Should You Implement an Oracle Product?

Your ERP selection considerations will depend on your organization’s unique needs and goals. Therefore, your decision about Oracle shouldn’t be based solely on this blog post. Oracle has many other viable products that may be a good fit for your organization’s business requirements and digital strategy.

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help you prepare for ERP selection by understanding your unique organizational goals and recommending suitable products from several different vendors. We are experienced in facilitating vendor demonstrations and evaluating products against organizations’ business requirements.

6 Tips for Global ERP Implementations

6 Tips for Global ERP Implementations

Managing an ERP implementation is no walk in the park. ERP failure is a very possible threat. If you think it can’t happen to your organization, think again. According to our 2018 research, 28% of organizations claim that their ERP implementations failed. With global ERP implementations, the risks are even greater. Global organizations face challenges such as language barriers, time zone differences, differing regulations and cultural differences.

As a result, global organizations have unique considerations when crafting an IT strategy and ERP project plan. Here are six tips to help you prepare for a successful global ERP implementation:

Focus on Business Process Reengineering

Before selecting ERP software, it is important to determine whether your organization needs to redesign any of its business processes to maximize operational efficiency on a global scale. Business process reengineering is especially challenging for global organizations because a process that works for one branch of the organization may not work for another. For example, taxation structures vary from country to country. While one country may tax profits equally, another country may employ a progressive tax rate on profits. Furthermore, accounting methods may vary from one country to the next, making standardization difficult.

Addressing these country-to-country differences requires organizations to confer with stakeholders at every location. During these sessions, you should not only determine what processes should be improved, but you also should consider what processes should be standardized versus localized. Only after the future state is documented across all locations, should you submit your business requirements to ERP vendors.

Poor business process reengineering is one of the most significant differentiators between global ERP success and failure. Our consultants take a proactive approach to process improvement, which allows our clients to achieve increased efficiency and integration across locations.

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Determine an Effective Rollout Strategy

Implementing an ERP system one location at a time can make operational disruptions more manageable. Issues can be addressed in smaller batches and thus be avoided in consecutive phases. An alternative to this phased approach is the “big bang” approach, where an organization goes live with all modules and locations at once. We don’t recommend this approach for large, global organizations.

What’s wrong with the “big bang” approach? Consider this case study: In 1999, Hershey rolled out its ERP system using a “big bang” approach. The company ignored suggestions to implement over a period of 48 months, insisting they could do it in 30 months. Unfortunately, they were implementing three new ERP systems, which multiplied their likelihood of failure. Ultimately, errors in the ERP implementation caused them to miss over $100 million in orders. Today, the Hershey case serves as an example of global ERP failure.

Research ERP Vendors

Carefully selecting ERP software generally saves time and money in the long term. However, in the short term, it can consume plenty of time and resources, especially when looking for an ERP system that can address global needs.

One aspect of ERP selection where global organizations should be especially diligent is checking references. Has the vendor has worked with global organizations in the same industry as yours? Additionally, it is important to ensure the vendor’s ERP software supports global variables, such as currency and regulatory differences.

Prepare Your Employees for the ERP Implementation

Resistance to change is a natural reaction for most employees. At Panorama, we develop organizational change management plans to reduce this change resistance. As a result, our clients experience higher adoption rates and maximize their business benefits.

One of the factors that affects user adoption within global organizations is process standardization. For example, employees at certain locations may find it difficult to accept new standards of product nomenclature or new credit management policies.

In our experience, global ERP implementations require an intense focus on change management. This means conducting focus groups to understand employees’ pain points and using creative tactics to engage employees throughout the project. Change management also involves the development of a communications plan to build employee awareness, desire, knowledge and ability regarding organizational changes.

Allocate the Right Resources

Many executives view an ERP implementation as secondary to running their business. As a result, they allocate minimal resources to the project, and these resources usually don’t have an influential role within the organization.

Allocating influential team members to the project ensures that new technology and processes align with the corporate strategy. These individuals are more capable of providing the input that ERP consultants need to build a digital strategy and implementation plan.

Establish KPIs to Gauge ERP Success

Often, organizations get hung up on fancy new software features while losing sight of actual performance. So, how will you quantify success or failure?

With global ERP implementations, it’s important to develop standardized performance metrics while consulting with department heads to determine individual performance metrics pertaining to each branch. These metrics should be well-defined and quantifiable.

Ultimately, determine what metrics move your company forward and begin tracking them after implementing your new ERP system to gauge ERP success or ERP failure.

Global ERP Implementations are Difficult, but You’re Not Alone

Rolling out a new ERP system on a global scale involves many unique considerations. Should you standardize your processes, or keep them unique to each location? Does every location have adequate internet connectivity to support the software? Does your preferred ERP system support multiple languages and currencies?

Without answers to these questions, your organization might be heading towards ERP failure. However, our ERP consultants can analyze every aspect of your business to position you for a successful ERP implementation on a global scale.

7 Tips for Developing an ERP Business Case

7 Tips for Developing an ERP Business Case

More organizations are realizing the benefits of ERP software. Not only are Fortune 500 companies implementing and upgrading ERP systems, but small businesses are taking advantage of niche ERP solutions tailored for their industry. If your organization is looking to realize increased business benefits from ERP software, our experience has shown it is critical to develop a detailed and comprehensive business case.

By developing a business case for new ERP software, you can shed light on operational issues, determine how to solve them and estimate the resulting business benefits. This is easier said than done, as organizations tend to have different ideas regarding what constitutes an effective business case. With that in mind, we want to share seven tips for developing an effective ERP business case:

Understand the Importance of a Business Case

Don’t develop a business case until you understand its importance. You’ll develop a much more thorough business case when you know what’s at stake. So, what’s at stake? Business benefits. A business case ensures your organization realizes measurable business benefits from its ERP software. It ensures the project achieves business goals, not just IT goals.

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Identify Pain Points

A good business case begins by identifying problems and determining what solutions are needed to solve them. Not everyone will agree that problems exist or that they require an ERP solution. A business case can help you achieve organizational alignment regarding the need for an ERP system.

Acknowledge Challenges and Risks

There are, obviously, challenges in every ERP implementation. A business case allows an organization to take an honest look at obstacles that must be overcome, whether it’s a lack of resources, lack of expertise and/or lack of employee and executive buy-in. We have seen many high-profile cases where ERP implementations failed because those responsible for developing the business case and implementing the system were not forthcoming about potential risks.

Determine Your Organizational Goals

Chances are, your reason for implementing ERP software isn’t just to replace an old system. Often, we find organizations have many goals they want to achieve through implementation:

Improving Customer Service

Every business case should consider the customer service benefits of new ERP software. Does your organization want to enable customers to order online 30% faster once an ERP solution is implemented? If so, include this in your business case.

Improving Business Processes

If your operational pain points are related to broken or inefficient business processes, then outline these processes in your business case. Potential process improvements should be specific and measurable.

Improving Employee Morale

An ERP system can improve employee morale by making employees’ jobs easier. Employee morale is measurable since it can be gauged by distributing surveys, conducting focus groups and/or tracking turnover rates.

Increasing Revenue

If processes are streamlined, customer satisfaction increases and employee morale improves, this will most likely result in a positive financial outcome as well. We have found that identifying potential cost savings within a business case increases the likelihood of achieving executive buy-in. The business case also should outline the total cost of ownership of new ERP software, including implementation costs. When you focus on both the costs and the benefits, you can show how the latter outweighs the former. After all, ROI is the language of executives.

Consider Alternatives to Implementing ERP

Instead of implementing new ERP software, some organizations upgrade their existing software, improve their business processes without new technology, or simply decide to do nothing for the time being. It is important to examine the costs of each of these options against the cost of an ERP implementation. For example, it may become evident that the cost of doing nothing and remaining inefficient is greater than the cost of an ERP project.

Develop an ERP Project Plan

Your business case should include a detailed section outlining the components of your ERP project plan. While the business case helps get the project off the ground, the project plan ensures a project maintains momentum and sticks to the expected timeline and budget. Accounting for all essential project activities, including change management and business process reengineering, sets realistic expectations regarding implementation timeline and budget.

Measure the Results

Once you’ve built a business case and begun your project, it’s time to start measuring results. It’s important to measure results throughout the project so you can track your progress, promote accountability and monitor your budget. Measuring results can also help sustain project buy-in when and if it wanes.

A Business Case Supports ERP Success

A thorough business case will, more often than not, result in a successful ERP selection and implementation. If your organization is considering an ERP implementation, Panorama’s ERP consultants can guide you in developing a business case that allows you continuously prove the value of new ERP software.