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ERP Software Use in Global Manufacturing Companies

ERP Software Use in Global Manufacturing Companies

Globalization is the way of business for many.  Especially with new technologies and innovations in manufacturing, communication and flow; businesses all over the world can connect with each other.  Arguably, there has never been a time quite like now when there has been such a global connection of possibilities.  Simply, global manufacturing is when one company makes components of, or finished products for another company, usually for a lower cost and higher efficiency.   Basically, it can be cheaper and easier for one manufacturer to be contracted out to make a speciality product, a component of a larger product.  With global manufacturing there are tight deadlines and a need for high efficiency and this is where ERP Software can totally help to change the game.  So lets explore how ERP software is used in Global manufacturing and how Panorama can help you:

1. Helps to Have Efficiency in Operations

In global manufacturing, is it vital to stay organized in every step of the process.  Whether the manufacturer is the supplier of the component for a larger product overall or whether it manufactures the larger product itself, all parties involved need to have efficiency in every step of the process.  From invoicing, keeping track of inventory and stay on deadline ERP Software can help provide solutions to all of these challenges and help to avoid inefficiency which would ultimately result in lost revenue.   Efficiency and overall digital transformation brought on with ERP software can totally help to change an operation’s efficiency outcomes.

2. Helps to Stay Organized – Internally

Anyone in manufacturing will tell you that there are a lot of moving parts at any one time and it involves every department at least one time in the process.  From administrative duties like invoicing and taking note of deadline, to accounting which would handle the actual billing and of course the manufacturing floor which is making product and taking inventory, ERP software can help in all of these aspects.  Take a look at some of your options here.  Not only can it help each department stay organized themselves but it can also help to better let these departments interact with each other and ultimately will be able to speak to customers with more information as well.

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.

3. Helps to Stay Organized – Inventory

Some larger global manufacturers can have thousands, if not millions of SKU’s and keeping track of them all can be a nightmare if not done correctly.  In case you didn’t know, ERP software was originally crafted with the end goal of helping manufacturers to stay organized and keep track of inventory which is the difference between a successful operation and one that is not.

4. Helps to Stay on Deadline

Global manufacturing can be like a domino effect- if one department, or party involved drops the ball then the whole process could be in jeopardy.  With manufacturers needing to have a concrete deadline of product delivery, everything needs to operate with efficiency and these clear goals in mind.  That means that missing inventory or a neglected invoice can alter these deadlines and upset the entire process.  Let ERP software help you to stay on track!

Let one of our independent ERP Consultants walk you through the process of how ERP software and digital transformation can make your manufacturing operation the best it can be and contact us today.

Top 5 ERP Software Resolutions for 2018

Top 5 ERP Software Resolutions for 2018

The new year brings a new opportunity to define and execute the best digital and ERP software strategy for your organization. Wherever you might be in your ERP implementation lifecycle or digital transformation journey, there are always better ways to mitigate risk and increase the likelihood of success.

As we pointed out in our recent blog post with our top predictions for the ERP software industry in 2018, there are a number of trends to be aware of as you navigate the challenges of your transformation. In addition, there are several resolutions that will ensure your initiative is successful in the new year.

Here are five things to increase your chances for success and a prosperous implementation in the new year:

1. Educate Yourself on ERP Software Best Practices

The most dangerous implementations are led by those that aren’t well educated on the risks, challenges, and best practices associated with an ERP implementation. Fortunately, there are a number of free resources to help educate you on digital and ERP best practices. For example, our weekly ERP webinar series  provides hour-long training sessions on topics ranging from digital strategy to implementation to organizational change management. Our three-day Digital and ERP Boot Camps – hosted several times per year in different parts of the globe – are an excellent way to receive the training you need to succeed.

2. Control the Tempo of Your Initiative

There is often a push to “get something done” on projects of this magnitude. I get it. But it’s more important to make sure you have a solid plan in place, the right resources, clearly defined project controls, and other critical success factors. Believe it or not, going at a slow (but not too slow) and steady pace will actually save you time and money in the long-term. So even though ERP software vendors are incentivized to push you to purchase their software and start implementing right away, it is important to recognize that this is your project and that you control the tempo of the transformation.

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.

3. Invest in the People Side of Your Digital Strategy

What is the #1 cause of digital transformation and ERP software failures? Hint: it’s not technology – it’s people. Despite the importance of organizational change management, not a lot of people understand what the term means or how to implement it effectively in their organizations. Companies that invest in an effective organizational change strategy are much more likely to succeed than those that don’t. Even though a solid change strategy includes training, communications, change impact, organizational readiness, and a host of other change tactics that you may be overlooking, it doesn’t need to be expensive. In the long-run, it will cost you less to invest in this critical success factor than if you don’t.

4. Take Industry Hype with a Grain of Salt

Messaging from ERP vendors, sales reps, and analysts – all with biases based on economic incentives – would lead us to believe that on premise solutions are dead, ERP systems are a silver bullet for a company’s problems, and that their solutions can be implemented without much time, risk, or effort. None of this is true. So, be sure to recognize that most of the industry is biased and that their inputs should be taken with a grain of salt.

5. Don’t be Afraid to Leverage Outside, Independent ERP Experts

One of the best ways to accomplish resolution #4 is to hire unbiased, independent ERP consultants, such as those at Panorama. Whether you are about to define a strategy, evaluate potential systems, implement a system you’ve already chosen, or need help cleaning up an implementation mess, you need someone that is protecting your interests – not those of your ERP vendor or sales rep.

By accomplishing these five resolutions, you’ll be in a much better position to succeed in the new year. Learn more by attending our weekly webinar Top 10 Predictions for the ERP Software Industry in 2018, or watch it on demand here.

Digital Transformation is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Digital Transformation is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

For anyone who has attempted to run a race of any length (5k, 10k, half marathon or full) you know the importance of finding your pace and keeping consistent with stride and breathing.  Not many people in the world can run an entire race starting at full speed and keep it going the whole distance.  Athletes who sprint and those who run distances, often train very differently and their skillsets are not the same.  The boxer who runs hill sprints in preparation of a fight is probably not also training for a marathon- the skills are different.  However, sprints may be more exciting to watch because the results are very quick and the race is over “right now.”

1. “Right Now” Mentality: A Downfall for Digital Transformation

This “right now” mentality bleeds over into our professional lives too as we get antsy for promotions to come and projects to finish.  Yet, trying to finish quickly just for the sake of finishing quickly often leads to budget oversights, tasks being poorly completed, if they are done at all, and an overall shoddy project all because you want to reach that finish line quicker. 

2. Digital Transformation is a Full Marathon

Take Digital Transformation for example, a big phrase with a potentially monumental outcome.  By nature, Digital Transformation is often referred to as “complex,” “profound,” or “impactful.”  These words are not often associated with quick and easy processes.  Digital Transformation, when done correctly, is an overall change in an organization which leverages all technologies to create a huge impact in day to day operations and overall outcomes.  Digital Transformation is no doubt a full marathon and not a sprint.

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.

3. Training for Your Digital Transformation

Just like training for a marathon, Digital Transformation must be properly planned for and mapped out first.  Often times, it pays to hire professionals who can help with this Digital Transformation planning, because they are familiar with the process.  After all, if training for a marathon you wouldn’t ask advice from someone who doesn’t run.  For example, many of our ERP consultants have backgrounds in both tech and business and can not only help with implementation but also establishing process. 

4. Follow Your Process

From the initial map out plan, this regiment must be followed closely.  After all, when training for a marathon you may map out your diet and if you stray from that your training will be impacted.  If there are certain milestones or tasks along the way during your digital transformation, make sure those are being followed.

5. Keep Going!

Of course, it is normal to feel a little fatigue during the process (both marathon training and Digital Transformation) but it is important that you don’t quit or take a long break.  It may not seem like it, but the finish line is closer with every step you take.

Overall, don’t expect digital transformation to be a quick or easy process and it doesn’t benefit you to speed it along either.  Some things just take time and training which are often the secret ingredients to a great outcome.  Learn more by downloading our white paper Ten Tips for a Successful ERP Implementation.

Five Tips to Limit ERP Software Customization

Five Tips to Limit ERP Software Customization

ERP Customization is one of the greatest fears I encounter when speaking with executives about their digital transformation initiatives.

These fears are founded and with good reason: customization is one of the most cited reasons for ERP failure. It’s no wonder that executives and project teams try to draw a “no customization” line in the sand early in their projects.

While these fears may be well justified, avoiding ERP customization is much easier said than done. In fact, our research shows that 9 out of 10 ERP implementations involve some sort of customization (see our annual ERP Report for more detail). While this doesn’t mean that most project teams should customize their software, it does indeed point to the difficulties of avoiding this common pitfall.

The good news is that there are a number of ways to navigate this common landmine. Here are five tips to limit ERP software customization on your digital transformation initiative:

1. Recognize the ERP Software Customization is a Slippery Slope

Today’s ERP software is flexible with robust customization tools, which makes it easier for organizations to change the way off-the-shelf software was built. But, just because you can easily customize doesn’t mean that you should.

It is important to recognize that it can be very difficult to stop once you start down the path. So, be prepared to receive ERP customization requests from project team members and employees – even if you have made it clear that you won’t change the way the software was built. And, you should only consider approving customization for areas that are core competencies of your business, while avoiding those that for your more “vanilla” business processes.

2. Ensure Strong Project Governance and Controls

Implementing strong project governance and controls is one of the best ways to ensure that you don’t customize more than you should. In addition to helping maximize post-implementation business benefits, a business case provides a strong, ROI-based foundation for making decisions regarding customization requests.

In some cases, your business case will point to business benefits that might be enabled with changes to the software. In others, it will be clear that there is no ROI for the associated risks of customization, which includes “breaking” the software and making future upgrades difficult. Ensure that you have strong decision criteria and processes in place to make customization the exception rather than the norm.

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.

3. Invest Heavily in Organizational Change Management

As unrelated as they may sound on the surface, I’ve found that heavy customization is typically a symptom of a deeper issue: resistance to change. When companies don’t invest enough in organizational change management, employees are more likely to resist change.

With this in mind, it is important that you invest heavily in your organizational change efforts. On paper, a robust organizational change program may seem expensive, but it is a lot less expensive than the risks and costs associated with customization.

4. Build Internal Competencies and Knowledge for Your ERP Software

When internal employees and project team members don’t understand how the software could work out of the box with standard functionality, they often go down the dark road of customizing software. This is why it is so important to train your team on the standard software functionality – even if that functionality isn’t being used by your company.

One way to do this is to implement a formalized center of excellence. This ensures that you have the internal competencies required to proactively find innovative new ways to leverage out-of-the box functionality or advanced modules that you may not have considered.

5. Educate Your Team on the Risks of ERP Software Customization

Momentum for customization requests often begins because team members don’t recognize the risks and costs of customization. They don’t realize that customization can undermine your software’s effectiveness, create headaches when it comes time to upgrade, and increase the overall implementation cost and risk of your project.

In order to avoid too much desire for customization in the first place, consider educating your team early in the process. is something that we typically do with new clients as part of our ERP Boot Camp service offering.

While it may be unrealistic to avoid ERP software customization altogether, your goal should be to limit this necessary evil. Learn more by downloading our white paper Ten Tips for a Successful ERP Implementation.

Five Variables to Create a Digital Transformation Strategy That Best Fits Your Organization

Five Variables to Create a Digital Transformation Strategy That Best Fits Your Organization

With the proliferation of modern enterprise technologies comes a big challenge: a proliferation of possible ways to implement those solutions.

There may be a million different ways to implement various digital transformation and ERP software you may be considering, but that doesn’t mean that all of those deployment options are viable for your organization. At the same time, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, either. Any given organization will find that most strategies don’t best fit their unique needs and objectives.

But, how is one to sift through all the various options? Here are five variables to consider when defining the best digital transformation strategy for your organization:

1. Single ERP System or Best of Breed?

Best of breed options used to have negative connotations. Nowadays, however, integration tools have evolved to the point that many of the historic risks of best of breed solutions aren’t as big of a threat as they used to be. At the same time, single ERP systems aren’t always the best fit for organizations. Some organizations will find that single ERP system option makes the most sense for them, while others will find that best of breed is the best fit. It is important to weight the risks, tradeoffs, and pros and cons of each to determine the best solution for you.

2. Big Bang or Phased Approach?

Depending on your answer to #1, you will need to define whether you want to deploy your solution across your organization all at once – or whether a more measured, phased approach makes more sense. As is the case with #1, there is no perfect solution and either option involves risks and tradeoffs. One may mitigate risk by reducing the need for interim integration points, while the other mitigates the risk of the entire organization changing all at once. Your decision on this point will heavily influence your level of success and risk, so choose wisely.

3. Standardized Design Up Front or Design as You Go?

Agile methodologies are becoming increasing popular. Software developers like the idea of designing, developing and rolling out functionality in “sprints” as you go, but companies wishing to standardize their operations may find that it makes more sense to take the time to invest in design early in the project before rolling out functionality. Your decision in this area will largely be influenced by how much you would like to standardize versus remain flexible, your need for quick wins versus taking the time to get it right, and your tolerance for more incremental improvements over longer periods of time versus less frequent – but much bigger – changes.

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.

4. Which External Resources Will We Use?

Many organizations are backed into a corner regarding the reseller or system integrator that they use. A vendor may assign you to a reseller based on their own biases, not based on what is best for you as the buyer or which ones are best able to handle the critical non-technical aspects of your implementation. Be sure to recognize that you have the power to choose what outside resources you do or don’t use. For example, even though Panorama Consulting is not affiliated with any software vendors, we still help clients implement those solutions – especially if those clients see the value in project management, organizational change management, business process reengineering and other things that will make or break their projects.

5. What is our Organizational Change Strategy?

Regardless of your answers to the above questions, your organizational change management strategy will make or break your project. This is arguably the most important part of your project either way, so the real question becomes: what is the organizational change strategy that makes the most sense to us? Things like employee communications, training, change impact, organizational readiness assessments, and other organizational change tools should be considered as part of your overarching organizational change management strategy.

Answering these five questions well will help you get started on the right path for a successful implementation. Learn more by downloading our report Guide to Choosing an ERP Implementation Partner.

Overcoming the Biggest Risks of Digital Transformation

Overcoming the Biggest Risks of Digital Transformation

Digital transformation initiatives have tremendous potential and can completely transform any business. Unfortunately, most plans fail and don’t materialize as planned.

According to our 2017 ERP Systems Report, most initiatives take longer than planned, cost more than expected, and/or fail to deliver the expected business benefits. This may sound discouraging to those who are about to start such an imitative, but our experience shows that companies that struggle, tend to fall into these same pitfalls and traps.

The reasons for failure aren’t insurmountable. It simply requires awareness of the risks, along with effective risk mitigation strategies. Easier said than done of course, but still something that any executive and project team can overcome.

Here are the biggest risks of digital transformation, along with some strategies to overcome each:

The Digital Transformation Initiative Exceeds the Planned Time and Cost

Most digital transformation initiatives are derailed before they are completed, simply because they consume too much time, money, and resources along the way. The best way to overcome this risk is to have a complete and realistic budget, which means that you’ll need to add a dose of reality to what technology and ERP vendors might propose to you. Their costs typically do not include key components of a successful project, such as organizational change management and business process re-engineering.

Technology Bias and Blind Spots De-rail Your Overall Initiative

Let’s face it: most ERP consultants and vendors are biased and would prefer that you implement the technology they’re peddling – regardless of whether or not it’s a good fit. With so many options in today’s marketplace, it’s important to have a technology agnostic view of your options so that you’re selecting and implementing the software that best fits your needs – not necessarily earning the most commission for a sales rep. Finding the best technology for your business should be clearly outlined in your overarching digital, IT, and ERP strategy.

Business Processes Aren’t Aligned With Technology – and Vice Versa

Speaking of biases, technology vendors general prefer that you purchase and implement their software is quickly as possible so they can start earning commission ASAP. However, a more deliberate and measured approach is generally more effective. You need time to ensure that you’ve conducted business process reengineering to ensure that your technology is enabling more effective and efficient business processes. Otherwise, you’ll simply be paving the cowpaths, so to speak, and creating misalignment between your software and your operations.

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.

Employees Don’t Accept the Corresponding Organizational and Business Process Changes

The people side of the equation is one of the biggest – if not the single biggest – risk of any digital transformation initiative. According to our research and experience, most organizations cite organizational change management as the biggest challenge and risk in their implementations.  A well-defined organizational change strategy is the best way to overcome this risk. Side note: your organizational change plan should include much more than end user training.

The Digital Transformation Effort Doesn’t Deliver A Strong Return on Investment

These initiatives are generally expensive, so any rational executive team expects to see a tangible return on investment. This isn’t generally top of mind for many project teams and their vendors, but if you don’t measure it, you won’t achieve it. To ensure you have the business benefits to justify the investment, ensure that you’ve create a business case and a benefits realization plan. In addition, you’ll need to conduct post-implementation audits – something that most don’t want to do once they’ve finished an implementation.

These risks are very real, but they can be overcome with the right mitigation strategies. Learn more successful strategies by downloading our An Expert’s Guide to ERP Success” eBook.

Cheat Sheet – Steps to Implement an ERP system

Cheat Sheet – Steps to Implement an ERP system

Now that you have realized the potential business benefits of an ERP system for your business, it is time to implement one. Of course, that may be easier said than done. To help you, use this cheat sheet. It breaks down the steps needed to implement an ERP system.

1. Choose a Team of Employees to Assist You

Start by selecting an employee from every department to be involved throughout the process. Their specific department knowledge will be valuable in selecting the correct modules and options for your ERP software.

2. Evaluate Your Problems, Objectives, and Goals

Have everyone sit down to identify the specific objectives and goals you want to achieve. Identify which analytics, functions, and processes are of the utmost importance. Don’t forget to factor in future changes and scalability. Once you identify what you wish to accomplish, it’s time to select your ERP system.

3. Choose Your ERP System

There are a vast array of ERP system vendors on the market with a large variety of options. Factor in your budget, while also paying careful attention to the system’s method of implementation and what type of training is provided. Make certain the ERP system you select does the following:

  • Improves upon your current processes
  • Supports your existing processes, yet eliminates workarounds
  • Introduces greater collaboration and efficiency
  • Supports growth, including new ventures and higher volumes

Also, opt to use an ERP system vendor who will take care of the data migration process and agrees to take on the responsibility of training your employees on the new system.

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.

4. Clean Up Your Data

After selecting your ERP system, it is time to concentrate on moving your data. This involves looking at your source data and comparing it to the ERP system’s target data. However, before the migration, it is imperative that you take the time to clean up your existing data.

This involves removing any out-of-date information. Only the most important and necessary data should be moved. Additionally, strive for uniformity and accuracy. For example, you may have the address “North Broad Street” listed as “North Broad St.,” “N. Broad St.,” “and N. Broad Street.” Choose one and make certain they are uniform.

Only after you have reviewed all of your data, made the necessary changes and purged out anything that is old or unnecessary, should you allow the vendor to perform the migration.

Learn more about how other manufacturers are leveraging ERP systems to automate their businesses. Download our Manufacturing ERP Report here to view the unfiltered and objective results from our annual study of manufacturers across the globe!

5. Set Up Plenty of Hands-On Training on the New ERP System for Your Employees

Change can be difficult, especially for longtime employees. In fact, 56% of ERP implementations result in some type operational disruption, after going live, which is frequently attributed to inadequate training [1]. Typically, the most effective type of training is hands-on. This should be completed before going live. The instructor should not only detail how to use the ERP system, but also ensure every employee has access to a test system and is given scenarios to perform and create. Before going live, have every employee test on the ERP system to demonstrate their understanding of how to use it.

6. Test and Go Live

After confirming accurate data migration, it is essential to thoroughly test the ERP system to identify any potential issues before going live. This includes testing functionality, as well as making sure specific interfaces, business processes, reports, and transactions are working correctly.

Finally, it is time to go live! In the meantime, download our 2017 ERP Report to learn other benchmarks and best practices to optimize your ERP implementation.

[1] Panorama Consulting ERP Survey 2017 – Download the report here.

Waterfall vs. Agile: Which is Right for Your Digital Transformation

Waterfall vs. Agile: Which is Right for Your Digital Transformation

Agile software development is a big buzzword phrase these days. Many view this form of software development and deployment as an anecdote to the big, slow, expensive, and risky ERP implementations that spook so many executives.

Like most buzzwords and alleged “silver bullets” hyped by the industry, agile isn’t the answer for every digital transformation strategy. While waterfall approaches are appropriate in some situations but not in others, the same is true of agile.

What is the Difference Between Agile and Waterfall?

First, it is important to understand the difference between waterfall and agile. Waterfall approaches entail a more traditional, sequential approach to development, with clear milestones amongst requirements, design, development, testing, and go-live. Next phases begin only when the previous phase are complete.

Agile methodologies, on the other hand, involve a more iterative approach. Design, development, testing, and training happen as each batch of requirements are defined. For example, rather than waiting for the entire solution design to be completed before moving on to development, agile approaches would conduct development, testing, and rollout as the different needs are defined.

So, which is right for your organization? Like many decisions regarding digital transformations and ERP systems: it all depends. It depends on a number of decision points that need to be defined prior.

Below are a few questions to help you define the best approach for your project:

Are You a Fast and Nimble Organization, or are You Trying to Build Scale and Efficiency?

Organizations that are generally fast and nimble may benefit from agile approaches. Startups, quickly growing organizations, and other companies that value speed over scale and efficiency are more likely to benefit from agile. In these cases, things are changing too quickly to support a waterfall approach, which fits better in a bit more of a static operational model.

Companies that have reached a certain point of size, scale, and predictability, on the other hand, typically benefit more from waterfall approaches. In these cases, creating operational efficiencies and scaling for growth are bigger priorities than speed. Here, it is more important to clearly define an entire solution up-front, rather than incrementally rolling out changes in piecemeal.

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.

How Important are Standard, Well-Defined Business Processes Within Your Organization?

Some organizations have fundamentally broken business processes and systems, or they have opportunities to better integrate their end-to-end value chains. In these cases, it is important to engage in business process reengineering and business process management activities to clearly define what the “to be” business processes will be. These needs point to a more traditional waterfall approach.

However, if you are an organization with fairly well-defined processes and systems, then an agile approach may make more sense for you. These situations offer a certain flexibility to define process improvements as solutions are rolled out – more so than in waterfall situations.

Are You a Centralized or a Decentralized Organization?

Companies that are – or are trying to become – centralized, tend to gravitate toward waterfall development models. In most cases, these organizations are trying to create a standardized operating model throughout various locations and business units. The upfront business process and system design of waterfall methodologies enables this sort of centralization.

Decentralized or largely independently operated organizations, on the other hand, often find that agile methodologies better fit their needs. Here, more structured and sequential development methodologies aren’t beneficial, but more iterative and fast-paced changes are.

How Broad is Your Digital Transformation?

As a broad generalization, enterprise-wide digital transformations are difficult to do without a waterfall approach. The value of these transformations is the level of cross-functional integration, which requires a good deal of up front design and planning. In these cases, it may take longer to design these solutions than some may like, but if done correctly, these early stages of the project can save a great deal of time and money later.

If your initiative is more isolated to a smaller part of your organization, then agile may be a better fit. For example, if you are rolling out CRM software and limiting its use to a sales team, then it may make sense to roll out changes in a more iterative nature rather than designing the entire solution first. In this example, realizing quick wins may be more important than perfection.

Which is Your Organization More Able to Tolerate From an Organizational Change Perspective: More Frequent, Longer-Term, and Ongoing Incremental Changes, or Less Frequent, Larger Scale Changes?

Change fatigue is a risk with any digital transformation. Employees tend to resist change of any sort, but your decision regarding agile versus waterfall will heavily influence the magnitude of change – and how those changes are received by employees. Waterfall implementations tend to involve less frequent, but larger scale changes, while agile implementations generally entail more frequent and more incremental changes.

In either case, you are simply trading one risk for another. So, it is helpful to look at your culture and your people to determine which will be better received. Will employees be more open to one big wave of changes, or do you think they would do better with more constant, incremental changes? In either case, an effective organizational change management strategy will be critical to your success.

There are no right or wrong answers to the above questions – and there is certainly no silver bullet, one-size-fits-all answer, either. The important thing is to determine what makes the most sense for your organization, then build your implementation strategy and plan accordingly.

What We Learned About Digital Transformation in 2017

What We Learned About Digital Transformation in 2017

As this year starts to wind down, it’s helpful to reflect on the changes that have occurred in the market throughout 2017. It’s an interesting time for those acquiring and implementing new ERP systems and other enterprise software as part of their digital transformation efforts.

As you prepare for your digital transformation efforts in the coming months and years, here are a few things that summarize the state of the industry at the moment:

There is a Resurgence of Organizations Investing in Enterprise Technology

During the economic recession several years ago, companies were very risk adverse in their enterprise software investments. Past horror stories of ERP failures, tight IT budgets, and uncertain economic conditions led many CIOs to defer investments in new technology and other operational improvements. Now that the economy appears to be on the rebound, however, there appears to be long built up demand for new ERP systems and other digital investments.

In addition to demand in the US, we are seeing increasing demand for enterprise software investments in developing countries in Africa, South America, and other parts of the world. In some cases, these economies are actually growing faster than their more developed counterparts, creating strains for companies that are unable to handle this growth with their current infrastructure. This is creating further demands for back office ERP systems, as well as CRM, HCM, and other enterprise technologies.

ERP Vendors are Going Through Significant Transformations of Their Own

The many organizations about to implement new technology, are going through significant transformations and ERP vendors themselves are also experiencing their own change. Many have doubled down – and in some cases gone “all in” – on their investments in cloud ERP systems. For example, SAP’s S/4HANA, Oracle’s Cloud, and Microsoft’s Dynamics365 platforms have all made it clear that the leading vendors’ flagship products are now all cloud-based.

While this may be good news for the vendors and their investors that crave the predictable, high-margin revenue that the cloud model affords them; it isn’t all good news for buyers of this technology. These are all relatively new and less proven technologies and platforms, which are creating a good deal of uncertainty and perceived risk in the market. I don’t recall a time in recent history when the vendors were going through so much change with their core platforms.

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.

There is No One-Size-Fits All Solution in the Market

Cloud ERP systems may be the focus of ERP vendors, but they are not necessarily the right answer for all organizations. Some will find cloud solutions to be ideal for their situations. Others will find that the less-developed, less-robust, and less-flexible functionality of certain systems outweighs the benefits of a cloud-based deployment model. Among most of our global client base, we are seeing a fair amount of skepticism and disinterest in the cloud models relative to the more established on-premise counterparts.

Cloud isn’t the only example of a type of technology that doesn’t provide a one-size-fits-all solution, but it is the biggest trend right now. Buyers should beware of industry hype and generalizations that may or may not apply to them, such as agile development, SaaS, predictive analytics, and other buzzwords that vendors and industry analysts like to create. These and other advancements are interesting and should be considered, but they’re not for everyone.

More Than Ever, Digital Transformation is About People and Processes – Than Technology

Rapid evolution and advancements in technology are wonderful, but it often creates simple short-term noise that can distract you from the more important, bigger picture. At the end of the day, your transformation will succeed not because you chose the best cloud solution or the most robust technology in the market, but because you effectively addressed the people and process side of the equation.

Our broad implementation management and project recovery experience shows that effective organizational change management and business process management are much more likely to make your project succeed or fail.

This snapshot of where the industry is in 2017 should help navigate enterprise software decisions you make next year and beyond.

12 Lessons From 12 Years of Digital Transformation

12 Lessons From 12 Years of Digital Transformation

This month, Panorama celebrates its twelfth-year anniversary. In fact, in October 2005, I started Panorama Consulting with the vision of becoming the world’s leading independent ERP consultants.

I’d love to say I had all the answers to succeed when I started the company, but I didn’t, and I still don’t. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from our over 300 clients plus our amazing and experienced team of consultants. These lessons stand the test of time and still apply to our clients’ success even today.

Here are twelve lessons that summarize our twelve years of helping clients of all sizes, industries, and geographies through their ERP software and digital transformation initiatives:

1. Always More About People and Processes Than Technology

As much as technology has changed over the last couple of decades, some things don’t change one bit. In particular, successful enterprise transformations have more to do with people and business processes than they do with the technology itself. If anything, this is truer now than it was several years ago. Organizational change management is more important than ever.

2. There is No One-Size Fits All

Software vendors may push a one-size-fits-all solution since it’s what they sell, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right solution for you. For example, many vendors push trendy cloud solutions because it means more profits for them, but it’s not the right answer for everyone.

3. Most ERP Consultants Don’t Have Your Best Interests in Mind

Just as ERP vendors may push a myopic solution, most ERP consultants also push what is best for them rather than what is best for your organization. This is because the industry is still dominated by consultants, VARs, resellers, and system integrators with financial ties to software vendors.

4. Your Business Should Drive Your Digital and Enterprise Software Needs

Your business has been successful for a reason, and often times this is true in spite of your outdated enterprise systems. You don’t want your enterprise software, or anything else, to cause you to lose the “secret sauce” that makes you who you are. Successful companies start with their business needs and let those drive their technology initiatives.

5. Take Industry Hype with a Grain of Salt

There will always be industry buzzwords and new trends to cloud your thinking and understanding of the market, so it’s important to look beyond short-term trends. Cloud ERP systems, SaaS, big data, analytics, mobility, internet of things, and a slew of other sexy terms will come and go, so it’s important to focus on what’s best for your business (see point #4).

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.

6. The Best Technology Can’t Fix Your Broken Business Processes

One of the biggest (and most longstanding) misconceptions in the industry is related to business process management. Some will tell you that their off-the-shelf technology will help you define your business processes; but don’t fall for it! It sounds good in theory, but today’s software is too flexible with too many options to allow short-cutting of this important part of your transformation initiative.

7. An Effective IT and Digital Strategy is the Foundation for Success

Companies too often start running full speed ahead with their initiatives without a clear sense of direction. The only way to overcome industry biases, hype, and myopic thinking is to define a clear IT and digital strategy that fits your specific business strategy and objectives.

8. ERP Failures Don’t Happen Overnight

To the uneducated and inexperienced, it may seem as though one or two fatal mistakes lead to ERP failure. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Much like death from a thousand paper cuts, ERP failures develop over months or years of poor strategies, decision-making, and execution as we’ve discussed in previous blogs. Experienced and agnostic expertise can help you identify those failure points before it’s too late.

9. ERP Failures Have a Lot in Common – and So do Successful ERP Implementations

Neither ERP success nor failure is a result of chance. Instead, there are clear and consistent patterns between those that succeed and those that fail. It’s important to understand those patterns so you can pivot as things get off track along the way.

10. Advances in Technology are a Double-Edged Sword

For the most part, enterprise technology improvements have been a good thing for customers. But, it’s also a double-edged sword. Robust functionality and impressive flexibility also make implementations more challenging from a people and process perspective (see point #1 above).

11. Dramatic Digital Transformations Aren’t for Everyone

It may be blasphemous to say out loud, but some companies simply shouldn’t move forward with their digital transformation or ERP implementation efforts. For some, there is more low-hanging fruit that can be accomplished with much less cost and risk, such as business process reengineering, upgrades to current systems, or implementing point solutions.

12. Vendor Independence and Objectivity is Still a Critical Key to Success

In order to navigate these twelve lessons, it is important to find a trusted, independent consulting firm, like Panorama Consulting, with no ties to software vendors to help you plan and execute your journey. This is true not just for the software evaluation stage of your project, but also for the implementation planning and implementation phases as well.

There will undoubtedly be more lessons in our next twelve years in business, but these twelve are a good foundation for anyone considering an ERP or digital initiative. Contact us to learn how we can help you with your digital or enterprise software initiative.

Digital Transformation Lessons From a Room Full of CIOs

Digital Transformation Lessons From a Room Full of CIOs

We recently hosted a Digital Enterprise Boot Camp in Toronto. We hold these boot camps a few times a year and it’s always eye-opening. I marvel at how much I learn about the nuances and realities of digital transformation from groups like these.

It’s highly informative being in a room with other leading CIOs and project managers who are out of their work environment and deep into ERP discussion. It’s educational nirvana since it gives the Panorama team and I a direct line into the minds of executives and project leads about to embark on digital transformation or ERP software initiatives. In many cases they are knee deep in their transformations and have battle wounds of their own to share.

Here are just a few things we learned over three days with this elite team of practitioners:

Determine How Best to Spend Your Capital Investment

Most people in the room recognize ERP implementations and digital transformations are high cost and high risk. Most are also cautious about going “all-in” on such a big capital investment without having a clear strategy and plan. Our discussion quickly homed in on ways to optimize how and when those capital dollars get spent. For example, you don’t need to acquire every software module and user license you think you might need – you can always phase those purchases over time to mitigate your risk and cost.

Never Underestimate the Value of Best Practices

Many registrants attend Panorama’s boot camps to better understand technology-agnostic best practices that will help enable their success during their ERP initiatives. They understand there are very real differences between projects that succeed and those that fail. Those differences are not coincidental. There are common and consistent patterns among those that succeed, and discussing these in detail brings value to our boot camp attendees and clients. We also debated and discussed how best practices can be improved upon for optimum fit. In other words, best practices typically add value and you may need to modify them to fit your company’s needs.

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.

Instill More Discipline Before, or as Part of Your ERP Implementation

Many companies grow through acquisition or via organic growth, which can lead to disparate and inconsistent operations over time. Along with strong discipline, they recognize digital transformations can enable standardized and consistent operations. Even more interesting, much of this discipline and refined business processes can be implemented before your implementation. As an example, we discussed warehouse reorganization and elimination of old stock (think SKU reduction) before pushing forward with an ERP initiative. The rigor of planning for a major ERP project often uncovers or highlights tasks which have not been tackled. Addressing these prior to an implementation will be beneficial for many reasons.

ERP isn’t Just About ERP Software – It can be About Business Transformation

Most agree their projects are more about people and processes, not just about their ERP software. Effective business process management, organizational change management and project governance are more likely to influence your level of success than your enterprise software will. While it can be exciting to think about new software and its benefits, no software is an effective blueprint for the best way to run your business.

For Most, 20+ Years is Too Long to be on the Same Legacy System

All our participants at this last boot camp are on older legacy systems, typically for 20 years or more. In many cases, their businesses have changed dramatically over time, and their ERP systems haven’t kept up. This causes their businesses to become aligned with their technology which has led them to a need for more effective enterprise systems. This is a forecast indicating organizational change management will need to be a big part of the new system strategy.

Internal Biases are Alive and Well Entrenched

Organizations like to think they are open to whatever system best fits their needs, when most organizations have internal biases clouding an objective evaluation process. For example, boards and executives might be biased by software different parts of the organization might be using. Or, project team members might be influenced by their experiences at other companies. Or, they could be swayed by “influential” sales reps overselling their software solutions. Regardless of the cause, it is important to recognize and mitigate these biases, such as hiring independent ERP consultants like Panorama to be part of your bench.

These are just a few lessons from three days with some of the world’s most interesting organizations and teams. These lessons should help you as you begin your digital transformation as well.

How Football Can Help Your Digital Transformation

How Football Can Help Your Digital Transformation

American football is my favorite sport for many diverse reasons, paramount among them being:

  • Tactical dexterity – it’s strategic and agile
  • Physicality – it’s a tough and hard-hitting sport
  • Criticality – with only 16 games in a season every game matters

Football’s lessons for effective digital transformation are profound and they (football and digital transformation) are similar in many ways. It’s worth looking at some football themes that can appropriate and apply to your ERP digital transformation efforts.

Successful Digital Transformations Require Practice and Discipline

Football players and other devoted athletes don’t reach their potential by chance, rather they do so through hard-work, repeated practice and religious adherence to a strict regimen. Similarly, ERP implementations only become successful with practice, employing a solid strategy and lots of experience. If your project team is missing a game-plan or any of these key ingredients, consider adding an outside independent ERP consultant to the lineup. It could provide the competitive advantage your team needs for direction and support while maintaining resilience.

Small Mistakes can Completely Change the Trajectory of the Game

In football, a lost grip or overthrown ball can lead to turnovers and sometimes the difference between a good play and a poor play comes down to only inches. Every play needs to be a well-orchestrated effort with 11 players operating effectively in tandem. When this doesn’t happen, things can go awry very quickly.

The same is true for ERP implementations: shortchanging organizational change management, missing key details of your future-state business processes, or misreading a costly project-risk can all lead to failure – even if the rest of your project is well executed. An independent and fresh set of eyes can help avoid costly mistakes. An unbiased assessment allows you to address your project’s blind-spots in a preventative and proactive manner. As in football, you don’t always get a chance to do it over, and if you do, it can be costly.

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.

Every Play Matters

Each play in the game of football matters. If you can’t consistently execute to get first-downs, your odds of winning are low. This means every play must be practiced repeatedly before the game and executed with skill and precision during the game.

Similarly, every “play” in your ERP implementation is critical and you need to have a well-defined approach, plan and methodology. You need to have clearly defined project roles and responsibilities and when someone is fatigued or ineffective, you need to “bench” them for a fresh resource. If you treat every effort of your ERP initiative with the same discipline as football players, you are much more likely to be successful and effective.

Momentum is a Powerful Thing

How many times have you seen a team blow a big lead or turn an otherwise dominant performance into a loss? If a team is consistently commanding and executing, they typically build enough momentum to win. If they are disrupted by turnovers, penalties or any other things giving the other team momentum, they are more likely to lose. Employee turnover and not backfilling for key members of your ERP project are other common examples of momentum killers.

With digital transformation initiatives, it’s hard to gain and maintain momentum and in turn, easy to lose it. That one executive resisting the project can completely deflate the momentum your team is building and poorly defined business processes can derail an otherwise effective initiative. Many things can cause loss of momentum, so be sure to enlist the help of experts that can help you build gate checks and help you maintain momentum, while avoiding costly mistakes. Unlike football, your ERP project probably doesn’t have referees telling you what you need to hear vs. what you want to hear.

Coaching and Leadership can Turn Average Players into Winners

I’m a lifelong Denver Bronco’s fan, so I’m fascinated by the ups and downs of my team over the years. Most recently, Trevor Siemian is the Bronco’s starting quarterback, who didn’t have a particularly great season last year. This year, he’s been paired with an offensive coordinator who has a knack for turning average quarterbacks into performers and while there are other more tenured quarterbacks, he has so far, shown he can play with some of the best. Good coaches and instructors can often elevate raw skill and take talent to a new level.

Similarly, an average ERP project team, given strong coaching and mentoring will almost always outperform the stronger project team that lacks input and support. Strong leadership melds the strategy, discipline and continuous improvement required to make a project team successful. How can you augment your team’s performance with the type of leadership and coaching for your project to be successful?

As you watch that next NFL or college football matchup, ask yourself what lessons or resources you can apply to your ERP initiative and what influences and support mechanisms do you have that will prep your players for excellence? Adding a seasoned independent ERP consultant such as Panorama to your lineup might just come to mind.

How Growth Can Undermine Your Digital Transformation

How Growth Can Undermine Your Digital Transformation

Earlier this week, I met with a Panorama client that is experiencing explosive growth. Not your run of the mill 10 to 20% year-over-year growth, but more like hockey stick, doubling-in-annual-volume type of growth.

This company is struggling with how to best implement new ERP software to streamline their business and scale for growth. Simultaneously, they need to manage the day-to-day demands associated with increasing volumes, employees, and customers.

This is no easy feat. Managing a transformation while experiencing exponential growth creates conflicting priorities. It can be a lot to handle when you’re already lean on resources. In addition, it’s hard to do things the “right way” when you’re trying to get that next big order out.

Digital transformation and ERP software initiatives are difficult and complex, but even more so in high-growth environments. Here are a few pitfalls to watch out for:

Balancing Long and Short Priorities

A big conflict we see in high growth companies is that the best long-term decision may not be right for the short term. It’s difficult for employees (and in some cases, the executive team) to make strategic decisions while trying to keep their heads above water. While you might be tempted to “just get it done,” you also want to make sure you take the time to evaluate the potential ongoing value. Be sure you have a solid plan that considers short-term needs but doesn’t ignore what’s best for the future requirements of the company.

Is it Time to Standardize That Flexible and Entrepreneurial Culture?

I’ve nearly been run out of the room on occasion for saying the “S” word. Entrepreneurial companies may have gotten to where they are by being responsive and flexible to customers, so standardization isn’t typically a goal. However, fast growth can lead to inefficiencies and patchwork business processes that need tightening. Quality can suffer. This can create tension in your organization, so it is important to have a solid organizational change management strategy and plan to mitigate those risks. Standardization and flexibility aren’t mutually exclusive, but it is a balancing act that can be hard to navigate.

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.

Don’t Water Down Your Competitive Advantage

You may have a “secret sauce” that makes your business successful. Understand what that is so you can preserve it. ERP vendors often suggest that their software has best practices for your industry, but don’t buy that at face value. Business processes related to your competitive advantage should drive the software. Or, to use an old analogy, don’t fall into the trap of the tail wagging the dog.

A Minimal Viable Product Won’t Likely Deliver a Strong ROI

High-growth companies often gravitate toward the concept of a minimum viable product. That’s typically the philosophy they use when introducing products or services to the market, so they tend to want to adopt this approach with their enterprise systems – and understandably so. The downside risk is that this doesn’t allow you to leverage the full strengths and capabilities of today’s ERP software. In order to maximize the benefits of new technology, you’ll need to take the time to map your to-be business processes, organizational roles, and other aspects of your business blueprint.

A Sturdy Foundation

Your ERP software or digital transformation initiative is more than a technology project. It is more like a blueprint for the continued success and growth of your company. Without a strong well-thought-out blueprint, your business could eventually flounder atop a crumbling foundation. This is why business process management and reengineering is so important to your company’s future success. Be sure to take the time to define your desired business processes before the meter starts running on expensive technical resources who will charge you while they wait for you to make decisions.

The good news is that we’ve seen and helped many companies manage the conflicting dynamics of ERP software implementations and high business growth. It’s very tricky, but it’s also very doable. It’s an area the Panorama team is well-equipped to handle, so contact us to learn more about how we can assist.

The Cost of Delays with System Enhancements

The Cost of Delays with System Enhancements

An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is an enormous boost to the productivity and profitability of any business at any scale. It manages sensitive data, increases organizational transparency, and streamlines the business process, thus effectively reducing lead time and operational costs. Simply having an ERP system, though, is not always enough.

A dated system could stunt business growth, jeopardizing the productivity and profitability of your business. An enhancement, then, is a sensible next step for your organization.

Systems That Fall Behind Could Slow You Down

Let’s say you have a perfectly working ERP solution that helps your workforce get the job done efficiently. It doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, you think, and so you decide that it can skip an upgrade and save your business some capital, but you overlook the fact that while the software isn’t slowing down, there are software upgrades that can speed up your business process.

That’s not to mention the fact that pushing back the necessary upgrade would just make the costs pile up. Technology will continue to evolve, and compatibility will become an issue.

The longer you delay a system enhancement, the more your current system will miss out on lucrative opportunities. It will hamper your business’s efficiency and affect its projected return on investment (ROI) in the long run.

Generating Redundant Data

All businesses start small; it’s only a matter of time and effort before you reach your full potential and expand. Nevertheless, many small-but-growing businesses are hesitant to upgrade—or implement, even—ERP software because they started and got used to transacting and tracking data without it.

As your business grows, the data you handle grows alongside it. You will face challenges regarding unstructured data, which your ERP system has no control over. Your organization will also struggle with structured data, which the system processes. Without meticulous data management, your organization will have to deal with duplicate data.

Duplicate or redundant data will take up space in your system, slowing down processes. In time, this will affect your business’s competitive edge. A software upgrade can prevent this outcome.

When you have a system that seamlessly integrates the different aspects of recordkeeping and data processing, from sales to inventory, it gives your business an edge. It enables your workforce to dedicate their efforts to actions that drive tangible results rather than on trying to keep sensitive company data up-to-date.

If you are on the fence about upgrading the system, think of it this way: the outdated technology may just be the only thing hindering your business from generating better profit. The upgrade could process data more efficiently, giving you a better business outlook.

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.

Getting Behind Schedule

You can check whether your ERP system is performing well through a series of key business metrics. Data and inventory accuracy is one way of determining the system’s functionality.

On the other hand, the complete and on-time delivery of reports is a measurable way of determining your business’s general performance.

An ERP system acts like a live diary that takes note of the different operational aspects of your business, gathering information you can use to improve the business process.

A dated system might have some difficulties keeping up with your growing business demands. It might have difficulty processing information if it does not support existing technology or is not compatible with other systems. As such, it could set back operations and affect your overall schedule.

Delaying system enhancements will prevent your current system from operating to its maximum capability. It just deprives your system from features that can speed up the process and potentially get you ahead of schedule.

Don’t worry about enhancements terminating jobs in your company—people still need to operate them, after all.

Know When Your System Needs an Update

When did you last have an ERP system update? This step does not refer to the occasional patching up of glitches with the system. Rather, it refers to the actual enhancement of features that unleash an entirely different level of productivity from the software.

Consider investing in new software features if your system is struggling with next-generation technology and related systems. You might just be wasting time on irrelevant data, limited access, and stalled growth if the system is not in line with external technologies that it works hand-in-hand with.

You can also consider updating your system if low productivity is evident among your employees.

They could be spending more than necessary time on trying to operate the system, access stored data, or verify whether the operational process is efficient. These factors could distract them from drawing up on implementing strategies for your business’s overall profitability.

ERP does not have an expiration date, but system lags and glitches are enough to tell you when you seriously need system enhancements. It will improve productivity by providing easier access to accurate data, increase organizational transparency, and reducing lead time.

It could even reduce your company’s spending on the business process and related operations.

Delaying System Enhancement Stifles Productivity and Profitability

ERP system enhancement is one way of allowing your business to grow without expanding your workforce. It improves the way your company processes data and takes on repetitive yet necessary backroom tasks, even with heavy workload. This is because developers, who are aware that many businesses rely on such software, build up on existing features to handle greater tasks in a more efficient manner.

You no longer have to add people to the company to take care of crucial yet mundane tasks that your ever-growing business requires.

The system can handle it.

As such, current employees who are already well-versed with the ins and outs of your business can focus on expanding profitability and generating higher ROI. Their enhanced productivity, then, enables your business to remain competitive in the market.

Outdated software could make your business fall behind—don’t wait for this to happen. If you want to find out why investing in an ERP system enhancement is particularly beneficial for your business, take advantage of our obligation-free consultation and talk to us today.

Flexibility vs. Standardization: How the Answer to this One Question Should Drive Your ERP System and Digital Transformation

Flexibility vs. Standardization: How the Answer to this One Question Should Drive Your ERP System and Digital Transformation

Choosing and implementing new ERP software has more to do with your desired business strategy and operational model than specific software solutions.

When evaluating and implementing potential enterprise software, it can be easy to get lost in the technical details, bells and whistles, and functionality. ERP projects are a complex investment, especially if you aren’t working with them every day. I understand that the process can be overwhelming and fraught with unknowns.

Before you start evaluating specific ERP vendors and software solutions, it is important to answer one simple question: are you trying to provide flexibility within your organization, or are you trying to standardize operations? Organizations differ, so it’s important to understand the tradeoffs before going too far down the path of an ERP evaluation and selection.

A few things to keep in mind:

Standardization is Not a Bad Thing

We are currently working with a few different clients who have all been wildly successful largely because they have repeatable processes and deliver predictable, quality products and services. They can consistently meet demand and are great at what they do. The example of the best pizza place in town comes to mind. They make great pizza and everything that goes with it, and they’ve turned pizza-making into an art. But in some cases, there are risks associated with standardization: not being able to keep up as consumer trends change, for instance. Standardized processes and products are easier to automate and often easier to scale, but will they ensure that the future of your organization is stable?

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.

Flexibility vs. Standardization

Some of our clients, on the other hand, are too standardized. They may have lost business because they did not have the flexibility that their customers craved or demanded. In these cases, such companies may want to edge closer to flexibility than standardization. But this also comes with risks: flexibility can be code for “resistance to change” or “refusal to use standard business processes.” It can also lead to excessive software customization – a common risk of ERP implementations. There is no right answer, so the key is to find the right balance.

Your Decision Should Drive Which Software Best Fits Your Business

Once you define where on this standardization-flexibility spectrum you fall, you will want to find the software that fits best. Keep in mind that it’s not just what you think – you’ll also want to ensure that the rest of your executive and management team are on the same page. For example, a more standardized model might lead you to be more inclined to migrate to SAP S/4HANA rather than Oracle Cloud. On the other hand, a more flexible model might have you leaning toward Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics 365, or Infor CloudSuite. Of course, there is no “all or nothing” solution and every company will come to a different conclusion, so it’s important to hire an independent, technology-agnostic, and experienced partner like Panorama to help you carefully consider your best options.

Your Decision Will Also Drive How You Implement the Software

Not only will your decision enable the best software choices, but it will also heavily influence how you implement this software. For example, taking a heavily standardized approach means that you will spend even more time on up-front business process management as well as on organizational change management and training. Alternatively, a more flexible model requires even stronger project governance and controls to ensure that the need for flexibility doesn’t lead to excessive customization or end-user workarounds. In other words, your entire implementation – the plan, your resources, and the decisions you make every day – should ultimately align with your decision.

So, before you move full-steam ahead with your ERP implementation or digital transformation, be sure that you are considering what strategies will ultimately support your brand and growth.

How Amazon, Walmart, and Apple are Undermining Your Digital Transformation

How Amazon, Walmart, and Apple are Undermining Your Digital Transformation

We are currently working with several retail and distribution clients that are being severely disrupted by technology innovators and industry behemoths. Companies such as Amazon, Walmart, and Apple are forcing them to rethink their business models, supply chains, customer experience and other key components of their businesses.

For example, Amazon recently acquired Whole Foods, Walmart acquired e-commerce retailer Bonobos, and Apple announced yet another makeover of their iconic iPhone which has and will continue to change how we all interact with technology. These moves demonstrate that the lines between brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, the physical world, and technological worlds are all converging. This is a big reason why so many retail and distribution firms are hiring Panorama to help facilitate their digital transformation efforts to keep up.

Even for companies outside of retail, these three companies are examples of how external competitive pressures are putting your business behind the eight ball. Individuals using Amazon to purchase products for same-day delivery may be potential customers looking to purchase your organization’s products or services. In other words, individuals don’t have different expectations for how they interface with companies in their personal and professional lives.

If this sounds like bad news to your organization’s state of enterprise technology, there is a silver lining: it’s never too late to start transforming your business. Here are a few lessons to take away from these industry disruptors:

No Matter What Industry You’re in, the Rate of Technological Change is Accelerating

We recently worked with a business-to-business distributor of lawn care products. Although this industry niche may sound old school and unaffected by leading-edge technology, they are being as severely disrupted as many retailers. Their customers are demanding quicker and more transparent service. Their suppliers expect a more streamlined experience, and employees struggle to get comfortable with handheld technology and learning mainframe systems. If you don’t yet feel the pressures of these technology companies, you will.

Customer and Employee Expectations for Technology Interactions are Higher Than Ever

No matter who your customers are, they are not unaffected by technological advances in their personal lives. They use their smart phones to find information and make things easier in their personal lives, so why wouldn’t they expect the same when interfacing with your company? Same goes for employees. Millennials don’t know what life without technology feels like, so how could they possibly work at a company without streamlined and intuitive systems? Technology and e-commerce leaders are directly impacting your customers’ expectations for your business.

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.

Customer Service, Supply Chains, Production Processes are More Streamlined Than Ever

Even if you think your industry is remaining pretty much the same, technology is raising the bar for how your internal and customer-facing processes should look. For example, we are working with a large, Fortune 500 steel manufacturing company to help define and implement a digital strategy to help them interface with their customers more effectively. They are in an industry about as far from technological innovation as you can get, so if their business is being impacted by companies such as Amazon, then chances are that yours is as well.

Data is Dead, but Business Intelligence and Predictive Analytics are Alive and Kicking

One of our current clients is a mid-size international retail chain. They have an extremely successful business model, but they haven’t cracked the code on how to integrate and make sense of all the customer data they collect. Many companies are in the same boat, with plenty of data to sift through, but little in the way of understanding, predicting, and making informed decisions to better their businesses. However, companies such as Amazon have underscored the importance and value of business intelligence and predictive analytics.

Digital Transformation = A Need for Organizational Change Management

Assuming you see the potential to engage in a digital transformation initiative to bolster your competitiveness, you will need to be prepared for change. A well-oiled organizational change management strategy, plan, and team will make the difference between success and failure. The technology part usually works out just fine, but employee adoption and changing business processes will be the bigger challenge.

You may not consider your organization in the same league as Amazon, Walmart, or Apple, but you can be certain that those businesses are impacting yours. What will you do to address those impacts?

How to Align Business and Technology

How to Align Business and Technology

CIOs and their IT departments are often disconnected from executive teams and the business needs of their organizations. Despite the best intentions of CIOs and IT directors entrusted with aligning technology with the overall needs of the business, most are failing to do so. We often see a similar phenomenon with our clients. In many cases, the CIO becomes so wrapped up in the technological aspects of their ERP implementations that they lose sight of the bigger picture.

Adding further fuel to the fire, ERP vendors and systems integrators often oversell their technological capabilities, regardless of how well-aligned these capabilities may be with the operational needs of their clients. The reason for this trend has less to do with the CIOs and more to do with the changing nature of business. IT systems haven’t kept up with our economic shift from an industrial market focused on productivity to a knowledge-based economy focused on collaboration. The ERP industry faces a similar disconnect between the way software has traditionally been built versus the needs of today’s businesses and government entities.

biz vs tech

So what does this mean to the average CIO or executive team about to implement a new ERP system? Here are a few ways that CIOs and other executives can better leverage their ERP software initiatives to ensure alignment between the business and technological aspects of their organizations:

1. Business Process Re-engineering Should be More Comprehensive and Less Focused on System Transactions

Most systems integrators, consultants and vendors tend to focus on system transactions when designing ERP software. However, this approach is more suited for ERP systems of the 1990s than for the 2010s. It is also a key reason why ERP failure rates have not improved in recent years. Instead of focusing on how to streamline keystrokes and deciding where specific fields should appear on certain screens, business process reengineering should identify ways that different departments can better collaborate, share knowledge and create a better product more efficiently. A top-down business process reengineering approach is best suited to accomplish this and will feed the technical team’s configuration requirements downstream in the project.

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.

2.   Organizational Change Management Needs to Not Only Help Employees Better Understand how the ERP System Works but Also How Their Jobs are Changing

Organizations continue to evolve from industrial entities into knowledge-based centers of collaboration, employees need to be coached and managed through this change. In the midst of this change, employees will resist efforts to go back in time and force-fit an ERP system configured for the needs of an industrial manufacturer in the 1990s. While point #1 above will ensure that the software is configured to meet the needs of modern times, an effective organizational change management plan is still required to transition employees, customers and suppliers to this new way of doing business. The software won’t do it for you, no matter how well it is technically designed or implemented.

3.   ERP Project Management Needs to Focus on the Needs of the Business as Well

Part of the reason most ERP implementations take longer than expected and cost more than expected is because the project team has set unrealistic expectations to begin with. Traditional ERP consultants and systems integrators aren’t business-minded so they find it difficult to manage ERP implementations as a business initiative rather than a technology project. Sure, an ERP system can theoretically be implemented and configured in a weekend if you really try, but not if you want it to meet the needs of your business. The latter is what takes time and needs to be budgeted and planned for. The disconnect between CIOs and business is just as prevalent between ERP systems and business. An effective project management team and methodology focused on the business and technological components of a successful ERP implementation is the only way to navigate this common pitfall.

We’ve seen the symptoms, researched the causes and applied solutions to our client situations. Hopefully this creates incentive for companies to do what it takes to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.

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