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8 Technical ERP Project Management Tips

8 Technical ERP Project Management Tips

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

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

ERP Project Management Tips

1. Squash Scope Creep Early

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

2019 ERP Report

This year's report delves deep into the data to analyze what ERP industry trends mean for organizations now and in the future.

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

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

2. Be Realistic About the Timeline

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

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

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

3. Build in Time for Regression Testing

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

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

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

4. Use Templates for Design and Integration Documents

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

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

5. Leverage DevOps Tools to Track the Status of Deliverables

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

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

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

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

6. Build a Solid Cutover Plan

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

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

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

7. Set Expectations for Team Availability

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

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

8. Schedule in Some Fun

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

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

What About Organizational Change Management

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

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

How to Measure ERP Benefits Realization After Go-live

How to Measure ERP Benefits Realization After Go-live

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

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

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

2019 ERP Report

This year's report delves deep into the data to analyze what ERP industry trends mean for organizations now and in the future.

What is ERP ROI and How is it Measured?

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

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

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

How to Calculate ERP Costs

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

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

1. Licensing

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

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

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

2. Hardware

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

3. Technical Implementation

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

4. Change Management

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

How to Calculate ERP Business Benefits

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

1. Reduced Operating Expenses

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

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

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

1. Labor

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

2. Logistics

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

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

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

3. Utility Costs

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

2. Shorter Sales Cycle

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

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

3. Streamlined Supply Chain and Lower Cost of Goods

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

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

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

Do the Math

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

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

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

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

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

ERP Implementation Success Factors for Each Phase

ERP Implementation Success Factors for Each Phase

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

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

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

2019 ERP Report

This year's report delves deep into the data to analyze what ERP industry trends mean for organizations now and in the future.

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

ERP Implementation Success Factors​

Phase 1: Plan​

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

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

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

Phase 2: Design

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

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

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

Phase 3: Build

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

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

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

Phase 4: Test​

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

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

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

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

Phase 5: Deploy​

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

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

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

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

Phase 6: Optimize

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

Other ERP Implementation Success Factors

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

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

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

(Technical) ERP Go-live Readiness Checklist

(Technical) ERP Go-live Readiness Checklist

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

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

2019 ERP Report

This year's report delves deep into the data to analyze what ERP industry trends mean for organizations now and in the future.

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

ERP Go-live Checklist​

1. All Test Cases are Executed and Passed​

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Data Migration and Cutover Activities Have Been Practiced

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

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

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

4. Production Data is Staged and Ready to be Migrated

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

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

5. Your Production Environment is Ready

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

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

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

6. The Rollout Strategy is Defined, Scheduled and Communicated

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

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

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

7. The Support Team is Prepared

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

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

Are You Ready for Go-live?

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

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

5 ERP Post Go-live Optimization Tips

5 ERP Post Go-live Optimization Tips

Your ERP project team has crossed the finish line – you’ve gone live! All that’s left to do is support the production environment, right?

Not quite. Post go-live optimization is a phase that should be included in your ERP project plan and is often overlooked. During this phase, you should be supporting users in the production environment with training, communication and issue resolution via your support team.

This phase is essential because the first impression of a new ERP system and your IT department’s ability to support it set the tone for user adoption.

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Transformation

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

While there is no “one size fits all” approach to post go-live optimization, we’ve compiled five tips and tricks from our experience that can maintain your momentum after go-live:

5 Tips for Post Go-live Optimization

1. Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Even if users are not reporting system slowness, we recommend measuring system performance anyway.

Your IT department may find performance issues before users begin to notice. Fixing these issues in a timely manner can lead to better user adoption in the long run.

In addition, early detection of performance problems allows you more time to investigate the root cause and fine tune your infrastructure. It’s better to find these issues before more transactions bog down the system and more users come online.

Another way to be proactive is to monitor interface and batch job error logs. Again, the key is to identify any issues before an end user does. For example, by monitoring error logs, you may realize that purchase orders are not being updated with delivery information before a buyer notices and opens a ticket.

During implementation, interfaces may have passed all rounds of testing, but with live data and a multitude of new users in the system, there are likely scenarios that were not tested and could be causing issues in production.

Taking proactive measures to keep the system stabilized leads to better user adoption and presents an opportunity to train your support team on what to monitor and how.

Having a strong post go-live support team is critical in optimizing your live ERP system, which leads to our next tip.

2. Assemble Your Team and Streamline Their Processes

Prior to go-live, your support team should have been ramping up to prepare for the post go-live phase. However, once the system is live, this training shouldn’t stop. We recommend arming your team with any and all available resources, such as additional training materials, sandbox environments and top-level support.

Ensure your support team has a good mix of ERP experts, business analysts, process specialists and change management champions. When you have a wide range of expertise, whatever ticket comes through the help desk can be addressed without scrambling to find the appropriate resource.

For example, you could have a security or access issue bucket where users can report an incorrect security assignment that prevents them from accessing the ERP system. These issues can then be routed to the security team without having to pass through the eyes of a business analyst.

Another example is a training bucket for when users open a ticket for a process that is working as designed but users were not properly trained on it. These can be directed to the organizational change management team who can train users on correct protocol.

Categorizing tickets is just one trick for streamlining the resolution process. Anything you can do to optimize their process will help you more quickly stabilize the ERP software.

3. Dig Into the Data

Just like monitoring error logs, keeping an eye on production data can help identify issues before they become a bigger problem.

For example, let’s say during ERP implementation you assumed that order entry clerks would create a system record for a new customer before placing an order for them. You even defined this in a business process flow and recorded this in the training documentation.

However, now that your ERP system is live, you’re starting to see several sales orders with no customer name. The assumption made during the ERP project impacted downstream processes, such as customer retention and marketing campaigns. Without customer records, these downstream processes will have no data to act upon.

Identifying and addressing data issues can optimize your ERP solution a few different ways: it can identify process changes that employees prefer over what was implemented, it can reveal which users or business groups are not properly trained, and it can help identify configuration problems that allow users to enter invalid data.

In our experience, data issues can be minimized by developing a data migration strategy early in the project. Our clients have found that this not only minimizes post go-live data issues, but it makes these issues easier to address.

4. Communicate, Reiterate, Repeat

Your change management team should ensure end users know the key dates of when to stop transacting in one system and when to start in the other. This team is also responsible for ensuring that training documentation and additional help information (such as the process of opening a support ticket) is easy to find.

Communication lets end users know they are not alone. Key messages should be repeated as needed to reach the widest audience because, when it comes to organization-wide changes, there is no such thing as over-communicating.

5. Listen for Feedback

When users call into the support desk, they likely will have some insight into how they thought the enterprise system would work versus how it was implemented. Your support team should listen to these users and capture their feedback. This feedback provides insight into how to optimize the ERP software.

Visiting with the user base can also prove enlightening. For example, in the retail industry, imagine leaving the headquarters (where the majority of the ERP project took place) and visiting the stores that are live with the new system.

You might witness an employee and customer interaction where the employee checks the inventory for an item and finds it’s not available at the current location. The customer asks if it’s available at another location, but the employee says that the system doesn’t show that information. Frustrated, the customer leaves.

It’s easy to see that inventory visibility across stores was not a top priority during implementation. However, this first-hand account has made it clear that it should be a priority moving forward.

Analyzing and acting on feedback is an important step in realizing more business benefits from your ERP system. Capturing feedback systemically and converting comments into requirements is a good first step to optimizing your new ERP system in a subsequent phase.

Continuous Improvement

Have your ERP vendor and ERP consultants left you stranded after go-live? Panorama’s ERP consultants can pick up where they left off and equip your team to proactively address technical and process issues. We’ll also empower end users to report issues and identify opportunities for improvement. Contact us to learn how we can help your company realize long term ERP benefits.

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.

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.

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.

5 Common ERP Implementation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

5 Common ERP Implementation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Like the nervous system, ERP software delivers critical data from a variety of sources to a centralized hub where the information is analyzed. No one thinks twice about the nervous system when it’s working properly, but if it begins to break down, it has our full attention. Similarly, when an ERP implementation goes awry, it captures our attention, as it can negatively impact the organization’s supply chain and other critical business functions.  

Many large organizations have struggled with implementing ERP software. Think Waste Management’s failed implementation of an SAP ERP system and Nike’s disaster with i2’s “software glitch.” While these high-profile ERP failures should serve as lessons learned, organizations don’t always take advantage of the insights.

To ensure you are aware of the potential pitfalls of implementing your ERP solution, we’ve outlined five mistakes to avoid:

Mistake #1: Buying an unnecessary system

Organizations often find themselves dissatisfied with their current financial, supply chain management or human resources management systems and decide that a completely new ERP solution is the answer to their dissatisfaction. While a new system is warranted in many cases, there are instances where a refinement of the existing system might be what’s really needed.

We’re all familiar with the notion that sometimes our eyes are too big for our stomach. The same can be applied to the decision to implement a new ERP system. Falling in love with live demos, sales pitches and the perceived successes of other organizations can lead you to the conclusion that a new system is the answer to all your problems.

Prior to implementing a new system, we recommend establishing a task force to determine whether a new system is necessary. It may also be worth engaging an independent consulting firm, like Panorama Consulting Solutions, to give you an unbiased opinion as to whether a new system is the best choice for your organization’s needs.

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Mistake #2: Misunderstanding success

Companies that have decided to move forward with an ERP implementation often get mesmerized by software features. This can occur when the project team doesn’t properly identify the organization’s core needs. In addition, project scope may not be well-defined and financial requirements may be unclear.

When planning for implementation, your organization should have clearly-defined objectives. Also, you should define key performance indicators as well as a project budget and timeline. This will ensure there is consensus around what success looks like.

Mistake #3: Inadequate planning

Just because an ERP project plan has been created doesn’t mean it will be effective. Many an ERP implementation has run aground because of insufficient planning. The person responsible for the planning was ill equipped to handle that responsibility. Bad planning often involves overly-optimistic timelines as well as a lack of business process reengineering and organizational change management.

When preparing for an ERP implementation, your organization should incorporate high-level strategic planning as well as meticulous planning at the detailed level. All phases of planning should consider every impacted department and every employee group. In addition, you should develop a contingency plan in anticipation of potential problems.

Mistake #4: Inadequate resources

Assigning critical staff to your ERP project without careful planning can be a recipe for disaster. Positions can be difficult to adequately backfill, meaning resources may only have part-time involvement in the project. The result is a lack of focus and commitment leading to inadequate data migration and an inability to maintain deadlines.

Proper allocation of resources is vital, and your organization must understand the internal commitment necessary to ensure success. Building a strong project team will reduce your chance of ERP failure.

Mistake #5: Over-customization

The growing reliance on extensive ERP systems and the rising number of third-party modules has led to increased software customization. Customization can create extremely complex systems and extend your project scope. This is not to say all customization should be avoided, but it’s not realistic to view an ERP system as a solution that meets all needs in every situation.

Your organization must build strong project governance to ensure customization does not get out of control. Relying on capable project managers will help control scope creep and reduce the chance of cost overruns.

Avoiding ERP Failure

Investing in ERP implementation planning and ensuring organizational alignment will help you avoid ERP failure. Panorama’s ERP consultants can help you develop an implementation plan that accounts for all critical project activities and mitigates common project risks.

6 Ways to Mitigate Software Implementation Risks

6 Ways to Mitigate Software Implementation Risks

Software implementations carry significant risks, including budget and duration overruns and implementation failures. Often, these risks can be mitigated with proper planning at the beginning of the project. Instead of making decisions based on fear, you should feel confident you’re addressing the potential pitfalls of ERP projects.

Here are six ways to mitigate risk before beginning the software implementation process:

Understand Your Business Strategy Objectives

Clarifying your business strategy requires collaboration among all stakeholders. During these discussions, define what customer success looks like and determine what’s working and what’s not. Most importantly, clearly articulate your objectives – do you want to create new business models or generate new revenue using ERP software?

These discussions will help you achieve organizational alignment. Ultimately, executives and middle management should be aligned around what changes are needed to improve your organization’s competitive advantage.

With organizational alignment, you can reduce the risk of selecting the wrong software system. When you know your long term goals, you know what technology your organization needs.

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Set Realistic Expectations

ERP failure is often caused by unrealistic timelines and budgets. Understanding what benchmarks are realistic for your industry and company size will help you set realistic expectations. While you may need to adjust expectations throughout the project, starting with a realistic estimate will make these adjustments less surprising to executives.

ERP vendors may not have a realistic view of the resources and internal requirements necessary for a successful software implementation. It’s up to you to create a realistic software implementation plan based on your organization’s unique situation. This is an area where independent ERP consultants can be helpful.

Prepare Employees for Organizational Change

It is human nature to resist change. Change resistance causes implementation delays, quality problems and reduced productivity. If employees don’t adapt to change, your digital strategy will not lead to lasting business transformation.

Obtaining buy-in from executives first is a good way to obtain buy-in from team members and employees. If executives are excited for change, this attitude will be contagious. You can obtain buy-in from all stakeholders by communicating the nature of upcoming changes and the reason for change. Communication should be guided by a change management plan, which is informed by readiness assessments and user acceptance testing.

If your employees aren’t using new software day to day, you will have to postpone go live until they accept change. However, if you obtain buy-in early, you reduce the risk of project delays. The sooner employees start using software, the sooner you’ll realize business benefits.

Optimize Your Business Processes

An ERP implementation is a good opportunity to optimize your business processes. While most back-office processes can be optimized based on standard software functionality, some processes should be redesigned independent of software. Processes that provide competitive advantage shouldn’t be constrained by an ERP vendor’s “best practices.”

Optimizing your processes before ERP selection minimizes risk because you’re ensuring you select software that meets your current and future needs. Optimized processes help you develop demo scripts for ERP vendors to ensure they focus on your unique needs. If you were to select an ERP system without knowledge of your future-state processes, the software might require extensive customization.

Why bother with business process reengineering? Employees at most organizations work in silos and have different ways of performing similar processes. This creates duplication of effort and makes it difficult to gather and analyze data. Improving the customer experience via software implementation requires real-time data, so you should break down silos as much as possible.

Plan for Data Migration

With every software implementation, there is the risk that ERP software will not enable the organization’s strategic objectives. To mitigate this risk, reliable and actionable data is essential.

As soon as you select a software application, you should start preparing for data migration. Most legacy data is not ready for new systems. Data is usually spread across multiple sources with various structures and formats.

To account for this complexity, you should document and establish a data strategy. For example, you will need to cleanse data to resolve duplicate data and other common data quality issues. You also should define future nomenclature for items, item descriptions, units of measure, etc.

Successful data migration requires involvement from four key groups: data owners, the functional team, the data migration team and the project team.

Limit Software Customization

Once you start down the path of software customization, it’s difficult to stop. You might receive customization requests even after you’ve made it clear there will be no further changes. After the final round of customization, you should only approve customization requests that truly benefit your competitive advantage.

Strong project governance and project management ensure the implementation team doesn’t over-customize the ERP software. Investing in business process reengineering also is a good strategy for limiting last-minute customization.

Technology-focused Projects are Inherently Risky

There is a distinct difference between technology-focused and business-focused projects. Technology-focused projects neglect activities that align people and processes with new technology. Business-focused projects, on the other hand, focus on change management and business process management. Guess which type of project is less risky.

4 Tips for Finding the Right ERP Consultant

4 Tips for Finding the Right ERP Consultant

ERP implementations are frequently run by project managers with little ERP implementation experience. Many of these project managers refuse to contract with ERP consultants. As a result, organizations struggle to differentiate between various ERP vendor proposals. When they do finally implement an ERP system, they struggle to realize the full benefits of digital technology.

Clearly, these project managers could use third-party guidance. However, finding a reliable implementation partner is no easy task. Here are four tips for finding a trusted partner for your ERP implementation:

1. Ensure the ERP Consultant is Technology Agnostic

An independent ERP consultant has no financial ties to a particular ERP vendor or ERP system. The implementation partner is only interested in the client’s digital transformation success.

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

Preferred partners, on the other hand, are tied to specific vendors. In other words, a preferred partner’s revenue model depends on selling or servicing particular systems. This is typically the case with any VAR or large consulting firm specializing in just a few ERP systems. When it comes to smaller systems, it is the vendors themselves who sell and implement these systems.

While you may want a large ERP system, like SAP or Oracle, you shouldn’t rule out other systems that meet your business requirements. You’ll never know what you’re missing unless you hire an ERP consultant with the freedom to recommend any system.

Another benefit of hiring an independent ERP consultant like Panorama Consulting? These firms typically have a proven vendor negotiation methodology developed from years of experience with hundreds of ERP vendors.

2. Understand the ERP Consultant’s Methodology

When evaluating ERP consulting firms, you should understand their methodologies and where those methodologies come from. Many consulting firms use canned methodologies from various business training organizations. Few consulting firms have taken the time to leverage their learning into their own methodologies.

Your consultant’s methodologies should holistically focus on people, processes and technology. As more organizations pursue digital transformation rather than traditional ERP implementations, the need for a holistic approach is becoming clearer.

You should also consider whether the consultant’s methodology is flexible enough to fit your needs. For example, some organizations need a business process management approach that focuses on improving individual processes. Others need a business process management approach that focuses on streamlining end-to-end processes. Panorama has expertise in both approaches.

The truth is, methodologies should evolve as technology evolves. Organizations now expect more from their technology and want an innovative implementation partner.

3. Ensure the ERP Consultant has a Wide Breadth of Industry Experience

A key part of every request for proposal is the section on “prior industry experience.” You might find the consulting firm has experience with organizations similar to yours. However, consultants that specialize in only one market can be myopic in their focus.

The ideal ERP consulting firm leverages best practices from many industries. Its consultants are operational experts with hands-on experience tackling the same challenges their clients are facing.

4. Determine the Level of Diversity Within the Consulting Team

People with different backgrounds approach problems from different perspectives. This diversity can help you build competitive advantage. ERP project managers know this and staff their teams with employees from different departments while ensuring they have different skill sets. Why haven’t ERP consulting firms followed suit?

Many consultants bring the same team of resources to each pitch and presentation, regardless of cultural fit. Everyone on the team has worked in the same handful of companies and views the world through the same eyes. Where are the differing opinions and skills necessary to transform your organization? Where is the global understanding needed to improve your competitive advantage?

The top ERP consultants use diverse project resources who collaborate face-to-face to help each organization achieve its strategic vision.

Who Will You Hire?

For those who have never evaluated ERP consultants, the sheer amount of information can quickly prove overwhelming. These tips should help you understand what factors to consider when interviewing and hiring an implementation partner.

Will you hire the consulting firm that uses a predictable methodology and recommends a predictable ERP vendor? Or will you hire the consulting firm that thinks outside the box?

Panorama’s team thinks outside the box. We are technology-agnostic and adapt our approach to your unique needs. Schedule a free consultation to learn more about our flexible and integrated approach.

 

6 Tips for Assessing ERP Implementation Risks

6 Tips for Assessing ERP Implementation Risks

What would you do if your ERP implementation went over-budget? What if it caused an operational disruption? You would have to react quickly and deduce the reasons for failure. Once you get your project back on track, you’d have to make up for lost time.

This scenario is probably making your stomach churn. No one wants to waste time and money. That’s why many organizations take a proactive approach to risk mitigation. They develop a risk management plan before selecting ERP software. They also assess their project plan to ensure it has the right activities and right level of detail, and they perform continual assessments throughout their project.

Why Assess Your ERP Implementation?

  • You’ll have a comprehensive view of your project activities, performance and risks​.
  • You can detect errors early and proactively prevent errors.
  • You’ll minimize implementation risk and cost.

How to Assess Your ERP Implementation

Conduct Stage Gate Reviews

Stage gate reviews ensure the quality and completeness of your project plan. At the end of each implementation stage, the executive team and project team should determine if every deliverable for that stage is complete before moving on to the next stage.

This is also the time to assess the quality of work. Are you addressing business aspects, such as change management, or are you just focusing on technical aspects? What methodology and templates are you using? As you identify risks, you can include them to your risk management plan.

Stage gate reviews can reduce your likelihood of needing project recovery services, which is a last resort for many organizations. Even organizations pursuing digital transformation can inadvertently skip key project activities and find themselves in need of project recovery.

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Transformation

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

Assess Your Project Management and Governance

Effective project management can mitigate many project risks. A good project manager knows who’s in charge of managing the project budget and timeline and has a good understanding of the roles and responsibilities of project team members. If this doesn’t sound like your project, it’s not too late to develop strong project governance. Panorama’s ERP consultants provide project auditing services that help organizations stay on-budget and realize expected business benefits. 

Focus on Organizational Change Management

When assessing your project plan, you might notice it’s a little heavy on technical activities and little light on people-related activities. Do you have a plan for identifying and mitigating change resistance? Do you understand the impact of change on each department and individual employees?

Your project plan should include change management activities that promote two-way communication and drive awareness of project goals. Communication works best when it’s informed by employees’ needs and concerns. By investigating the reasons for change resistance and determining the skillsets employees lack, you can develop a change management plan that addresses the entire organization – at the department and individual level.

Focus on Business Process Reengineering

Your project plan may be lacking a focus on business processes. If so, business process reengineering may be a good addition to your project plan. Business process reengineering ensures a new ERP system has the functionality to support your organization’s goals. Involving subject matter experts helps you determine business requirements and identify opportunities for process improvement.

For every process you improve or redesign, change management becomes more essential, so be sure your project plan considers the interdependency between business process reengineering and organizational change management. For example, you’ll need to document the change impacts of each redesigned process.

Assess Your Data Migration Plan

Organizations that develop a data strategy prior to implementing ERP software are more successful with data migration. The process is still arduous, but it doesn’t cause operational disruption. These organizations spend time defining the scope of data conversion and assessing data cleanliness.

A best practice for data migration is setting milestones and conducting multiple conference room pilots. Aim to have 25% of your data converted and cleansed for the first conference room pilot, 50-75% for the second and 100% for the third.

Assess Your Level of Customization

Software customization is costly, so it’s important to plan for it early in the project to avoid going over budget. While assessing your project governance around customization, you may find a lack of project controls.

Good project governance for customization includes predefined customization limits and a formal approval process for change orders. Executives should have the final say when it comes to additional customization. They will decide if it’s worth the extra cost by investigating the reasons behind the change order – did it originate from employees’ resistance to process changes or is it aligned with the organization’s digital strategy and competitive advantage?

What if You Identify Major Risks?

While assessing your ERP implementation, you may find holes in your project plan. It’s not uncommon for organizations to skip organizational change and business process management in order to accelerate their implementation. Even organizations pursuing digital transformation tend to overlook certain change management activities.

Fortunately, revising a project plan isn’t difficult if the project is still in its early phases. Most executives will not object to more project controls around customization. Some may object to organizational change management, but developing a business case can help you show the value of change readiness.

4 Data Security Tips for Your ERP Implementation

4 Data Security Tips for Your ERP Implementation

New digital technologies, like AI an IoT, are augmenting the business intelligence provided by ERP software. While this business intelligence helps organizations improve the customer experience, it also presents new data security challenges. With great business intelligence comes great responsibility.

Better customer intelligence is generally beneficial to both the organization and the customer, but sometimes, it can be a burden. For example, a data breach can cost your organization millions in legal fees and lost business. You may also lose customers if they feel their privacy is threatened, not by a security breach, but by how you choose to use their personal data. Mitigating these risks requires an understanding of potential security threats and applicable compliance issues, such as HIPPA and GDPR.

How can you be proactive in identifying risks while still supporting revenue-generating initiatives across your organization? Here are four tips for enabling an innovative, but vigilant, ERP implementation team:

Evaluate your organization’s culture.

A customer-centric culture promotes data security because it encourages employees to listen to customers’ data privacy concerns and share them with executives. Let’s say you’ve implemented a new CRM system, and several customers are expressing privacy concerns. Your ERP implementation team should be the liaison between customer service reps and executives to establish a data management process and define security standards.

It’s important to develop a change management strategy that promotes a culture where data security is the responsibility of everyone in the organization. ERP software integrates data across the organization, so several departments likely have access to customer data. Improved data access is essential to digital transformation, so restricting data access isn’t the answer – better security is.

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Transformation

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

Understand the role of the chief information security officer (CISO).

Your CISO can enable your digital strategy by leading cultural changes, such as encouraging open communication and prioritizing education. In terms of education, CISOs should regularly host cyber security trainings and provide educational materials in a variety of formats multiple times per year. Cyber security training is also an essential pre-implementation activity.

Open communication is especially important between the CISO and other executives. By scheduling regular meetings with privacy and legal teams, CISOs can build strong relationships across the organization. A foundation of trust makes it easier for CISOs to prove the value of data security by presenting credible data and suggesting possible next steps. This proactive approach is enabled by predictive analytics – CISOs should use business intelligence to protect business intelligence.

Develop strong governance processes.

Your CISO needs complete visibility into the organization’s supply chain and ERP selection process, so they can evaluate new technology from a data security perspective. By developing a vendor management program, CISOs can keep tabs on various ERP vendors and their associated security risks. Predictive analytics is useful here as well. It enables CISOs to quickly detect when an implemented system violates the organization’s security profile. Even the top ERP systems in your industry may have vulnerabilities.

Strong governance processes also help ensure legal compliance, especially with the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO’s) IT security management standards. A security solution, like HyTrust, can serve as a compliance litmus test.

Be especially wary of IoT security.

The internet of things (IoT) plays a major role in ERP implementations for many organizations. Industry analysts predict that IoT and ERP will become an increasingly popular combination. IoT improves data insights and operational efficiency, so it’s not hard to see why organizations are drawn to it. If you’re considering integrating IoT with your ERP system, there are several security concerns of which to be aware.

IoT devices are vulnerable to cyber attacks because they communicate with other internet-connected devices, making them prime targets for hackers who want access to multiple data sources. IoT devices aren’t only a convenient target, but they’re an easy target – most organizations aren’t prepared for an attack and don’t have adequate protections in place. They don’t realize that a device managed by a third party may not have the same level of security as technology hosted on-premise.

A lack of due diligence on the part of the IoT provider is another reason hackers target IoT. Hackers know that many IoT providers haven’t taken the time to enhance their security as they were too eager to get their devices to market before competitors.

How can a CISO protect customer data stored and/or collected by an IoT device? One option is implementing an IoT device management platform, such as Amazon Web Services. These platforms enable you to install crucial software updates on all your IoT devices. Your ERP project team can also protect data by designing optimized business processes that reduce errors.

Convincing Your Boss to Invest in ERP Data Security

It’s not easy to prove the ROI of cyber security. Justifying the investment, requires an understanding of the threat landscape, attack probability and potential losses. With this information, you or your CISO can convince executives that ongoing cyber security is necessary to support the organization’s goals.

The implementation of a new ERP system is a great opportunity to discuss cyber security with executives. New technology brings new security threats which need to be addressed if you want to realize value from business intelligence and customer data. Consider hiring an ERP consultant to help you develop a cyber security business case.

8 Secrets to Developing a Business Case For an ERP Implementation

8 Secrets to Developing a Business Case For an ERP Implementation

You want to begin an ERP implementation, but executives aren’t fully on board. How can you gain the support of your leadership team?

Ultimately, every project comes down to one thing: the potential ROI. Here are eight tips for developing a business case to convince executives to invest in new technology:

1. Relate the problem to the bottom line

Perhaps you’re hoping ERP software will help employees keep up with increasing workloads. Maybe you’re having a hard time accessing real-time data. Regardless of your reasoning, the best way to pitch your strategy is to relate it to your organization’s bottom line.

Are your employees spending too much time on mundane, repetitive processes? Present that information in terms of lost productivity and labor costs. Are you continually missing deadlines? Calculate the penalties you’ve had to pay as a result. Sound financial reasoning sets your recommendation off on the right foot.

2. Show multiple opportunities for improvement

One purchase, numerous benefits – what’s not to love? Most enterprise technologies touch multiple areas of an organization. This makes them a valuable investment. To strengthen your value proposition, emphasize each of the ways an ERP system could transform your organization.

3. Demonstrate long-term usability

Executives aren’t just worried about today’s results – they must think about tomorrow’s goals as well. In the long-term, outdated technologies can become hard to use and expensive to maintain. Modern ERP systems, on the other hand, are more user-friendly and seamlessly integrate with technologies you might adopt in the future. Look for ERP vendors that have a demonstrated history of support, system updates and long-term ROI.

4. Build credibility through case studies and reports

Corporate decision-makers need data to rationalize an investment. Most ERP systems – especially large systems like SAP and Oracle – can provide extensive resources to help you build your business case. For example, a success story from another company in your industry can be convincing to executives.

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.

5. Anticipate failure

Executives are held responsible when an ERP implementation fails. As a result, they often err on the side of caution when it comes to expensive technology investments. When you approach the executive team, don’t just present the reasons why you should adopt the new technology. Think through the potential reasons why you shouldn’t, and come prepared with answers to objections such as:

  • Our IT team doesn’t have the time to spend on implementation.
  • Our legacy systems are too old to work with a new ERP system.
  • Our processes are too complex for an out-of-the-box product.
  • Our data won’t be secure.

6. Set a realistic timeframe

Implementing an ERP system doesn’t happen overnight. While executives may want immediate results, it’s better to give them realistic expectations. You should account for production testing, user training and data migration. Map out each milestone and consider building in extra days for unexpected roadblocks.

7. Offer to monitor, report and analyze

Meet with executives to develop specific goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). Offer to provide regular status updates to make the results more visible. This demonstrates that you’re aligned with their priorities.

8. Liaise between executives and end-users

Once executives are on board, you should continue to communicate with them regarding end-user needs. Nobody will have more insight into what’s necessary in an ERP system than the people who currently own your business processes. You can communicate their pain points up the chain of command, ensuring the technology you select meets your business needs.

Final Thoughts

Don’t be afraid to advocate for the technology you need to remain productive and competitive.

“Organizations don’t prosper,” notes Harvard Business Review, “unless managers in the middle ranks . . . identify and promote the need for change.”

Executives don’t always see the day-to-day issues that impede productivity, but they do have the responsibility to listen to and solve their organization’s challenges. Presented with sound reasoning, a business case for an ERP implementation can convince executives to invest in technology that enables transformation.

Written By: Faith Kubicki, Content Marketing Manager for IntelliChief. 
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.
Advice for Global Organizations Beginning ERP Implementation

Advice for Global Organizations Beginning ERP Implementation

An ERP implementation can be daunting for any organization, but it is especially challenging on a global scale. Global organizations typically want to standardize business processes across international operations, but they also need the flexibility to serve diverse customers, employees, economies and regulatory bodies.

The decision to globalize or localize isn’t black and white. Every organization has different operational, organizational, cultural, regulatory and financial considerations. Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons of standardization and differentiation. We’ll also provide tips on how to balance globalization with localization.

Benefits of Global Standardization

International organizations, particularly those that acquire other companies, often have non-standardized business processes. Standardization allows these organization to scale for growth by consolidating business processes. Consistent processes drive operational efficiency and enable global visibility into operations. Financial reporting, for example, is faster and easier when processes are standardized.

While standardization can require a large investment in business process reengineering, you’ll ensure that all processes at all locations are designed to bring you competitive advantage. Global organizations lean toward standardization when they want to deliver quality goods or services with a high degree of predictability.

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Transformation

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

Benefits of Localization

Localization reduces change resistance because you’re adapting to the unique needs and requirements of different locations. Instead of changing local business processes to align with processes at your headquarters, localization allows you to retain the unique processes suited for each location. Certain locations may need flexibility to manage data and transactions in local languages and currencies. Some countries have intricate requirements when it comes to taxes, currencies and regulatory reporting. Differentiating your processes based on location ensures you stay compliant and avoid penalties.

Balancing Globalization With Localization

If you want the best of both worlds, you should be strategic about which processes you standardize and which you differentiate. Some processes should always be standardized. These include processes such as back-office functions that enable a shared services strategy. Other processes, such as regulatory and reporting processes, should typically be localized. While you may want to localize customer-facing processes, you should probably globalize processes that don’t add as much value.

A balance between globalization and localization becomes even more important when you consider organizational change management. The need for organizational change management at global locations typically increases the more you standardize your processes. While standardization may save money in the long term, you’ll need to invest in extensive organizational change management in the short term. This means more than end-user training. It also involves communicating change impacts and project status updates.

How Much Organizational Change Management?

The most challenging aspect of a global digital transformation might be aligning corporate culture around a singular goal. You must account for cultural differences and language differences.

Executive support is especially important during global ERP projects as local entities may be extremely resistant to globalized processes. People can’t embrace what they don’t understand, so you must communicate the reasons for transformation and how it will benefit employees and the organization as a whole.

Organizational readiness assessments are also critical to global projects. You can assess risk by analyzing your organizational attributes as well as the characteristics of proposed changes.

How Much Software Customization?

Does globalizing your business processes reduce the amount of ERP software customization you’ll need? Sometimes, but not always.

While you may be standardizing your processes based on a global standard, you’re not necessarily standardizing your processes based on software functionality. However, there is typically an overlap between globalized processes and processes that are standardized based on software functionality, as they both mostly involve non-value add processes. It’s probably safe to say that more globalization usually equals less customization (but more organizational change management).

Another strategy for reducing customization is to allow flexibility in each location’s choice of software and ERP vendor. This can make globalization more difficult than usual but not impossible.

Defining a Support Structure

While you’re determining which of your processes should be globalized versus localized, you should consider whether your support structure will be globalized, localized or customized. Many companies choose to centralize ERP support and help desk functions, while others choose to offer decentralized support to cater to diverse locations. The sooner you define a support structure, the sooner end-users will adopt new processes. This is true for both on-premise and cloud ERP implementations.

Defining a Master Data Strategy

Master data is an important but overlooked aspect of the global vs. local conundrum. Not only do you need to cleanse and migrate master data, but you need to define how it will be managed going forward. For example, will local offices have the flexibility to manage their own local chart of accounts, or will changes require centralized and global governance? The same should be decided for other types of master data, including customer, supplier and inventory master records.

Final Piece of Advice

This may be your first global ERP implementation, but it’s not ours. Our ERP consultants understand the challenges of both globalization and localization. We can help you find the right balance based your organization’s unique objectives.

Why Attend Panorama’s ERP Boot Camp

Why Attend Panorama’s ERP Boot Camp

ERP Boot Camp was the best value for the money seminar I have ever attended. Every manager hoping to build or validate their project strategy should attend. ~ Boot Camp Attendee

Panorama’s next ERP Boot Camp is just around the corner on May 22nd-23rd in Chicago, Illinois. Boot Camp is two days of intensive, interactive ERP education in an informal setting. The subject material covers everything from software selection to implementation to organizational change management. We ensure guests walk away with a robust understanding of what constitutes ERP project success. Still not convinced that ERP Boot Camp is necessary for you and your team? Read on for other reasons to attend:

Because the Fundamentals of ERP Project Management Should Not be a Secret or Surprise

Too many teams go into an ERP implementation with little or no ERP project management background. An ERP implementation can be a defining point in your career — don’t you want to be armed with all the information you need to make it a success?

We Will Give You Expert Guidance and Advice You Will Not Hear Elsewhere

Panorama instructors are ERP consultants with boots-on-the-ground experience. They will discuss the variables that can mean the difference between success and failure. Their goal is to provide best practices on everything from negotiation to licensing to customization . . . and more.

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.

You Will Learn in a Relaxed, Collaborative Environment

Forget giant auditoriums. Panorama’s ERP Boot Camp is an intimate, collegial experience with plenty of time for interaction, networking and relationship-building. Presenters are accessible, and presentations are interactive. We limit attendance to ensure a small group format. If you are looking for personalized training, you have found the right place.

We Will Cut Through all the Jargon and Hype to Give You the Truth

One of the most challenging tasks for a project manager is to cut through all the hype to discover what their ERP software truly can provide. Because our instructors are independent consultants, they are not afraid to give you the real story on software selection and implementation. Our collective opinion is based on hundreds of ERP implementations.

We Teach You About ERP Failures to Prepare You for Success!

Panorama’s expertise in salvaging failed ERP implementations and our expert witness work in ERP lawsuits gives us an unparalleled breadth of knowledge to help you avoid pitfalls and build a framework for ERP success. If you are still on the fence, consider this: Is an ERP implementation really something you can do without proper training? You become licensed before flying an airplane and certified before diving in the ocean. Why assume an ERP implementation would be any less risky?

The Importance of Investing in Cyber Security as Part of Your ERP

The Importance of Investing in Cyber Security as Part of Your ERP

Equifax, Yahoo, Uber. 2017 was the year where no data seemed safe. How secure is your ERP?

There have been improvements in cyber security in recent years, but ERP systems are still highly vulnerable to attacks. In fact, 89% of experts in the field of cybersecurity anticipate increased attacks against ERP systems in the future [1]. Of that number, 33% expect to see a significant increase in attacks. It is easy to see why it is so important for businesses of every size to invest in cybersecurity as part of their ERP.

Why Are ERPs Vulnerable?

Attackers are intent on taking the quickest and easiest route to the most valuable data. They are well aware that ERP systems are likely to have this data and can have multiple weak points of entry. It is not unusual to find companies that have no plan in place to safeguard their confidential data.

There are additional reasons why ERPs are a favorite target of attackers. One is businesses are not aware of their risk because they tend to put off regular cyber security audits. The result is potential problem areas aren’t identified. Thus no security measures are taken to fix the problem and prevent an incident. This is particularly true for cloud-based ERPs that are often accessed by multiple users over different platforms. You should be especially aware if you are using an outdated or legacy ERP. They often simply can’t stand up to new-age security threats.

Don’t Assume Your Small Business is Safe

It is a common misconception that hackers are only interested in attacking ERP systems of large corporations. The truth is that over 70% of cyber attacks are made against businesses that employ less than 100 people [2]. One reason for this is because small businesses often rely solely on the ERP vendor to provide cybersecurity.

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.

Tips for Investing in Cyber Security as Part of Your ERP

Keep Your Software Up-to-Date

Software updates are usually done to fix any weak spots or bugs the developer has identified. If you are not automatically updating your ERP software, you are increasing your system’s vulnerability.

Promptly Apply Vendor Security Patches

Routinely updating your anti-malware and antivirus software equally important. This will ensure security patches are implemented as soon as they are provided. When patches are not applied, vulnerable areas serve as an entry point for hackers.

Require Encryption When Telecommuting

If you have employees that telecommute, encryption can help protect your data.

Opt for a Private Cloud

Private clouds are a bit more expensive, but they tend to have more stringent safety measures and fewer points of entry for hackers. Plus, private clouds are usually easier to monitor, making it easier to identify and deflect possible attacks.

Finally be certain that your employees know the importance of cybersecurity. If you have not already educated employees on what they can do to mitigate risk, do so immediately. The top two causes of cybersecurity breaches are negligent employees and inadequate passwords [3].

Require they create strong passwords that are long and use multiple characters. Encourage employees to change their passwords regularly. Employees should never use the same password for multiple accounts.

ERP vendors can provide ongoing maintenance and support but your organization’s best bet for fighting cybercrime is hiring an independent ERP consultant who recognizes the importance of contingency planning and developing a solid IT strategy.

The Biggest Improvements to ERP Software in the last 5 years

The Biggest Improvements to ERP Software in the last 5 years

In a world that is constantly changing, ERP software has also had to evolve to meet customers’ needs and stay competitive. There have been significant changes over the last five years with some being more of an improvement than others. Here’s a quick look at some top improvements to ERP software since 2013.

1. Giving Companies the Opportunity to Move to the Cloud

Without a doubt, one of the biggest improvements to ERP software involves a company’s ability to switch to the cloud. There are several reasons companies have had such a positive response to the cloud. For example, it offers greater security by frequently testing for vulnerabilities and making certain data is securely backed up with a disaster recovery plan in place. The cloud also offers anywhere access to information by partners, staff, and customers and eliminates the need to purchase additional storage/server hardware. As a bonus, the up-front costs tend to be less expensive[1]. In fact, in Panorama’s most recent 2018 ERP Report shows cloud deployments increased to 85%. This was a surprising increase from the previous year which shows more and more companies are taking advantage of this type of ERP software system for their business.

2. Increasing ERP Software Options for Smaller Businesses

Over the last five years, more and more small businesses have adopted ERP systems. The reason for this is simple. There have never been more ERP software options. From niche and industry-specific software to software geared specifically to small businesses. Whether on-premise or cloud solutions, small businesses have tons of options to choose from. They even have the ability to customize their solution. This has led to more small and medium-sized businesses to consider implementing ERP software.

3. Shorter Integration Periods

Vendors have made every effort to shorten integration periods. For example, interfaces are cleaner, faster and more accurate. At the same time, the introduction of simpler applications has not only reduced integration times, but also decreased setup costs and improved effectiveness. Check out the video “How to Develop the Right ERP Strategy for Your Organization” to help with this process.

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. Enhanced Security

Security is an increasing concern for both individuals and companies, especially since data breaches have become increasingly sophisticated. This is why ERP vendors have put so much time and effort into offering top-notch data protection with highly advanced permission protocols, encryption and high-quality firewalls.

5. Improving Interconnectedness

As SaaS (software as a service) applications and cloud solutions have merged into existing ERP systems, they have given businesses the ability to run operations using a single, end-to-end platform. This has eradicated the need for different systems and greatly enhanced interconnectedness between various departments. This has resulted in instantaneous department communication, quicker response times and operations that are quicker overall. For many companies, this has led to a substantial boost in both production and revenue.

6. Maximizing big data information

In recent years, there has been a huge push to incorporate big data into ERP software. The reason for this is simple. Big data has the potential to be a game changer by improving information density, providing greater predictive analytics to potentially uncover hidden patterns and shortening decision making processes. Plus, it allows companies to effectively track incredibly detailed production data, which has resulted in enhanced processes, productivity and overall quality.

Five Decisions Jeopardizing Your ERP Implementation

Five Decisions Jeopardizing Your ERP Implementation

My last blog covered 10 things that contribute to ERP failure or success. After reading this list, you may wonder what you can be doing differently to ensure your ERP implementation is successful.

Most poor decisions made during a project don’t become evident until later – often after it’s too late – so it’s important to recognize some of the risks and common pitfalls that less experienced practitioners often fall prey to. With a solid understanding of these risks, you’ll be able make more effective decisions that are more likely to lead to success and are less likely to undermine your ERP initiative.

Below are five decisions that may be jeopardizing your ERP implementation without you even knowing it:

1. Lack of Focus on Organizational Change Management

Sometimes no decision can result in a poor decision, as is often the case with organizational change management. Executives and project teams don’t always recognize the need or importance for change management. Worse yet, some decide not to invest the time and resources required to ensure that this critical success factor is properly addressed. If you’re not actively focusing your team and resources on organizational change and its impacts, then your decision is actively undermining your chances for success.

2. Deferring to ERP Software to Develop Your Future State Business Processes

While detailed transactional workflows will largely be dependent on the software being implemented, it is a mistake not to define your desired business processes and workflows to some degree. If you think about your business processes in the context of how they should operate regardless of technology, it will give you a clear direction on how your new software should be configured and implemented. Most modern ERP systems are far too flexible to assume they will provide a “silver bullet” in defining your future state processes.

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. Relying too Much or too Little on Outside ERP Consultants

Some executives and IT heads assume they can handle these sorts of ERP and digital transformations themselves. Others assume they can completely outsource the initiative to outside ERP consultants. Either extreme is ill-advised, so it’s important to find the right balance. You need to leverage outside help along the way, but you also need to ensure that your team owns the project and its results. This is the only way to ensure a sustainable solution that doesn’t require consultants for the long term.

4. Failing to Implement Formalized Project Governance and Controls

ERP project governance and controls are at least as important as the project manager you put in place – if not more so. These controls ensure that the project team stays focused. There will be requests that increase scope (think customization requests) so the management of time and cost must be deliberate ensuring the project stays on track for the long haul. This should be included as part of your charter during the early stages of your transformation.

5. Sticking to Hard and Fast Budgetary and Project Timeline Expectations

To use a common saying, “executives are often guilty of stepping over dollars to pick up pennies.” In other words, they focus too much on containing short-term implementation costs, even if the end result is higher long-term costs after implementation. This risk is further complicated by the fact most budget and time estimates are unrealistic or arbitrary to begin with, so adhering to them can be extremely risky.

Making good decisions also requires a strong diverse project team with skill sets that complement each other. Forming a winning team takes thought and commitment. I once worked alongside a project team that recruited team members by specifying that they only wanted internal members that would be “desperately missed” by their departments. Their goal was to form an “A” team. This initiative had project team charter and had planned for backfilling. You have often heard me say that ERP initiatives should not belong only to the IT department.

In this blog we’ve talked about some of the decisions and details that will be crucial to the result of your project. While executive oversight is imperative, adding the outside perspective of an independent consultant is a best practice to help alleviate risk while adding knowledge.

How Oracle Compares to Other ERP Software

How Oracle Compares to Other ERP Software

As one of the oldest and top enterprise software companies, Oracle has developed an extensive portfolio of business software applications. Therefore, it should be no surprise that it is one of the most widely used and researched ERPs. Whether you are familiar with Oracle ERP Software or just beginning to consider what they have to offer, this will help you see how they compare with other ERP providers.

1. Oracle has opted to take a different approach to growth

Most ERP providers work to add features via in-house software development. Oracle has chosen primarily to acquire top software companies and incorporate their products into existing Oracle software. Over the past few years, Oracle has made multiple billion-dollar transactions. For example, in 2016 they purchased NetSuite for $9.3 billion. In 2017 they purchased Aconex, one of the world’s top construction management platforms, for $1.2 billion [1]. Thanks to these strategic acquisitions, Oracle has managed to appeal to a wide variety of niches, giving them the opportunity to gain new customers.

2. Oracle was late to the cloud, making this an area where they are looking to catch up

While other ERPs started transitioning to the cloud early on, Oracle lagged way behind. Oracle’s focus on pushing a traditional on-premise ERP system has cost them significantly. In 2017, Oracle’s cloud revenue was listed at $5.6 billion, while Amazon’s cloud revenue was $17.5 billion and IBM’s was $17.0 billion. Oracle continues to try to make up for their late entry [2].

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. Oracle has a slightly longer implementation period

According to data made available through Clash of the Titans 2017, Oracle’s implementation period averages 24.5 months. This is about one month longer than Microsoft Dynamics at 23.6 months [3]. SAP is 23.1 months, while Infor’s implementation period is a much shorter 15.3 months. There are several possible reasons, including an initial project scope expansion, resource constraints or technical issues. Another reason might be training issues. Oracle’s software has the reputation of being less user-friendly than other ERPs.

4. Oracle is designed to fit almost any organization

Partially due to their history of making huge acquisitions of software developers in every possible niche, Oracle has managed to develop ERP applications for almost every industry. Regardless of company size or existing business challenges, Oracle can usually provide a solution. Oracle is used by professional service providers, healthcare companies, local and state governments, nonprofit agencies, and public and private schools. Other ERPs are designed only for specific niches or companies of a certain size.

5. Oracle is Known for Top-of-the-Line Security

Oracle has developed a reputation for being serious about security. However, they are not resting on their laurels. Currently, Oracle is in process of acquiring Zenedge in an effort to give their firewall security an even greater boost [4]. Zenedge’s Distributed Denial of Services (DDoS) mitigation and Web Application Firewall (WAF) are used by thousands of companies all over the world to ensure their system is protected from a potentially malicious attack. This protection will now extend to all Oracle Apps.

[1] https://www.investopedia.com/articles/insights/081816/top-8-companies-owned-oracle-orcl.asp

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/bobevans1/2018/02/05/why-microsoft-is-ruling-the-cloud-ibm-is-matching-amazon-and-google-is-15-billion-behind/#207025ae1dc1

[3] https://www.panorama-consulting.com/comparison-between-sap-oracle-and-microsoft-dynamics/

[4] https://www.pymnts.com/news/partnerships-acquisitions/2018/oracle-boosts-firewall-security-with-zenedge-acquisition/