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

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

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

Determine How Best to Spend Your Capital Investment

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

Never Underestimate the Value of Best Practices

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

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Internal Biases are Alive and Well Entrenched

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

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

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