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It’s no secret that ERP implementations are complex and riddled with potential pitfalls. Those of us that have been involved with ERP implementations through the years have undoubtedly stumbled along the way while trying to navigate those complexities.

Even some of our clients have failed in past attempts to implement new ERP software. Not being ERP experts, it’s understandable that these failures may have made them a bit gun shy about taking another stab at an ERP implementation. However, past ERP failures shouldn’t adversely affect your view of the future.
Here are a handful of ways to learn from past failures:

Inventory your lessons learned. Most ERP failures involve a rich catalog of lessons learned that can be leveraged to make improvements on future initiatives. It is important to identify and memorialize those lessons with all that were involved in the project. Ideally, the collective experiences from the team will provide ideas on how to enhance your changes for success the next time you try a similar initiative.

Identify the things that you didn’t have a chance to learn. Sometimes failures can be clouded by the collateral damage caused symptoms that mask deeper-seated root causes. For example, it is common to find that end-user training wasn’t sufficient to make a project successful. However, this can be a symptom of a lack of organizational change management overall. This can include anything from  communication, organizational readiness, change impact assessments and other prerequisites required to make end-user training successful. It is important to identify these “real” root causes of issues rather than honing in on the various symptoms.

Augment your own lessons learned with best practices and lessons from others. A single ERP failure won’t make your team experts overnight – no matter how catastrophic the failure may have seemed. Unfortunately, it takes dozens (if not more) of ERP successes and failures before you really get a sense of what make a project succeed or fail. With this in mind, it is important to leverage best practices, research and lessons from others as a way to augment your own lessons learned. Resources such as Panorama’s 2015 ERP Report, Lessons from an ERP Failure webinar and other ERP resources are good starting points to learn from others.

Don’t forget to focus on the positive. Inevitably, there are things from your previous initiatives that could have been executed better. On the other hand, there are probably some things that went well, which you will want to replicate on future initiatives. Instead of focusing solely on what went wrong, it is just as important to recognize the strategies and activities that were successful. It is also critical to not let successful strategies be clouded by other strains in the project causes by other issues. For example, you may find that your future state business processes were well-defined, but not focusing on as-is processes to start may have increased organizational resistance to change. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your future business processes weren’t well defined – instead, these benefits were overshadowed by other faults in the project.

Don’t be scarred from past ERP failures. Instead, leverage the appropriate lessons and move on. It is important to accept and appreciate the battle wounds that you have developed, without being paralyzed by those mistakes in the future.

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