As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, it’s helpful to look at all the things that we are thankful for not only in our personal and family lives, but also in the ERP industry. Here are some of the things that strike me as major advancements and improvements in the enterprise software space over the last several years:

Deployment options have become more varied. It used to be that if a Fortune 500 company wanted to implement an ERP system, executives had to make a massive investment in the initiative and burden their organizations with huge amounts of risk. Today, not only are there more options to deploy ERP systems via software as a service (SaaS) ERP, cloud, and best-of-breed solutions, but there are plenty of options for non-Fortune 500 companies and small- and mid-sized organizations. ERP vendors such as Plex Systems, Kinaxis, Salesforce, Workday, and Netsuite all provide deployment alternatives to traditional ERP systems. In addition, solutions from traditional ERP vendors such as SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft Dynamics include SaaS and cloud options.

There are business ERP experts available to help. When I started in the industry more than 15 years ago, there were plenty of software consultants available for hire, but very few (if any) independent business consultants that had a broad understanding of the ERP market – including critical success factors surrounding project management, organizational change management, and business process re-engineering. While most consultants are still more myopically focused on a single ERP system or lacking independence and objectivity, companies such as Panorama provide more holistic, comprehensive, and independent advisory services to companies wanting to mitigate the risk of their ERP selections and implementations. In response to Panorama’s leading position in the independent ERP consulting space, a host of smaller firms have emerged across the globe as well.

Failure rates are still too high. While the industry is touting low-risk deployment options and tools such as SaaS, failure rates are still alarmingly high. Demand for Panorama’s ERP expert witness services – which companies and attorneys leverage when their failures are about to lead to lawsuits – are at an all-time high, suggesting that organizations are mismanaging their implementations more than ever. What’s more interesting is that our expert witness work, whereby we leverage best practices from our proprietary and proven ERP implementation framework, shows that companies are failing in key areas despite their use of more advances technologies and tools being touted by software vendors. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what kind of software or tools you are deploying – implementations will fail if you don’t effectively plan and execute some of the key factors required to make a project successful. Not enough organizations, consultants, or software vendors understand this key concept.However, while there are many things to be thankful for, there are still many areas where we still need to improve:

Companies still don’t treat ERP implementations as business, rather than technology, initiatives. Contributing to the high rate of ERP failures are the fact that too many executives are delegating their ERP projects to their CIOs or IT Directors and absolving themselves of business or operational responsibility for the success of the project. At the risk of offending our more technical clients or industry peers, CIOs and IT Directors are much more likely to underestimate the need for business involvement and potential outside expertise than their more operational or finance counterparts within the organization. Worse yet, most software vendors and ERP consultants focus far too much on software rather than business processes (not system transactions), organizational change management, and strong project management.

While there is always room for improvement, we are showing signs of advancement and for this I’m thankful. Happy Thanksgiving to our US-based clients and peers!

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