Article Overview

In this article, we explore the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Keep reading it to find our more. 


Table of Contents

  1. ERP  
  2. Crash, Burn, then Repair? 
  3. Global Supply Chains
  4. Summary

ERP

What is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system? It is an enterprise-wide tool, that is the tool is used in many areas of the organization:
1.    Financial Management
2.    Supply chain management
3.    Talent (HR)
4.    Manufacturing resource planning
5.    Customer Relationship Management

A tool that covers and addresses the complexities of these areas, is not going to be simple learning.  It should also be pretty easy to see how this system supports the organization's project management activities.  It is not as easy as purchase the tool and gets the IT folks to integrate, and that integration work will likely have a wide range of possibilities.

This seems like a great first step, but from experience, the follow-on steps are often taken with an approach to expedite, rather than to include those that will be impacted.  I remember an old gentleman (Lou) when I was at university, who used to say “make haste slowly.”  We think organizations would be well served to adopt such an idea. In fact, this is a great opportunity to employ an incremental approach to the integration of this tool into the workflow, prioritizing those most important to the company.  An agile approach to this integration, with constant feedback from those using the tools, is prudent and likely a cost-effective approach.

Crash, Burn, then Repair? 

You know the experience. Management announces the installation of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform. Everyone is excited, everything at your fingertips, and no more handling lots of paper.  Why would they be excited?  Well, an ERP system helps coordinate the resources of the organization. Globally distributed organizations, by dint of the geographic range of the enterprise, have resources all over the world that are coordinated to produce the desired outcome of the project.  

The project manager may have development personnel in one geography, the manufacturing in another, and product verification in another.  The end product may be shipped from the manufacturing facility to a warehouse for local staging of the product for the customer.  Even for simple projects this dispersion of assets, resources, and talents, as well as the logistics for communication (example; time zones and primary language).

Inclusion

First, the tool should fit within the work environment and processes. Dropping a tool that runs contrary to the ideal way of executing the work, is fraught with a number of problems, one of which is that team members may not use the systems if it requires an excess of time or deviation from the organization’s process.  Second, including the team members in the introduction and configuring the tool, are opportunities to set the tool up in a way that supports the working systems and processes, but it is also an opportunity for learning by the team members.  In other words, including team members in the planning, promotes learning at the introduction (specific way to introduce the tool and range of features in a way that supports the work processes) as well as the execution (people who use the tool will know more about how things work).

Organizational change can be difficult, especially when the change is dropped down on the employees. Create a team representing each department or area of the organization. Develop a specification that meets most if not all of the needs & requirements plus fits the work environment and current processes. Realizing once the ERP system is on the place the processes may differ from current.

After the purchase of the system, have the team of employees developing the specification employed as ‘town criers to spread the word of the new system. Plus, these team members would make great trainers. Applying their enthusiasm to get everyone on board.

Most importantly, this is a project! Assign a Project Manager and do all the project management items just like any other project. 

Not mandatory

Even if the training IS mandatory, there may be motivation issues from those expected to attend.  Think about how many times you have attended training, and of that, how many times you sat there thinking this training is pointless.  There is more to this than making the training mandatory, but you have to at least get people into the seats of the class.

Training is not mandatory; therefore, some team members could opt-out.  Maybe this is okay, but when team members do not know how to use the tools or know-how processes are impacted creates issues across the organization. 

Another training pitfall is holding class style training without Q&A afterward or providing a Helpline or list of contacts for help during the roll-out and conversion of the organization. 

If the organization is large, of course, the best way to get training completed quickly is by holding classes. But this takes employees away from their day job. 

A few ideas:
•    Limit the class size (allows for personalized instruction and exploration and interactions on the topics)
•    Split departments to different training classes (based upon specific objectives)
•    Offer the training schedule and have employees sign up and have them make the commitment (record and trace their attendance)
•    Set up a contact person for follow up questions
•    Have ‘trainers’ check up on employees after training, don’t wait until there is a big fail somewhere

Global Supply Chains

In today’s global business world, any company that is above 10 million in revenue that does not have an ERP system is truly hampering their success and growth. In addition, any organization that has an ERP platform that has not trained employees completely – enough to do their job error-free – is also hampering their success and growth. 

ERP systems help coordinate the demands on the resources across the enterprise.
Systems connect the customer to the supplier.  For product development projects, we may need to ensure these systems are established and capable of delivering the product to the customer over time, that is if that is part of the defined scope of the project.  Sometimes these systems are manual, and not so easily set up.  For these manual systems, we have the overhead of multiple data entry points, of difficulty in making changes to the ordering, manual feedback between the customer and the supplier that can get lost quite easily.

Summary

This article came from experiences on recent projects where ERP systems do not exist within any of the talents within the organization being involved.  It is good to transition from an abundance of doing things manually (time-consuming and prone to errors), long-distance phone calls, meetings, and without having current reliable information means resolutions take a very long time. It creates confusion and frustrations that could be reduced.