Big ERP vendors can sell software and services like nobody’s business. Companies such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Infor, and others have created monstrous machines capable of turning even the biggest skeptics into converts.

But it all comes at a cost. In their quest for technology dominance, the vendors and their respective ecosystems have – presumably unintentionally – created misinformation, myths, and other misnomers that run counter to reality. As independent and technology-agnostic ERP consultants without any skin in the game, our teams at Third Stage are continuously helping our clients navigate these landmines.

Inside the machine that creates these hoaxes

As a former and recovering Big 5 SAP consultant, I was once part of this machine designed to put self-interests ahead of actual client needs. I was once the kid straight off the school bus that was trained on clients’ dimes and asked to bill for hours in excess of value added. My involvement and understanding of the inner-workings of “the system” are what led me to start Third Stage Consulting Group to represent clients’ interests first and foremost.

Intentional or not, the industry has perpetuated a number of hoaxes that ultimately contribute to ERP implementation problems and failures. This whiteboard video outlines the 10 biggest hoaxes in the ERP software industry, including the things you should be aware of before entering your ERP implementation or digital transformation initiative:

The connection between industry hoaxes and ERP failure

The interesting thing about these top 10 hoaxes is that they tend to lead to bias, misinformation, and blind spots, which are the root causes of ERP failures. The below video explains how these root causes manifest themselves into symptoms that are often blamed as the culprit of ERP failure.

For example, some of the symptoms of deeper issues include:

  • Resistance to change
  • Over customization of ERP software
  • Lack of clear business processes and requirements
  • Slow decisions
  • “Broken” ERP software
  • Unrealistic expectations

But these and other symptoms are the result of the “real” root causes that lead to failure. Misalignment, bias, and blind spots are the three root causes where most ERP implementation challenges and failures stem from.

This whiteboard video explains more about how bias and misinformation (blind spots) create other problems that can lead to ERP failure:

What we can do about it

Information and understanding are the biggest ammunitions you can (and should) build before and during your digital transformation. It also helps you be on equal footing with your ERP systems integrator so they don’t take complete control of the project without the transparency, accountability, and risk mitigation required to be successful.

In addition to being informed with both eyes wide open, here are some things we can do to carefully navigate the risks that these hoaxes present to our ERP implementations:

Forget “industry trends” and do what’s right for you and your organization. You may hear generalities such as “our software contains best practices” or “you really need to use one of our premier implementation partners.” But remember the sources of this information – which are biased and driven by economic self-interest – need to be taken with a grain of salt and tailored to fit your specific needs.

Don’t limit your options. You may be told that on-premise systems are dead or that you should buy all your technology from the same vendor, but it is important to consider all your options. There are a plethora of viable software and implementer options in the market, so there is no need to limit your choices.

Manage your systems integrator and hold them accountable. Systems integrators – especially the biggest ones – are notorious for lack of transparency and accountability while treating clients’ money like an open checkbook. No matter who you hire, remember that this is your project and that you are in control of it. Managing your systems integrator as you would any other outside resource is one of the first steps.

When all else fails, pivot where needed. If things are going well – and they won’t go well at times – then make changes. If you need to add to or change your internal resources, then do so. If your systems integrator refuses to play nice, then fire your systems integrator. If your chosen ERP system has material deficiencies, then explore other options to augment that technology. The responsibility for a successful or failed project will fall on you, so act accordingly.

Leverage independent, technology-agnostic ERP consulting support. As independent ERP consultants with no vested interests other than that of our clients, we can help level the playing field throughout your digital transformation. Consultants with broad experience with a variety of transformations and no financial skin in the game can help translate industry biases into meaningful decisions that make the most sense for your organization.

Where to begin

Feel free to contact me if you would like an informal sounding board for your ERP implementation. Our consulting teams help clients with these challenges every day, so I am happy to help!

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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