The Strategy of ERP Implementation

Written By: Bob Blanchette
Date: March 10, 2020

Organizations large and small often seek the assistance of ERP consultants. Companies realize that ERP initiatives are complex, and an effective ERP consultant is a different type of independent resource that can add to your chances of success. While companies seek guidance for a variety of help, software selection and implementation are two of the more common services that businesses look for help with.
With that said, some consultancies specialize in valuable complementary digital strategy consulting services that clients may not be aware of. We’ll explore a few of these in this blog.

Don’t underestimate the correlation of a multi-strategy approach with ERP success

Companies themselves typically come to the conclusion that their current systems (or lack thereof) need updating or replacing. Many factors and symptoms can bring this to light.

One commonality that we see frequently is that businesses wait too long to do something about it. While companies may have cyclical cycles (busier times and slower times), there is never a perfect time to start marching towards a new ERP system, which can take from month to years. It’s kind of like scheduling a doctor’s visit. Delaying a doctor’s visit once you have symptoms can complicate matters (and costs) in a variety of ways.

When a company decides to proceed, the excitement often centers around the promise of new technology and software. Unfortunately, picking software doesn’t help build or execute the needed strategies which are critically important underlying factors for success. Independent digital strategy and ERP consultants help companies build strategies that are rigorous and interdependent such as:

Company Strategy

This may sound basic, but your company needs to have a detailed “overarching strategy and goals” for where and how your company hopes to succeed and grow. A living document that does more that reside on a computer. Your new technology needs to support this vision both in the short and long term.

Thus, an outside consultant can be a valuable resource in helping your C-level members form and come to consensus (or solidify) a “company strategy.” Often an effective consultant will also be able to contribute industry-specific knowledge, data and ideas. This type of outside assistance is also helpful in addressing and achieving an:

Executive Alignment Strategy

It’s only human nature that executives pull in different and sometimes conflicting directions. Your head of sales probably has different goals/priorities than your head of procurement. We’re talking about building consensus using proven methodology and techniques to get execs to interact and commit.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that solid executive alignment is the exception rather than the norm. A good consultant will facilitate strategic orientation, engagement and discussion - where team members are forced to come out of their silos and collaboratively head towards alignment. Without executive buy-in and alignment your company strategy is diminished or probably in jeopardy. Knowing how to build successful outcomes and facilitate contentious faceoffs are some of the traits of an experienced strategy-based independent ERP consultant.

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ERP Strategy

Once the company strategy and executive alignment is flushed out and agreed upon, you are ready to build your ERP strategy. This needs to be a multipronged governing strategy that will define the steps, timing, staffing, budget and stage gates needed for a team of resources (internal and external). An ERP strategy kicks in before, during and after implementation. ERP strategies are complex having to do with everything from data cleansing, to ERP software selection, to regression testing.

An ERP strategy is much bigger than a “project plan” requiring lots of details and measurements to be successful. This is an area where you want to get experts involved who do ERP stuff for a living. They differ from an IT Head or Project Management Professional (PMP) because of their hands-on experience including knowledge of and experience with ERP failure.

A watch-out is not to have your systems integrator (the software configuration team) owning or directing your strategy or plan. It is not their area expertise - although they’d be glad to control it and charge for their time. To do so defeats the need/benefit of independent checks and balances you want to have in place.

While it’s important to have an experienced internal core team working on the initiative, they will benefit from the expertise of an outside consultant for all the reasons mentioned – as well as to expand horizons, build and monitor integration goals, and give guidance on how to achieve and measure ROI.

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Organizational Change Management Strategy

Organizational Change Management (OCM) is both an art and a science. If you don’t have alignment at the top (executive alignment) fostering adoption and alignment among the troops becomes next to impossible. While training can be part of an OCM strategy, don’t confuse it with the need for something far more comprehensive. At Third Stage Consulting our clients are continually educated as to the direct correlation between creating fluid and well-executed OCM strategies and ERP success.

Because each business is unique - OCM initiatives must be tailored and able to change as needed. It is blending new technology with living breathing employees that have wants, needs and fears. Therefore, there isn’t a sliver bullet all-encompassing solution for OCM adoption. One size does not fit all.

While organizations are different, so are the individuals within each company. It’s not unusual for an ERP initiative to initially be viewed as exciting, only to have some individuals succumb to fear before go-live. We’re talking psychology, management style, educational adeptness, economics and a bunch of other fields combined.

For some, it will be viewed as unnecessary kumbaya-like activities while other employees will view it as necessary activities to remain competitive as a company. Often pointing out (and emphasizing) what’s in it for the customer, helps employees see the bigger picture and depersonalize some of the angst.

In Conclusion

Hopefully this blog is helpful in emphasizing some of the more important strategies that need to be in place before software selection (or many other activities) are launched. You probably sense that these strategies have to be formulated in the pre-implementation phase. A common mistake is underestimating the amount of time and effort that needs to take place early on.

Your initiative won’t have a solid foundation or direction without these strategies. Forging ahead without them typically doesn’t work out well. We share this knowledge learned from the many clients that have hired us as independent consultants to do readiness assessments or project quality assurance for their ERP or digital transformations.

ERP readiness assessment is a science unto itself. Lack of practical frameworks and effective strategies are two of the biggest (and most common) red flags we encounter when evaluating the readiness of a company wanting to launch a new system. The result can manifest into expensive delays, reworks, unplanned employee attrition, or worse – a derailed or a failed implementation.

Reach out to us as a sounding board to help build (or validate) your strategies, or anything else ERP related you’d like to talk about.

Blanchette, Bob
Bob Blanchette

Bob brings a creative blend of understanding operational benefit and navigating employee resistance to change, ultimately helping organization realize success and benefit through maximizing the effectiveness of people. He holds a successful track record of HR leadership and promoting fair and unbiased outcomes.

Bob Blanchette
Bob brings a creative blend of understanding operational benefit and navigating employee resistance to change, ultimately helping organization realize success and benefit through maximizing the effectiveness of people. He holds a successful track record of HR leadership and promoting fair and unbiased outcomes.
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