What Your ERP System Integrator Can’t Do – And How to Fix It

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: August 20, 2018

Digital transformation and ERP failure has been a problem that hasn’t improved over my 20 years in the industry. Recent news regarding the digital transformation failures at Lidl and National Grid are two high-profile examples of this ongoing challenge.

When we look at why projects fail during our ERP expert witness and project recovery engagements, we find common themes that trace back to system integrators. The integrators are typically very good at what they do, but no one seems to know what to do about the things they’re not good at. This is where the problems creep in.

Framing the problem of ERP system integrator gaps

First, it is important to look at some of the common root causes of failure:

  • Misalignment within your organization
  • Poor organizational change management
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of internal ownership and buy-in
  • Resistance to change

We find that the issues related to technology are rarely a key root cause of failure. It’s not that the system integrators are not to blame during a failure, but problems typically extend well beyond their domain.

The biggest problem is that the intangible competencies that make or break a transformation are not within the scope of most system integrators. Too many people assume that their system integrator will solve all their problems. This simply is not the case.

Whether you are working with Deloitte, Capgemini, Accenture or other system integrators, there are deficiencies to be aware of. Here are a handful of things that your system integrator won’t do for you, along with what to do about it:

Help define your independent digital strategy and ERP software evaluation

Your digital strategy and ERP evaluation should be conducted in an unbiased matter. For example, if you are considering SAP vs. Oracle to enable your digital transformation, you want to know that you are working with technology-agnostic, independent ERP consultants . This helps remove biases, but it also helps set realistic expectations from the start. Third Stage Consulting is an example of a team of unbiased experts that can help.

Digital transformation implementation readiness

There is a lot of work to do once your digital strategy is defined and your software is selected. For example, you will need to:

  • Mobilize your internal team
  • Define a more detailed work plan
  • Create an organizational change strategy and plan
  • Define your project governance, quality assurance, and risk mitigation processes
  • Begin creating your data migration strategy
  • Define your overarching solution architecture

These are just a few examples. In most cases, these aren’t the strengths of system integrators. You don’t want the meter running on the expensive army of consultants while you’re beginning these activities and making key decisions. An implementation readiness phase of the project will help mitigate this risk.

Implementation project quality assurance

I have found that system integrators typically aren’t good at overseeing themselves. They are simply too close to the implementation to objectively and rationally manage risks. Risks proliferate throughout most transformations, so this is an extremely important insurance policy. Our team at Third Stage Consulting is very good at providing this independent implementation quality assurance to help keep your project on track.

Organizational change management

Organizational change management requires a much different skill set than those required to build and configure software. So, it’s understandable that most system integrators aren’t very good at this. If they do have a competency in org change, it is typically very transactional and focused on the software rather than on the more important strategic components of change. This is where organizational change management experts such as those at Third Stage can help.

Ownership of your ERP implementation

No matter who you hire to help, they can’t own the digital transformation – nor should they. Only you can fill this role. Your system integrator is not a silver bullet or replacement for your own organization’s ownership of the project. This is your project, so ensure that you manage it accordingly.

What to do about it all

The good news is that there is an easy solution: bring in the right help to augment your system integrator. This is the only way to mitigate the risk of the key system integrator deficiencies outlined above. Contact me to discuss how our team at Third Stage can help. I’m happy to act as a sounding board as you embark on your transformation!

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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