Who Is Winning the ERP Implementation Battle: US vs. Europe?

Written By: Brian Potts
Date: January 22, 2020

Makes for a good soccer (sorry: futbol) discussion, as well, but today we’re talking about ERP implementations. Who’s leading the race? Where does an ERP implementation have a better chance of success: the US or Europe?

To evaluate, we will consider the following factors: Availability of software, availability of resources, adoption of organizational change management and implementation philosophy and approach. We will rate each country on a scale of 1-5. This is based on our experience working with clients in both regions (Third Stage’s headquarters are in the US, while our European branch is based just outside of London).

As a disclaimer, there is really no reliable quantifiable data to support this blog - this is simply based on my opinion and observations. I could manipulate any sources of data similar to Gartner, Forester or anyone else who compares anything, but I have no reason for bias so will let this roll accordingly…

Availability of ERP Software:

United States5
Western Europe5

Both regions have a long-standing history of software development (such as SAP vs. Oracle vs. other ERP systems) and each is among the very first globally to adopt new systems. There are certainly cases of newer and lesser-known packages that are still struggling with adoption in each case, but on a global scale both regions score at the top of the charts and above most other countries and regions of the world.

Availability of Resources:

United States5
Western Europe4

The United States stands strong in availability of resources pretty much across the board. Europe does, as well, but carries a few additional constraints, driven mostly by diversity of culture, language and slightly tighter employment and data regulation. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but does make it a little tougher to acquire needed talent.

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Adoption of Organizational Change Management:

United States3
Western Europe2

To be fair, adoption of organizational change management is a struggle in every region of the world our team works. While the concept has been growing in concept for several years, we are still seeing a lack of adoption.
In the United States we receive request for change management support during nearly every initial discussion surrounding digital transformation. Once the transformation begins, however, adoption slips as soon as budgets become real. Only a small percentage of implementations continue with proper levels of change management. In Europe, the same thing occurs, however there is simply less interest to start. Much of this is due certain cultures that are more direct and hierarchical.

ERP Implementation Philosophy:

United States2
Western Europe5

This is a vast topic, but covers adoption of innovation and current best-practices in implementation methodologies. In this case, Europe is taking leaps over the United States. The U.S., for the most part, seems stuck in a rut. Here are some things to consider:

Emerging technologies. While organizations in the U.S. are fascinated by blockchain, artificial intelligence, internet of things, and advanced analytics, European companies and governments are adopting them, and quickly.

Best-of-Breed. European businesses are comfortable with multiple best of breed ERP systems to a greater degree than in the United States. The U.S. has been adopting the concept of bolt-ons and sub-systems over time but is still a step behind many European countries.

Resourcing Models. United States enterprises still want to lean on the larger system integrators such as Accenture and Deloitte or Capgemini to take over and manage their implementations. As discussed in earlier writings there is significant risk associated with this approach. As Eric Kimberling commented in a recent blog, in addition to risk, there is no indication of any real advantage to hiring a large system implementer.

Europe has this figured out. It may be due to the U.S. mentality of hands-off and one-stop-shopping. We embrace big-box companies like Walmart and Accenture here in the U.S., but they struggle in Europe due to perceived lack of quality and more general skepticism toward the big and massive implementers. The same could be said for the large, do-it-all consulting firms.

To be fair, these firms still hold a place in many European ERP implementations and are needed for some of the larger system integrations and technical deployments, but you won’t find as many European companies entrusting OCM, Quality Assurance and Budget Management, and everything else under the sun to one firm. It may cost more to break out responsibilities in this fashion, but as the old saying goes… “you most definitely get what you pay for.”

And the winner is: Europe 16, United States 15

A respectable battle indeed, and on a global scale both regions are well ahead of much of the planet. The primary differences between the two stems from the fact that Europe is built from a variety of cultures and languages while the United States, for the most part is congruous. The other major difference is Europe’s adoption of innovation and current practices, leading the way towards defining “best-practice.”

If you are running a transformation in the US, Europe, and/or any other part of the world, our global team of independent digital transformation and ERP consultants is here to help you along the way. Feel free to contact us to discuss how our team might support your initiatives in any or all of these regions – we are happy to be a sounding board as you continue your journey!

Brian Potts

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