Implementing a new ERP system – focus = success

A little while back I had the pleasure to work on the implementation of a small/medium enterprise application for businesses, SAP Business One, with Tribe Medical Group. Our team did not have a whole lot of experience with implementing ERP systems, but we knew what we needed to have for the next few years – something that could handle some complex processes, integrated multiple areas of the company in one database, allowed the company to continue its rapid growth with medical device sales in Canada, and most importantly, was easy to use, simple, and customizable.

In the course of 6 months we engaged into a major search, working with consulting companies to find what we needed. A colleague of mine ran the project, and we ended up deciding to go with the SAP product; the months following that decision are pretty much a blur 🙂 Such project can be a daunting one if you don’t have a good team to work with – our luck was, we had a great one.

Now if you think such project is not going to be tough, well… it will. I can’t tell you how many nights were spent dreaming of the next steps, the last meeting, the next dry run, the last failed attempt to import data… but in the end, you will succeed in going live with the new system. The question is: What separates a company that had a successful implementation of a new ERP system company-wide, and one that didn’t?

As mentioned before, no matter what product you choose to go with, the process is going to be hard, lengthy, and in the end – you will go live. However I would argue the success of an implementation relies on one thing first and foremost: aligning the products available with your company’s vision, and focusing on that prior to, during, and after the implementation. The degree by which you focus on that vision when choosing the product from a list of available names, and how you stick to that focus after go-live day, will dictate the success of the implementation.

Now let me share with you a bit on what we focused on, while choosing what product to go with, and also along the post-implementation stages – in fact the focus has never changed – the customer. And by customer I mean internal (employees) and external (vendors, clients). What does that mean in practical terms? I can explain how we were able to focus on customers in two examples.

Internal customer satisfaction

Simply put, having an ERP system that is flexible and customizable is very, very important. Not two employees are the same in your company, not two teams are the same – so the application should allow for flexibility and customization to the user: while one user may need a mobile application with only two functions readily accessible, another user might need a desktop version with access to excel integration, and a third might need full access to the company’s database. This is very important because it allows the users to focus on their processes, and only that, and not be distracted by irrelevant screens, buttons, etc. Another aspect that should be considered is taking feedback from these employees, and being able to customize interface and processes based on this feedback – does your system offer that ability? In my experience I’ve seen increased engagement in users when they’ve been able to contribute to how the application looks or works. Plus it’s really cool to be able to customize things 🙂 This should be even more of a focus after implementation; I believe it can make a positive impact to the team’s culture!

Ability to create value for external customers

This one can be tricky, but think about this: your user requests quarterly reporting for three different product segments, with a few other variables in place. You know there’s value in that for them, otherwise they wouldn’t be requesting you to do it, however your finance, IT or sales support department is currently inundated with inefficient processes, and things just take too long, too many “touches” to be done. What do you do? I think any possible solution here will involve cost, so how do you avoid, or at least minimize that as much as possible?

Having an ERP product that allows for customizable processes and reporting can be the limiting factor between getting this done for your customer or not. Customizable and flexible processes (see my first point above on internal customer satisfaction) allow your team to be as efficient as they can be, so that when a request like this comes into play, they can actually work on getting that done; customizable reporting allows your team to work on the reporting requirements, and make it a part of your system – next time you need the data, just click a button and it will give you the results needed based on specifications set by your team, when you first created it – no need to redo the logic in your brain every time you need to run the report.

Continue with your focus

This is likely the most important aspect of a successful implementation of a new ERP system. Over the last three years I have witnessed a change in our organization – people enjoying change. We enjoy it because we have experienced the benefits that a short disruption in process can cause in the long run for our customers, internal and external. People want to be part of focus teams to discuss processes, because they know there is a real chance that their contribution will turn into real change. The video below shows some folks from our team discussing what Tribe is all about, and how our SAP implementation has allowed the company to focus on our customer:

 

If you’re considering changing processes, systems, and how you run your business, by implementing a new ERP system, consider the change that comes from digital transformation, where your focus is, and how you can keep that focus for years to come. It’s definitely worth the investment, and in many ways a non-negotiable in today’s world.

For more on this discussion, you can follow a chat I had with David Trites and Ursula Ringham, both from SAP, where I shared insight on the experience using SAP Business One powered by SAP HANA, and the results to the organization:

How Canada’s Fastest Growing Orthopedic Distributor Manages Data, Customer Satisfaction, and Proper Reporting

If you’d like to chat further about this topic, please leave a comment!

Take care

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