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A Tryst with ERP Implementations

Gaining efficiencies, reducing maintenance cost, improving visibility across the company, reducing diverse IT system maintenance costs - these are some of the common reasons a company goes for an ERP implementation. Agreed, the reasons and the benefits are well thought out and the plan is all firmed up. But is it always a 'Bed of Roses'? I would say, not at all. Especially after my recent experience at a well-known oil pipeline company in North America. Immediately after the go-live we not only encountered a lot of unexpected issues especially in areas like reconciliation & document approval management, but also had to face a lot end user queries on how certain things are done in the new system. We did manage to bring the situation under control. But I would say that there were a few important lessons which I learnt from this experience which will stay with me for life. These include some of the good practices we followed which helped us and some of the improvement areas where we could have done better. The intent of this write up is to share the lessons from my experience so that it might be helpful for others embarking on a similar journey.

Business Commitment - Don't just talk, invest in it.

 First and foremost point that I would like to highlight is getting business commitment for an implementation. How often have we heard of ERP implementations failing just because of lack of consistent and continued business participation? I would say perhaps more than 50%. In spite of such statistics companies fail to engage business users throughout the implementation. Even if some companies manage to allocate a person, many a times it is someone who just joined the company or someone who might not be fully aware of the processes in that business function . Granted, that IT is not their focus and the resources hired have to focus on their core business and day to day operations. But if you are spending millions of dollars on an ERP implementation isn't it worth spending a few dollars on a full time senior business resources for 10-12 months? Personally I feel that it is worth spending this additional amount and the benefits are immense for both business as well as the project. I consider ourselves fortunate to have had such a support from business side which reduced the risk of failure to a great extent.

Training - Start Early - The earlier you start the lesser will be the resistance to change.

This is purely from a change management perspective. I would say that, in my implementation, even though we were fully aware of this aspect we weren't able to start early. Partly because of the fear of exposing half-baked solutions in front of a larger user community and confusing them As a business user, who is accustomed to using a system for performing tasks on a regular basis, it would be natural for me to feel some level of anxiety regarding the way things could change Will I have to spend more time figuring out how to do things, will I be able to learn the new system, and will it increase my burden? All these are very valid concerns. If we leave the training towards the end, say around a month before the new system is in place all the above mentioned points get amplified and the chances of resistance are much higher. Whereas if we start training at least a few selected change leaders in a business function at least 3-4 months in advance it takes off a lot of apprehensions and gives confidence not only to those selected few change leaders but also to the other employees in that business function or department. I agree that there are a few other risks too like negative publicity, but in my opinion if we compare the risks to rewards we will invariably come out with the conclusion that rewards often surpass the risks.

Data Migrations - Don't just look at Master Data, rehearse Cut Over's as well.

This is yet another area which can easily be lost in the midst of so many other things going on with the ERP implementation. We would have spent so many days working on the master data migrations in a particular function and tried to perfect it by having multiple rehearsals. What gets sidelined is the cutover data migration rehearsals. We often tend to think that cutover related activities can be looked at towards the end when the actual cutover is due. But then it becomes too late and we are left with too little time as the user acceptance testing activities and issue resolutions takes precedence. As the popular saying goes - 'A known enemy is better that an unknown ghost'. It is always better to experience and figure out the problems before doing the actual cutover. I would say having at least a couple of cutover rehearsals will ensure that there are minimal surprises. Again this does not entirely eliminate the probability of surprises. It at least minimizes them.

Even though there are many other aspects of a package implementation which needs adequate attention, I have picked up the above three areas as I thought that getting these right will avoid a lot mishaps in the later stages of the project. I would say that these three areas - getting business commitment, starting you training initiatives early and adequately rehearsing both the cutover as well as master data migrations , would be the top 3 things to pay attention to in an ERP implementation.


You can't wait for the implementation phase to pass and THEN worry about training. Now you are sitting on a new software for 4 months while everyone learns how to us it. What good does that do anyone?

one of my fav subject explained in a total pro way love it

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