Over the past 10 years, enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors have evolved into experts in their respective products, as well as the industries they serve. During this time, most ERP vendors or implementation partners (VARs) have developed intellectual property to implement their software more efficiently, and to address the needs of the industries they serve.
So what happens when you have purchased an ERP package and after the initial gathering of requirements, or during the configuration and testing phase you get the feeling that something is not quite right with your ERP partner?
Ask yourself these questions:
Since the beginning of the project, does the project manager and the resource assigned to the team understand your business or have you been training them on the industry?
For example, if you are a food manufacturer, have you been explaining lot track and trace requirements, recipes, co-products production, catch weight or other variable production requirements? What about direct store delivery, or trade promotions management? Competent ERP vendors work with specific industries and know the ins and outs of your business or businesses similar to yours. Any ERP vendor working with multiple food companies would know all of the above requirements and should be teaching you about best practices while offering proven solutions to requirements. There are very few requirements in the industry that have not been addressed over the past 10-15 years.
Does your ERP partner have a methodology, templates or other tools readily available?
When you ask for an example of not just a project plan, but things like sample end-user training, standard EDI formats, pre-configured testing logs or configuration checklists, do you receive any specific information, or do you receive a very generic document if anything at all? Project methodologies for implementing ERP have evolved dramatically with the growth of documentation, not only for the software, but the implementer’s library of project artifacts. If an implementer has done a significant number of projects with the specific ERP package you own, they should have project templates, data conversion tools, user training documentation, etc. If not, maybe they are new to the product and trying to build up a practice. Unfortunately, this hands-on learning could be at your expense, not only in the creation of intellectual property, but also in the use of inexperienced consultants and their training time.
Does your implementation partner use a rotating or ever changing consulting team on your project?
Excellent ERP partners have adequate resources and scale to be able to commit a team to your project. Most ERP projects require a project manager, a financial consultant, an inventory and production consultant and a technical consultant. These may vary in numbers depending on your size, but having committed team members helping you manage the project and your technical environment, along with having the right functional team members to configure and train your users is critical. How can you make progress training and re-explaining your business if these resources change during your project? Why should you pay for this wasted time? In addition, one consultant may suggest one method while his or her replacement would recommend another path.
Does your implementation partner help you lead weekly status meetings where action items, issues and due dates are not just discussed, but tracked and measured for accountability? We have all been at meetings where a project status is discussed, all the open issues talked through, with ideas thrown around, and then the meeting is over. This is not the way to run an ERP project.
ERP projects have extensive task lists, interdependencies and more people resources than any other type of corporate project. Your partner should have several tracking tools for issues and decisions, task due dates, integration and customization statuses, data conversion and so on. These tools should be complete with dates, people assignments and varying statuses, other than just a completed yes or no.
These are just a few questions or warning signs you should be aware of, but hopefully this gives you an idea of what should raise a red flag on your project’s progress or potential for long-term success.