Why an ERP strategy is so important

An ERP strategy that has everyone in the organization from the CEO down contributing to the planning process will ensure that the right decisions are made about purchasing an ERP software solution.

The goal is to gain a clear understanding of what the business process actually is before buying the software, not when the software is being implemented. You may not change your mind about the software you select, but you will have a better idea of what it needs to accomplish.

Take my advice and interview everyone in the organization individually during the planning process. Ask everyone from the managers to the line workers and accounting staff about their daily, weekly and monthly procedures and how it all comes together in the existing system or systems.

Even if the company has prior experience with an integrated system, the chances are that one or many applications will have been added over the years to accommodate organizational and procedural changes.

You may find that everything is really being managed through a series of complex spreadsheets. This is quite a common scenario and it happens for a number of reasons.

For example, the design department purchases a 3-D design package that utilizes a complex series of part numbers that are incompatible with the existing manufacturing software. Or the sales management program generates order numbers that do not work with the accounting system. In each case data is imported into spreadsheets and manipulated to produce the output that everyone requires.

The key to finding out how the current system works is in how you ask the questions. I once made the mistake of asking the production team what management reports they used from the existing legacy system. I received a list of reports and their functions. What I didn’t find out until much later is that the legacy system provided only 25% of their reporting requirements – everything else was managed through add-on applications and spreadsheets. I should have asked “How is the production process managed?” to get the real picture.

Developing an ERP strategy can be a real journey of discovery. I have worked with a lot of companies that had multiple processes working independently of each other and still they expected everything to integrate seamlessly in the new system.

Planning how the organization and its business process will evolve into the new ERP system will maximize the benefits of the software once it is implemented. If there is a seamless data gathering and input process in place prior to purchasing new software, the ERP software solution is more likely to add value to the organization by generating accurate mission critical data in real time.

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