Someone thought it was a great idea to replace our ERP

By Michael Smith, VP & CIO, American Academy of Family Physicians

Michael Smith _ Lo-Res
Michael Smith, VP & CIO, American Academy of Family Physicians

For all of us, it is just a matter of time before you are posed with this initiative. Enterprise Resource Planning (EFP) systems are many times the most complex and in-depth integrated platforms within organizations. For some, ERP is managing the end to end supply chain of manufacturing, and/or distribution environments utilizing ecosystems such as SAP, JD Edwards, Microsoft Dynamics/Navision and Oracle to name a few; whereas other organizations utilize ERP platforms to manage their financial and/or accounting processes. I have had the pleasure, while rolling my eyes while I walk through the deep crevices of sarcasm, to have implemented and managed both types of systems from a technology perspective.

Regardless if you are a global manufacturing and distribution behemoth or a small organization that needs to manage their accounting systems in a more efficient and productive way; an ERP solution is the answer. However, choosing the right ERP is sometimes just as daunting as the implementation and ongoing maintenance. Where do you start? How do you decide? What budget do you need to allocate? All great questions and hopefully with this article, I can provide some direction and thoughts that may be helpful for you to consider.

As you can imagine there are many options, applications, and platforms available to be considered. However, you first must determine what type of ERP platform you are needing. Are you needing a full end-to-end supply chain platform, or do you need a more focused accounting and financial management system? If the former, you have many options in that genre. The front runners that come to mind are your massive, all-encompassing systems like SAP, JD Edwards, Microsoft Dynamics/Navision and Oracle Financials. There are many others, too many to list, that support global enterprise organizations or smaller regional companies that require similar functionality on a smaller scale. If the latter is required, once again there are many options to consider. For larger or more complex environments you can again look to SAP, JD Edwards, Microsoft Dynamics/Navision and Oracle Financials utilizing more of the financial and accounting modules, and less of the supply chain around raw materials and finished goods. However, you can also look to platforms such as WorkDay, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, or Intaact to name a few. Without sounding like a broken record, once again many options to consider.

With so many options available, where do you start? For some companies, they may take the route of issuing an RFI or RFP to narrow the playing field of the best platform to choose. For others, they may reach out to their counterparts in other organizations to get input and recommendations of how and who to proceed with. My recommendation would be to ask yourself what are the needs the organization requires, and where the organization is going from a technology landscape and roadmap. For example, if the organization needs a full supply chain platform, while also standardizing on employee engagement, SAP may be the answer. SAP is the leader in ERP systems and with that comes a hefty price tag for implementation and ongoing maintenance. On the other hand, if the organization is heavily invested in the Microsoft stack; then maybe Microsoft Dynamics may be the answer. Finally, if the organization is setting a trajectory to heavily invest in SaaS applications like Salesforce, then possibly WorkDay would be a complimentary platform to mange both Human Resources and Finance/Accounting. Once again, many options to consider but integration into the current ecosystem of your organization will be paramount for easier administration and innovation down the road.

So now you have decided on a path forward; do not under-estimate the value of engaging the organization in that process. Adoption can be quickly thwarted when the organization feels that a platform or system is being pushed on them vs they were collaboratively engaged in the process. It is a fine line as leadership must make decisions, but to do so in a vacuum will set the organization up for a catastrophic failure. By supporting the proverbial ‘dog and pony show’ with software providers coming on-site to showcase their wares to get the organization or key people engaged in the process will reap massive benefits. Allow key people across the organization to evaluate and help in the final decision of who to move forward with. I realize that can be challenging when you must wade through various opinions and considerations. However, most employees within organizations realize someone must make the final decision, but the process of allowing people’s concerns or ideas to be heard and recognized will garner far more support in the final decision then making decisions behind closed doors. Nothing is more destructive than people assuming decisions were made in secret and hidden agendas were addressed and considered. Keep the process transparent and open; and you will be surprised the level of support you will receive from the masses.

A final decision has been made and now you are ready to proceed forward. Execution is key. Make sure Discovery and Requirements have been properly documented and full sign-off has been accomplished to avoid ‘scope-creep’ or massive changes to the original project plan. Keep the organization informed of progress and remain transparent. The challenge is not if issues arise, but when they arise. Be honest and transparent in communicating the issues, and the ‘trust capital’ you have banked through the collaborative process will serve you well when addressing challenges leading to a successful deployment.