How to Declare Independence from Your ERP
It took some time for frustration with Mother England to build before the American colonists declared independence. At first, the settlers were focused on growing their infrastructure -- their farms, towns and economy, and they needed help from Britain. Soon, however, they felt constrained as Parliament’s actions interfered with that growth. The colonists tried to adapt, but in the end, tensions escalated and the relationship frayed. The costs were high, but despite some internal support for the status quo, the patriots revolted against British rule, putting a new government in place.
You may be going through a similar scenario with your ERP solution. A step too far? Bear with me… At first, it worked well enough. Sure, there were implementation issues, but there was a team in place to deal with them. Then, since change is constant in business, your strategy evolved. Now, you have to deal with problems due to customizations, plus new issues as a result of changing market conditions. It may no longer be possible to make adjustments due to restrictions in the ERP system. Some people in the organization may want to stay the course, but others are ringing the church bells and advocating for change.
Is it time to grab your musket, wave the flag and declare your independence from your current ERP system?
Picking the Right ERP Relationship for Your Business
Let’s face it, evaluating and implementing new technology, especially something as huge and all-encompassing as ERP, is a daunting task. Many of us choose a technology solution that fits our needs now. But not taking into account what life can throw at us in the future is a mistake. Do we really even know what problems will come our way two, five or even ten years from now? Who foresaw COVID-19 and the supply chain problems that followed? A modern ERP solution should fit your current needs while also giving you the ability to evolve your processes in the years to come.
Does Your ERP System Still Fit Your Business Needs?
Companies should take some time each year to evaluate their ERP system. In some cases, the ERP and the company’s strategy remain perfectly aligned over time. But in other cases, the company’s vision for the future may reveal serious shortcomings with its ERP solution. In my experience, companies don’t make this decision lightly and often hang on longer than they should, in hopes that things will get better. Maybe just another customization here, an upgrade there or maybe yet another call with the vendor...
The Declaration of Independence: How to Transition to a New ERP System
Here’s some advice to help you sever the relationship with your current ERP solution and find a new one.
- Look at your ERP options. First of all, once an organization has decided to look into alternatives to its current ERP, it should look toward its current ERP vendor in addition to searching for new applications. Typically companies make a high level of investment in their current solution and that should be the path to stay on until you find a new vendor that meets the company’s needs. Maybe telling them you’re looking for alternatives will finally get their attention. Maybe they’ll come back and surprise you.
- Once you’ve found a new solution, how do you inform your vendor you’re moving on? It’s going to be awkward. But when you transition to a new ERP provider, you’re going to need the current vendor for process/programming documentation, set-up configuration analysis, data conversion and other activities involved with the move. Keeping a good relationship with the outgoing vendor helps ensure a smooth transition.
With a clear set of objectives and requirements, your current vendor should at least get a shot at participating in the evaluation process. Informing your vendor should be done carefully and with good preparation. Expressing the facts about your disappointment in the system and service needs to be backed with tangible examples of limited functionality, poor service, or the solution’s inability to meet the company’s business needs. In most cases, organizations are stuck using older versions of software that haven’t been properly maintained and kept up-to-date, let alone implemented properly in the first place. Most legacy systems currently in use in the small and mid-sized business world and even into the enterprise marketplace today are built on outdated technology and are about as flexible as concrete.
- Once you’ve decided to move on, make sure you stay committed to your decision. Evaluate new solutions in the context of providing a platform that can manage and host different apps. They should allow you to plug and chug basic and advanced applications, from CRM to Production to Transportation. Organizations no longer want to pay developers huge amounts of money to perform customizations. They want the ability to be self-sufficient and enhance applications themselves via low code / no-code technologies.
- Vendor viability should be at the top of any profile. A viable vendor should be in it for the long term (as opposed to working on an exit strategy) and should not be looking to be acquired.
- Check that they have the capability to scale with your business and support future growth. A viable vendor should exhibit solid, steady growth with sizable investment put toward research and development. It should feature clear product roadmaps.
- Are you and your vendor a cultural match? A cultural match with a vendor, its vision and its mission, all the way to its implementation team, is critical to success. The ERP selection process should reveal how the vendor prepares for meetings, answers RFPs, establishes accurate SOWs, interacts with team members and most of all, supports its customers. The list goes on for cultural criteria and can only be assessed by spending time (often a lot of time) together during the evaluation and pre-implementation planning process.
My hope is that you can weather our patriotic holidays this year with a productive ERP relationship intact, so that you don’t need to consider an ERP independence day.
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