Today, a little about the most serious mistakes that I encountered during the four implementations of ERP systems (3x SAP 1x JDE), which I had the pleasure to support.
Mistake 1 – Quick implementation.
The entire process of implementing an ERP system in a company should take up to 2 years (whether SAP, JDE, or another system). These two years are essential to go through the entire process of analyzing the company's needs, choosing the right system, designing functionality, testing them, training employees, and preparing it golive.
During quick implementations (one that I was part of lasted only a few months), the time spent on each stage is reduced. Most often it is saved on testing and training people. Only standard functionality is tested without creating detailed test scenarios for all possible variants. And employees are also trained only with basic functionalities, without a detailed explanation of how the system works and what dependencies exist in it.
The effect of such implementation may include, but is not limited to:
· Some features are missing
· Features that do not works
· Features that work but are not used due to lack of training (users do not know how to use them or do not even know about their existence)
· A large number of errors in system configuration
· A large number of user mistakes
All this makes the opinion that the "system does not work" become verry popular, which results in users going out of the system and building additional processes so-called workaround in the form of excel tools or paper documents.
Mistake 2 - Late inclusion of users in the implementation process (or not enabling them at all)
Users (and indeed our future key users) should be involved in the implementation process as soon as possible. These should be people from all areas who will work side by side with ERP consultants, designing solutions, test scenarios, conducting tests, providing analysis, writing training and then train the rest of the users. The ideal solution is to exclude such people for a year/year and a half from their current duties so that they can only work with the system and learn in. This is such an important investment as after implementation we have a ready-made team of qualified key users who can solve many problems that occur after golive, train new users and develop the system. In the long term, this solution saves unimaginable amount of money that we would have to spend to support of external ERP consultants.
The lack of qualified key users (because we either included them in the process late or did not include them at all), besides the fact that it generates costs in the form of having to hire external ERP consultants, deprives us of support for users. We know very well that it is easier to ask a colleague from the desk next door than to issue a "ticket" to IT and wait (sometimes a few days) for an answer. It causes some questions not to be asked at all (because they are not so crucial to issue a ticket), which causes a slowdown or stop at all learning and competency improvement process. Even worse, some problems are not reported, because either "it is possible to click it over" or "I will do it in excel". This, in turn, causes problems to accumulate or moving users away from using the system.
Mistake 3 – No support after golive
A very dangerous practice is not to provide maximum support of ERP consultants after golive. From experience, I can say that half a year after golive is the absolute minimum that we need to provide adequate, available for immediate resolution of problems that always happen. Even with the highest user involvement in the implementation process and the consideration of all possible scenarios, there will always be an unforeseen problem that needs to be addressed.
Of course, depending on the level of competence of our key users, the period of this intensive support can be shortened or lengthened, but it must always be in the form of constant availability for key users and other users (ideal, of course, is the physical presence in the company in which the implementation took place, hand in hand with users, but in the era of pandemic often even users are not in the office).
The lack of such support (as in the absence of key users) will result in the fact that there will be no one to answer questions and piling up problems, which will often be solved by various "outside the system" workarounds.
Mistake 4 - Attempting to translate processes 1:1 into the system (or copying solutions from the previous system)
The ERP system should be a support for business. And this can be achieved if we use the system (whether SAP or any other) to streamline and accelerate our processes, to streamline our decision-making processes. If we are implementing a new ERP system we have to put aside how we have done things so far and think about how we can do it all better/faster/more efficiently using the new system. Or maybe some things we won't have to do at all (because we did them, due to lack of a proper system)?
You can often hear SAP abbreviation stands for: Stop All Production, System Against People or Submit And Pray (here I will recommend my SAP guru's website https://submitandpray.com/). This is often due to the wrong approach to system deployment and design. Because many of the elements implemented are similar to the situation when we are tired of hammering nails into the wall by hammer, so we buy a drill. And instead of stocking up on screws and pins, we continue to stick nails into the wall ... hitting them with a drill. And we still complain that it goes much worse and that the hammer was a much better tool. But we don't want to put away the drill, because we paid so much for it.
When implementing the ERP, we need to change our thinking. We cannot look at our processes through the prism of the old system, because we will implement many solutions in the style of hammering nails by drill, which will bring us only a lot of frustration and company losses (how many times I have heard: we need to increase the headcount because with SAP there is more workload). Changing the ERP is a change in the environment in which we work, and the sooner we realize it, the better we will be able to plan and implement it better.