One of the age-old questions haunting the ERP industry is this: How do companies spend big money on ERP systems and then, for some strange reason, fail to leverage their software investment?
Of course, one reason is many companies do not redesign their business processes or cannot sustain the process changes after the system is installed.
However, even when companies do business process management right, many fall flat on their face trying to get the most out of the software in the long run. Here is why…
Often, organizations do not understand what their ERP software is capable of doing. Additionally, they lack the knowledge to configure the software once they do figure out the system’s capabilities.The flexibility inherent in any ERP software package is mostly driven by the configuration settings. Learning this does not require a Ph.D. in computer science, nor does it require any knowledge of traditional software programming—it is something any good business analyst can do.
The challenge is once the system is initially installed (and the consultants walk out the door), it is a guarantee that business strategies and requirements will continue to change and evolve.
This means constant user requests to change existing software functionality and endless calls to implement more features.
If the organization is not aware of, or does not know how to make the set-up changes, there are only four options available, and all are not great choices:
- Do nothing, even though the business truly needs the functionality.
- Hire expensive consultants (once again) to make on-going set-up changes.
- Develop inefficient manual “workaround” processes (or spreadsheets) to fill the gap.
- Worse yet, waste valuable time writing software customizations to provide the functionality that the standard package can actually support “right-out-of-the box” (with straightforward configuration changes).
Lack of configuration knowledge is one important reason many companies have a ton of expensive shelf-ware.
Get the White Papers
No doubt, understanding the software set-up parameters requires formal software training, consistent informal knowledge transfer with consultants, and old fashion “roll-up your sleeves” testing by the client during the implementation process.
Often, however, more detailed information is necessary.
Unfortunately, the standard system documentation provided by most software vendors is woefully inadequate and vague regarding the software set-up. Without better documentation, the only alternative is to “reverse-engineer” the system by continuing to test different set-up options, wasting a lot of time and money.
To fill these knowledge gaps, white papers are the application team's best friend. These white papers should not be confused with sales and marketing white papers— the glossies.
Real, useful white papers for a software package dive into the step-by-step instructions of how to configure the application to support very specific business scenarios and requirements. Of course, reading white papers is not always exciting stuff.
But, in order to be successful with ERP software over the long run, it is something an organization has to do.
The truth is most ERP application consultants use white papers. If your consultant does not have the white papers you need, some other resource within their firm probably does. It is pretty unlikely you will get this level of system documentation from your consulting firm unless you ask. Consultants do not usually hand out this level of documentation to their clients. If they did, the client may no longer need their services!
Beyond your consultants there are typically other resources to obtain white papers from, or other similar useful information for your package. These sources include the software vendor’s customer support website, on-line information sharing communities, books, and third-party vendors providing package specific expertise.
For example, JDETips.com has an outstanding collection of set-up documentation for the Oracle EnterpriseOne ERP system.
In any case, start accumulating white papers for each software module and establish a library, because it’s a guarantee you will need it later.
Guest Blog by Steve Phillips
Steven Phillips is an ERP professional with over 28 years of implementation experience. He is the author of the book "Control Your ERP Destiny", one of the best-selling ERP titles. The book is available at Amazon.com, iTunes, GooglePlay, Barnes & Noble.com, Kobo, and many other international booksellers.