Women in ERP – July 2023
Michelle Rydman, Nicole Suess and
Welcome to our Women in ERP show. This is a show that Kris Harrington and I also host every single month. This would normally be taking place next Tuesday, but because it’s the fourth of July, we decided to do the show a week early because we’re all going to be off enjoying the holiday. I will actually be heading to Cancun tomorrow with my boyfriend, so I will actually be out of the office and on vacay through the 4th.
The purpose of our Women in ERP series is to bring together, educate, and empower women involved with their ERP transformations. The main theme of this series is to highlight the contributions of women, create social awareness to enhance women’s representation in ERP teams, and highlight their voices and challenges working in the ERP space.
My name is Sarah Scudder. I am the marketing Maven at SourceDay. Our platform integrates with ERP systems, so my team has lived through just about everything you can imagine working with ERPs. Today, I am going to be joined by Michelle, Rebeca, and Nicole may also be popping on as well a little bit later to join us. So these ladies have extensive experience working in the ERP space, and I’ve asked them to come on and share some of their stories and wisdom with us today.
I’d like to encourage those of you who are with us live to drop us a note in the comments, tell us where in the world you’re joining us from, and where you are planning on going on your next vacation. We’ll do a little vacation trivia here, so drop us a note. And if you have questions for Michelle and Rebeca throughout our conversation today, drop those in the comments as well, and I will make sure to get to the questions as we have time.
So with that, I am going to kick us off today with having Michelle do a quick intro. So Michelle, tell us a little bit about who you are, and then I would like to have you tell us how you got into a role that was kind of a hybrid between manufacturing and technology.
Great! Well, I am so thrilled to be here, so thank you so much for having me, Sarah. It’s exciting to be part of this environment to share our stories with women in the manufacturing space in ERP. So thanks again for having me.
I am currently a Services practice director with an organization, Guide Technologies, and we are a gold Channel partner within the Infor partner ecosystem. So what that means is this: I manage a Services team, and we do implementations of ERP. The platform is the N4 platform. We focus on two main ERP applications: the Syteliner cloud Suite industrial solution, and all of this at the suite of products as well as the Infor XA.
So, I want to manage a Services team and effectively, we help our customers do what they do better. We help manufacturing companies be better. And my journey here was a long and winding road, but I started off in the manufacturing space back actually in high school. So, I was on a Cooperative work experience program and went and, during my senior year, worked for a Manufacturing Company. It was small, so I got to see that organization grow from about 45 employees to about 200 to 25.
So, I loved seeing how things worked and understanding how things were engineered and put together. I had that curiosity and that drive in manufacturing, which was just really interesting to me. I loved understanding the mechanics, and I’m very analytical by nature.
What I did next is I took a dive out into the Consulting role and joined what is now Infor back in the late 90s to implement cymax. It was called back then, and Sightline. So, my journey as a consultant, a senior consultant, evolved to a solution architect, to a project manager, and then I again couldn’t get enough.
I had a wonderful opportunity to join the development team at Infor as part of the product management team, just a phenomenal opportunity that I couldn’t resist, to really get to shape and drive the future of a product that I have spent so many years working with so many companies to improve their business.
So, I was in the product management team up until last mid-summer when I decided to move into this role that I am in today at Guide Technologies. So, full circle, full circle.
So, we’ve got Christina joining us from Wisconsin, and she is headed to Italy later this year, so that’s quite a vacation. We’ve got Molly joining us from Minneapolis, and she’s doing a staycation. And we’ve got Jonathan joining from what he calls C-Town, and Joseph from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Always feels like a vacation. And looking forward to my daughter visiting. So thanks for those of you who are joining live again. Don’t be shy about putting notes in the comments throughout our conversation today.
Rebeca, I would like to have you do a quick intro about your background, and then I really want to dive into some more specific questions throughout the conversation today around what’s actually happening, what works, what’s not working in the ERP space.
So, Rebeca, my question for you is during the development stage, what are the key aspects of transformation that need to be considered by every single team working towards a successful ERP implementation?
Well, hi everyone. Sarah, thank you so much for having me today. This is Rebeca, a Consulting manager based out of Houston. I have over 16 years of experience playing different roles between process improvement, technology implementations, and also now I’m more focused on change management.
About your question, it’s I think considering a successful ERP implementation at the end, all of that is more about the return on the investment, right? So saying that, it’s without adoption, for example, you will not get the right investment. And without the Champions, you will be struggling more in the adoption. So the point with that is, I may say that there are three items that can help us achieve a successful transformation.
Number one, it can be to understand the main changes at a system level, but there is also an important thing about understanding the processes that will be also modified based on that ERP transformation. There can be an opportunity in doing that, and it will be worth it.
The second item might be about how to understand the level of customizations and integrations. We all know that in ERP implementations, the level of customizations are always or should be minor, right? Because otherwise, the ERP will not join its function. So the idea in terms of customizations is that those do not exceed that 10 percent of the transformation. And on the other hand, it’s to keep in mind the objective of the ERP, otherwise, it will be lost. So the most important thing about understanding the level of customizations and also the integrations is because for the end users, those can be key aspects that can help them to recover during the production or go-live day, for example, in case they face any issues or they faced any inconveniences trying to ramp up the production.
And the last item, I may say, is to determine what are the impacts and also the different synergies between competing initiatives. We all know that when an organization is trying to go live with an ERP system, they will also try to implement or they will need to also implement different systems or different processes in order to put in place that big ERP system. So the point with that last item is that we need to understand what is going to be the impact of those different implementations that will be happening or projects that will be happening at the same time in order to partner with them and make sure that we will be leveraging from those initiatives. And at the end, that we all will be aiming for the same objective.
Considering those aspects, I may say that all project team members should be mastering that, right, no matter their specialization they have or the role that they have in the project. It is always important that we keep in mind those three aspects.
Michelle or Nicole, thoughts on those three aspects?
Sure, Rebeca, you’ve hit it really identifying the quantifiable measurable right goals and objectives of the project, that is key. It’s one of the key factors of success that we drive home in each one of our project implementations. When you have a clear roadmap, when you have a clear picture on top of the puzzle box, because that’s what it is, it’s a puzzle. Each one of these things comes in a bunch of little pieces that it’s not yet clear what the big picture is. So if everyone is driving together and you have synergy, you mentioned that it’s clear you have to have the commitment, the fortitude, the drive, and sometimes, you know, it’s tough. It’s tough. Not everybody agrees on all those puzzle pieces. Not everybody has the same vision. So coming together and ensuring that you execute, and I would also throw in managing the scale and scope to what is possible given the team’s constraints and being real, being real about what those factors are, as you said, the competing priorities, huge, huge. Yeah, I completely agree with that. Everything you said, Michelle, piggybacking on that, I found that in our position, sometimes we have to be the mediator between multiple different groups and really getting in and understanding the objectives of all the stakeholders involved, making sure that one isn’t conflicting with another. We find that a lot.
Nicole, welcome to the show. I’d like to have you introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about your background, and then my first question for you is around, I’d like to have you share some best practices around selecting an ERP. I think there’s a lot that goes into it, and a lot can be avoided if we do the right steps and have the right process in selecting software that’s actually going to make sense for our team and our company. So I’d like to have you share some wisdom, and then we’ll have Rebeca and Michelle add if they have any tips or advice for selecting the right ERP as well.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m Nicole. I’ve been primarily in the NetSuite space for quite a while. I very much enjoy this career path that I’m on. I think what’s really important in selecting an ERP, of course, is making sure that it can meet all of the objectives, obviously the immediate needs of the system, but then also scalability. I think is really important when you’re talking about an ERP. If you intend to stay at the same size that you are now, usually a smaller system can accommodate that. But if you plan to grow and scale, finding an ERP like NetSuite that can grow in that same way is really important.
Rebeca or Michelle, tips from your experiences around ERP selection?
Maybe I can jump in here very quick and it’s back to your point and call on the meet all the objectives. I think that is key when selling or just also offering, either working on a transformation because sometimes, depending on how big is the specific company, they may need a different system or a different solution. So understanding that is a key parameter in terms of also the expectations that they will set, right? For example, I was talking earlier about the customizations, right? If a small company or a big company is expecting that they will implement an ERP, but they will be customizing it too much, that, of course, will not be worth it for a huge investment that an ERP requires. So I think that is a key highlight on her comment as well.
I would throw in, ladies, that your goal here as well should not only be to meet those objectives and to pave the way for the future, that foundation, but it should take you some steps forward, at least in some zones re-engineering. We all love what’s familiar. You mentioned customizations, Rebeca. Your new ERP should look different than your legacy ERP, okay? Break the chains, break those chains. It really should look different. You want to take advantage of what you’re not doing today, not reinventing the old wheel.
It’s a great call out. That’s nice.
So, Rebeca, one of the big constraints, at least that I’ve experienced in ERP selection and transformation and rollout, is budget. Budget’s obviously a big, is usually a very big constraint. What have you identified that you can impact that doesn’t need budget but that can make a big difference in a successful transformation?
Sorry, I think you call it out correctly in terms of like budget. It might be always secondly strained, right? Given that, I may say that two factors can be considered when it’s about adoption or from the adoption perspective. So number one is about the audience analysis. Talking about audience analysis, we need to say it’s not only identifying what are the impacted end users, seated right? It’s also understanding demographics about them. What is their experience with a new system? Michelle was mentioning before the importance on how many years have they been using the old system or the legacy system, right? How what is the lender they have on the entire specific company or executing the processes that they have been executing as of today? So making an analysis on that particular topic will help ERP implementations to go through a successful point because it will give you an idea before the adoption on how you need to treat those end users. If you need to dedicate more time on self-training or even in-person training or what is the type of training that will apply depending, for example, on the age or the educational background that they those audiences have. So that is one important thing. And based on that, on the audience analysis, it is also important to understand what is the specific or the list of end users that will be impacted because sometimes we identify big groups, but we are not as clear on the specific activities or responsibilities that that person has. And that is taking me to the second point on another factor that can be considered and is not necessarily based on budget. That is about your role mapping. Role mapping is one of the key factors that might be impacting any ERP implementation, even when the configuration has been set correctly or perfectly and even if the training was also successful. So role mapping is another thing that we’ll be using that audience analysis as an input, and that can be a key success factor on an ERP implementation. So I may, again, just to summarize, number one is the audience analysis, and number two is the role mapping.
Nicole, what about from your perspective, anything else that’s non-budget impact that you’ve seen make a big, a big impact in successful transformations? Yeah, I mean, what could it be budget but also having the right team that helps with the implementation, whether it be internal resources or external resources? You could pay a lot of money for a mediocre resource, or you could pay very little money for an outstanding resource. So not necessarily contingent on budget, but very important to have those resources, someone who takes into consideration the same things that Rebeca pointed out, very, very important.
So, Michelle, since you come from a consulting background and have come in as a third party and expert to help companies tackle this, when so a consultant can be a big budget line item, right, bringing in somebody as a third party to help, when should a company manage this sort of process or transformation internally, and when should they leverage and use third-party resources? Now that is a very interesting question with a lot of opinions, I think, and varying perspectives. So a good call out there, Sarah. I’m gonna just pick a path for this, the outside organization, so outside of your organization, what can be super useful and valuable if we talk about budget and Rebeca, that return on the investment, the pointing out what how to get there quickly, right? Reviewing your vision, your goals, and objectives, and effectively being the consulting team to put together that map, right? We talked about the picture on top of the puzzle box. Where a lot of organizations have trouble internally is they don’t really know what to do, how do we optimize this process? Well, I know we’ve got a problem over here in inventory, I know planning, we’ve got this problem over here, I know this problem over here, and many organizations have already done the low hanging fruit, right? They’ve already done everything that they can. So what next? It’s the what you don’t know. And so I would say the outside, you need the guidance and really that conductor to bring it all together, to say, here’s where you should spend your time to be as efficient as possible, because you could weave all over the place, right? So we’ve been there, done that. We know how to get you from point A to Z or what stage is, and really can help you organize focus so that you are most productive and achieve that return on your investment as quickly as possible and incrementally. And I would also say, get a call back out, Rebeca and Nicole, the whistle and the black and white stripes. Okay, we are their referee. We can also help explain and help bring your organization together, write and communicate in a way that sometimes maybe is a little bit more difficult internally.
Yeah, and I would also argue that having a third-party expert come in and help support the process can actually save you money and help you stick within budget. So I also would encourage you to pivot your mindset a little bit, instead of looking at it as an expense, looking at it as a value add that’s actually going to help you stick within budget, because many times I’ve seen organizations try to handle it internally. They don’t have the right staff, they don’t have the right resources, and then it comes in, you know, six months, 12 months late, and it’s, you know, significantly over budget. If you use an analogy, Sarah, so I’m here, I’m out in Oregon, Pacific Northwest, we did a hike to Mount St. Helens, amazing. Okay, the team with a guide finished it in seven hours, the team without the guide, 13 and a half, and was absolutely exhausted. So you’re going to get where you need to go quickly, more efficiently, with less pain.
So we’ve likely used a consultant or our third-party resource, we’ve got our budget, we’re going through our selection process, we make a selection, okay, we know we’re going to move forward, let’s say with NetSuite, for example, in Nicole’s space. What do you have successful change management? So when we are ready to roll out the ERP, we have buy-in from the stakeholders, and we know that the system is going to be used and adopted. Very, very, very hard thing to do, to actually get people to change process and systems. So Rebeca, I’ll start with you and see what either a story or example or some feedback or advice you can have around the change management piece of getting people bought in throughout the process.
Thank you, Sarah. I think on that point, the main recommendation is to always leverage from the benefits, right? What are the benefits of this specific transformation? What are the specific factors that can help us understand what we need to do, what we need to stop doing, what we need to start doing, and what we need to invest more in? I said, because from an internal analysis, at least 80 percent of the business transformations fail for not including the benefits in the adoption strategy, and that is also attached to not including change management as part of their transformation, right? So that, of course, having previous implementations or having some failures during the current transformation will cause high resistance and that will also not only impact management but also the employees. So, given that, I may say that we need to ensure that, for example, the training materials are well-documented, considering, again, what are those benefits, not only the system steps that we usually need to cover. So, on that point, I may say the number one, we need to consider, again, the business integrations, identify those integrations, those synergies, to document those and make sure that before go-live, the end users are well-aware of that particular part of it, and they will feel comfortable with anything that they need to do. The other thing is, I think it is important to test the data, of course, but also recommend what are the tips that they can use in order to fix any issues that they encounter. So, it’s not only training the end users on the best scenario, but also helping them, like, “Hey, we identified those are the common issues. Here is the way to fix it.” So, giving them those tools will make them feel prepared by the time that they need to start using that system by themselves. And the last point might be to update the training materials with content relevant to production. What happens is, while we are developing training materials, we usually only have access to the sandbox that is allowed for us is development, right? Sometimes they don’t allow us to use the testing environment, so we might be off-track on the specific screenshots or if they change the key steps in the system, if we are not reflecting that in the training materials, of course, that will be impacting the go-live date, the production, and also the adoption. All those specific topics. So, I think those are the key aspects that we need to consider as part of the training and change management, of course.
What about you, Nicole? Best practices for change management, and sharing a horror story or train wreck is perfectly acceptable. Yeah, I mean, there are probably more of those than some of the other ones, right? I mean, I found, to piggyback off what Rebeca said, you have to lead with the benefits, always. In some cases, it’s data points that weren’t previously visible. We recently implemented a time tracking software. Our folks were never able to see how much time was spent on projects. And leading with that benefit, saying, “Hey, we have better visibility into project profitability. It might be painful for you at first, but we can actually see where you’re spending your time. Are you overworked? Do we need to hire more people?” User adoption, it can be a challenge. I worked at a company where we acquired new entities every so often, and they were forced to come onto our instance of NetSuite. It was not a choice that they had. They were not involved in the decision-making process. In some cases, they were totally unaware that they were being acquired, and our job was to go there and try to number one, gather all of the information to put into NetSuite, but then also get them acclimated to the system enough that they would use it. Heavy resistance because of the whole acquisition climate, right? And the way that the culture is presented. But really important to lead with those benefits, also to be empathetic, understand that that’s a change in their process. We might not understand what they were doing or what they need to do. So really sitting desk-side, virtually or physically, is very important in those situations from a user adoption perspective.
Sorry, if you allow me, maybe coming back to the point, Nicole, about the common stories, right? It’s funny, but it’s true, based on an article from Forbes a couple of years ago, they were stating that 70% of the old transformations fail. And given that is because most of the organizational changes take longer and also require the cost is higher than what the leaders were expecting, right? So, of course, that will impact the resistance from the managers and also from the specific employees. And one example on that is, for example, what happened to a beauty care company back in 2016 is that they attempted to integrate all their systems after a merger and acquisition. Later, they decided to try it again with another or a different ERP, and that, of course, they also faced some important challenges. So, at the end, they didn’t do either the first one or the second one. And the point of sharing this story is because the lesson learned from that is that we also need to keep in mind both the operational and the business side of an ERP implementation.
Right, so of course, that will impact the resistance from the managers and also from the specific employees. And one example on that is, for example, what happened to a beauty care company back in 2016 is that they attempted to integrate all their systems after a merger and acquisition. Later, they decided to try it again with another or a different ERP, and that, of course, they also faced some important challenges. So, at the end, they didn’t do either the first one or the second one. And the point of sharing this story is because the lesson learned from that is that we also need to keep in mind both the operational and the business size of an ERP implementation.
If I may, just throw another thing out here, kind of bring it all together, is that trifecta that you started with, Rebeca. You mentioned it’s adoption, right? And it’s value, Nicole. You were talking about some examples, and I think you’re right. It’s not all just this kind of cold machine of value statements. All of the individuals, there’s a bit of negotiation. And so, Nicole, as you said, sitting side by side and recognizing who are the players, there’s a great change management curve. It’s the Kubler-Ross change management curve. You start off here, you’re excited, and then they go into disillusionment, fear, despair, right? And but it is so true because everyone is human on these projects. They have their fears, they have their wishes and hopes and dreams. Maybe this is actually a detractor in their mind. They’re worried about their job, their job that they did on a spreadsheet to manually schedule everything where they were the king or queen. Now the system is replacing them. Their value has been diminished. No, that’s not true. Their value is not diminished. It’s just going to bring more of that shining a light on their intelligence and all the things that they’re bringing, and they can do more with the solution. But it’s not always clear. So the easily quantifiable and then into the soft, really, it has to come all together to achieve the goals, objectives, and that value of the change in process improvement, people, processes, systems, and tools. That’s why people are first.
So, Rebeca, question for you. So I’m kind of walking through all the stages from selection to implementation. So we let’s say we get all the stakeholders on board, we have a successful change management process, we go through implementation. Another challenge that happens quite a bit is getting people to actually use what the ERP offers to its fullest. So companies will invest significant resources in ERP, they may use two, three, five, ten percent of the functionality that it has to offer. So would like to hear from you if you have any stories or examples of what you’ve seen companies do to successfully get broad adoption of all aspects of the technology, or any tips or advice that you can share for people that may be struggling with this.
Absolutely, Sarah. I think we need to think about two circumstances. Number one, that we can get into a company that maybe they already faced failure. They were trying to implement and they face some issues or challenges that really made a huge impact on the organization, and they will not be willing to try it one more time. And in the other hand, it’s just trying it for the first time. Michelle was mentioning before about the adoption and how important it is to be engaging all the stakeholders, all the ones that will be impacted by that transformation, to make sure that they have the right knowledge about that.
So, in order to summarize maybe a couple of best practices, number one should be, in both cases, is to celebrate quick wins. It is important that we identify what are all the small projects about to happen, what are those owners, what are those initiatives that are in parallel, just happening, what is the deadline, what are the objectives. And based on that, we can also prepare the organization for a small success that will give them a little bit of comfort, that they will need to make sure that they feel again confident to try something else. It can be a new thing or it can be trying again after failing.
The second point might be about creating or changing the cultural experiences. And that’s to the point that I was mentioning before about, okay, what happens if they already attempted an ERP implementation or a big transformation. So, it is important to do a cultural analysis, to be back on again, what is how can we help them to identify the things that really help them or the things that really can add to their strategy, and start articulating the different tactics in order to decide, okay, what we need to stop doing because it’s not working, what we need to start doing that can help the adoption. And the third thing is, well, what do we need to continue doing because we have already seen some success on that? And maybe the last one is to share the specific potential and challenges, and again, what are the mitigation actions Michelle was mentioning before about, okay, what is the potential on those challenges, etc.
So, the point is, again, if the organization feels some they don’t feel confident in what they are going to do, if they feel hopeless about what they are going to try, it is important that we give them back that confidence and then they can try something else and improve the adoption curve. And failure is learning, right? You want to do these things in small chunks. You mentioned testing, testing, testing, testing, real data, real process. It’s okay that it doesn’t work because now we know, right? And we’re here to provide that support. That’s again that outside of the organization. Sometimes the internal can be tough. Maybe there’s not exactly that tolerance. But being patient with the process and again, failure is learning and iterative is a good thing.
Yeah, one thing not mentioned is sometimes I think when the projects are being scoped, there’s an idea that the customer has in mind, right, for what they want out of the system. So they give you all of the requirements. After using the system, they realize they’re leaving a lot on the table, right? There’s a lot of room for them to use the system to a higher capacity that was never necessarily presented because the scope was met, right, through their discovery. It’s like, “Hey, here are all your objectives that we’ve met, project closed.” But there’s more that could be done in the system. You see that a lot in NetSuite because it’s huge, right? You can’t even possibly understand all of the things you could do in there that wouldn’t have to be done external from the system.
We find, in order to manage the future sprints, that you actually put down what’s going to be in the future sprints as you’re doing the project because you will know more. You start with maybe 3, 5, 10, whatever it is, but as you do the life of the project, right, Nicole, that’s what you do. You say, “This is going to be in Sprint two, three, four,” and you’re planning it out to ensure that it’s not a phase never, it’s not a sprint never, and there’s only a Sprint one, right?
So, Nicole, in the NetSuite ecosystem, which is similar for other ERPs as well, there are lots of new enhancements that happen, right? So, I buy my ERP and I’m three years in, and I’ve got all these new things that I may not even know about. So, what should a company do to stay aware of the new capabilities and aspects of the system that they could be using? That’s a really tough thing to stay on top of.
Yeah, and that’s what’s great about publishing their release notes. They do two upgrades a year, and they’ll publish release notes about all of the things that are changing. Me and my role, I’ve found out about features that I didn’t know existed because they upgraded the feature, they made it better, and they’re publishing what they’ve changed, and it’s like, “Oh, you can use that.” I think that’s a big one for NetSuite specifically. I’m not sure about the other ERPs if they’re as good about documenting all of the releases and all of the little changes.
Additionally, NetSuite offers a pretty vast—I call it an FAQ, but their SuiteAnswer platform, which is really an abundance of knowledge about the system, which then leads to other discoveries too, right? I’ve looked for an answer in the system’s SuiteAnswer and found that another problem could be solved because I came across an article.
Michelle, what about from your experience, ways that organizations can stay up to date on enhancements that are made to their existing ERP? I’m a firm believer that process improvement is a daily activity. It’s not something that you do every three years or once a year or once a quarter. So, building in the culture of process, so Nicole’s given me a nice up and down here, we have to build that in. So if you have, and Rebeca, we talk about roles, roles and responsibilities and accountability, like the RIA of the manufacturing process or quality, right? It’s the same here. Someone’s responsibility within a zone is to look at the information that’s coming. The nice thing about the monthly maintenance fixes and then those twice a year updates Infor does the same, right? There’s lots of great documentation that’s there. Someone has to look, right? So, firm believer at the top level, these are the organizational operational, right? Maybe process improvement goals that we have for the year, break it down. And then you may have some capacity for opportunistic improvements that you can put that in. But just like manufacturing a production line, we have to have and build in some capacity and a plan and put that into the plan. You build quality into your plan. We do the same on the back office. We must build quality and process improvement and evolution into our business. The companies that do, right, are going to outpace, right? If our competitors are doing that, our competitors are, you know, it’s usually by little tiny slices and increments that we find, you know, that stack up over time. It’s not one big thing that we miss. It’s a lot of little things over time. So build it in, for sure.
Rebeca, I’ve been using an ERP for five or ten years. When do I upgrade and when do I look for a new ERP system altogether?
It depends on the needs, right? And it depends on what is your strategy, what do you want to achieve. So, it’s always about the strategy, where you want to get to, and based on that, you will make that decision.
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
Well, scalable, I don’t know. There might not be a need, even though you’ve been in this system for five years, to move out of it. Yeah, so at the end, it’s like, it’s again, it’s all about this strategy, right? It’s like if it’s moving in the right direction and it’s giving you what you need. If you have, for example, opportunities of new mergers and acquisitions or if you, for example, would like to try a new business. So, it depends again on what are the expectations, what are the business needs, and that mindset of growing that will take you to the right path or not.
I think you were mentioning before about how to prepare for a new transformation or how to prepare for a different transformation. Sometimes the transformation is not like the transformation happened and then in three or five years, a new transformation will happen. It might be a new release of the ERP system, right? So, thinking about that is when you also need to be prepared. When you are choosing an ERP system, it’s like getting married, I may say, right? Because at the end, okay, if you’re choosing this one, it’s because you are trusting it. Because you know that it has the right values or the benefits that you will need for your business, not only today, but for a short or long period. And based on that, you will need to understand that also new releases will need to happen. So, based on that, you also need to prepare. Okay, if I’m going to do this implementation now and in about three years or five years, I’ll need to do a new one or just an upgrade, it is important that you keep in mind that you will also need to document, maybe documented training that was already delivered, not only for new end users, but also because you can leverage from that content in the future and use and reuse those training materials and just identify, okay, what had changed at that point and what will need to be changed at this point? And maybe you don’t need to invest, for example, in training materials at that point.
So, Rebeca, you talked about a lot of components, you know, of the business and the value there. Just to throw out some techy things, I’m going to put on my geek cap for a moment and say supported infrastructure, structure, and platform and security. You know, your ERP system of 20 years, okay, that doesn’t have, that doesn’t support a browser-based interface, that requires a lot of duct tape and balen wire, okay, to keep running and maybe has no security updates. It’s running on a SQL Server 2008 R2 or, you know what I mean? So, it’s important, security, having a good solid foundation and platform is vital, especially for your key business system. Right? This is the one solution or the suite of solutions that’s running your organization. You need to make sure that it is on the back side capable. It has the security. It has the support because we do need to look at disaster recovery, right? If we can’t, you know, and we talk about on-prem and SaaS, evaluate your options, right, Rebeca? As you see, looking at that, what’s the strategy and vision, what makes sense? Are you getting everything that you need functionally? But also, what’s your risk? What’s your risk of failure in disaster recovery? Super important.
Yes, and I think back to your point on, on, like, for example, security, right? By the time that an implementation, if we invite consultants, for example, or experts on that specific ERP, by the time that that system is implemented, they will be gone, right? And what happens with the end users or the people that will need to keep supporting that within the organization? So, my good practices or recommendations that I always do or share with our clients is, think about how you will sustain that solution when we all are gone, right? What is going to happen in two or three or five years with that solution? So, it’s not only documenting training materials for end users or the business, but it’s also about requesting if security can document what they did. If the configurators can also do some sort of documentation, so that way in the future, when anyone would like to take a look and understand how that or why it was done that way, they will understand, like, “Oh no, we cannot do it because of this specific process or because of this specific implication or because they already tried it but it debugged just an issue.” So, the point is how the organization, again, now that it’s getting married without a specific ERP, right? What are the opportunities that they see in growing or improving using as a baseline that specific ERP or transformation that they already invested in? Compatibility, interoperability, security, reliability, all the abilities, all the abilities. You’re right.
So, I’d like to have each of you share your most important lesson learned from a train wreck or failure story in your ERP career. I think there’s a lot we can learn from things that don’t go well.
So, we’ll start with Nicole. We’ll put her on the hot seat first. Yeah, absolutely. I was a consultant a few years ago and was trying to work on a customization. So, we were scoping and delivered a first pass for a demo, and it was like, “Oh, but this other person has an opinion about this, so we need to make a change.” And that happened multiple times to the point where the customization turned into a Frankenstein. What that taught me is number one, have the right people in the room, which I think is global across any systems. You have to have all of the key stakeholders involved in the decision-making process, not just the one guy asking for the change. Additionally, two, like really good scoping and discovery questions, right? This was just a small customization. It wasn’t an ERP implementation, but it had a devastating outcome because we weren’t able to deliver. It ended up having to be rebound and built into a script because it got so overcomplicated because of the lack of discovery. Ultimately, resulting, you know, from not talking to all of the right people. That taught me so many lessons. Like I said, the biggest one is having the right people in the room, but then also a really thorough question and answer process.
All right, Michelle, what about you? Well, I’m gonna do a bit of a mashup, Sarah. I, I, so, and that’s part to protect the guilty. So, Nicole, you pointed out a key thing. We all have many stories where the decision maker, okay? And I think that is what’s really key here. As we come in, we have an idea, a set of scope, and when we arrive, we are not able to execute to that scope because on the client side, there is no agreement, there’s no understanding, and there is no clear structure of approval, right? And so, I had a project where we had all of those things that were a problem, all of those things, plus a little bit of, you know, the madness of King George at the top. So, the vision, executive support, and executive vision, and really, if you think about that pyramid of success, super vital. Because that’s where we need, right? We can come in, we can advise all day long, but if they can’t decide, then we have the train wreck and it’s all over, right? So, that was my scenario. We came in, we built, we thought we were building something great, okay? Did all the engineering. They literally could not come to an agreement, and no one would break the tie. It was a failure, a year and a half-length project, failed because they could not internally, and it was great. It met all their needs. We thought it was great. A lot of their people thought it was great, but they couldn’t decide because no one would step up and be accountable for the decision. So, that was kind of some dysfunction within the organization. So, unfortunately, you can’t really plan for all that. There’s no real resolution. So, those are the toughest projects. We can do so much. We really can, but at the end, you promote, you advise, you risk, you say, “Do this, this is your impact. Here are your considerations.” And that’s the toughest part of our job. Sometimes, there is a no decision, meaning a lack of decision.
All right, Rebeca. I think, yes, based on my experience, I may have allowed one of the biggest failures in my experience. It was an ERP implementation, a regional ERP implementation. The point is that training was great. We didn’t have any problems with that. We didn’t have any problems with the configuration. The problem was with the data, and it’s not because we didn’t test the data in the system, but because we trusted so much what the business was saying. And sometimes, it’s not what the business is saying or what the client is saying. It’s what the data, like what the validation, is coming up with, right? So, you can have the system running perfectly, but what you have on paper is going to be different from what you have in the warehouse. So, the main lesson learned from that is that’s why we really need to be number one documenting, right? What are those Lessons Learned so then in the future, we can avoid replicating the same. And the other thing is that keep in mind those minor things that maybe can make a huge difference by just hitting the specific production day. So, that might be my failure experience.
Yeah, impact assessment, impact assessment. Looking at it, did we test all of these data and process flows that are vital to run the business? And everyone, if those have not been proven and certified before your deploy, right, there needs to be further conversation and triaging because it can get a little messy. Now, you don’t want to lose the whole train, but maybe one car gets a little bit, you know, off the rails a bit, but you can manage that as long as you’re going forward not too fast. And there’s where integrations make sense as well, right? Because in ERP, it means that integrations will happen. That is kind of like the value added of an ERP implementation. So, that is one thing that we also need to do, make sure that the integrations are tested not only from the system perspective but also from the end users’ perspective as well.
I encourage you to connect with Nicole, Michelle, and Rebeca on LinkedIn. They are doing some remarkable, really, really interesting work in the ERP space. So, reach out, follow them. Our next show will take place on Tuesday, August 1st, at noon Central Time. So, look forward to seeing you next month.