Women in ERP – March 2023
Vicky Tyron, Ewere Osa, and Victoria Johnson
This is a show that I host the first Tuesday of the month to bring together Women in ERP, to talk about what really happens, and believe me, it is not all pretty. Our initiative aims to bring together, educate, and empower women involved in 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 stories and challenges, voicing their opinions with ERP transformations. I am Sarah Scudder, Marketing Maven at SourceDay, and today’s show host. Our platform integrates with ERP systems, so my team and I have lived through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Today, I am joined by Vicky, Osa, and Victoria. They have extensive ERP experience, and I’ve asked them to share some of their stories and wisdom with us today. So, for those of you who are joining us live, feel free to drop a note in the comments. Angela is already saying good morning, ladies. She is based in Texas, so I’m not sure if she’s in Texas today, but hello Angela. So, oh, Christina says hello. Hello, Christina. So, in the chat, drop us a note and tell us where in the world you are joining us from. We typically have a really diverse and global audience, so love to see where everyone’s from. So, put a note, and also if you have a word or phrase to describe the current ERP project that you are working on, drop us a note as well. And then we will be taking questions throughout the show. So, if there is a comment, a topic, something that comes up, and you have a question or something that you’d like to add to the conversation, drop that in the notes as well.
Kris is joining us from San Francisco today. I am born and raised in the Bay Area, so awesome. It’s been freezing cold and raining for like four weeks non-stop. We’ve got Kimberly joining us from Maryland today. Hello, Kimberly. And Angela is back in Houston today, so she and I are both in Texas. Thank you, ladies, again, continue to be active and engaged throughout. So, we are going to dive into our discussion today.
Victoria, I’d like to have you start with what are the top three reasons that ERP implementations get delayed. And before you answer, give us a quick intro. Tell us who you are and what you’re doing in the space. Okay, thanks, Sarah. I’m Vicky Tryon. I’m owner and principal consultant at SCM Consulting Firm. My background is 20 plus years in supply chain, back in the day when it wasn’t called supply chain. And I have progressed career-wise into executive roles, and then it was a natural progression to move into the consulting arena, where I specialize in helping clients with ERP implementations, assessing their supply chain risks and maturity, and really, I would probably still call myself the queen of data, because data is really where I’m always pushing for scalability and improvements in ERP implementation, but overall supply chains as well. So, if I heard you correctly, you were asking what are the top three pitfalls of ERP implementations?
Yes, and three is a small number, I know, the note, seen, or lived through, and I think it can help people, maybe, who are listening, who are going through something, simple, yes, absolutely, and you’re right, three is limiting. However, if I had to pick probably the top three ERP pitfalls or what may cause ERP implementation delays, it really revolves around people, processes, and data, which I’m going to keep talking about, probably quite a bit in this show. So, let’s start with the processes. A lot of businesses are often operating under some fragmented business processes, and what I mean by that is they’ve either customized their process to their current ERP solution, or if their ERP solution did not provide a means of improving the processes, they’re using outdated process, and oftentimes when you’re using your internal resources to help with an ERP implementation, I think it’s human nature that we want to replicate what we know, and therefore we’re trying to create these fragmented processes in the new ERP system, and oftentimes that’s going to lead to customization, it’s going to lead to project timelines being slipped and added costs, and that’s really one of the biggest pitfalls I see, and where I challenge people to think a little differently on that is, do we need the system to do what the process or what you think the process should do, or should we evaluate the process and see if there are streamlines or improvements we can gain with this new ERP system, and oftentimes it’s the latter, and we can then hopefully recover some of that project timeline? Next is really going to be the use of internal resources. Oftentimes when an ERP implementation is underway, organizations will rely heavily on their employees, their internal teams, to help with the implementation, but what we fail to recognize is those individuals still have their day-to-day tasks that they need to accomplish, so oftentimes they can be on this ERP committee, but it comes at the price of productivity and efficiency and really meeting deadlines or even customer satisfaction, and I always believe that your project manager for an ERP implementation should be an external source who’s going to bring objectivity and really kind of take the emotion out of the implementation, because it can be an emotional process, and really help protect those borders around the timeline, and then lastly, that I’m not hogging all of the time here, I’m going to go with data governance. Really a lot of times organizations don’t understand how much data they’re missing or how much of their data is outdated, and when you’re trying to migrate, especially from one ERP system to another, there may not be a direct alignment between the fields, right where your current ERP system may not require a field, but the new one does, so really trying to understand your data gaps, eliminating the noise and the, you know, the old adage garbage in, garbage out, but really managing that data prior to migration, prior to implementation, and then having a sustainable plan in place to maintain and control that data as you’re progressing.
All right, I am unmuted now,” Angela says. “Yes, getting an outside objective view to manage the project. I would also, Vicky, I think in times like this where we’re seeing budget freezes, budgets, you know, shrinking, a lot of times it’s easy to cut the contract work, but when you’re doing implementations and projects, if you’re not doing it correctly, you will spend, wind up spending so much more money than if you just went in initially. Sorry, you guys, so I am not in my normal office today and so my setup’s a little bit off today, and my phone and I’m getting situated, I promise, but I’ve seen companies try to cut costs at the beginning where they will not spend that money to bring in a third party or somebody to help, and then at the end, something goes haywire and they have to bring in third-party resources and spend significantly more money. So think about being smart with your resources and where your budget dollars are going, and if you don’t bring in the right people, it will cost you so much more down the line. Absolutely, it’s a big investment in ERP implementation, and if not executed well, it has some serious repercussions.
Victoria, welcome to the show today. Would like to have you do a quick intro, and then my first question for you is having you share some challenges you have had in customized conversions and maybe explain to the audience a little bit about what that means as well.
Victoria, you’re on mute also. Season there you go, there we go. Well, hi everybody. I have been in the ERP space for over 20 years and have seen software evolve, processes evolve, and just automating everything I could get my hands on was my first job. I started in science, so I had kind of a natural affiliation to math and software, so after an MBA, I converted out of the lab and into the office. I’ve been working with Great Plains, PeopleSoft, Oracle, all the big-name ERP packages on teams, did that for about 10 years, and then started MBS Partners LLC. We’re a women-owned firm. We started with 11 partners; we’re down to six through attrition, retirement, other things, and we’ve settled on a nice group of consultants who like to work together, and we’re spread all over the country, so we can cover different markets. And yeah, we call the customized conversion a thing where you start with a piece of software that’s meant to do one thing and you change it or evolve it into something that you need. For an example, I had a client come to me for training. Oh, it’s a small loan company, subprime loans, and they just wanted to be trained on their new software. Halfway through the training, they decided, you know, we really don’t understand it enough, so we took a step back. Everyone stayed on their old systems, and we started examining their processes, and it turned out that we could use a CRM to run a loan company. It’s a database; it’s got fields you can customize for any purpose. The biggest challenge was how do we calculate interest, how do we keep that going, so we brought in a third party who does just that kind of coding and applied him to the process. It took about four months, testing, bringing data in. Another challenge was getting the old system’s data in, as Vicky said, all the fields don’t match, all the processes don’t match, but we had a very knowledgeable team in the client who understood their data, so we were able to enhance their processes, calculate their interest, develop processes that were inherent to the CRM but just focused on interest-bearing documents. What else can I say about that? It was very challenging; it was so successful that the company was able to sell themselves and merge with a larger firm. So that’s one example. We have another in a kitchen management system we’ve been developing, and we’re now at the pilot stage. We’ve taken what could be cloud manufacturing software and we’ve converted it through independent software coding to apply it to a kitchen, to a catering firm. A kitchen is just a manufacturing firm that comes up with a plate of food at the end, so you’ve got first in, first out, you’ve got supply chain principles, and kitchens love it because everybody in the executive side of kitchen management wants to know what does it cost to bring this entree to the table, and they love costing because they can know exactly how much that asparagus spear cost them to bring it all together to make profit. We have a pilot program going now with a firm, and they see the potential. They like their old software; they’re still using that, but twice a week we get together and we’re about evolving a system that’s not customized to their needs specifically but at least the kinds of principles that will apply to a general catering public. So that’s what we’re going for.
So, Victoria, it brings up something that I hear quite a bit about. Someone implements an ERP and then they have all this customization that they want to do. How is what you just talked about? How are you managing integrations or working around or with ERPs when you’re developing very specific niche solutions?
Well, we spend a fair amount of time outside the software, just talking about processes, drawing process maps, understanding priorities and challenges inside a client’s firm is gold to an ERP implementation because you want to keep their productivity high and you want to bring them the best product possible. The way to do that is planning. You also have to manage what’s called scope creep, so you plan the whole thing first. Even if they don’t want to do, you know, the payment process right away, they want to keep bringing in checks, just plan to bring in a third-party processing, and you can leave off the parts that are prohibitively expensive or just challenging at the time. But if you don’t plan for those things, they won’t fit and you will spend more money retrofitting integrations. Sometimes integrations take as long as the implementation, so you want to plan. Osa or Vicky, your thoughts?
So, scope creep made me laugh because I feel like it’s something that happens in absolutely every single ERP project.
Oh, sure. Vicky, any thoughts or comments around scope creep?
Yes, so a lot of times, a lot of people don’t even realize that it’s even happening. They are, because a lot of the people I have worked with, they’re so seasoned in their processes that whenever an item happens, it is one of those things where you have to, like, step back and refocus to find out what is going on and how do we overcome this.
I agree. I agree with both the ladies, and scope creep can easily happen in any project implementation. But, as Victoria said, the pre-planning and the planning phase are the most critical to ensure a successful, timely, and within-budget implementation. And really understanding the requirements of the client through process mapping and not trying to customize the ERP to everything. There are additional add-ons that make ERP systems work more effectively than trying to customize the solution that you’re buying through the ERP system. So really working with an integration team that understands what’s in the market, what’s available, what can meet the client’s needs, and still keep the project within the timeline and within the budget. But all of that is really only successful based on how you plan it. Scope creep may happen, but it really is about getting everybody back on track and really focusing on what is the priority with this implementation and then just keep charging forward. And I caution, we’ve mentioned it a couple of times already, be very, very careful about doing any customizations to your ERP, in particular during an implementation, because if you start customizing everything, one, your budget’s going to go through the roof, and then upgrades and things are not going to work properly, and you’re going to have a lot of challenges. So think about how you can modify your processes to fit into how the ERP works, and it goes back to the importance of selecting the right ERP that’s going to have the functionality you actually need.
Osa, thank you for joining us today. Happy to have you here. Would love to have you do a quick intro about yourself. And then I’d actually like to start by having you share your biggest train wreck ERP story, the absolute nightmare thing that you’ve lived through.
Okay, so my name is easier to pronounce, so I just go by Osa. I’ve been in SAP, I’ve been in an ERP for about 15-17 years, have been in many different industries, from technology to aerospace to oil and gas. I’m in Houston, Texas, so it kind of goes with the territory. Stories regarding ERP was when I was with a company that they decided to tightly couple their manufacturing and distribution center together. So whatever the manufacturing site was doing, the two of them are very different, manufacturing and distribution. So a lot of times the distribution side, they wanted functionality, and because it was tightly coupled and the organization did not want to spend money to have a couple of things open, it was painful. Just for example, when we wanted to have cycle counts, if somebody went in there, the very next minute, the second count results, we are compromised, and there was no way to use the system to cycle count the location. It was a very manual process because of how tightly coupled the organization decided to let the ERP be. So yeah, that was… Yeah, we were going to move to a different system, but the day we were going to turn on a different system, upper management decided to cut the plan, so that was interesting.
Biggest takeaway from this nightmare, what are your key learnings that you can share with us?
The people, the stakeholders, have them invested, have them in the planning stage, and then write down what you want the ERP to do. Not just, ‘We want an ERP system,’ and this is what we’re going to use. A lot of times, the distribution center used the ERP system more than manufacturing, but manufacturing was the one telling the distribution center what they were going to do and how they can do it. Because we had a lot of, like, for example, Big M drops, we had… We are manufacturing had a lot of orders, the distribution center could not pick and confirm in the same location because the system did not allow that. So bring the people to the table, write down what you want, and then find the system that will let you do it. Also looking at your budget too, because the organization decided that they were not going to turn on a couple of key requirements or key processes that we have needed. The manufacturing and distribution center needed. So because of that, a lot of the solutions that could have made our life better and easier were not implemented, or we had to find a workaround that needed people to babysit it and then do another workaround. So it was… Yeah, painful. Sometimes those teach us the most. We survive somehow. Yeah, and I love being able to share those stories with others, so they can hopefully avoid some of those situations.
Okay, my next question for you is, what are some considerations that may be overlooked when sourcing an ERP solution and the subsequent contract negotiation? A good question.
So, oftentimes, when in my experience I’ve seen when organizations are sourcing an ERP solution, whether it’s to upgrade their current solution, their current ERP to the latest and greatest, or actually transition to a whole new ERP system, there’s not a clear definition of what the intent of the upgrade is. I think understanding what you’re trying to accomplish with an upgrade, is it better system capabilities, is it more scalability, is it more flexibility in the system, or does your current system not exist at all, right, and it’s not truly an ERP system? And once those criteria are really defined, then the requirements are understood. Another pitfall I see is when sourcing ERP systems, is oftentimes organizations will just go for a direct out-of-the-box solution which may not be robust enough to really meet their complex, highly manufactured, highly engineered parts, or they may get a solution that is overly customized that now makes simple processes more mundane, more time-consuming. So really understanding the intent, the goal, and what the long-term goals, what the long-term objective is of actually upgrading or implementing an ERP system, then also understanding the various modules that you need in order for that ERP system to deliver its value, and really getting an ERP system that only has a supply chain module but is not linked to an engineering module, or maybe even a finance module, right? Ultimately, may result in more cost. So that’s one of the considerations really when sourcing ERP.
Now, in the subsequent contract negotiations, this is an area where like software contracts are pretty… Yeah, they’re written, they’re not very easily negotiated. However, where I really like to focus my clients on is the post-implementation clauses. What type of support the client will can expect after the implementation? What are any of the remedies for delays that are caused by the implementation partner? What are… you know, how can we scale or expand the ERP in the future? What are the terms around updates to the modules? And there’s a variety of ways to negotiate a contract, standard terms. I mean, I hate to say it, but software contracts are what they are, right? There’s licensing issues and such that clients have to abide by. But one of the other areas that I really like to emphasize in contract negotiations when sourcing ERPs is the data security. So, as we’re transitioning to more cloud-based solutions, rather than, you know, locally installed solutions, you know, I work with a lot of aerospace and defense companies, there’s a lot of ITAR considerations in place. So really understanding who owns that data, how is that data secured, how are we making sure that we’re meeting our obligations to our shareholders and clients. So, I like to put all of those things in the contract and really outline remedies. And I do always want it to be mutually beneficial. A one-sided contract is not going to make anybody happy and nobody’s really looking to litigate these contracts. So let’s just put something in place that’s going to be effective and not going to cost anybody additional money in the future. Yeah, contract negotiations are an interesting topic. I feel like we could have a whole show talking about reviewing and negotiating ERP contracts because it can really… There’s so much involved in it can really have a big impact on the success of the program, especially if you have issues after the implementation.
Victoria, question for you. So, I see companies implement an ERP. They’re using it for a couple of years, but they’re not maximizing and using it to their fullest capacity. What stories, experiences, or maybe some thoughts or feedback you can share with what organizations can do to actually drive more adoption and make sure that the product is actually being used? For example, you know, if I spend half a million dollars on an ERP and we’re using 10% of its functionality, is that the best ROI? I know that there’s a lot of challenge with actually getting stakeholders and people to use everything that it offers or everything that’s applicable. That’s a very interesting question. It’s a challenge a lot of companies, once they implement, they’re comfortable with their productivity level and they don’t want to change anything. But as a consultant, it’s sort of my job to point out all of the features and to kind of figure out where they could be applied. So, I’m kind of thinking back. I don’t think I have a client who’s never wanted to be inquisitive. You know, a lot of people don’t take a lot of time, but like the controller is not going to take the time to do that, but maybe one of the analysts will. Improving on processes that are live in a client will only work if you’ve got a turnkey solution that will work every time, and those are hard to come by. I’ve had several clients in the past that I can think of who did only use about 25%, and it’s a shame. But overcoming the fear of losing productivity is a big challenge. Thank you.
Osa, question for you. Kind of along the lines of what Victoria was just talking about, how do you work with an ERP when a company does not turn on a lot of its features? So they make the investment and then they don’t actually turn on the functionality.
You find somebody who is comfortable with the ERP, and then you kind of sort of make that person the technical person and have like somebody who is helping because you’re going to do a lot of workarounds and a lot of things that are slightly gray area in terms of the law. Yeah, the company I was working for, we had one technical person. We had to go around the system and then turn on a couple of things that were probably processes that we probably should not have done. But in order for us to get business moving and flowing, that was just what we had to do. And then a lot of times, we… it was a manual… going back to not using technology and going using a manual manual processes and then creating them processes outside of ERP, which was going, which was negating what ERP and technology are supposed to do for the business.
Thank you for that, Vicky. To change the conversation a little bit and talk about something maybe a little more on the positive side, we hear about a lot of failed ERP implementations. Can you share how ERP can actually be a competitive advantage to an organization?
Yes, absolutely, great question, and I’m glad we’re going to turn it to something a little more positive because it’s not all bad with ERP, right? I mean, most companies are investing millions of dollars into these solutions for a reason. Look, reality is if it’s implemented and planned and implemented correctly, it is absolutely a competitive advantage. ERP systems, and if you actually integrate those ERP systems with other solutions, can give you data sets that can help you see better into your customer needs, right, the values that your customers hold. It can help you benchmark against your competition. But really, let’s talk about what an ERP does. So, it can show you the real-time visibility into your inventory, it can show you the costing, it can show you your capacity, but again, all of these have to be implemented properly. And if done so, really, the ERP system is going to show you what you are capable of producing. And it ultimately is, is the, you know, the traditional four Ps, five Ps in marketing, right, which is delivering the right product at the right price, at the right place, and hopefully to the right customer as well. ERP systems can also be integrated with your suppliers, and if you have that integration, you have real-time updates. I know you’re constantly writing about the PO nightmare, Sarah, and it’s absolutely true. If an ERP is not set up properly, you are going to be prone to a lot of errors. Now, not only does that delay the PO processing, people often overlook the issues you can have with paying your suppliers, and paying a supplier late’s not going to be very conducive to your long-term relationship. So, this is where an ERP system can be a competitive advantage. If you have the right platforms to be able to communicate in real time with your suppliers, make sure that errors are minimized or completely eliminated, get your suppliers paid on time, partner with them, have your engineers collaborate with them. Look, ultimately, the ERP system should be in place to minimize that dreadful bullwhip effect, right? Let’s share information in real time back and forth throughout the value chain. Make sure everybody knows what’s going on. Let’s make sure our data, our forecasts, our numbers are accurate. Let’s not put too much risk on one partner in the value chain versus the other. Let’s look at risk sharing, and really, I think that’s how it can serve as a competitive advantage. Victoria?”
So, something, so my team and I work in the manufacturing space, so we have dealt with and still do with a lot of what I would call legacy systems. How do you work with organizations from a change management perspective, moving from a legacy system to a more modern ERP solution?
Hmm, well, the processes have to match or at least evolve. Legacy systems typically aren’t as robust as what you’re moving to, so there’s a natural advantage to gaining features, gaining processes that should enhance the business. Is your question what to do about it or it’s the change management, and Osa and Vicky, feel free to just pipe in as well, but if somebody is on a legacy system and they’re transitioning to something that’s more modern, like in the cloud, there’s a lot of change management that’s involved in working with the different stakeholders to get them to adopt and use the new ERP.
Stakeholder buy-in is key. If you’ve got everybody’s at least facing the same direction and then nodding and agreeing, getting that is tantamount to success because the head leads the body, and if your stakeholders are management personnel and they don’t agree, you’ll have a less favorable time convincing the staff to adopt this new system. I have dealt with many legacy systems, and occasionally, they don’t work. They don’t work as well. They do leave features on the table that they’re not interested in talking with because their principal function is not performing. I can think of a moving and storage company that had been brought two brothers writing the invoices out by hand. They had evolved into a small system that, you know, spit out the invoices, but they really needed to up the whole game because they were dealing with warehouses and drivers and, you know, people’s belongings and studio props. It got to the point where I had to sit down the VP of operations and the controller and just tell them, ‘Look, if you want this to be successful, we have to agree on what you do best, what your priorities are, and what this system will do for you.’ Because they were going from, you know, a very small legacy system to Microsoft GP, huge leap in productivity, and all I wanted to do was keep the balances the same. You know, just make sure that we bring over all the data. And what brought them comfort, though, was to have a bookkeeper on hand who would just help us balance. That gave them comfort. You have to find out what the stakeholders are really holding on to and help them evolve that thinking and those processes into his change management is mostly about buy-in. Once you get everybody agreeing, then it’s your job as a consultant to make it work and don’t take a lot of time delays. Build in doubt, so your change management principles have to include constant communication and efficient work.
Vicky, thoughts on the whole change management piece?
Yes, I agree with them with Victoria, having old legacy systems. A lot of times they don’t talk well with the new system. And having a legacy old legacy systems, a lot of times it is the people who are not willing to move on to something more robust. And it sometimes takes some sitting down with them one-on-one to explain the benefits and letting them know that I’m not changing what you are doing in the past, I’m just helping you enhance it and make you more efficient. So yeah, for yeah, I agree with what Victoria said. Thank you. I’d like to add to that if possible.
So, I think with change management, ERP implementations are hard. They’re not only costly, they’re not only timely, but they are actually putting a lot of additional stress on your resources internally who are already working hard to deliver what you know the objectives are for the organization. So, I think when I approach change management within an organization, there has to be clear and frequent communication. Why are we doing this? What’s the benefit for you, right? What’s in it for me, right? The old adage, what am I going to get out of this, because you’re going to cause me a lot of work, and now I have to learn all these new systems? I think empathy, sometimes the leadership and the stakeholders do have buy-in, but they tend to forget what an ERP implementation really means. It is ultimately yes, improvements and efficiency and productivity, but it is extremely disruptive to the organization today. And if employees are playing dual roles, their day-to-day tasks plus they’re part of the ERP implementation, you’re going to have a lot of tired people by the time this implementation is done. They’re going to be mentally drained, physically drained, takes a lot of hours. Then you also need to celebrate the little ones, right? So as you hit those milestones on the project, guess what, just a high five. I’m not saying you have to go invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a big party, go around acknowledging the work that the individuals did to hit a milestone and especially if you’re ahead of schedule, which may occasionally happen, although we hear the nightmares of it not happening, and really trying to show the value of the ERP system. It’s not just we’re asking for your time, this is the ultimate benefit we’re going to get as an organization, and this is how it will impact you, your division, and so forth. But just don’t forget to celebrate the little ones. I think in change management, we often overlook that and we often overlook acknowledging people’s contributions to it. Yeah, and Vicky, to add, I actually think change management is often overlooked. There needs to be, in my opinion, somebody responsible for it during an implementation, and whether that’s somebody internally or externally, but if that is not a priority, you can spend a lot of money and time rolling out a system that is then not used, and if you get a couple key people in the company not wanting to use a new system, that’s going to have a ripple effect very quickly. So, change management is super, super important. Absolutely need to prioritize it.
Another topic that I want to highlight today in our conversation is data. Data is so, so important to just about everything you do in business, but in particular in supply chain and procurement. If you don’t have good data, it’s hard to do forecasting, it’s hard to make predictions, it’s hard to run your company. So, Osa, we’ll start with you. What have you seen as the biggest data challenges within an ERP, and then any thoughts you have to people listening on ways that they can potentially start to clean up data in their ERP?
Sure, one of the places I saw data issues where was when something in the organization happened and then we decided to collect data a different way or create a different report. So, a lot of times, that report became the permanent report rather than something happening in the organization, and that’s why we created a report. It’s now a report that is currently created, a way when I started working with the company. My boss understood that we had a lot of erroneous data and a lot of reports that were no longer relevant. So, he said, ‘Don’t do any report. The people who cried the loudest out of are the reports that we should run.’ And then yeah, so that was how we were able to get rid of about, I would say, about 30 reports. I think we went down to about 10 reports. And then in terms of errors in data, a lot of the errors came because people were tired. It was the end of the day, and people were not conscious of how to input data or even the process of how to input data. Because a capital letter here, a period here could make things incorrect. So, having providing them teachable moments or even like having a one, a Gateway person to allow that information to be inputted and then maybe like on a quarterly basis going in and then cleaning cleaning the information, establishing how long you want to have that data, and then cleaning out the ones that you don’t need. For us, we had a seven-year data information. After seven years, that information was gone.
Meaning you stored data for seven years, and then you could get rid of it, correct? Got it. Victoria, what about you? Biggest data challenge you’re seeing in ERPs and thoughts on how people can work to have better data? Better data? Well, garbage in, garbage out is more than just an adage. When you’re trying to come up with provable balances that will key make all the stakeholders happy and reach that milestone, it’s important to have, first, the knowledgeable people on your team who will know when reports look wonky. So, you need somebody in the client to be on your team to give you that feedback. I’m thinking back to a project I had about five years ago. I got the employees to do the data entry into the new system from the old system. It served as employee buy-in. It celebrated a milestone. We called it ‘double double day’ because they would enter the data into the old system and then quickly practice entering it into the new system. And here in Southern California, we have In-N-Out Burger, and they sell a burger called a ‘double double.’ So, we celebrated by bringing in lunch for everybody, and everybody got trained on data entry. We did, we demonstrated at the end of the day the balances matched and we kept going. We would have days like that. It would take away too much productivity to do it all the time, but we went department by department, training, celebrating, training, celebrating, and that helped. We did get some wacky reports out of the way, and we got a new challenge in that after the ERP was implemented, we were asked to come back and do their lead management piece. So, we added work by demonstrating how well the data could be managed from system to system. So, I love the idea. I think Vicky, you mentioned it as well, doing appreciation and thank-yous, having a themed day, doing something that’s celebratory, that congratulates, that shows people that you care and that the effort, I think absolutely goes along when there’s a lot of creativity, fun marketing things you can do around that internally. So, very, very fun. Vicky, what about you? What are your thoughts on bad data and how to get it cleaned up?
Bad data really is a result of what I say, people know what they know, and this is why if your internal resources are your key project team on an ERP implementation, I caution organizations that say people know what they know, and that is if you’re moving from a legacy system or you’re moving from a system that is significantly different than the one you’re transitioning to, you are not going to understand the value of the data into the new system. So, I’ll use an example, part numbers. This is often where I see a lot of bad data, and organizations have a great nomenclature of how they can select the part number. However, they don’t do change management of the part, and oftentimes they may use the comments on a PO to call out a spec change or a dimensional change when truly these are either revision changes or if the entire fit, form, function of the part has changed, you need a whole new part number. Units of measures that are appropriately set up in the system, and now you’ve got buyers or individuals doing manual conversions from pounds to eaches or vice versa, right? Because our old system had it in pounds, our new system’s in eaches. There’s no translation between the two, and you know the stories go on and on and on. So, the value of the data is do what you need to get through today as far as your operation and your productivity and efficiency, but think about the value of data for future growth. And if you can utilize the fields within the ERP system once you understand how the effects they have on the upstream and the downstream, because they do go both ways, and really taking advantage of the available fields to pull in the needed data to make strategic decisions for your organization. I think that’s where the data, the bad data, can really impact you in a negative way. So, use data as a competitive advantage, don’t be afraid of it, use your test database, play around. What happens if you change the capacity of a work center? What happens if you add more resources? What happens if you add something in this field? People are often afraid of breaking the system, and I tell them that’s what we want to do. You know, when I do an ERP implementation, my job is to break the system. How am I going to break it? Because I want to make sure that it’s robust enough that the operations are still going to flow, and it oftentimes comes down to what data we have in the system.
One of the other challenges, I think, it really kind of came to light over the last couple years is the challenge of relying on historical data. So, with COVID, you had organizations that had forecasting and processes and systems in place to do their planning, and then all of a sudden their demand dropped completely, and the historical information was kind of irrelevant. Or you had vice versa where organizations, their sales quadrupled overnight, and they were going off historical data and now couldn’t keep up with the demand. So, I think having that historical data is important and making sure it’s accurate, but you also have to factor in the real life that happens on a day-to-day basis, and you’ve got to be agile and be able to quickly react to things that happen in the world. Absolutely. Osa, favorite innovation or something that you’re excited about in the ERP space this year?
I think systems being able to talk to each other. Yeah, so we have been in situations where one very good system does not have the ability to talk to each other, and I think with cloud-based computing, they’re finding that this is a problem and they’re looking and they’re having built-in technology to resolve this. That way, the new systems can talk to the old system because the legacy systems they have, they have information that are important but without being able to communicate from one side to the other, it makes it hard. And also, communication between suppliers because sometimes your supplier might be on a different system or a different technology. So, the ERP having the ability to communicate across multiple systems and just communication in general is very, I’m excited for that. Victoria, what about you? Most innovation you are most excited about this year?
Oh, the implementation we’re doing with this kitchen management is going to require some integrations to push mobile, push out to Mobile. So, I’m really excited about mobile implementations. Not just a browser-based system but an actual native mobile app to complement what we use in our cloud-based systems is where we’re going this year. It’s exciting. It’ll be really interesting to look at the usage data over time and see how well the users adapt doing stuff from their phones. It helps when the users come to you and say, hey, can we do this on our phones? That means they want to and they’ll support your implementation. It’s important. Vicky, what about you? Favorite innovation or something you’re looking forward to from a technology perspective?
So, I was reading an article by Gartner where they were talking about the fourth phase of, you know, ERP that’s coming up here, right? You’ve got your initial launch of ERPs and MRPs and then the strategy portion of ERP. But really, the focus was on business intelligence, data analytics as a competitive tool, but more importantly, I’m really excited to see how organizations will use this AI in a sense, right? To get the data that they need for us to become more sustainable, right? To preserve our resources and really focus on issues around sustainability, agility, flexibility but without really hindering the future generations’ ability to keep going. So, I think this new phase of ERP and data analytics that is really happening in the market right now is going to help organizations really see their data and their impact differently and really push to put different initiatives in place. And this is how we need to keep using our ERP to provide that competitive advantage as well that we talked about earlier. And for those that are with us, feel free to drop your notes or thoughts as well about an innovation that you’re excited about that’s either brand new this year or something that you think is going to be developed and enhanced upon. So, with that, I want to thank each of our speakers for joining us today, encourage you to reach out to them on LinkedIn, check out the work that they are doing in the ERP space, and we will see you back next month for our show on April 4th at noon central.