Women in ERP – May 2022
Anna McGovern, Brandy Moore, Michele Thompson and Shannon Mullins
Welcome to the May Women in ERP show. This is a show that Sarah Scudder from SourceDay and I host the first Tuesday of each month to bring women together in our industry to talk about what really happens in the world of ERPs. Our initiative aims to bring together, educate, and empower women involved with ERP systems. 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. I’m Kris Harrington, president of GenAlpha Technologies, and today’s show host. I’ve spent the last 20 years working for and with industrial manufacturers, leveraging the ERP system to deliver better business outcomes. So, I’m intimately familiar with all that can go right and all that can go wrong when utilizing an ERP system to manage different business functions. I’m joined by Michele, Brandi, Anna, and Shannon. They have a wide range of ERP experience, and I’ve asked them to share their wisdom and stories with us today. So, hello, ladies.
To kick off our conversation, please put in the comments where in the world you are joining us from and the current ERP system you are working with. Don’t be shy, please engage with us in the comments throughout the show and post your questions anytime.
So, Michele, I’m gonna start off with you today, and I was hoping that you could just tell us a little bit about yourself and share one fun fact about you.
Okay, well, I’ve held a variety of roles in sourcing, procurement, finance, supplier diversity, the sustainability field, and procurement operations. So, I’ve actually led two ERP implementations. They were both Oracle for a large company, a Fortune 500 company that was a global company. They had grown by acquisition, so there was a lot of complexities, fragmentation. And then I also served as a subject matter expert in a global SAP implementation. And then I mainly led the procure-to-pay and then made sure, having a finance and accounting background as well, that all the other modules kind of talk nicely to the procurement module. And then let me see, a fun fact, so I’m taking a knitting class right now. So, yes, I thought it’d be nice, stress-relieving, so I’m learning to knit, and I have a little scarf going, which I can hopefully use next year.
That’s awesome. I can always use a scarf where I’m from. Absolutely. Well, let’s kick off your first question. So, how do you involve stakeholders or the business in an ERP implementation?
Well, I think it’s so important to involve the folks in the business actually making the purchases. I was actually involved in a smaller ERP implementation where they actually didn’t do that, and as you can imagine, there was a lot of problems that occurred after the fact. And two, I would say, things are important, just even people want to be seen, heard, and just consulting, interviewing these folks and finding out what their day-to-day concerns are, where they’re having the problems, is so important. And again, the sourcing team has gone through a supplier segmentation. They’ve looked at spend. They should know who all the key stakeholders are and all the people that are really on the field doing the nuts and bolts. So, again, I would say it’s really important even to set up different focus groups with these people. And a big thing too is to involve them ahead of time. I would say before you’ve selected a system, and again, the system does not drive the process. So, speaking to these people in advance, and one of the things I did during my second implementation was I traveled a lot. I went and did almost kind of a day in the life of certain individuals, where I was like, okay, I know we’re going to have issues at this location. They have a highly complex environment. The Ops system has to talk to project accounting. It’s all, you know, complicated work that they do in the PO system. So, again, I think I sat with some of the folks for a couple of days just to learn what some of their problems were. And I would also recommend making some of the stakeholders ambassadors to communicate about the implementation. You could also make them super users, too, some of them, and again, depending on their level. But you may want to give them special access to the system, too.
I think that goes a long way. So sure, great advice. Thank you for that. Brandi, we’re going to move to you. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and one fun fact about you.
Yeah, thank you, Chris. So, I’ve had a career that’s come at ERP from a slightly different angle. I actually started—I went to the engineering school and started off in a technical support and function for customers. And then eventually found that my happy place is kind of on the sales and marketing side. I really enjoy the front end of working with customers and solving their problems, and then figuring out how do we deliver that. And so, over the years, I’ve run service teams, which includes customer service as well as sales organizations. And now I’m in general management where I’ve got functionality or the operations functionality as well. So, I’ve kind of seen it more from that angle. And I will tell you, I always look for excellent procurement professionals because I am not wired that way. So, I always need people to back me up. But yeah, so I’ve come at it from a slightly different angle. I think a fun fact, so I enjoy driving really big heavy equipment. I had a job in university driving school buses, and now my favorite vehicle to drive is an excavator. And so, really and truly, my backup plan when I finally have had enough of it is to go operate an excavator all day, every day.
That’s so awesome. You’re gonna have to go into those simulators. Have you ever done that? Where you—
I have not done a simulator. I’ve actually driven real ones, though. So, yeah, yeah. There’s something really therapeutic about digging a hole and seeing it done or filling a hole and seeing that done. And, you know, we just don’t get those sorts of tangible results from our day-to-day activities.”
Agreed. I love the benefit of that, especially out in my garden. So, a great story. We’ll have to make sure you get all kinds of excavator experiences throughout that future career that you’re trying to—
Absolutely. All right. Your first question: You know, in your opinion, what is the most important thing that makes a good ERP system?
Yeah, so over the years, I’ve worked with ERP systems that were well-implemented, some that were very poorly implemented, and probably the entire range of functionality from very basic to, you know, SAP complex, you know, everything in between. And really and truly, what I find is making sure that the ERP, much like Michele said, matches your way of working. You know, a lot of the ERP systems are out of the box designed for a certain functionality, and they believe that those are the best practices. Well, if that doesn’t fit the way you’re operating your business and the way your customers expect you to operate your business, then it doesn’t really serve you. Additionally, because I’ve seen kind of both ends of the spectrum, in terms of very basic functionality and very advanced functionality, I’m really an advocate of finding that balance of, you know, allowing the ERP to do just enough to get your business and not having it go overboard. Because that’s when you start to—you know, it starts to become a hindrance on your business and not a tool that enables your business. You really need to stop expanding your ERP before it becomes a burden on the organization. If you find you’re hiring more than one or two headcount just to manage data in the ERP system, you’ve probably started to step across that line, and you might need to backtrack. You might need to decide, you know, all of that data might not be quite worth it to your organization. And you also need to look at it from a customer perspective, in particular. If you are driving your customers to have to conform to the way you do work and you’re not supporting the way they do work, then you’ve, all you’ve clearly crossed the line in my opinion. And so, I’m a big advocate of that. And so, if you start to see in your customer surveys or hear from your sales teams that, hey, you know, we’ve become difficult to do business with. And if you can thread any of that back to your processes and those processes are heavily driven by your ERP constraints, then you really need to rethink the entire infrastructure and those processes and see what can you do to adjust the way you do that and execute that work so that you can get back to more of a customer-first organization.
Yeah, no, I love that advice. And I always think it’s important to think of the ERP system as a tool and allowing the whole business to utilize it as such. That’s great. So, Anna, we’re going to move over to you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and one fun fact, please?
Sure, it’s great to be with all of you today. Anna McGovern, I’m the founder and managing director of Pondview Consulting. I’ve been doing the consulting thing for a couple of years now. I’ve spent the majority of my career doing local, regional, and global supply chains. I’ve got 30-plus years of experience. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve been in really, really good SAP implementations or ERP implementations. I’ve been in really, really bad ones. And there’s a lot of lessons learned that I’ve gathered over the years. So, I am—I am on the end-to-end planning and procurement. And so, good ERP implementations are very near and dear to my heart. And a fun fact about me: We are a super enthusiastic baseball family. One of our family goals is to visit all 30 major league clubs, and we’re about halfway there. So, we’ve taken care of most of the entire East Coast plus a little bit on the Midwest side. Now we need to do the Southern and West Coast bit. And hopefully, you know, at some point, we’ll complete all 30.
So awesome. Have you been to the Milwaukee Brewers Stadium?
Not yet. That’s one of the ones that’s on the list first.
All right. Well, you have to call me when you get here.
All right, so first question for you, Anna, is can you describe a time when you worked on an ERP implementation that failed? Explain to us, you know, why and how you addressed the situation.
Yeah, I won’t mention the name, because it had nothing to do with the tool. It was basically the organization I was working with and the lack of planning. So, this was a tough situation to inherit, but it was a failed abysmal failure in terms of implementation because we were in gridlock, nothing worked. Some of the reasons why, you know, pretty obvious: there was no real senior-level sponsor or project owner at the senior level, so no one understood the ‘why.’ Why are we doing this? Why are we changing? That was never communicated. The second reason it failed, you know, this is always these implementations are never about the tool, it’s always about people and processes, first and foremost. And in this case, this was an IT-managed, IT-led implementation. There was no real business process leader or owner that could understand the end-to-end value chain and input into the workflows along the value chain. There was also no user input. I think Michele said it best earlier: if you’re not involving the user and they don’t understand why they’re changing, they’re never going to embrace the changes. And there were insufficient inputs coming from the user community. Nobody understood why or what their pain points were, and things were done, you know, workflows were designed, and none of that was validated by users to a sufficient degree. And finally, there was not enough testing. The test plan was not robust, and I think more importantly, when you’ve got a consulting team, whether they’re coming from the ERP provider or if it’s an outside consulting group that’s helping with the implementation, you really need a team, and you need to really assess the skill set of the team that’s helping you to execute. So, in this particular case, the superuser or, I would say, the subject matter expert, left the project very early on because they had another opportunity. They left, and so the backfill was just not an adequate resource. So, it’s extremely important to vet, you know, upfront who’s going to be on your team, what is the strength of the bench in case there are changes, you know, so it’s really important that those discussions and that discovery process happens before you embark on this. So, those are the reasons why it failed, how do you prevent it? So, like, you know, if you just do the opposite of all the—
Sure, that’s how you prevent it. You really need to have that upfront planning, you need to have sponsorship from the top, one unified voice that’s explaining the ‘why.’ Why do we need to do this? It’s not enough to have a shiny new toy but apply old thinking, right? Or, you know, ‘I used to do it this way, so I want the new shiny toy to do it the way I’m used to doing it,’ rather than embracing the new capability that you’re embarking on. You’re spending a ton of money, you need to be able to leverage the capability, and it’s a tool, right? It’s a tool, so you need to be able to reach into that toolbox and pull the right thing. The other thing I will—I will say, in terms of what’s critical, is your baseline. It’s all about the data, right? If you don’t start out with clean data that’s been scrubbed and validated, garbage in is garbage out. Save yourself the trouble up front by ensuring that you’ve got as clean a data set as possible and then move forward. So, all of these things, you know, are reasons why you would fail and all of the antidotes for how you succeed if you go forward.
Yeah, no, great advice, and I love—you know, you can’t overemphasize the importance of testing, so such a critical one. All right, thank you.
So, Shannon, we’re going to move to you. Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and one fun fact, please?
Sure, it’s great to be with all of you today. Shannon Mullins, I’m a Microsoft MVP of business applications. My specialty in the Microsoft space is Dynamics 365. So, I am very platform-specific. I’ve done over, gosh, probably 150 implementations of ERP and CRM combined. And I right now I am the partner and chief revenue officer for Accelerant. We’re a Microsoft partner and security partner based out of Plano, Texas. Most of my days I’m doing solution architecture for systems and coming in and helping solve challenges for customers. When I’m not doing all of that, I have two teenage boys and a boy dog. And I don’t really have a lot of time for hobbies other than traveling. So, I’m actually going to be in Europe for a whole month starting June 1st, so that’s exciting and taking my kids to Europe for the first time. And I’m actually teaching at a conference in Denmark while I’m there. So, looking forward to that, and that’s me in a nutshell.
Awesome, wow, I wish I could be in your backpack to head and June 1st away to Europe with you. That sounds wonderful. So, a question for you: What are you doing today to automate and streamline manufacturing and distribution processes?
Yeah, I think some of these girls nailed down the head what we’re doing and working on on our implementation. So, first thing, we were really big on data cleanup during our implementations. Streamlining processes, so getting deep with the business process owners. I typically won’t get involved in all IT-led implementation ever again because I think, as Anna nailed it on the head, I’ve learned my lesson. And if it’s the only people we can talk to, I don’t know how we can help an organization. But we come in and we’re actually looking for those bottlenecks of manual processes. So, we’re looking for people who fill out forms, and those forms go to 20 people. And then all of a sudden, you know, it gets entered into the system. And how we’re solving that is actually really cool because Microsoft has built the Power Platform, which revolves around all of its product applications, which allows you to use free tools to automate those processes. So, we can use things like Microsoft Forms to have a vendor fill out a vendor application, have that go through approvals, and then once it’s approved, push into the ERP system, automatically create a Teams or SharePoint file, send the email, send an email to the vendor with a W9. All these processes we can do in about eight seconds, where we’re seeing the challenges before, where it would take someone two days to get a customer or vendor onboarded, we bypass that whole process and really try to streamline and automate it.
So, we’re—I’m really big into automation. If I go out there and I say, you know, ‘Show me what you’re doing,’ and they have all these papers and they’re like, ‘Someone goes and keys it in two days later,’ and this is what we do, the automatic response is, ‘Let’s automate this.’ You know, you have free tools to do it, why not? And the second, I was talking to someone a couple days ago, the funny thing is, the second you show someone what automation can do, they get so excited. Like the first one you do, they’re a little excited, then they realize what a time saver it is, and the whole organization’s like, ‘Okay, what else can I automate? Like, this is huge.’ So, it’s really fun to see the light bulb click. And I think the cool thing about the Power Platform—someone put in the comment that they’re a huge advocate of it—is that it’s easy to do. You don’t have to be a developer. So, if you own any kind of Microsoft licensing, doesn’t have to be Dynamics, you can use Power Platform, and it’s super fun. So, those are things that we’re doing.
That’s awesome. Yeah, I think more automation in the process can be really valuable, especially if you have the tools and the knowledgeable, not knowledgeable, people to help you with that. It can really speed things up, maybe help you focus on some of the more challenging pieces. So, thank you for that. All right, Michele, I’m going to head back to you. And it does look like we have some comments coming in, so I’m just going to pop those up on the screen.
Hi Sam, glad you’re here with us. Also, Anna, did you see Sam’s comment? Here, did it go live or was it a failure during the implementation itself? Do you feel like he answered that one? Sorry, yeah, actually, it’s almost like we had to scrap and start from scratch. So, it was enough of a bottleneck that we had to almost start from scratch. Yeah, all right. Michele, I’m gonna head back to you and ask you what are key items to focus on after the ERP system is fully implemented and up and running?
Well, everybody has probably heard of ‘begin with the end in mind.’ I think that’s so important when tackling something like this. So, before you roll out, it’s really important for you to have a plan: what are we going to do after we go live, the day after we go live, you know, a month after, six months after, 90 days, so on and so forth, and then ongoing. So, an ERP implementation is not a project, so people have to be very careful not to think of it that way. It’s something that you always have to be managing. And then two, I want to touch on something that the others should say too. Keep in mind too that you shouldn’t make it overly complex, so you’re managing it with tons of resources, but it does have to work for your business. So, one of the things that you may want to consider is when you roll out, are you going to have a hyper care period? So maybe you have more support on staff for a period of time. So what does hyper care look like?
Something that Anna said too about clean data, that is huge. Making sure if you’re moving from an old system to a new system, importing only the clean data. If you import everything, it’s just a mess. And I’ve been in situations, ‘Oh well, we’ll get it cleaned up.’ That never happens. So, the reason why I’m mentioning this too is because it’s so important after the implementation, what’s your process to keep that data clean? Make sure you’re even doing spot audits to make sure people are following the process, the naming conventions, the standards you’ve put in place. Make sure there’s governance around your ERP system. I’d also say, make sure your sponsors stay on board after the rollout. I’d say make sure you have the focus group, and again, there can be different levels of focus groups, maybe there are different focus groups made up of different functional leaders even, but keep focus groups in place too after you roll out.
And again, these are the people that are going to be very valuable. This is what we see working, this is where maybe we can do something different next time. And then, you know, testing was mentioned again. You’re going to have, as you go, maybe updates or, you know, major revisions to the system. So, have a plan for that too. And I’d also say it’s very important to, at times, to have stakeholders be part of the testing. Yeah. Procurement, of course, would be part of the testing, but I think stakeholders are really key.
Great advice, and I love the idea of a spot audit periodically, just to test that, you know, everybody’s still doing the things that they said they were going to do at the outset. That’s great. All right, Brandi, this one’s for you. What is your worst ERP experience?
Oh, goodness. So, my worst ERP experience was actually right at the beginning of the pandemic. I came into a new organization that was coming off of a merger. So, they had… They made widgets, a lot of widgets, every single day. They shipped hundreds of these widgets. And, previous or, you know, prior to the pandemic, about five years prior, they had bought these two companies, and they started the merger about 12 months prior to the pandemic. Well, they were in the process of shutting down a factory and consolidating, and pandemic hit. They had two different customer service teams. And, they and the pandemic and their demand just went through the roof. So, they’ve got the shutdown going on, they’ve got a consolidation of a facility, they’ve got two different ERP systems going on, and the… the upheaval of remote work and supply chain issues on top of that. And, I mean, it would have been a disaster at any given time, but, because they had not really spent the time mapping out what the two different ERPs would do and how they worked, and they actually came from two completely different trains of thought in terms of how they had been set up and the architecture of them, it really created a ton of issues with us communicating where things were to customers, keeping up with, you know, where things were in the factory, frankly.
And it was, it was an absolute nightmare. So, we ended up spending, we were pulling salespeople in, we were pulling in basically anybody that could go and clean up the data to clean up the data.
We actually had several shutdown weekends where we would have to do recounts. So, we always think, when ERP implementations, we always think about the data at the beginning, of what data are you going to put into the system. But these events that can happen to a business, you know, as these big changes are happening, so they can create some massive data issues. And, you know, I think the comments on that came in, was talking about, you know, building the plane while you’re flying it. We were certainly flying, and it felt like parts of the plane were falling off, keeping them back in place.
The team eventually worked through a lot of extra hours, it was a lot of people, kind of commenting and going above and beyond, you know, what they normally did. And we learned a lot, the customer service teams were learning the other ERP systems, that we were figuring out how to bridge the two systems so that we had reports and data, and we could automate a few things, so that we weren’t having to do everything manually across the two systems. But it probably took eight to nine months to clean, to keep shipments out. So, that was by far the worst experience I’ve ever had.
Well, I do appreciate you sharing the nightmare stories, because I think it feels like if you’ve been in the ERP world long enough, everybody has a story, and sometimes it’s good to hear those different stories, especially for those that might be in the middle of one right now.
Okay, and I’m moving to you. Would you please describe the process of determining when and how an ERP solution is required?
Absolutely, thank you for that. You know, it’s amazing, you know, I’ve seen in my experience, you know, large… many million-dollar corporations still plan on spreadsheets, right, doing things manually, they don’t have a good way of tracking. So, really, the simple answer to that is when the process is broken enough to disable decision-making, you probably are in need of an ERP solution. I’ve… I’ve actually seen, and I’ve worked with… I’m not gonna mention names, but I’ve worked with companies that were in the nine-figure range that were on… still managing on QuickBooks, okay? So, they desperately need, you know, an ERP solution. Essentially, it’s when you need financial reporting or you need inventory management, or, you know, decision-making is disabled because, you know, stuff gets broken. That’s when you need it.
But typically, what I found is, it depends on where you are in the maturity path and how quickly you’re growing. So, it’s really about how you need to respond, and so, therefore, you need to be able to react very, very quickly. And, you know, in my experience, and it changes, so I specialize in everyday consumer packaged goods, beauty, personal care products, you know, and typically, that threshold for me is that 100 by 100, you know? So, you reach 100 million in revenue, you reach about 100 million employees, and you need to start doing something. So, I’m working with clients now, a couple of them that are in that range, where we’re starting to look at, you know, the mid-sized type ERP platforms, the Epicores, the NetSuites. Those typically are good for these mid-size manufacturers.
But, you know, if you talk to, you know, my good friend Sam Gupta, he’ll say, you need to have an ERP much, much earlier in the growth and the maturity path trajectory. It depends on need, you know, and again, it’s all about what problem are you trying to solve? You shouldn’t put in an ERP tool for the sake of having an ERP tool. What problem are you trying to solve? What process is broken, and what do you need fixing? And that’s, you know, how you should assess it. It’s not an easy undertaking, it requires a lot of financial commitment, it requires a lot of resource commitment, and really, commitment to change. And typically, that’s a mindset shift from that, you know, founder’s mentality. And you can be in founder’s mentality for decades, by the way, but if you need to make that step change, it’s time to evaluate a new toolset, to pick it out.
No, that’s good, and I’d like to emphasize asking the question, what problem are we trying to solve? Because I think that’s just a good one for all of us. I know we ask ourselves that a lot of times in the development process, but it’s great for evaluating this as well.
All right, Shannon, can you please share some of the recent trends you are seeing in manufacturers with legacy ERP systems being hacked? Tell us about that.
Yeah, so we were a security practice on the other side of our house, and before I really became in business with my security partners, I really just didn’t realize how critical security is, especially in supply chain and manufacturing, but it is absolutely critical. And if you’re watching this today and you don’t know what your security plan is for your organization, I highly recommend you go back and revisit this. And this is whether it’s on-prem or cloud. So, on-prem meaning you own the servers, you manage the servers, or someone in your organization or subcontractors do, where cloud is, you know, it’s hosted by an individual, but hackers can get in, regardless of whether you’re cloud or you’re on-prem.
But what we are seeing is there is more of a trend towards them hitting on-prem servers, especially ones that involve VPNs, RDPs, open ports, whatever the case may be. And so what these attackers will do is they do what they call spray attacks, which they will find a person in that organization, they’ll find their email, and they will try to attack the endpoints with what they call a spray attack. So, they just continually try to log in until they get some kind of result.
And so what we’re seeing with the employees is that, you know, they’re not security aware, they’re not security trained, and maybe they get a push notification to log into something, maybe they have a spreadsheet on their desktop that has their login and password, and now they’ve been hacked, and the hackers have access, whatever the case may be. These are targets for hackers, and a lot of people come to me, you know, and I start talking about security with ERP systems, and they’re like, ‘We’re not too concerned about security because no one cares about our data.’ The funny thing is, data is worth money to a hacker, no matter what’s in the data. It could just be basic data. What the hackers do know for organizations is that data is important to your organization. You cannot run without your ERP system, especially with manufacturing. They know that. And so all they need to do is to get the virus onto your servers and take advantage of locking you out. And if you can imagine, some of these major manufacturers, the second you can’t get in or someone can’t log in in the morning, it’s a crisis, you know, it’s a hyper-electric crisis.
So, I do recommend that organizations get a security plan in place. You know, what is our security monitoring? What is our security plan if a hacker was in? Do we know that they’re in? A lot of people will think, ‘I’ve never been hacked.’ Something I learned when I came over is that hackers dwell. They don’t just come in and attack. They actually sit there for a long period of time because they’re trying to figure out what programs you access, where your data is, and then once they know what’s critical to the organization, that’s what they’re going to lock down. So, don’t think that when you’re hacked, you’ll know it. You won’t. And then make sure that you have security monitoring turned on in some part. I think a lot of organizations try to skip spending on security because they can’t afford security. But you can’t afford not to do security because what we’re seeing is companies who weren’t willing to spend a couple of thousand to tens of thousands a month in security monitoring are then paying hundreds of thousands of dollars when they’re attacked to get the people out and then also to mitigate, and then maybe even having lawsuits depending on what kind of data you have and you’re holding in your database. So, it’s very critical, and it’s something I didn’t personally think about. So, I think it’s something cool, you know, that I can share that I’m not a security person, but I am seeing these trends, especially with our on-prem clients. So, I think it’s important for organizations to take that into consideration.
Yeah, thank you for the awareness. Have a security plan and security monitoring. Thank you. All right, Michele, we’re going to head back to you. What are some of your biggest lessons learned as you’ve worked in various ERP over your career?
Oh, I’d say, you know, in real estate, you hear ‘location, location, location,’ and in ERP, it’s ‘communicate, communicate, communicate.’ And even if you think you’ve communicated enough, you probably haven’t. So, it’s not enough just to post things on your online intranet site or to set up a lunch and learn or to send out mass emails. I would say that’s where I’ve seen some failures. It’s always on the communication and training aspect. I would say those are really the key things that I’ve seen. So, that was a big lesson. I would say in each implementation I’ve done, we probably could have communicated more. I would say also it’s really helpful sometimes to bring on a professional change management team. And even, you know, earlier, we were talking about stakeholders, really kind of pinpoint, do a matrix. Who are all my stakeholders? Who’s going to be resistant to change? Who do I need to give some extra care to? I think it’ll really make a difference. Anna said to make sure you’ve got the ‘A’ team. I’ve been involved in an implementation in the past where people were assigned to do the implementation that had never done an implementation before. So, they had held roles in sourcing and procurement. One person, they bought heavy equipment. Now they’re the lead on the implementation. And, you know, you do not want to do that. That person probably should have been a subject matter expert just me giving information. But I’d also say, understand what you can customize too, that’s huge. I’ve heard people say they’re doing implementations, well, the system doesn’t do that. Understand what the system can and can’t do because you’ve got to make it work for your business. You know, you also don’t want to over-engineer it. It’s got to work for your clients. Shannon mentioned a lot of different things, you know, as far as customization and using different tools there at Microsoft. My first implementation, what we did, and this worked the best for us, it was an Oracle implementation, and we created our own homegrown web requisition that sat on top of Oracle, and this requisition was super easy to use, fit our business model. Great, so, so again, understand too what you can customize. I think that’s really huge as well.
Yeah, no great advice, and communicate. We’re gonna remember that one as well. All right, so, Brandi, what advice would you give to someone looking to implement a new ERP or significantly expand their existing ERP?
Yeah, and this is actually a really timely question because one of my businesses is in the process of planning right now for a major ERP shift. So, they’re switching from one platform to another. So, you know, I will echo a lot of the same things that you’ve heard here, but maybe with a slight spin on it. So, I fully believe in creating a dedicated business team of users that are going to have to live with the implementation and of some people that have had to deploy it before. You definitely need that expertise like Michele says. But just as importantly, you really need to find a partner that they’re going to work with and look at the culture of that team and the culture of the partner and make sure that that’s a mesh because you can really have a lot of communication issues, you can have a lot of deployment issues, and those two groups are going to have to sit down and decide who the roles and responsibilities are and who’s going to own what, and they need to be very clear on that upfront because that’s where your cost overruns really get you. So, you know, it’s all about setting up that team, so it’s both your internal team as well as your vendor or your partner that’s helping you on the deployment.
I’m also… you know, you need to focus on the processes that are going to have the most value. And again, I’ll say the most value for both the users but also the customers. To take an idea from product management, you need to think about your minimally viable product, your MVP, and really decide what’s must-have on day one and what’s nice to have. And that’s a really tough thing to find the line on because, you know, the first list is, ‘Oh, we must have all of this,’ because people feel very passionate about all those things. Well, in reality, you don’t necessarily need all of that. And so yeah, while you might feel passionate about it, you’ve got to pull that emotion away from it and start to separate what you really need to have in order for the system to be functional in any way from all the nice-to-have things, and that you’re going to build on over time because it’s not a project, as we’ve said, it evolves, it’s going to continue to change. And once you get into a new platform, you’re going to find that your business has changed, your processes have changed, you’ve learned some things. And so what you might have thought you were going to do at the beginning evolves over time. And so by not taking on, you know, too big of a bite on that first project, you actually benefit from having that iteration and being able to plan that in.
I’ll say I’ll second the ‘don’t dump messy data into the system.’ If your options are to dump messy data in or not, just don’t, just start with completely fresh data and don’t take any of your historical data. I’ve seen systems in both both ways, and you’re better off just starting fresh than you are taking all of that messy data and…
Test, test, test, test some more, and then the last thing I’ll leave you with is double the budget of whatever you think it’s going to cost you, double the budget, and double the timeline and make your timeline milestone-driven, not calendar-driven, because that’ll let you make the right decisions for the implementation and for your organization. But it’s gonna cost more than you think it is because it’s open-heart surgery.
So, I hope everybody’s listening. Double the timeline and double the budget and come on, do the MVP work. It’s hard, it’s so hard. You know, it’s a challenging conversation but so important. Really great stuff, thank you.
All right, Anna, moving on to you. What are the characteristics of a successful ERP solution? I know we’ve covered a lot of them today, but what can you add to? I got to tell you, I wanted to stand up and applaud when Michele and Brandi both stood up. Listen to what you just heard. The only thing I will add to that, you need a dedicated team, and I think Brandi touched on that. A lot of times, you are a smaller business concern and you can’t afford the resources internally. You need to outsource it. And if you don’t have the budget to dedicate a team, it will fail. So invest now and, to Brandi’s point, absolutely, absolutely double the budget and wait until you can actually support it with both time, money, and resources. So that’s the first thing, you need a dedicated team that’s going to do the heavy lifting. The second thing, and Michele already touched on that, the importance of a change management program and communication. It’s absolutely critical. Again, this is not about an ERP tool, this is about people and processes, so change management and the proper communication is absolutely critical. And the third thing that I will leave you with is the importance of post-implementation support. You can’t implement and just disband the project team. They need to remain intact, okay? It takes, I mean, any ERP implementation that I’ve ever worked in or any kind of systems implementation, even if it’s a WMS or a TMS integrating into an ERP, it takes six to eight months to work out the kinks. I’m not suggesting you need to keep the project team and pay for all of that resource for that length of time, but you need to have the right support structure in place, the right help desk solution, the right means of getting your users to go and ask for help and talk about scenarios you’re never going to plan for every potential scenario that comes up. So that’ll be my parting thought is post-implementation support is critical for the success ultimately, and I’ll leave it there. This has been very educational for me as well. I gotta tell you.
Yeah, thank you, Anna, that’s good stuff. You know, the post-implementation is something everybody needs to think about because everything just doesn’t miraculously work great forever after launch, right? We all know there’s time after it’s iterative like Brandi just mentioned. So hang in there and keep coming back and improving iteratively and, you know, shrink that team to what’s needed to help that be successful post-launch. All right, Shannon, last question. I know we’ve talked a lot about a lot of things today. How do you tackle the challenge of process and business optimization for any type of organization?
Yeah, I truly believe in process mapping during an ERP implementation. I think it’s good to go back to the basics of what you’re doing currently and how do we map that out and look at it visually, and then how do we translate that into your new processes? I’m a firm believer in SOPs and work instructions, and a lot of these organizations just don’t have those. And so it’s like, how do we design a system and test it? Well, we don’t know what the processes are. So, I think optimization comes with a deep dive, and I think some people have alluded to this, that it’s going to be a spend, right? It’s going to be a fun to do this, but it’s well worth the investment because sometimes the executive leadership team needs to be involved and hear, you know, what you’re spending that, where you’re spending that time, what are the bottleneck processes, and as they visually see that on the map, they’re like, ‘Oh, wow, this is bad.’ You know, what can we do to change it? So, document your processes as your… I do highly recommend as you’re implementing an ERP, make sure the teams go back and document their new SOPs, their new work instructions, their new quality instructions, because a lot of that stuff changes. And even organizations that have had that for 40-50 years, you know, they need to be updated anyway. So, I think to optimize, you need to know what you’re doing. And then once you know what you’re doing, then you can use the tools available, you know, with whatever system you’re implementing to hopefully make those processes better.
Excellent, well, wonderful advice from everybody. This has been really, really enjoyable for me. I apologize for us getting a little bit late start today, but thank you for all who have attended the show today. We’ve come to the end of the show, and I do want to extend a special thank you to our guests. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and stories with us. Our next show will be on June 7th at 1pm Eastern, and my lovely co-host, Sarah Scudder, will be your host. So, please, please join us again in June and have a wonderful week, everyone. Thank you.