Women in ERP – September 2023
Beatrice Walker and Sarah Lambert
Welcome to our monthly Women in ERP show. This is a show I host on the first Tuesday of every month to bring women together in our industry to talk about what really happens in the world of ERPs. And believe me, it is not all pretty; it can be quite challenging but also rewarding. Our initiative aims to bring together, educate, and empower women involved with 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, highlight their stories and challenges, and voice their opinions with ERP initiatives. I am Sarah Scudder, the marketing Maven at Source Day, and today’s show host. Kris Harrington also co-hosts the show with me, so sometimes you’ll see her coming on and moderating panels as well.
Today, I am joined by Beatrice and Sarah. I have asked both of them to come on and share their wisdom and stories. They have extensive experience in the ERP space and, I think, some really interesting stories and things to share with us today.
For those of you that are with us live, go ahead and drop us a note in the chat and tell us where in the world you are joining us from. And if you are in the United States, what is the most fun or interesting thing you did over this holiday weekend?
So with that, I’m going to have Sarah kick us off. So, Sarah, I’d like to have you do a super quick intro about yourself, and then I want to start our conversation today around why somebody should even consider doing an ERP implementation. And I say that because most organizations that are a certain size are already going to have an ERP system in place. But we hear all the time that people are changing out their ERP systems, which is a really big lift and initiative, or they’re doing an upgrade. So I just want to kind of level set our conversation today, yeah, and start there around the why.
Yeah, thanks, Sarah, and thanks for having me today. I am a born and bred sourcing and procurement professional, spent about close to 20 years now across industries: large pharmacy chain, small manufacturing environment, financial services consulting on an ERP implementation, and today, I’m working on implementing a procurement function for a small company. So a little bit of everything.
ERP implementations are a big lift, and for an organization that doesn’t have a full ERP solution in place, that seems like an obvious answer, right? We want to get something in place that we can scale with and grow into to support the business. Where we do have an ERP in place and we’re thinking about evaluating and potentially changing out, that can cause a lot of heartache. Not only for change management but resources, technical resources, internal resources, people who are pulled away from their day jobs to help support those implementations. But they can also bring really great change and advancement to the organization.
I think everything we want to consider from data, whether we’re working off a unified platform and we have better data resources to make better-informed decisions from, through planning, supply chain execution, the way we’re partnering with our suppliers, the visibility they have into our business are all benefits. It’s obviously organization-specific, but those benefits can often far outweigh the lift in the long term and put a company on a better track to continue growth.
We’ve got Beth joining us from Austin, Texas. Hello, Beth! I am also an Austin resident, escaping the heat this week. I was just telling the ladies that I am in the Bay Area enjoying 70 and 80-degree weather for the week before I brave returning back to Texas.
We also have Krishna from Seattle, Washington, who went to the Dave Matthews Band. I heard they’re absolutely fabulous to see in person. I have a friend who’s actually seen them multiple times, so very, very fun.
Beatrice, thanks for coming on the show today. We’d love to have you introduce yourself. And I’d like to have you share, kind of piggybacking on what Sarah just talked about, walking us through what are some of the good elements of a business case for an ERP implementation.
Oh, absolutely. Well, thank you for having us and thank you for the audience. Actually, I lived 16 years in Austin, Texas, so I relate to the first comment for sure. So, I am, I would say, a supply chain professional. I was actually born and raised in France, and then after college, I moved to the US in Austin, Texas, and I worked 16 years in the semiconductor business in multiple supply chain functions: master planning, order fulfillment, and indirect procurement. And then more recently, I got the opportunity to move to Atlanta, Georgia, to work for a company that designs, manufactures, and distributes equipment for farmers. So we’re here today to help you have food on the table, and it’s a great mission to have. I have been in charge of the global indirect procurement team for seven years at my current company, and recently I swapped roles with a colleague of mine, and I’m now in charge of our aftermarket business, our global parts purchasing, and strategic sourcing business.
So, in terms of your questions, Sarah, what are good elements of a business case for ERP implementation? Well, first of all, I would start with not what should be in the business case, but how you figure out what should be in the business case because whom you work with will make a big difference, and I will give you an example. So, in South America, we had an audit finding that clearly outlined that there was a lack of fiduciary controls for our services spend. There was no P2P solution, which meant there was no purchasing oversight at all for that type of spend. And that specific finding, an audit finding, was the initiator of developing the business case.
So, what the team did is that the idea was to really leverage this finding and work with the audit team to develop it. So what we looked at first was obviously to address the audit findings, but because it had significant business challenges that we needed to overcome. So the elements of that business case were to control expenses, reduce MRO spend, reduce our process lead time, centralize our services P.O. process, and also to reduce errors, right, risk of double or incorrect payments. The team developed that business case again not just with internal audit but with other functions as well, such as Finance, Legal, IT, and various business units as well.
What we included in it was things of the nature of ensuring governance, establishing budget controls, harmonizing our business processes, and creating a new services P.O. process. What I would say is that a good business case for ERP implementation or any other thing is really important to speak to the corporate priorities of your organization. So, for instance, at Acho where I work, we’re very clear on our goals. We want to increase Employee Engagement to be the employer of choice, we want to increase Net Promoter Score to be farmer-first, and we want to increase RONA (Return on Net Assets) to be the investor of choice.
So, if today I was implementing an ERP, what I would do is speak to how I will reduce manual tasks, which will increase employee satisfaction. I will speak to how we will be able to service our customers faster by being able to reduce our lead time in our purchasing cycle time. And I will also speak to how we would generate savings through spend visibility because we’re doing supply consolidation and catalog management.
Sarah, what about you for building out the business case? What else would you include or highlight?
Yeah, I think what I heard from Beatrice, kind of a theme through there, is really ensuring that your KPIs are well defined and understanding what are those benefits we want to get out of that upfront. What are the expectations? And in addition to those corporate priorities, what can leadership expect as well? So that business case may cover everything across process, people, tools. What changes are we going to make? How is that going to impact the organization? Oftentimes, ERP implementations do have a people impact. What is the process change going to look like, and what can we expect as an organization to gain out of that? It may be the reduction in PO processing time or that centralization of the function making jobs across the organization easier and more intuitive. But yeah, I think Beatrice really hit those highlights, starting with corporate priorities. You don’t do an ERP implementation for the fun of doing it; you do it for the benefits you’ll gain once implemented and adopted, right? You have to get it in place and adopted by users to really see all of those benefits come to fruition.
So, Sarah, I build a business case and include some of the things that you and Beatrice just mentioned, and then I need to go to the market and potentially find a new ERP. In your case, it sounds like you even have a client who doesn’t have an existing ERP, so it’s their very first time. And there are a lot of ERP systems out there. How does somebody navigate going out and vetting the ERP solutions in the market and which one they should go with?
Yeah, I’ll give you my view, and then I hope Beatrice will hop on here because I think there are different ways to approach it. I am a very strong follower of process and having a well-defined process to execute something like a system evaluation. So starting with what do we have in place? How are we actually achieving these functions today? What are those systems or those manual processes that are set up? Taking that and then building out what do we know our requirements are? What must we have in a new system? I rely heavily on market intelligence. I have a lot of experience, but I certainly don’t know everything. So going to some of those third parties to understand who are the players, not only in the ERP space because there are a lot of them, but who fit my type of organization: midsize organization, services-focused versus product-focused, starting to whittle it down there.
And then, something that’s the size of an ERP, I would probably start with a request for information rather than diving right into an RFP or some type of competitive ask, just to have that opportunity to get a better understanding of the system offerings. Is it modular? Can we add on along the way? Are there different pieces or different components? Understanding how each of those providers believes they differentiate in the market, how they manage account support. Am I in an organization that relies heavily on system account support and training, or do I have system administrators who we expect will be trained up and kind of lead most of our needs throughout?
I think there are a lot of different variables that go into it. It’s very easy to be sold on a new system, to see it really be sold into it being the best solution for you. It’s so important that we take an objective view, understand what our real requirements are in our organization, even down to what our culture looks like and how our people tend to respond. Again, what they’re doing today, how a new system will replace what we’re doing today. And then taking that through a very structured evaluation of those systems that we think really do play well in our space, all the way through a competitive process. Understanding also who their partners are. Are we going to work directly with that ERP provider for implementation, or do they have preferred partners that we need to also look into and interview and reference check?
Scope creep can happen so quickly, and changes to the schedule, which adds cost, and the more we can define upfront and align within the organization, the better off we’ll be through selection and implementation. It’s not an easy task by any means, but as much as we can define internally, relying on some third-party support to identify the right players, and then really evaluating their offerings against our requirements to make a selection.
We’ve got Hank joining us from Woodstock, Ontario. Almost 40 degrees Celsius here today with humidity. And then we’ve got some questions coming in. Krishna, I saw your question, and I will. I’ve added that to the queue and will make sure I get to that today.
So, Beatrice, something that Sarah mentioned is using a third-party resource to potentially help when going out and doing a selection. When should a company use a consultant or a third party, and when should they try to do things in-house? I know it’s a question that comes up a lot around ERPs because it can definitely add a budget line item if you’re going to use contractors or consultants. But I would argue in many cases using a third-party expert actually will help you save tremendous amounts of money because it’s going to help you stay on track and make sure that you stick more to a production schedule versus getting off course, which can add significant cost. So, would love your take on that whole aspect of using contractors or third parties, and you’re on mute. Thank you.
There are different stages you can use. So, we were talking about the previous question about how do you navigate the supply and select and vet the ERP solutions in the market, and just for that stage, you can actually also get the support of what I call an integrator or someone helping you with that selection as well. I can speak more about some of that. Also, you can get support for the actual implementation, and we have used both in different occasions. I would say we have to be budget-conscious. So, for the implementation, we have used absolute experts in that specific solution who can help us also with making sure that we’re putting the right processes in place.
I think this is where you can gain a lot of time, but also I think it’s important that you also have a team that is from your own company that understands, like Sarah said, the culture of your company, what you can push, what you cannot push, what are your resources, what timeline you can reasonably work with, what are the different dependencies, because there’s a lot of dependency with other systems that only people in your company will probably understand. So, I think having a mixed team, as we always say, having a diverse team with different backgrounds, including consultants and contractors, is probably the best way to go. I would not go 100% on one side or 100% on the other side, but a mix will probably yield the best result because you have this wealth of knowledge that is complementary to each other.
So, we have used them for both the selection, the decision process, and then the actual implementation process. Beatrice, what about for you? What has worked or what have you learned around selecting the right ERP for your organization?
So, I think we learned the hard way, but I think often we think this tool is going to solve all our problems. Well, it’s not. So, what is really important is to first identify the pain points, again, back to the requirements. It’s the same pain points and requirements that you want to address. And then, it’s best to establish the process, your current process, your desired process, your current process and your new process. Once you have a new process at roughly 80%, and you have an idea what you want it to look like, then go in the market and figure out what tool will best automate that process for you. That would be the way to look at it.
The other thing is that you need to have a very long-term vision. So, for instance, if you’re a global company but you’re starting just in one region, you really need to make sure that the solution would be comprehensive enough that it can support the other regions as well. You also have to look at what I said, the dependency. If you have inputs or outputs that the system needs to speak to, is there compatibility? Is there truly integration? Because sometimes we have a lot of nice presentations, but then you need to understand, do they really integrate with each other or not? The way to figure that out is to do those reference calls that Sarah was mentioning. It’s super important that you ask for similar size or similar scope or similar complexity kind of clients to understand, have they done that before, and how successful would they be? And have very pointed questions about it. It’s difficult because you’re not going to know everything you need to know by the time you’re ready to make a decision, but at least think about your top priorities, the must-haves that this tool needs to have for you, and does that provider have this for you? You really have to prioritize in order to make sure it’s the right thing.
So, that’s the selection. What we’ve done when we selected a P2P is that we also made sure the requirements were not just from purchasing. We also identified other functions that either use that solution or be a recipient of the solution and also gathered their requirements. Then, basically, put a weight on which criteria has the highest relevance for us in that selection. So, basically, the must-haves and the nice-to-haves. And that’s how you have to do it. I would say the last thing, don’t try to rush the selection process. You really need to be comfortable because you’re going to be there for a long run. You’re not going to change ERP every year. It’s a very costly investment, and it takes a lot of time to implement it. So, you really want to select something that you will feel good about and comfortable and need the results you’re looking for for at least 10 years, at least.
Sarah, can I just piggyback for a moment on something Beatrice mentioned? The global component is just so critical with your requirements, of course, and different regulations, right, and what we need to be thinking about from a requirement standpoint, but really across the board and ensuring you have those voices on the project from implementation timelines, people take different holiday schedules globally, and there are different times of the year that really are better suited depending on where you’re located. I just think that I just wanted to echo how important that is to ensure that that internal team is comprised also of those global voices if it’s a global organization. From requirements through change management and adoption, you have to have that global view. And, as you made a good point, legislation is very key, yeah, because they are from an accounting standpoint, there are some legal requirements, and not every single platform has the ability to incorporate those.
I think it also brings up the point of making sure you have the right people on the selection committee. So, Beatrice, we’ll start with you. If you were building out a team of people to do an ERP selection process, who would you put on that team?
So first, I would say I have a top-down and a bottom-up approach. In terms of using the core team, that’s the bottom-up approach. What we had, obviously, we had purchasing, we had accounting, accounts payable, we had Finance, controlling also, we had manufacturing, and then we had a set of stakeholders.
So, the business recipients, you know, of our P2P solution with subject matter experts. But, in addition, I would like to add, don’t underestimate the task at hand. And absolutely make sure you have change management professionals. I’m talking about change readiness professionals, communication experts, and training experts. They may not know your topic, you know. They don’t know how a P2P system works, but they know how to convey that new system to the rest of the organization. What’s the right sequence of communication? How to position it? What the training content should be and things like that. So, that piece is absolutely critical. And also, when you pick your team members, make sure that they are relieved from their daily tasks. Because we all know, between a project and a customer or supplier calling and supply chain issue, which phone call are you going to take, you know? So, you cannot give your team members that dilemma of what they have to pick that day. So, they have to be relieved from those duties so they can really focus entirely on the implementation.
And then, the top-down approach definitely needs an executive steering committee who are the heads of the different functions or represented in the core team. Because you will want to leverage them for decision-making, for resolution of challenges, and fast decision processes. So, really having those steering committees take place at very critical milestones during the selection process, during the implementation process, and that way, you’re able to have a very comprehensive team and be successful.
So, we have a couple of questions from the audience. So, I want to detour a little bit and make sure we address them while these individuals are on the show live. First question: Can you speak to ERP life cycle analysis as it pertains to climate change models and sustainability in supply chain and procurement for manufacturing and industry?
So, Sarah, anything here that you can add or address? For me, I wish I could. This is probably the area where I have the least amount of exposure, but also something everyone seems to always be chasing. So, Sarah, if you or Beatrice have experience in this area, I’m with Krishna and would love to hear it. It’s an excellent question and a very complex and not yet available full answer.
I would say, ‘Oh, can you show it again? Do you mind showing the question again?’ Yes, thank you. I can speak to what I know, which is the following: there is a company out there that is very renowned. I think if you want to send me a note afterwards, I can tell you who it is. They have a system where they are basically interviewing or surveying suppliers and asking them a lot of questions. Not only just about sustainability but also about whether they’re following legislation requirements, child protection laws being followed, or things of that nature. I mean, it’s very comprehensive from an ESG standpoint. Then, they’re able to provide a score to that supplier, and that score is available for any customers of that supplier. That is a way to really identify the suppliers you would want to do business with, the ones with a higher ESG score, or give feedback to existing suppliers who you would like to retain but are not exactly where they need to be. So, that is a very, very good tool to use. Obviously, it’s an investment, but I think that will help a lot.
There are a couple of questions around change management and how hard it is to actually convince people internally that they should spend time and resources to learn and use a new system. So, Sarah, we’ll start with you. How the heck do we navigate this change management piece as it relates to an ERP?
Yeah, it’s such a great question, and it feels like it should be the simplest piece of an ERP implementation and somehow is also the most difficult. I think there are a few things that are important. One, Beatrice already mentioned having professional change management resources on the team, not midway, not halfway through implementation, and we need someone to build training, but really prior to day one. Whether they’re internal change management professionals or third-party professionals brought in for this project, ensure that they have a really good understanding of the culture, how much change have these people been through, what’s the tenure of most folks here. Have they been through change? What has that experience been in the past? Really understanding what those emotions are amongst the organization going into this change and then ensuring that there is a really well-thought-out plan in place along with risk registers and ensuring that you’re capturing what those risks are along the way.
That your communications people are in lockstep with your change management team, that they’re meeting people where they are with those communications. If you’re a Teams-heavy or Slack-heavy organization, all the communications shouldn’t be going out via email.
I think another component that is really important is ensuring that people have a platform to voice their concerns early in the process and throughout the process. Often, people just want to be heard. They just want to know that you are hearing them, and that can be enough to get them over that hump and kind of on board with the change that’s coming. Then, into that process and closer to implementation, ensuring there’s not just training but resources readily available again, that they’re easy for folks to find. There isn’t too much thinking required to find them because if you’re trying to do your day job and you hit an obstacle, you’re not always thinking clearly. You want an answer, you want it now, and it should be right in front of your face.
I think all of those pieces are so important. Change management is often an afterthought. I think that’s changing, and people are ensuring that it is part of the overall plan now. But it does require a lot of attention and not just tasks that we check off the box from the project plan, but really thoughtful around what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, who we’re engaging, and how we’re engaging them. I really think it’s as important as the implementation being successful.
Yes, as I mentioned, I think that the—so I used to work for a company in Texas. They had a Change Readiness department, and I thought it was brilliant. Especially when you’re a global company, you need those experts, and they will help you through this project setting up the right milestones. One key element is having subject matter experts, basically developing SMEs in each function who could be the go-to person when somebody is hitting a roadblock. And then they can call that individual. That individual is responsible to explain the ‘why,’ explain the why we’re doing this. We’re not just doing it for the sake of doing it, but there is a reason why we’re doing it. And again, it’s aligned with our corporate priorities, and it will help us move the needle toward whatever our goals are. It’s really important. I think I’ve seen communication take place where it’s just being dictated, ‘We’re going to do that,’ but it doesn’t really explain the ‘why.’ And that is the missing component of good change management practice but also is of implementing the change. The SMEs are very, very important, and that’s why they need to be part of creating the solution.
One thing we did when we implemented a solution in Brazil is that we had our stakeholders being part of designing the AS-IS process and the desired process. Basically, having them responsible and be part of designing the new solution. So once a new solution is implemented, I’m not saying there won’t be any resistance at all, but at least it’s a little bit smoother because their voice was being heard and used to design the new process. So that’s also very important to do. And obviously, having that issue log is important. Sometimes people will blow out of proportion one issue. So I think if you can showcase, ‘Look, we had 100 issues, and we were able to resolve 80. We know we still have 20, but look at all the progress we have made.’ I think that makes it better to swallow when there is still a challenge that needs to be addressed. So over-communicating is also a key element of change management.
Something else I’ll add, I think it’s really important, is to communicate realistic timelines. I think there are unfortunate situations that I’ve seen where there’s an expectation that it’s going to not only cure every problem that the company has but that the ERP system is going to be up and running fully in a very unrealistic amount of time. So things take longer than expected, pad your timelines, pad your deliverables. If you are ahead of schedule, that’s a win and highlight and communicate it. But don’t tell the team it’s going to be up and running in three months, and then it takes 18 months because you’re going to lose trust.
Absolutely, yeah. It’s so true. And if you have to extend it more than once, you’ve lost all trust. Yeah, but it takes setting up boundaries, right? Or setting. Having the courage to speak up and say, ‘This is not visible. We’re setting up our team for failure here. We want to be aggressive, right? Still reasonable and having SMART goals, so achievable goals. But it does take courage, so we have to be persistent with that.
We’ve got Ashley saying, ‘Giving focus and resources to change management months after is much more difficult than on the front end.’ So, Ashley, really good point. And in our conversation, we’re going to get to here pretty soon around what happens after the implementation, right? That’s a whole another set of process and change management that’s involved. So, I’m kind of working our way through the lifecycle at the stage where we’re actually doing the implementation.
So we’ve hired the third party, we’ve hired the experts, we’ve got the team, we’ve selected, we’re now at that point where we’re doing the implementation. Sarah, what are learnings or best practices that you can share? Because that can be a very, very stressful time within an organization, trying to keep the business going and doing this massive implementation at the same time.
Yep, and I think Beatrice also touched on this earlier too, ensuring that people who are heavily involved in the project are relieved of their day-to-day work, if the organization can sustain that. I think that’s really important, and it also ties into the change management piece too. If you have folks who are dedicated to the implementation and folks who are gearing up to be those subject matter experts at go-live so that they can be a go-to resource for their other team members, I think that’s really important.
Having a really good project management team behind the scenes too who are managing not just the project itself but those resources and ensuring that people are either on the project or not on the project, right? Or if they are, with a specific amount of their time dedicated to that project. I think those all contribute to the ability to get through implementation. It is stressful, and it’s a bonding experience for the team that’s involved in it. Everyone comes out the other side going, ‘We did it. We did it together. We survived.’ But if you do that well and you have the right people involved in that implementation who can be kind of deployed into the organization after go-live, back into their day jobs, and known as someone who understands the new system, can be a go-to, can answer questions, it’s kind of a double win and supports the change management process for adoption as well.
What about for you, Beatrice? Any learnings or mistakes that you and your teams have made that you can say, ‘Wow, that’s something we probably should not have done, and we’ll make sure we avoid that in the future’?
I would say what is important is to measure. So obviously you develop a business case, you say this will be the benefits, now you’re implementing, are you seeing the benefits? Initially, post-implementation, obviously, I would say daily meetings, you have a task force that are gathering all the issues and addressing them on a daily basis and communicating resolution to those problems because there will be problems, I guarantee. Nothing will be smooth but also measuring. So what we’ve done, we had daily metrics. There were two, one was about governance, so we measured the number of transactions from the old system compared to the number of transactions to the new system. So if we were seeing an area where people continue to place orders with the old system, you know, to monitor that and obviously address those. And the other one, because we had no P2P system for services spend, we kind of had a guess of the number of transactions, but it was just a guess. So we had another metric which was transactions per buyer and really monitoring that to make sure that workload was properly balanced because we didn’t want to end up burdening one person compared to the other one. We had to really make sure everything was properly balanced and make readjustments quickly if that was the case. So that was the daily metrics, I would say, pretty much for the first 90 days.
And then we had monthly metrics. So obviously, we did sell on the fact that we’d get spend visibility, we’d get more savings. So we measured the impact and is there a growth in terms of savings, and there was, and we were able to articulate that. And then on an annual basis, the other thing we’ve done is we measured two things: number one, the awareness of our Global spend management policy because a lot of people were not aware of the processes, so that increased by 20 points. And then our satisfaction with our stakeholders, which is the net promoter score. So that one was very controversial. I got a lot of headshakes saying no, don’t do that. But I still did it because even though we should always have a healthy tension with our stakeholders in terms of how to manage suppliers, what value we can extract from our supplier base, we should do it in a way that meets our stakeholders’ goals as well, right? We are super function in that regard, so we should find a good balance of what I call a healthy tension, and that should be measured in some way. So I selected to have the net promoter score, which usually is more for external customers, and the team was very nervous because they thought actually the score would tank with a new system because it’s disruptive and people have to change the way they’re working. But actually, it did increase, and I think it’s because of the change management piece behind it that is absolutely critical. If we didn’t have that, I think indeed the metric would probably have gone down.
Can I, Sarah, can I add one other learning that I think is applicable to most teams who go through an ERP implementation?
We spend every day in it, right? Every hour of your day, if you’re on the implementation team, you are in the weeds with the team trying to do the right thing and trying to meet timelines and budget and keep everything moving.
I think it’s really important to take a step back and try to give yourself that 30,000-foot view on occasion, and do it by inviting end users to provide feedback. Whether it’s a demo, ‘This is what we think it’s going to look like,’ in our case, we over-engineered training. We just swung the pendulum very far from ‘You don’t need training today’ to ‘Tomorrow you do need training,’ and now you have six hours of training because we want to make sure you are trained on everything. We really needed to find a balance, and I wish we would have figured that out earlier in the schedule, and we could have if we had taken a moment to invite some people, ‘Let’s review the training, let’s do a few run-throughs,’ and been willing to put the time in to adjust it. Ultimately, we did, right? But it was much later than it needed to be had we been willing to hear the feedback and put it in front of the audience, and just accept that just because we’re in it doesn’t mean we always know what the right thing is. That being able to step out of it and peer from outside of the fishbowl sometimes is really valuable.
I could not agree more, Sarah. Absolutely, it was not an ERP, but it was a different process being implemented, and the subject matter expert knew her stuff, but it was too technical, it was too detailed, and you overwhelm people, and they were thinking, ‘Wow, that sounds too complicated, I’m not going to even touch this.’ So you have to simplify it as much as possible and still be relevant for them to be able to use the tool. So it’s, and that’s why you need training experts because they don’t know your space, and they will be able to give you a pretty good feedback on it because if they cannot understand it, nobody else can. I’m a huge fan of using video in training and support. We use a tool on my team internally at SourceState called Loom. You literally click a button, can record, it has a little picture of you, it has your screen, so I think there are things like that that you can do post-ERP implementation to really help with the process and getting people bought in and making it easy.
So post-ERP implementation, one of the things that I think a lot of companies struggle with is a year, two years down the road, is actually taking advantage of all that your ERP has to offer. I mean, there are companies that I know that only use 5% or 10% of the functionality of their ERP, and yet they’re spending significant money and resources. So what recommendations, Sarah (we’ll start with you), do you have on how to really optimize and use all that your ERP has to offer that makes sense for your organization?
Yeah, I think even one to two years out, people are still exhausted and a little bit traumatized from the original implementation. One method that I have found is really helpful is really leveraging that ERP partner. Having regular updates, ‘Here’s what we’re using today.’ A great partner will bring a lot of those opportunities to you and make recommendations. But having discovery sessions and bringing in the right stakeholders (and they may be different folks from those teams from purchasing and accounting than who you had in the implementation) but just having those brainstorming sessions, ‘Here’s what we’re using today, what do you recommend? Here’s what challenges we’re having or other processes that we’re still doing offline, is there an opportunity to bring them in?’ I think sometimes we’re scared to be in a position of not knowing we had functionality available, and I think that’s okay, right, to be curious and ask and probe and really do that with your ERP supplier. It doesn’t have to be in a silo within the organization, being cautious that they’re not selling you something new that’s going to be an add-on right and having some skepticism over what they may be selling you again. But really understanding what’s there and again, as you probably did with your ERP implementation, kind of slow rolling everything out over a schedule. It might be bits and pieces over time. It doesn’t mean you have to flip everything on at the same time. But understanding what that functionality is and then getting that feedback from the teams as well. So we have a new system in place, it’s business as usual after one to two years for the most part. What do you wish you had? What’s still causing challenges? What are we not connecting that we’d like to be connecting across different modules? So yeah, I think just being curious, being open to the parties who can participate in that discussion, and relieving the pressure to do it all at once again.
Oh, Sarah, you’re on mute. I know that there’s something that comes up for most organizations post-implementation as well around bolt-on solutions. So should I buy a separate solution for a very niche category, a very niche type of functionality, and then integrate it with my ERP or not? I know that it’s something that’s becoming more and more common because we have lots of niche solutions in the marketplace. So how should somebody assess, can my ERP do this right? Do I actually need another solution? And then if so, what’s going to be involved in that? And is it worth it to select the solution and do the integration with my ERP? I’ll give my quick response, and then I’ll turn it over to Beatrice to jump in. I think it is much easier today to use bolt-on solutions than it was 15 years ago, hands down. The technology has made it easier to do. You’re not at risk of having a solution you can’t untangle if you want to replace your ERP in the future. I think it really comes down to what are the needs of the organization and does it make sense? Out of the box is always great, makes it much easier. It doesn’t mean it has to be the right solution for an organization. Yes, I would be cautious again. Are you mesmerized by the resource or is that truly addressing a pain point that your organization has? So it’s exactly what Sarah said. So really like go back to the basics. What problem do you have and what do you need to solve and use the 80/20 rule? Because trying to find a solution for every single problem is probably not very effective and sounds investment as well. So really looking from that perspective as well, I think that’s very important.
So we’ll close out with a question for each of you. I’ll start with you, Sarah. What are you most excited about for the rest of this year or early next year in the ERP space?
Oh, it’s such a good question. I think technology in the ERP space, including the bolt-on solutions, has rapidly developed. I think the AI component is fascinating. I’d love to say I fully understand all of it, and I don’t, but I know that it’s changing things. And 10 years ago, 20 years ago, there was talk about, you know, technology is going to replace the need for a buyer or technology is going to replace the need for supply chain professionals because you could let suppliers and buyers negotiate over a system, right, and remove the human component. That didn’t happen nearly as quickly as I think I was led to believe it might happen. I don’t think AI replaces what we do today. I think it definitely enhances how we do it. And how that plays in with ERP and some of those solutions in the very near future, I’m interested to watch.
What about you, Beatrice?
I am most excited for the team to spend less time in a system and more time interfacing with our suppliers. That’s my Utopia dream. For those of you that joined us live, I encourage you to connect with Beatrice and Sarah on LinkedIn. Want to thank both of you for coming on the show today to share your wisdom and insights. A recording of this session will be made available on LinkedIn as soon as we end our broadcast. We’ll also be sending a follow-up email with a recap notes and a recording to the session as well, in case you want to share this out with colleagues or those in your network. Wishing everyone a wonderful morning or afternoon.