ERP Implementation - What is expected from you?

Often, I have seen discussions happening between the business users, the implementation partner and the IT Team in an organization on who will do what and this becomes one of the bottlenecks in success of a project. Lately, when I was addressing a CIO Conference on the subject of transforming business with the help of ERP and advanced ERP products implementation, this question popped up again and forced me to try and document expectations from each team so that it can work as working standard for the organizations as well as IT vendors.  I will be publishing my understanding of expectations from each team in the next series of posts as I think I have the requisite experience and exposure to ERP implementations in all roles viz. Business User, IT Consultant as well as a CIO across the globe and in multiple industries. To start-with, let me try to put together the expectations (in-fact I would like to mention small activities also which the other two teams expect from the 3rd team) from the IT Team of the organization which is implementing an ERP Solution. I have divided the expectations in 3 major sections that are given below:

Pre-Implementation Expectations from IT Team:
  • Finalize broad scope of work, create and float RFP to potential partners
  • Select product and its fitment into existing architecture, footprint, industry and solution
  • Evaluate Vendor proposals on technical competence, past experience and commercials
  • Arrange executive sponsorship, drive steering committee creation in the organization
  • Drive creation of core user group from all stakeholder teams in the organization
  • Arrange for logistics like sitting area of core users, implementation partner team, desktops, phones etc.
  • Decide on project plan, major milestones and key success factors with steering committee 
  • Plan for Application Instance Strategy (Development, Test etc.)
During Implementation Expectations from IT Team:
  • Organize business users and implementation partner teams interactions
  • Drive sign-offs from business on requirements and other major project milestones
  • Monitor project success vis-à-vis project plan
  • Arrange all requisite IT infrastructure for the project
  • Decide on data upload strategy (how much data, from which systems, by when etc.)
  • Extract data from legacy systems and arrange cleaning by core user team
  • Provide inputs on solution fitment into existing solution
  • Provide inputs on key design elements
  • Approve/Reject Customization(s) suggested by implementation vendor
  • Freeze requirements
  • Arrange business users participation during key milestones like Solution Design & Demonstration, Testing etc.
  • Arrange training for core team users by implementation partners
  • Ensure proper staffing of resources by implementation partner
  • Arrange steering committee meetings for project health check regularly
  • Ensure core team users impart training to other intended users
  • Drive change management steps in the organization for faster acceptance of new application
  • Plan production cutover testing and planned downtime as per application instance strategy
  • Review key success factors delivery by implementation partner
  • Take final sign-offs from core team for going LIVE
  • Drive steering committee for GO LIVE readiness decision
Post Implementation Expectations from IT Team:
  • Hand hold business users to run the new system for first month
  • Set-up central help desk for post implementation related issues and queries
  • Monitor and resolve any IT infrastructural related issues
  • Handle change management issues with the help of steering committee
  • Arrange short refresher trainings for end users to reduce mistakes in new application
  • Ensure proper documentation of project is provided by implementation partner
  • Ensure complete and proper knowledge transfer from implementation partner to application support team

If I can get valuable inputs from readers, I would like to add/delete/modify to these working standards do that it really becomes useful tool for the organizations and vendors alike and helps in making ERP Projects more successful for all stakeholders.

Financial Business Intelligence - Can it be successful without financial consolidation?

Today's enterprises do not have a simple structure with multiple business entities at multiple geographies, large number of joint ventures, subsidiaries, acquisitions, de mergers etc. and all this is adding to complexities of financial reporting. Add to this, different currencies, legal requirements, ever changing leadership formats of reporting and you have a substantial challenge in front of you. 

A typical structure of a large transnational organization will have parent organization with multiple subsidiaries and some of these subsidiaries would have acquired few other companies which might have their own subsidiaries in few countries. Then there will be different business lines or verticals which operate independently or have joint ventures. Now, consolidating the financial data from all these entities is a challange and most of the time your transactional system or ERP will not be able to help in this specially if more than one system is being used in these entities. Another important point is that the business intelligence tools will also not be able to help in giving the correct information as data is available in piece meal and the real picture is not captured.

While deploying a business intelligence solution, it is imperative that our data is first consolidated with the help of either a financial consolidation tool or the module of the Enterprise Performance Management tool you have deployed. The major benefits of data consolidation will be:
  • Get a single source of truth: These provide a single version of the truth to support financial management and statutory reporting
  • Accelerate reporting cycles: Substantially reduce the period closing cycles and deliver more timely results to internal and external stakeholders across the globe
  • Improve transparency and compliance: Helps reduce the cost of compliance (as stipulated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, IFRS, electronic filing, and other regulatory requirements) and support disclosure requirements, such as sustainability reporting
  • Perform strategic analysis: You will spend less time on processing and more time on value-added analysis
Deployment of Business Intelligence tool will be much easier and highly useful if it is done after financial consolidation exercise and will help you in getting expected results. (Yes, the scope of this article is only financial business intelligence and not includes supply chain intelligence etc.). The benefits that you can reap after deploying your BI tool can be:
  • Aligning the enterprise with its KPIs
  • Assist leadership take faster and fact based decisions
  • Simulation of scenarios and doing what if analysis
  • Allocation and re-allocation of costs and overheads across entities without distrubing the transactional system entries
  • No need to look at multiple sources of data
All above can be reaped in a much better way of we consolidate the financial data first and then utilize the BI tool to provide the required dashboards and reports.

Update the ERP automatically on production activities leveraging IoT (Internet of Things)

Lately, Internet of Things (IoT), have opened up an entirely new avenue for taking benefits using the existing ERP software implemented in the organizations. Though IoT will be beneficial in many areas and early movers in this field are healthcare/wellness and entertainment industry specially leveraging it with consumers, one of the hidden benefits it can provide is the field of running the business transactions in in your old ERP.
In one of the CIO conferences, we were talking on how can we leverage this in our respective organizations and some very exciting use cases have come up where in few CIOs have started taking actions specially in manufacturing sector.  Every organization is pushing the bar high every year for more productivity from employees and they are exploring all options whether non-technical like outsourcing to experts or technical like automating few operations or deploying IT solutions. IoT is another area which was found to be beneficial in addressing productivity concerns as below: 
  • Users need to perform production related activities also as well as have to enter data in ERP to record the activities
  • To ensure proper record of activities, either a strong process discipline is required or ERP will need to be customized to put checks and balances in place
  • Mistakes happen with new users and lot of time is wasted in running the ERP
  • Multiple times, data in ERP doesn’t match with actual physical data such as WIP inventory
  • Time lag between actual activity and activity performed in ERP which skews the actual performance of a machine or a resource
Fortunately, all above can be resolved using IoT technology in conjunction with ERP. You just have to make your machines internet enabled, put some sensors around which can read the data that you want to send to ERP and then can send the data to a middle layer where you do data massaging and filter it to ensure that you send only relevant data to ERP. As soon as it reaches the ERP and updates corresponding details in it, you are all set to view your analytics reports. It also will help you calculate better product costing as well as costing of all functions related to production. Another major benefit that you will get by deploying IoT, is that you will now have access to huge set of data from your machines which is ready to be analyzed in the middle layer and multiple improvement plans can be made around those identified areas. Since this data will be huge by any standards, big data solutions will be able to help the organization immensely here. This will be another step in increasing productivity of resources in the organization.
Since there is a cost involved in installing sensors as well as a feasibility study will have to be done for the machines whether they will be able to support sensors, it may take some time to gain pace in the manufacturing industry and I assume that everybody is watching for one good case study so that they can also go ahead use this new revolutionary concept that I highlighted in 2009 in my earlier post here.