ERP Implementation Is Not Trivial

ERP software is just software. I do know that. However, the process of getting a group of people called a business (particularly a small business) using an ERP solution effectively is not trivial in the least.
I’m using the word “trivial” here as it might be applied in mathematics. For example, the solution to the equation 2x = 10 for x in base 10 number system is trival. x=5.
When I started out in public accounting, the central issue was training people to use the computer. “This is the on button…” type of training was almost inevitable. Today, the training we do has moved up the scale. We rarely have to tell a client how to use a data entry screen. The Accounts Payable Clerk takes one look at the invoice entry screen (for most any software) and says, “Ok, I see how it works.”
The issues today have more to do with processes, personalities, and detailed functionality.
Managing the interactions between these three items makes the implementation process non-trivial. It’s more like the solution to a complex differential equation.
Here are some general notes, with more details to follow in installments:

  • Communicate with employees. Give them a reason to undergo the pain.
  • Remember that big companies may work differently than small and mid-sized companies. In big companies, orders often come from on high, and must be accepted. This doesn’t mean that employees don’t complain. They do. It simply means that part of the environment at a big company is accepting decisions from the higher-ups that seem inane without saying much. In most smaller companies, we find much higher and more emotional feelings of buy-in from employees. This means that they’ll react badly–and in extreme cases, try to sabatoge the project–if you don’t deal well with them.
  • Respect employee networks. Employees who have worked at businesses for a long time have relationships that aren’t always apparent. These will come into play in stress
  • Selecting the right software is only part of the battle. Every software selection is a tradeoff. No software has all the features. Be clear about what you’re sacrificing.
  • Watch for employee ownership of existing systems. In this case I mean BOTH computer systems AND business systems. Tell the sales force they’ll be entering all their own orders in a company where this has never been the practice and you’ll quickly see what I mean.

Enough for now. More to come.