Best practices in implementing ERP and APS systems

During the EyeOn International Planning Inspiration Day 2019 we held a session on “Best practices in implementing ERP and APS systems”. In this post, we share some of the insights gathered during the session and provide an overview of some of the topics which the audience found most relevant.

The underestimated complexity of an implementation process

As consultants with experience in implementations of APS and ERP systems across several industries, we find a common situation across corporations: Companies are attracted to the possibilities of great planning improvements that new tools can deliver. E2E connected planning, multi echelon inventory optimization, and supply chain automation to name some examples. While the desired benefits are clear, the path to get there is often not as well-defined. This situation generates a source of frustration as companies struggle through the underestimated complexity of an implementation process.

During the session participants shared their perception on system implementations by ranking their experiences on a scale from 0 to 10. The findings helped to quantify the gap between expectations and reality.

Overwhelmingly, it was clear that implementation projects do not live up to the expectations. The great majority of the projects experienced by the audience were not delivered on time, while none of the projects were delivered on budget. The most concerning fact is that in all the implementations the user adoption only met 5.4 points on a 0 – 10 scale, making clear that poor user adoption will lead to unrealized benefits regardless of the time and money spent on the project.

Implementations have four major phases: Pre-design, design, implementation and go-live. During the session EyeOn offered the possibility to the audience to choose interactively the topics to be discussed in each of the phases. Below we share an overview of the most common topic choices per phase.

Pre-design – Ensuring sufficient planning maturity

Six areas required for successful implementations

Successful implementations require a certain level of maturity in the organisation to be successful. We identified six areas that are required for successful implementations:

  • Process
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Data and data governance
  • Execution
  • Tool skills
  • Supply chain management ‘basics’

Over the years we have developed detail assessments in these areas to identify gaps that need to be addressed prior to moving into design and implementation phases. We highly advise to validate the supply chain maturity of your company so the implementation project can have a solid and common starting point across the organisation.

Design – Getting the right inputs on the design

Balance between a well-structured, focused, decision-oriented core team and the involvement of extended teams, experts, and business stakeholders is key to gather the right inputs into the design.

While fast progress can be made by sticking to a core team in charge of the project, it is often common that processes or tool functionality gaps are only discovered at the moment of sharing the outcome of the core team with the extended team. We advocate for using the extended teams to validate proposals made by the core team, so timely progress is made. Involving extended teams in an unstructured requirement gathering phase often proves to be a lengthy and ineffective process.

Implementation – Dealing with “we are not ready to move to the next phase”

A pragmatic approach to implementations involves acknowledging it is common that not all items are closed before moving into next phase. This generates uncertainty in the organisation about the level of readiness to move ahead. This situation is familiar when making ‘go’, ‘no-go’ decisions before going live.

The advice to overcome this situation is establishing clearly at the start of the project the key criteria that needs to be fulfilled before moving between phases. This action has two positive consequences:

  • It provides focus across the organisation on the requirements that will be assessed before moving forward.
  • It creates a clear criteria to check against when evaluating complex decisions to move forward or not.

Go-Live – Leveraging the SME ownership to drive adoption

Based on experience we have identified that trust in a new tool is generated based on experiences over a period of time. As the complexity of planning tools has increased over time, the outcomes generated sometimes resemble a ‘black box’ for many users, leading to distrust and poor user adoption.

Early involvement in the project of a community of future SMEs (subject matter experts) in the system allows to generate trust in the users that will be required to convince others. Early involvement might be time consuming throughout the implementation phase, but this effort will be rewarded by a higher user adoption of the system at the time of go-live.

Learn more about our approach for APS implementations!

EyeOn is a niche consultancy firm that works with clients designing, implementing and executing excellent forecasting and planning processes as a discriminating factor for success. In order to achieve this, we develop and share knowledge with demonstrable return on investment for our clients.

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