Make your ERP software work for you: Don’t blame the tools if you haven’t read the manual

I have a friend who works at a large home improvement retailer. He often tells me stories about customers who buy expensive and sophisticated tools, yet have no DIY experience or knowledge on how best to use them.

Often these customers come back a few days later, hoping to return the tools because they “are not working” when in fact, there is nothing wrong with them; they are just not being used properly. One customer, for example, returned an expensive “defective” chainsaw. The problem was that he never bothered to read the manual, which instructed mixing lubricant oil into the petrol. As a consequence the chainsaw’s motor was permanently damaged.

Others come back asking for advice, struggling to get the most out of all their tools’ features, sticking only to the most simplistic and not getting real value for their money. I’m sure we can all relate. How many of us have bought the big brand SLR digital camera only to use it as a point & shoot holiday snapper?

Buying and using Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software (or any software, for that matter) is no different.  Two essential lessons can be learned from this analogy:

  1. Software is just a tool. Yes, it is mostly a sophisticated and powerful tool, but a tool nonetheless. It is not a magic ‘do-my-job’ button on the keyboard though. It requires human knowledge to set it up, and human application to use it effectively and get the best value out of it. Think of it as putting oil in the motor.
  2. Many companies never get the full value from their ERP solutions. All good ERP packages are modeled on tried and tested industry best practices. Embedded in the system is all the experience and information needed to boost a business, yet most users are frustratingly unaware of this. They limp along using less than 40% of the powerful features right at their finger-tips. Truthfully, they would get more value out of their old outdated software.

This was confirmed for me by my previous experience as a user at a manufacturing company that implemented SYSPRO ERP software. Although the financial modules were used quite extensively and were working pretty well, the manufacturing modules were not.

Life in the plant was reactive. They were frequently expediting lost work, working excessive overtime, running into material shortages and short-delivering on customers. No one trusted reports and data in the system. As an ERP novice I, like everyone else, blamed the tool. Back then I would never have considered SYSPRO a decent ERP package. And yet I ended up working for SYSPRO. What changed? We slowly came to realize that the tool was not the problem; we were simply not using it properly. This became particularly clear from our useless data: it was garbage in, garbage out. Some configuration options were set incorrectly, exacerbating our position even further. We had not added the lubrication oil into our chainsaw’s fuel mix.

However, as we became more committed to using the system properly and as our investment in training on the system started yielding dividends, our understanding of the tool and its features enabled us to adapt it better to suit our business model. After cleaning up our data and system settings, we eventually got it working quite well.

Life became far less chaotic and reactive. We soon experienced measurable benefits such as decreased inventory levels, far less short-deliveries to fewer customers and less expediting.

If you have invested heavily in an ERP system that does not seem to deliver the value of your expectations, first consider whether you can use it better before blaming the tool. It will require some thorough consulting with your ERP vendor and a good dose of dedicated training, but remember, add the oil and every dollar and second spent will be well worth it.

Be Sociable, Share!
This entry was posted in Business Strategy and tagged , , by Steve Bassaw. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steve Bassaw

My family emigrated from Trinidad in the Caribbean to Vancouver, Canada when I was a child, and I have been here ever since. I consider myself lucky to live in such a great country and city. I previously worked at a manufacturing company that used SYSPRO. I liked the product so much that I decided to join SYSPRO as a Support Analyst. Twelve years later I have learned our product in depth and am still enjoying life at SYSPRO. Currently I am the Professional Services Manager for SYSPRO Canada. I have been exposed to all aspects of our software but my favorite part is manufacturing. I enjoy presenting to and working with SYSPRO partners and customers to get the best fit and value from the manufacturing modules. Having come from a non-IT background, I also feel it’s important to translate software jargon into layman’s terms. I really like both sharing knowledge and learning from others, which is one reason why I serve on an advisory committee of the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s School of Business, sharing my knowledge on Information Technology and how it supports business requirements.

4 thoughts on “Make your ERP software work for you: Don’t blame the tools if you haven’t read the manual

  1. Very good blog post. I enjoyed the beginning reference to home improvement tools, it made me chuckle a bit. I like your two main points. 1 – Agree an ERP package is a tool and like any tool if used improperly it can cause more damage than good. 2. Getting the most out of an ERP package is essential, its not cheap to undergo an ERP implementation and there are so many benefits that are to be had from a successful implementation that it is very important to have proper up front analysis and through implementation and training.

    A few weeks ago I got with one of our engineers and wrote a blog post on ERP implementation that relates to this post. I would be interested in your feedback.

    • Thanks for the comments, Lewis. Glad you enjoyed the article. I read your blog post and it contains some excellent practical tips for a successful ERP implementation.

      Steve

  2. I definitely like your posts! Having worked in the “trenches” with you in the early years of our manufacturing careers, you definitely know what it’s like to be “on the floor” and have applied your knowledge to the help others better understand what they are striving for, or ought to be striving for in their operations. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Edward. Using an ERP system is a company-wide endeavour which requires a team of committed people working together to get value from the tool, and I was fortunate to work with excellent team members such as yourself and others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>