Top tips to stop your ERP system falling into disrepair…

I may be turning into a grumpy old man. Last week my family gave me this dubious honour after a week, where I apparently complained about unruly children in my favourite restaurant (why are children allowed to run riot in public). This included the use of mobile phones in the same restaurant (clearly I was not in a good mood) and the use of “reply all” to emails at work (do I really need 10 copies of the same email).

Anyway, having thought about this new designation, I realize that in fact it isn’t all bad and that I seem to have permission to moan about anything and get away with it. So I have turned my thoughts to my work of developing and installing ERP systems, in an attempt to identify some of the factors that make business systems the bane of many people’s lives. My first thoughts are around the question: “why do systems fall into disrepair?”

I believe that a well run business system will provide competitive advantage, reduce costs and be instrumental to the survival of a business, and that such a valuable tool needs continual investment and fine tuning.

So, I have often wondered why a business will spend large amounts of money on software, implementation, and training to get a new business system working, and then sit back and assume that the job is done. Almost as though the system now needs no further work or investment, and that it will run the business from now to eternity.

Could it be a lack of interest, a problem of understanding, an issue of owner responsibility? Is it human nature to resist change and go back to the status quo?

The end result of this hands-off approach is an inevitable dwindling of knowledge and understanding of the system. This in turn leads to a proliferation of spreadsheets and databases in each department, and over time the shiny new system becomes little more than an invoice generator and basic stock control system.

I watched the following video clip, about the ERP take on the story of the tortoise and the hare, and this sums up exactly what tends to happen on so many systems.

It makes you wonder just how many companies buy a new business system when their current one is quite capable of doing the job, it’s just that everyone has forgotten what it is capable of doing?

And yet some companies seem to embrace their ERP system, constantly strive to improve its use and derive huge returns from it. There are a number of different approaches across companies. My top tips are based on customers that succeed.

Top six tips to get huge returns from your ERP system:

  1. Appoint a person who is responsible for IT and business systems. Ideally at director level, but certainly someone with authority to make change.
  2. Appoint a “seeker of value.” A person who should maximize the use of the system and strive to get as much value from the investment as they can.
  3. Allocate an annual IT budget. This should cover elements such as:
    a. Training
    b. Replacement hardware
    c. Visits from the System supplier
    d. Accrual for upgrades
  4. Have an internal induction process for new starters that should:
    a. Cover the use of the current IT systems
    b. Provide an overview of what the system is capable of doing (even if you don’t use some of these features).
  5. Plan for an annual “gap analysis” report by the supplier. This should focus on how well the system supports the current business process, and should identify areas that need fine-tuning.
  6. Be aware of events that can cause system disruption, such as:
    a. Staff leaving and new (untrained) staff taking over
    b. Arrival of new staff who “prefer the system in my old company”
    c. Business processes changing
    d. Buying or selling companies and subsidiaries
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This entry was posted in Business Software, Continuous improvement and tagged , , , by Andy Latham. Bookmark the permalink.

About Andy Latham

I am the Managing Director of K3 SYSPRO in the UK. Born in Wolverhampton and with parents in the forces I spent my formative years all over the world. After school I completed a BSc Hons in Chemistry and Business Studies, at Salford University. I ended up in IT quite accidentally. Walking through Manchester in the rain one afternoon, I came across an ICL billboard offering multi choice aptitude tests and free coffee. I went in for the coffee and to get dry, and came out with a job offer. I had always wanted to own my own business, and in 1985 I established Information Engineering Ltd with a business partner. This company soon became one of only two UK distributors of SYSPRO business software. Over twenty successful years later Information Engineering was acquired by K3 Business Technology Group and I was appointed Technical Director in their K3 SCS division. In 2010 the K3 Group rebranded its dedicated SYSPRO ERP division as K3 SYSPRO, based in Manchester, and appointed me as its Managing Director. After nearly thirty years working with and for SYSPRO, I probably know the product better than most. I have served in every possible role from helpdesk, to implementation, to development, and everything in between. I am happily married. I enjoy sport and researching everything technological. My current hobbies are playing golf and running.

8 thoughts on “Top tips to stop your ERP system falling into disrepair…

  1. Andy,
    After 25 implementing SYSPRO years myself I could not agree more.
    I think that the difference between those companies that do it well and the others, is that the best companies do not view their efforts in ERP implementations as a cost, but as an investment.

  2. Thanks Tony. You make a very good point. Certainly in pre-sales I nearly always see a drive for the best that money can buy and often an excitement about what may be possible for the business in the future. The implementations that succeed and blossom seem to keep this focus, often because the people involved in the purchase stay involved in its subsequent running. The implementations that waste away seem to lose focus and stop once the new system does what the old system did.
    I have often wondered why investment in an IT system is treated differently from investment in plant or equipment. You wouldn’t let an untrained operative play on a brand new multi dimensional lathe as an example and yet people with minimal IT training are left to run a computer system that in the wrong hands could ruin a business.

  3. Great article. However we have found that asking the client to do this doesn’t always work which is why we recommend outsourcing the Managed Services of the SYSPRO space to us to ensure it is taken care of on an ongoing basis. What are your thoughts on Application Managed Services?

    • Hi Donna. Thanks for the feedback.
      I try to separate the system elements here into the business application and the infrastructure that the application is delivered on. Outsourcing managed services to look after and maintain the infrastructure can be a crucial element of the delivery and maintenance of a system, particularly if there is no internal IT expertise. However, the business still needs a seeker of value to make sure they get the most out of the application.

      Andy

  4. ERP definitely is an investment and should be viewed as on. The mistake that many business decision makers make is to consider the capital outlay of deploying and implementing an ERP system a cost that has to be quickly recouped. This short term thinking often leads to abandonment of the project. Well written

  5. Pingback: 5 Tips for ERP Health | SYSPRO

  6. Pingback: 5 Tips for ERP Health

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