Lessons from an ERP Project Success in Africa

Technology by its very nature is revolutionary. It grows, morphs and progresses our society whether we intend it to or not.

The recent SYSPRO ERP implementation at Mopani Copper Mine in Kitwe, Zambia has been a sterling example of this revolution – from the scale of the implementation and required user training, to the uniqueness of the environment and the additional Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) requirements and resulting controls.

This project required continuous efforts from the SYSPRO team, as well as the Mopani team in Kitwe. But most importantly from our Value Added Reseller’s – iPlan, who have supported with an onsite ten-man project team in Kitwe over the past year.

Culture Clash and Location Challenges

The challenges of a project such as Mopani were multifaceted. These included cultural and communication challenges, as well as the technical aspects of the solution and the environment. Marilize Wessels, a Cape Town local who recently returned from a year in the Zambian Copper Belt, where she was instrumental in ensuring a successful Mopani ERP implementation, shared some of her experiences with me.

“Life in Kitwe proved very different from home. Although South Africa is regarded as ‘Third World’ and may lack certain infrastructure and luxuries when compared to the developed world, you realize just how much we take for granted when compared to life in Kitwe,” says Marilize. “Kitwe is quite a distance from the nearest sea port – this means that goods such as electronics and appliances are scarce and costly.”

Zambia is well known for its tourism with many world-class game reserves, as well as the natural wonder of the Victoria Falls on offer. Kitwe however is a world apart from this side of the country – with a focus on industry and copper mining. This means that few amenities are available to people stationed there come the weekend.

Marilize found the main challenges that came with the project included the client’s isolated location as well as various cultural and communication difficulties.

Communication and Collaboration Proves Key

Among the 20 people in the project office, English was the chosen language for communication. Ironic when you consider that the iPlan team comprises mostly Afrikaans first language speakers, and the Mopani team speaks Nyanja as their first language.

Further challenges included the training-up of over 700 new SYSPRO users with only five consultants available to manage this task. The team decided on a train-the-trainer approach. Senior members of the Mopani team were trained by iPlan and were then deployed to train groups of colleagues. This approach proved highly successful, particularly when it came to the crucial factor of communication.

“From a procurement perspective, Mopani’s controls and systems proved extremely complex. The transaction of purchasing a good or service triggers a requisitioning process that can go through as many as ten levels of approval, explains Marilize. “This required us to design and implement a simple and clear workflow to accommodate this.”

Team Work really works

Marilize agrees that there exists a certain perception that the IT field is male dominated – but argues that although this may sometimes be the case on the technical side, there remains huge opportunities for women in the implementation and business process side of the industry.

I’d like to congratulate Marilize on her tenacity and determination. I’d also like to commend Marilize and the iPlan team on their will, endurance and hard work.

With the implementation of this project, Mopani has taken the leading role in progressing the business environment in Kitwe, ultimately resulting in improvements to employment creation and general standard of living in the Copperbelt.

Team SYSPRO, Mopani and iPlan can be proud of not only a successful implementation, but a ground-breaking, African ERP success story.

Be Sociable, Share!
This entry was posted in Business Software, Software implementation and tagged , , , , , by Meryl Malcomess. Bookmark the permalink.

About Meryl Malcomess

After matriculating at Jeppe High School for Girls, my father thought it prudent to send me to finishing school in Switzerland where I could hone my talents as a young lady rather than expose me to the harsh world of business or, even worse, university studies. Unfortunately the Swiss finishing school was closed for renovations at that time and I was enrolled at a secretarial college in the interim. After a short stint at college, I opted to dive straight into the working world and took up a position as a private secretary at a large company. At the age of 21, I became the first, and youngest female Financial Manager in the company. I have since then accumulated experience in commodities and advertising; and even ran a family trucking and airfreight business. I have been with SYSPRO for more than 18 years now and as Marketing Director, I am involved in determining the strategic direction of the Company’s marketing activities. I believe the key to SYSPRO’s success is to monitor market forces, including customer behavior patterns and trends highlighted by industry analysts. A SYSPRO initiative which I take great pride in is the concept of Soil to Palate – a SYSPRO philosophy for the food and farming industries that believes there is a happy middle ground between providing healthy, sustaining food and being a profitable business. I have many passions but my greatest passion are my daughters Lara and Bettina and grandson Sebastian.

3 thoughts on “Lessons from an ERP Project Success in Africa

  1. This is a great post Meryl, and most pertinent to those of us who recently attended the SAPICS conference. Africa offers a wealth of opportunity, combined with some unique challenges. Many people view these challenges as obstacles, but those who are prepared to work with, and learn from, the challenges will reap enormous rewards!

  2. The humanity relevance to technology is important. We must realize our alignment of systems must have a beneficial impact to mankind as well.

    Thank you for this clarity.

  3. Pingback: Reminiscing on an ERP project victory | SYSPRO

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>