Specters That Haunt ERP System Conversions

That expensive new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software your company has purchased, after so much thought and deliberation, holds the potential to revolutionize the flow of critical data
within your organization and point the way to new efficiencies.

Provided you’ve adequately planned the transition to the new system and your personnel are primed to assist the transition process.

Surprisingly – or perhaps not so – converting to new enterprise software still too often involves more stress than it needs to, and those expected efficiencies may find their way to
your bottom line only after costly delay and distraction. But taking a few prudent steps before beginning an ERP system conversion may help reduce problems down the road and minimize
chances that schedules and budgets will be haunted by those specters always lurking in the shadows during transitions.

Which specters can be relied upon to put in appearances before, during and after ERP go-lives?

Wooden Stakes

To begin with, even if not perfectly obvious during the months leading up to your company’s decision to go with a particular ERP product, there will be members of your organization who remain
convinced their preferred enterprise system never deserved to lose out in the selection process. The continuing failure of management to “sell” the new system to key players
among them can impact a conversion: timetables may grotesquely distort themselves and a deluge of issues may confront conversion project managers, for instance.

Some of those not on board with the new system may simply be unaware of advantages it brings to the table in either function, ease of use, overall cost or other considerations of aggregate
substance. Any decision by management to not fully divulge the considerations that played a role in system choice can encourage this, as can unreasonably limiting the size of the selection team.

Department heads may choose to resist change that brings with it any departure from the familiar or the obligation to absorb new procedures or skills, and may therefore present all manner of
reasons why the new software simply won’t work in their bailiwick. Their determined resistance may reduce any transition process to slow going indeed.

How best to deal with all this? Actively seeking out those who profess to “hate” the current system(s) and ensuring that they have a place at the table during both requirements definition and
development might, if handled correctly, further a healthy tension that keeps the project from getting too far off track. Going one step further and decreeing that those enamored of the current
system(s) cannot work on the conversion project would be drastic for sure — but could, in a fix, work to put a stalled project back on track and keep it there.

Outside consultants, by the way, shouldn’t be expected to cope with a client organization’s internal politics without the overwhelming support of its management. CEOs and CFOs must be
seen to monitor the progress of ERP conversions and to visibly support the project goals at each step, just as they might in the case of new plant construction — and with as much ownership. By
driving wooden stakes through the hearts of specters from the very get-go, much toil and trouble may be avoided later.

Ghost Busting

But then, other specters too haunt ERP conversions. To begin with, let’s face it: salespersons sometimes exaggerate to get a sale. Are software salespersons of an entirely different species?
And for that matter, can they be expected to somehow intuit every nuance of a client’s operation that may rebel against the new data regime? Critical functions that, pre-sale, seem well
within the scope of the software have an uncanny way of not quite fitting into the hopper or of dropping unpredictably out the chute as the work-up to go-live progresses.

As with much else in life, “let the buyer beware” has its place in enterprise system selection. And ghost busting of this sort is a prime responsibility of management – a
management fortified by healthy skepticism while assessing software and its vendors.

After the optimal software system has been selected, the quality of the vendor’s support team assisting the implementation process will be only slightly less important. With their resources
often stretched, software vendors must make do with, at times, rather less human talent than they’d like. The result may be that clients find their conversions guided by vendor consultants
less knowledgeable and experienced than expected.

Formally agreeing on just who, on the vendor’s side, will be involved in a software conversion should be part of any purchase agreement.


And then there are the near-death experiences brought on by clients themselves.

ERP software right out of the box is never a perfect fit for all of a company’s operations. Modification of the base software package will likely precede its actual implementation. The main
components of any enterprise system in fact come with built-in ability to make minor modifications to better suit needs.

The imprudent often fail, however, to discern just which system modifications may be intuitively fashioned without first running them by the vendor’s consultants and developers. Consulting
time is expensive; clients may understandably feel under pressure to keep it at a minimum. But wrenches thrown into the works while attempting precipitously to modify software can result in ghastly
consulting tabs. Ignore this fact at your peril.
Then there’s that understandable urge to move massive blocks of data, post-haste, from legacy systems into the new. Often with unhappy results. It’s always somewhat of a dice roll when
legacy files are transferred, as developers can never fully anticipate conflicts between extant data systems – especially as legacy data often carry the imprint of earlier systems.

Consultants are regularly reduced to looking on in horror as clients imprudently rush in where angels fear to tread. Oft-times, repeatedly.

Interring Indifference

And let us adequately consider that, wondrously complex as they are, the full advantages of modern enterprise systems will be delivered only to those alive to their potentialities – and that
this, in itself, is an ongoing discovery process.

The true capabilities for providing management with analytically driven insights will be limited only by the curiosity, imagination and steady determination of those looking to reap the most from
their ERP system investment.

Organizations need to have in place a plan to insure that these winning traits are nurtured and protected from the final specter of indifference.

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Ron Goodden

Ron Goodden

Ron is a freelance writer with an interest in information technology issues. He can be reached via his website at www.RonGoodden.com.

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