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Your ERP Implementation Plan

An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) project is when you integrate all your company’s core processes into a single system, finance, HR, manufacturing, supply chain, services, procurement, whatever else you need to run your business, back-end and front.

It sounds amazing, and it is when it’s done right. But large systems projects are expensive exercises. And too often the results are disappointing and rarely meet their business objectives. And then you are stuck with them: ERP systems generally have a lifetime of seven years or more.

This ERP implementation plan provides some key pointers. It can be a primer if you’re about to start, or even a useful review when you’re halfway through.


You may also be interested in our blog post Do You Actually Need an ERP Project?


1. Get the business objectives clear.

Has there been an open and honest C-suite discussion on the basic business objectives? The objective isn’t to implement a new MRP or ERP, it’s to deliver specific business outcomes… What are they? Has everyone agreed on them?

Be specific. For example, an objective may be to halve manufacturing cycle/throughput time; to remove four FTEs by avoiding any rekeying between the ERP and website; or to eliminate errors in labelling by automating label production.

Get them all in writing and get all the senior team to sign off. Yes, put ink on the paper!

2. Be clear about the key requirements.

In everyday business language, document the key things the systems must do, or must enable, or must achieve. This might be a list of forty or fifty statements, such as, “telesales handling staff can see accurate stock info and pricing on any products
within thirty seconds.”

Often the emphasis is on how you go about things today, but the focus should be on outcomes, as there may be better ways to get there. And all department heads need to be involved, to agree, and, again, to sign off.

3. Get specific about who is involved and who is accountable.

First, pick the right people to own the project. Are there experts on the business who will need to be assigned to the project team? Will their positions need to be covered?

And don’t assume that every techie in your business understands ERP projects. Increasingly the line is blurred between shop-floor technology, automation, and information technology. The operations team (who might have owned this project a decade ago) may no longer have the right skills or experience.

Second, everyone must be clear on their roles. Are you aiming to involve some of your own people in the details so they can become expert superusers of your new system? Who is accountable for delivery? This should include not only delivery of the technology, but all the business outcomes identified at the start.

4. Get clear on the cost-benefit model.

Although you don’t know the detailed costs yet, you can establish the cost-benefit model. This means understanding how this project will deliver solid benefits, so that when compromises are necessary, you can identify what’s worth keeping and what you can drop. The cost-benefit should be based on improvements in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). For example, identify the target on-time, in-full (OTIF) and compare to current measurements of the same KPIs.

5. Select your products rationally.

There are hundreds of systems available: IFS, Nav, AX, SAP, SAGE, Epicor, Oracle, Syspro to name a few! This can be a minefield, but not if you’re clear-headed about it. Once you have all your requirements, you can use them to create selection criteria, a
scoring system, and clear questions to ask.

You need to weigh up the advantages of integrated ERP with multiple specialized systems, which might offer better features but greater complexity. Make sure all the business stakeholders are part of the decision-making process so they all have a vested interest in success.

6. Select your partners rationally.

A partner will configure, customize, and support your systems. As you will need to have a long-term relationship, it is critical that there is trust and a good cultural fit. Get references, and check everything! Ask around: are they experts in your sector? Are
they financially stable? Do they have a stable team, or has there been turnover?

And start early, so that you have time to negotiate a good price and contract rather than having to cave in due to pressing deadlines.

To continue reading, download the article above.

Visit our  ERP and Integration Issues Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

5 Steps to ERP Implementation

An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) project is when you integrate all your company’s core processes into a single system—finance, HR, manufacturing, supply chain, services, procurement, whatever else you need to run your business, back-end and front.

ERP can transform your company. When it’s done right, a new ERP system will deliver savings and service improvements, strengthen compliance, and provide a solid platform for digital expansion and future growth.

But ERP projects are large and expensive. They are a major exercise for the entire organization and will consume the attention of key personnel for months. So before you start your ERP journey, read our 5 steps to implementing an ERP.


You may also be interested in our blog post Do You Actually Need an ERP Project?


1. Have clear and specific business objectives.

Many ERP projects derail because the company never worked out the key priorities. When the inevitable glitches arrive, they don’t know where to compromise. So, your very first step must be an honest C-suite discussion about business objectives. What
are the outcomes that you’re looking for? Some examples:

• Redeploy four FTEs by avoiding any rekeying between the ERP and website
• Eliminate orders from customers on credit stop by eliminating the lag between finance and order processing
• Integrate with a new customer’s ordering systems within about two weeks of contract signing

Of course, your own needs will differ. Just notice that the objectives above are (a) measurable and (b) can be readily assigned a monetary value.

An ERP project typically has twenty or more such key objectives, and it’s crucial that the board have consensus on each of them. Because then there will be far less room for argument when the road gets bumpy. And later you’ll be able to point back to your
requirements document and show that it was all there in black and white from the start, avoiding disputes internally and with suppliers.

2. Assign clear ownership of the project.

Too often ERP projects are run by a gaggle of people with vague roles. Instead, the CEO must absolutely appoint someone with the necessary technical know-how, business experience, people skills, and leadership qualities to run a complex project. (We would, of course, suggest one of our fractional IT leaders join your team.)

The CEO and this leader must then be clear on who is accountable for which aspects of the project. These people must have the space to do their jobs—avoid interrupting them with day-to-day issues so they can focus on the ERP project.

This can be uncomfortable for mid-market companies with ingrained ways of working. But a combination of flexibility and accountability is critical to success—plus you can see it as opportunity to develop people for the long-term.

To continue reading, download the article above.

Visit our  ERP and Integration Issues Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Do You Actually Need an ERP Project?

An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) project is when you integrate all your company’s core processes into a single system—finance, HR, manufacturing, supply chain, services, procurement, whatever else you need to run your business, back-end and front.

ERP can be a launching pad for transformative growth. When it’s done right, customers are happier, employees are freed from menial tasks, and all the separate parts of your business have access to the same information in real-time. ERP becomes a launching-pad to transformative growth.

When ERP is done wrong, it gets very expensive, not to mention causing more of the stress and frustration you were hoping to alleviate by implementing the project.

So before you start pouring precious time and resources into a complicated project, ask yourself if it’s even necessary. If any of the following issues keep popping up, it’s time to get started.

Your existing solution has serious support problems.

Are you having frequent disputes with your suppliers? Are existing products no longer supported? Multiple supplier and support problems are a strong indication you need ERP.

You’re driven to distraction by rekeying, data issues, and workarounds.

Every business has its workarounds, yet yours have become a serious problem. You’re wasting money on staff who merely help you get through the day, rather than serve your customers.

Back-office systems are hindering your marketing plans.

You and your CMO have some great new ideas, but back-office solutions have become the barrier to progress.

 

To continue reading, download the article above.

Visit our  ERP and Integration Issues Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Does Your Business Run on Excel? Undo!

For Americans, this may seem like a distant footnote. But bear with me.

One of the UK’s leading health agencies, Public Health England (PHE), has revealed a massive under-reporting of covid-19 cases due to an Excel blunder. The truth is that many mid-market businesses are too dependent on Excel. We’ve all become stuck in an Excel circular reference. The challenge is how to escape.

Excel has become ubiquitous for a reason. It is extremely simple to start and amazing what you can do quickly. But for some mid-market businesses, Excel has become an unplanned core back-office system. It is often the link between systems and processes; it is sometimes used to store critical data; and it is often used to present and explore data throughout the business.

Finance people can’t get enough of it. The rest of us can’t remember all its functions, but we still use it anyway.

But why is it dangerous?

  1. Excel is fundamentally unstructured and easy to change. This makes it incredibly convenient. But it also allows for unending tinkering. And it can be very difficult to assess the impact of changes and to identify errors.
  2. Excel files, passed between people by email, or shared in folders (or worse on USB drives!) are a recipe for error, confusion and unauthorized access. Good systems go hand-in-hand with good processes, and Excel encourages neither.
  3. Excel is a dead-end. There is no “pathway” to formalize an Excel process into a more managed system with proper controls, an audit trail, security, data management and error-checking. Excel is not a sound basis for automation or integration.

In the meantime, see our ERP and Integration Knowledge Center for more on smoothing out systems and processes


In short, Excel can lead a mid-market business to the point where it is very difficult to scale and where the business is exposed to fraud or blunders like PHE’s. But since it works most of the time, and the cost of replacement looks high, the easiest thing is just to carry on with it.

But the bottom line is that to run a business well you need integrated systems that support efficient, agile processes, and deliver useful management information to enable decision making. You won’t get all that with Excel.

Your company’s systems strategy should have some principles to avoid an overdependence on Excel. What might they be?

  1. Use Excel—when it’s appropriate. For example, new ideas, new opportunities, or an informal look at data. Use Excel as a personal tool for tackling problems.
  2. Establish your business’s timeframe or scale-of-use for Excel. For example, “We won’t use Excel to manage this project for more than nine months.” Or: “It wouldn’t make sense to run a new business line on Excel once revenue exceeds $100k per month.” Or: ‘We always ring alarm-bells when someone starts using Excel’s built-in coding platform’.
  3. Here’s the tricky part: you need an integrated set of systems and processes that can smoothly replace Excel when the time comes.

Excel is an amazing product; it is ubiquitous for a reason. But its convenience can be its downfall—or yours. Like all powerful tools, handle it with care!

If your company needs help replacing Excel with an affordable integrated system, get in touch. We have a lot of experience helping mid-market businesses streamline their systems, and we’re always up for an informal chat.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

How Successful ERP Projects Can Transform a Business

We’ve recorded a series of discussions with our ERP experts: Regional Director Christine Parker, Our Co-founder and director Graeme Freeman and two of our principals Kev Cooper and Peter Taylor. They discuss:

This audio focuses on How successful ERP projects can transform a business.

You can listen to the other audios in this series here.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

How Systems and Digital Drive Business Value for Private Equity (PE)

Private Equity (PE) ownership of mid-market companies is increasing. Of course, PE investors are driven by valuations, and these days IT and technology are at the heart of business value.

In the PE space, there are four areas where IT strategy and execution drive value:

1. Building in scalability

PE houses building an integrated group of companies will often aim for one of the companies to be the “platform” onto which they can add other companies.

The platform company will have well-implemented processes and technology. It will provide good service at low cost, and provide clear, flexible and timely management information. It will have the capability to grow and deliver high margins.

Most importantly the platform company may be valued at twice the multiple of the others due to its ability to assimilate and support acquisitions.

2. Due Diligence

IT and technology due diligence in mid-market deals is often overlooked. Or it’s a box-checking exercise, because traditional DD providers use lengthy old-fashioned checklists. These provide limited real value and lack commercial insight (and are often hugely over-priced!).

More thorough DD providers carefully check the basics: security, compliance, risks, legal exposures, contracts, people, suppliers and costs. But in the mid-market, DD expectations need to be realistic. Most importantly, value-focused buyers use DD to gain insight into future opportunities in addition to the risks.

3. Enabling Marketing Innovations

These days almost every marketing innovation has its roots in technology — businesses and consumers are increasingly finding, choosing, and buying products and services online.

Brands that want to engage with consumers will tend to do so by establishing a 1-to-1 relationship. They offer immersive digital experiences that provide value to the consumer and insight and lock-in for themselves.

For B2B suppliers, the ability to integrate your systems with your clients is critical, and areas like security and reliability can enable you to acquire and retain high-value corporate clients.

These marketing innovations make mid-market businesses more attractive to PE.

4. Digital Transformation

These days, a company’s size is no indication of its ability to transform the entire market. Even a smaller company can radically improve its internal operations and valuation using digital technology.

For PE-owned businesses, or businesses looking to maximise their value to PE houses, digital transformation can be invaluable. Read our article on the four types of digital transformation and how to get started on using technology to make fundamental improvements to your mid-market business.

To find out more, watch the video Focus on Private Equity, where we explain four areas where well planned and executed technology strategy really drive business value.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

How to Get Started With an ERP Project – Part II

This is the second in a two-part series on how to launch a successful Enterprise Planning Resource (ERP) project. For more information on ERP in plain English, check out our Knowledge Center.

You can read Part I here.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

 

ERP Pearls of Wisdom from Our Experts

We have recorded a series of informative discussions about ERP. Two of our Regional Directors (Christine Parker Stubbs and Victor Kemeny) and two of our Principals (Kev Cooper and Peter Taylor) discuss topics relating to the success and complexities of embarking on an ERP project, such as the transformational effect they can have, the potential pitfalls and horror stories, choosing the right products and suppliers, and how to get started.

This audio focuses on ERP pearls of wisdom from our experts.

You can listen to the other audios in this series here.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

How to Get Started With an ERP Project – Part I

This is the first in a two-part series on how to launch a successful Enterprise Planning Resource (ERP) project. For more information on ERP in plain English, check out our Knowledge Center.

You can read Part II here.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

3 Common Problems with Systems Integration

Integration challenges can be difficult to identify. In this video, Freeman Clarke Co-founder Graeme Freeman explains three of most common problems created by systems integration and how to start fixing them.

You may find other posts in our ERP and Integration Knowledge Center interesting.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

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Graeme Freeman
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