We all know that two people will fall in Love with each other, if the right ‘chemistry’ exists between them! Similarly any ERP implementation will be a cake walk if the right chemistry exists between the people & the processes, and between the process owners & the system owners. But this is an ‘ideal’ situation to have and that may not exist in real world. Can we make the ‘union’ work even when there is no ‘chemistry’?
In one of our ERP implementation, we went through such a challenging situation, where nothing was in sync. We ran the risk of getting our project scrapped or getting into the ‘blame’ game or loosing that customer once for all by walking out on them. But we turned it around. Let us share with you the story.
Not so long ago, on a fine morning, we received an ‘order’ to implement our GroMAX ERP at a client’s place. We were excited and started the project on the right track. Our GroMAX ERP system was delivered (in as is where condition) and got installed on time. Next was the ‘customization’ & implementation’ period for which we had budgeted ‘200’ number of man days. Having completed the ‘Installation’ phase and having begun the ‘Implementation’ phase on time, we were sure that we will complete the project on time and within the ‘budget’. We did not realize then that the ‘Chemistry’ that we talked about earlier did not exist between the people and the processes. Also the implementation phase was not taken very seriously by either party. The implementation was being done by users who had no experience with large IT projects and did not know what to ask or demand for in ‘customization’. In addition, they were used to their manual system and hence could not visualize the impact of any changes/customization they have asked for until it was delivered and implemented! This led to lot of customization, modifications and enhancement that we were not expecting. As the months went by, the scope creep was widening, the frustration level was increasing, we were out of budget, the deadlines were slipping and both the parties started to think if there is any light at the end of the tunnel? This is when we decided to turn around the situation and make our GroMAX ERP implementation a success. Was it a tall order? Yes. Did we succeed? Yes.
When things were at ‘nadir’, we took a breather, had a meeting with their Managing Director & other Department Heads to take a second look at how our GroMAX ERP system & their related processes work, and where we need to make improvements. When analyzed, we found that though there were some ‘technical’ problems with our GroMAX ERP solution, most of the other problems were ‘Human’ & ‘Business’ related, which we felt were beyond our scope! We told the client, that ERP implementation requires them to re-engineer their key business processes by revamping old ways of conducting business, and redefining job responsibilities. But for this the client was not ready and they felt that it was OUR responsibility to implement the ERP, and make the users use it correctly in their company!
It was very clear that the implementation process did not receive enough attention from the parties concerned. Also our own limited understanding of our client’s business, and their business processes have added to the ‘vows’. Though late in the game, we realized that many problems or system shortcomings might have been avoided if the implementation team had addressed the issues properly!
Quickly we got into the action mode. By addressing 1) How our system has been setup and 2) The type of training or support that needs to be given to the users to use the new system correctly and fully, we took care of the following
The project coordination was being done by the MD himself and because of his busy schedules & other priorities the quality of implementation was taking a toll. Hence a project coordinator was hired by the Client as ‘one point of contact for us’ and we started to work through him in handholding the users, and giving them proper training. We learnt the hard way that leaving it up to the users to figure out how to use a newly delivered system significantly decreases the opportunity for it to deliver on its potential.
We also learned that fixing a bug or carrying out a modification in one module, as and when it is reported by the user, is not going to make our ERP solution deliver better results. Success will come from taking a big picture view and addressing if we need to fix our ERP solution or their internal processes? Uncovering problems from the process owners perspective provided far more insight to us as to what requires improvement. For example, in some cases the software was functioning properly, but the staff was not using it correctly and hence the MIS report was wrong. In another case, the manual reporting to the Head was still being followed, because they have not entered all the data in the new system.
A three pronged approach has been put in place now:
1. Conducting a process review and walking through the end-to-end process to uncover the real needs of the users. We feel that the more we (ERP provider) understand how day-to-day processes work and the client understand the systems capabilities, the more can be accomplished.
2. Conducting training that marries system functionality to the users’ specific needs, to provide significant productivity improvements both for the process owner and the system itself.
After putting in our new ways of working, things have started to improve and we have started to see light at the end of the tunnel. While one can debate, if this ERP implementation can be called a success, there can be no doubt that after addressing the issues, the client has started to derive significant benefits. Also we are happy that we could bounce back and make the ERP initiative work for the organization. Most of all the Client has realized that ERP is more about using and learning day by day rather then being straightforward like buying a shoe and wearing it.
What is your story?