By the time most businesses reach the finish line of an ERP project, they begin to suffer from what we like to call “ERP Fatigue.” They have already spent a lot of time, thought, and effort on seeing the project through to Go-Live, so the natural inclination is to get back to work as usual.
But we want to prepare you for reality. In order to maximize the value of those initial investments, more needs to done. Processes need to be set into motion that will continuously care for and feed the new system. This might sound like bad news, but the good news is, if you are reading this, and you set-up the right processes proactively, the business will be in the top quartile in terms of ERP ROI.
Reporting, Mobile and Omnichannel Functionality
Most ERP projects prioritize better data, mobile, and multichannel capabilities as main objectives. However, businesses rarely receive the full potential of these elements from Phase 1 Go-Live. Too many other fundamentals need to be established first. We like to compare this to the last-mile problem in telecommunications. When laying cable, thousands upon thousands of miles need to be laid, but the network still needs the last mile before any of that work becomes useful for the end user.
The same concept is at work here. Reporting, mobile and multichannel are the last mile of infrastructure to lay, which will unlock ERP value above and beyond the old system. So, you need to have a team in place who can write reports, itemize/prioritize business needs, and develop solutions. This team will lay the last mile and then continue to make improvements.
Read more on roles in our next article, Care and Feeding of Your New ERP, Part 2
The business needs to access data sources, generate reports in usable formats with the right information and distribute to all pertinent personnel.
Employees want to be able to access key workflows, expense reporting, time tracking and more when they are out of the office. Mobile capability helps them stay engaged, increasing productivity while increasing data quality.
Omnichannel functions connect multiple, siloed sales channels and merge them into one, cohesive and consistent experience across the brand to meet customer’s expectations.
These three areas are common goals of ERP projects today, but the specific goals might be different for your business. We recommend setting reporting as a priority but setting a roadmap for improving beyond the essentials, so that the business can develop a system where stakeholders can interact with the business in new, exciting, and ultimately more efficient ways.
Setting up the right team will not only turn these potentials into reality, but also ensure the system continues to run smoothly.
Business Process Support vs. Technical Support
A valuable new ERP system unlocks new capabilities. Yet this requires the right human resources to care for, feed and maximize ERP value. We have identified a minimum of 15 areas to cover in order to ensure the ERP is able to improve sustainably. Divided into business process support and technical support roles, these are further divided into activities to give you an idea of how the entire team becomes a strategic asset.
ERP Executive Appointee
Strategic Direction | Executive Liaison
The ERP executive provides strategic direction for the ERP while aligning that direction with priority business objectives. The C-Suite needs someone who they trust to be able to configure the ERP solution for their unique business challenges. The Executive Sponsor is someone who can say some customers are leaving us because of X, and we can solve that with the ERP by doing Y and Z. That person also needs to be able to manage the rest of the business support team to execute new priorities efficiently and effectively.
Capture Business Requirements | Optimize Applications
Despite the name, this role does not necessarily need to be given to someone outside the company. The consultant role asks: How can we utilize the application in a way that better supports our business? He/she will consult with users to capture business requirements, then serve as liaison with an external party to build out some of the application usage requirements.
Sometimes the “external party” will be internal, but because we have seen business applications proliferate, maintaining an expert internally for every application is usually impossible. This means the consultant will most likely work with at least one vendor, and may assist with the contracting and payments.
You need to track software purchases and agreements, users, renewals, and to ensure payments make sense. Since you will most likely have multiple vendors, and each agreement will be unique, taking a proactive and detail-oriented stance on these agreements can be important to minimizing cost in the short- and long-term.
Light Application Configuration | Simple Reporting
You need someone on the business side to support the business functionality of the ERP by listening to users, helping resolve challenges, and streamlining. We see this role performing five critical functions.
Light Application Configuration
After the initial go-live, applications will still need to be configured to meet the needs of business users. Analysts work on the business side of configuration, dealing with high-level workflow, but they might work with technical support to handle deeper changes.
Reporting can be light or heavy. Analysts on the business support side might add new fields or set up some metrics based on system data. This is the last mile in terms of turning data into information.
Security and Roles Administration
As you add new users, analysts will create groups, assign roles, and manage permissions, so everyone can access the information they need without compromising security.
When an employee has trouble accomplishing business functions with the application, such as entering an invoice, they rely on the analyst to help them move forward.
Functional Upgrade Regression Testing
Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, such as Salesforce, Netsuite, Oracle Cloud ERP or SAP tend to roll out major upgrades to their software twice per year. Regression testing ensures that these upgrades do not interfere with business functionality in any way, and it is an important role. You want to proactively fix issues before they cause problems.
Technical Support Team
Heavy Application Configuration | Complex Reporting | Technology Upgrade Regression Testing
The technical analyst is a boots-on-the-ground role which handles the more technical side of reporting and application configuration. We also recommend this role take a proactive approach to application upgrades.
Some new reporting capabilities will require the ERP to bring data together in new ways. This will require deeper knowledge of the app, the platform, the business’ data structures and tools.
Technology Upgrade Regression Testing
In this role, the technical analyst will work in tandem with the business analyst, fixing any technical issues with application updates. Using a sandbox to test the changes at this stage ensures the ERP will function seamlessly once the changes are made.
Heavy Modifications to Applications | Integrate Applications
An in-house development staff that can customize code for your applications and who is completely familiar with your ERP and business can deploy impactful changes. This may outweigh the cost of using outside consultants.
For any major application, there are a number of useful sub-apps and tools to deploy, and these will often require some integration to work at peak efficiency (i.e. Salesforce and contract management need to be integrated so that opportunities are continuously tracked in both systems without causing double data entry or other inconveniences).
Master Data Management | Application Development
The architect is very technical, but also can make intuitive connections between systems and applications, understanding/defining similarities in how a customer is understood in the CRM and also in a professional services application. Master data management requires a big-picture view of data across the enterprise. We also see this role building out new applications when necessary to execute the strategic direction.