Keeping the installation and launch of an ERP software system on track is a tough, complicated process. There are lots of ways an ERP software implementation project can be derailed, as I’ve written about numerous times at this blog and elsewhere. One of the ways to help keep the implementation moving ahead smoothly is for the integrator and management at the company that will be using the system to work together.
But sometimes that isn’t enough, and problems arise. The question is: How to bring the issues under control before the entire project turns into a very expensive ERP implementation train wreck?
Sometimes it happens because top management isn’t paying close enough attention to the project. But sometimes it happens because the wrong integrator is being used.
As an attorney who has litigated ERP disputes between software users and integrators, I have seen a number of problem areas that could have been sidetracked – to extend the train wreck metaphor – had management done things differently or moved quickly at the right time. Here are some of the factors that come into play.
Own the Project
Outsourcing ERP integration is not the same thing as outsourcing customer alerts to MailChimp or part of a manufacturing process to FoxConn. Companies don’t outsource management decisions and both the C-Suite and top-level people in IT need to own the ERP project because its success will have a direct bearing on the profitability of the business.
Whether installing ERP for the first time or upgrading a legacy system, a successful ERP implementation involves cultural and human resources, operational and organization changes that the men and women in offices along mahogany row need to understand, monitor and shepherd. An integrator cannot – should not – be responsible for this nor how to bring it about within the organization.
Remember, the integrator does not have a stake in the success of the project. They are only responsible for ensuring that the technical components work together properly.
Fix Internal Flaws
I’ve seen some projects deteriorate because insufficient resources were dedicated to making it work, and there isn’t a clear plan for how either resources will be deployed or the change management process will be introduced and maintained.
Serious thought must be given to how success will be defined and measured. The overall strategy of the business must be aligned with the minute details of the planned transformation.
At the same time, the risk of cybersecurity threats either are minimalized or not really considered on a priority basis. Yet ERP holds a vast quantity of operational, financial, customer and other data that a hacker – private or state-sponsored – would give anything to grab hold of. Moreover, data privacy and protection laws in Europe, Canada and soon California make a company liable for protecting that information from inadvertent loss or leaks.
Don’t assume that your integrator is paying attention to security issues. It is neither their concern or expertise.
Have a Well-Defined Contract
As is the case with ERP vendors, the standard contract an integrator will urge you to sign after you accept their proposal is weighted heavily in the favor of – no surprise, really – the integrator.
But template contracts are loaded with paragraphs containing vaguely worded descriptions of what the integrator will do, how they will work, who will be assigned to the project, what it will cost, and what they are responsible for doing. Unfortunately, the boilerplate contracts do little to protect the company hiring the integrator.
Because bringing an ERP software system online is such a complex and complicated process involving nearly every significant function in a business, even the smallest glitch when the system goes live can cause a major disruption to the company. The contract with an integrator needs to detail what happens if the unthinkable happens.
Get Independent Help
Besides riding herd on an integrator, a third-party consultant will help ensure management is doing the right things it needs to do, the right way.
The ERP integrator’s expertise is implementing and launching the system. They have neither the time nor interest in becoming an adjunct to top management and working to smooth the cultural and organizational changes needed once it goes live. Often, integrators will descend on a client with an army of tech advisors that you pay for. If they are the wrong advisors for your installation and business model, you still pay them.
An independent consultant will know who is needed and who is simply billing time, and tell the unnecessary people to go away – and demand the integrator send in the right people.
Terminate an Integrator
If all else fails, the consultant working with management and the contract with the integrator will help the company fire the integrator.
The termination doesn’t need to resemble a scene from a reality television program. But if the relationship is not working, then it is time to find a new integrator who will work more effectively with the company by better understanding its goals – which tie back to the first two key points – then the service provider needs to be changed.
The promise that ERP offers to any business that designs and implements it properly are enormous. Don’t let a faulty integration see that promise disappear in a very costly cloud of smoke.