In 1990, an emerging application software methodology was officially dubbed Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP. While not a completely new concept, changes in technology made it more of a reality and allowed vendors to change the architecture of application software from stand-alone systems to integrated suites.
In 2011, ERP is all grown up—21 years old. Like proud parents, we watched ERP develop from infancy to promising youth to the mature format for business applications that it is today. For those who implemented ERP systems and did not find the return on investment was as great as they would have hoped, there are some ways to make post-implementation gains.
- Re-Design your business processes
Many organizations implement software without changing business processes. Like the customer who purchased the first automobile and hitched it up to his horse, failing to redesign processes may actually hinder productivity and miss out on advances like workflow, self-service and pushing work out to the source instead of passing paper. Changing business processes is as important as the software to improve productivity.
- Make use of that shelf-ware
While a few customers try to bite off more than they can chew by implementing all modules and functionality at once, most take on core processes first and are more successful with their first phase. Unfortunately, they neglect to come back and add those features that attracted them to ERP in the first place. Many found that implementation was such a challenge that they are reluctant to go back for more.What customers fail to realize is that those secondary modules often give the greatest pay back when it comes to saving work, reducing costs and speeding the flow of information. They also tend to be the least expensive to implement because the core system is already in place.
- Get rid of customizations
Large numbers of customizations to package software mean every upgrade, every software patch and every configuration change costs extra in time and dollars – even more so if customizations were made in a widespread and invasive manner rather than the preferable bolt-on type.ERP in its mature state has vendors focused on fine-tuning and filling gaps in functionality with features that could, with a little creativity, replace some of those costly customizations. Many of the reasons you customized during implementation are probably gone – as are memories of your legacy system, which some customers try to make their ERP resemble to avoid too much change.
Business process re-design, deploying those unused features and dropping customizations make excellent phase two or phase three projects that can be small and more manageable than that large-scale implementation you endured. If not phase two, upgrades to a new release are perfect opportunities to re-examine those modifications as well as revamp processes and procedures.