Selecting the Right ERP: Like a Kid in a Candy Store!
by Peter Purcell
Letting a five-year-old child loose in a candy store produces surprising results. The five year old quickly becomes overwhelmed by the choices. After wandering through the store, the child will randomly choose candy on the way out.
It’s common for companies to select an ERP or accounting system in a similar manner. Without control, the initial excitement of identifying a large number of options quickly turns into an overwhelming chore. After countless meetings and vendor demonstrations, the vendor who presented last is selected. The implementation starts off a little rocky and gets worse later in the project when the team is surprised with critical requirements that were overlooked during selection. The wrong ERP solution was selected!
How can an organization select the right ERP? It’s all about quickly short-listing options, focusing on critical functionality, involving the right people in demonstrations, and using a simple scoring method.
Quickly Short-list the Options
There are a large number of ERP and ERP-like systems on the market. For most organizations, the safest strategy is to limit the selection to solutions provided by known vendors, including Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP. At times, industry-specific ERP solutions may be considered. Trenegy has developed an online survey tool to identify a short list of ERP solutions for any organization. Contact us to access the tool.
Request Use Case Demonstrations
Most established ERP solutions provide similar functionality. Therefore, it’s important to focus on how the alternatives support critical business process requirements. Detailed use cases with supporting documents should be developed and given to the software vendors. The demonstrations should focus on ease of use, support for critical business needs, and reporting. Add-ons or bolt-ons should not be discounted and will often be required to support specialized requirements. ERP solutions rarely do it all. The level of integration required for these solutions needs to be carefully considered.
Involve the Right People
Hearing, “I was not involved in the ERP selection. You should have picked the other solution,” from a key stakeholder in an implementation project meeting is deflating. The ERP selection process should be considered the starting point for critical change management activities. Getting the right people involved early and often creates demand for the new system and increases support for the project as a whole. Expanded team involvement can often plug holes in the use cases and validate if the new system will support the business requirements.
Use a Simple Scoring Method
A new ERP is a significant investment typically requiring approval by senior management and the board. A simple scoring approach consisting of total cost of ownership, support for critical functionality, technical fit, and a subjective ranking can be used to select the right option. Many companies use complicated scoring methods. In those cases, the final selection usually boils down to how the team felt about the ERP options.
Trenegy helps companies successfully select the right ERP or accounting system using a simple approach supported by proprietary tools. We help our clients get value of out their new system quickly and relatively painlessly.
The Secret Sauce for ERP Selection
by Jackie Pfister
Selecting the main dish is an important initial decision when entertaining guests for a dinner party. A carefully chosen entrée prepared to perfection sets the ambience of the evening and permeates conversations for days. More important than the selection of the dish is the careful selection of ingredients, recipe, and guests. A proven recipe, fresh ingredients, and enjoyable company ultimately turn spaghetti night into an impressive soiree.
Companies undergoing ERP selections must also focus on selecting the right ingredients to prepare for implementation. Selecting the optimal ERP is table stakes. The selection process should really focus on equipping the organization for the change that accompanies implementation. Sufficient implementation preparation during ERP selection increases the chances of a successful rollout.
In addition to selecting the ERP software, the selection process must include a recipe for the future, the right ingredients, and inviting the best people:
Follow a Recipe
A system selection serves as an opportunity to receive input from employees to formulate a recipe for the future. Encouraging feedback during selection prepares employees for the future state organization and gives them a stake in the decision-making process. Collectively developing an overall process improvement vision gives people visibility into the future process. Agreed upon future business processes can be a framework for scripted case demonstrations. The scripted use cases allow the key people in the organization to visualize the future. As processes are documented during selection, they can then be followed during implementation as test scenarios.
Pick the Ingredients
Outlining a robust plan for the ERP project during selection allows the organization to develop a realistic total cost of ownership (TCO) budget and a timeline for the ERP implementation. The potential system integrators (consultants) should be included in the budgeting discussions to produce an accurate implementation budget. Open discussion ensures that all ingredients are accounted for in every area of the organization, including travel, team space, training, internal resources, change management, hardware, and software.
Invite the Best People
System integration requires a team of internal employees to help design the system to fit company needs. The selection process gives insight to those most excited about the new solution. This helps leadership identify the best internal people to steer the implementation. Asking for employee involvement in producing the future state vision and selecting the ERP solution will result in greater acceptance throughout the organization.
A productive selection process is less about choosing the right system and more about preparing for implementation.
The Seven Deadly Sins of ERP Selection and How to Avoid Them
by Mary Critelli
The seven deadly sins have been used as a guideline to caution humanity against its inclination to do wrong. Unfortunately, the same guidelines seem nonexistent when organizations experience the stress of selecting and implementing a new ERP solution.
How can an organization avoid committing ERP sins? Companies can utilize these guidelines to avoid common pitfalls and ensure success:
Lust and Envy: Desiring What Other Companies Have
A common question company executives ask when selecting an ERP is, “What are leading companies using?” While this information can be used to short-list alternatives, it should not drive the final answer. Many E&P companies jumped on the SAP R3 (now ECC) bandwagon, following what the major integrated oil and gas companies implemented. Eight of the 10 mid-sized E&P companies surveyed regretted the decision. SAP ECC is designed for large, complex organizations. Other cost effective, fit-for-purpose solutions could have been selected and implemented to support critical requirements. These organizations paid the price for falling under the spell of lust and envy.
Gluttony and Greed: Wanting the ERP to Do Too Much
ERP systems have been developed to provide functionality that supports a broad range of processes. Companies can grow distracted with non-business critical functionality during the evaluation process. ERP vendors often demonstrate intricate dashboards with flashy bar charts of non-relevant KPI’s. The time used to display colorful charts should have been invested demonstrating how the system supports critical needs. Companies should spend more time focusing on what’s important, not the glitz and glamour of the ERP solution. Companies lose sight of the critical objectives because of gluttony and greed.
Sloth: Lacking Participation
Invariably following selection, someone declares, “Wait, what about my requirements?” Successful organizations ensure participation by communicating project objectives and expectations upfront. Surveys show that ERP teams who communicate beyond the “what” and share why the company is going through ERP selection garner 80% more engagement from stakeholders. By empowering the organization’s staff to define the company’s future state, the company encourages stakeholders to view the ERP as an opportunity for improvement as opposed to a burden. Involvement and engagement take the place of sloth.
Wrath and Pride: Resisting Change
Companies are often eager to share a laundry list of pain points with the current system, yet cling to the same system to avoid change. Over the years, employees invent complex manual work-around processes, and often become stubborn and prideful when asked to change behaviors and consider alternatives. Successful ERP project teams understand the importance of change management in achieving project objectives. They bridge the gap between current and future state and effectively drive change to ensure ERP success.
I Think We Should See Other Software: 5 Reasons to Break up with a System
by Chelsey LeMaire
There comes a time in many relationships when things just aren’t working out. It’s important to know when to hug it out and when to walk away, regardless of whether the relationship is romantic, platonic, or professional. Many companies are making it work with an old enterprise system because of the fear of starting over—the fear of the unknown. Company personnel are dissatisfied with the system, miserable when performing day-to-day tasks using the system, and as one workaround after another is forced, resentment grows. Below are five reasons to kiss an old system goodbye and start exploring other options.
1. “We have outgrown one another”
Growth has exceeded the system’s ability to accommodate the number of users and transactions. Almost all systems have structural limitations based on number of users and transactions. Outgrowing software is a sign that the company is growing quickly and is the best reason to incur the cost of replacing an existing software platform.
2. “We want different things for the future”
Existing systems may not be able to support plans to grow and change organically or through acquisitions. This is a second sign the company may be growing quickly or reacting nimbly in the market. Workarounds will need to be quickly developed and deployed as a new system is acquired and implemented. The company needs to take the right amount of time to choose a new system that provides more flexibility in the future. That is, one that won’t have to be replaced if the company continues to grow, change, and stay nimble in the market.
3. “You’re not the same software you were when we met”
Over-customization and poor user practices have turned the system into a cumbersome, dysfunctional shell. In this case, the best bet is to start over with a new system supported by a reliable software vendor. Flexibility is key to starting the new relationship. Change business processes to meet out-of-the-box best practices instead of over-customizing the new system to match outdated and inefficient legacy processes.
4. “We may have rushed into this”
Sometimes companies succumb to the pressure from stakeholders to acquire and implement a system without the appropriate due diligence. In this case, companies quickly select and implement a system before fully understanding the capabilities and limitations of the software. Shortly into the software relationship, the company finds itself unhappy when it realizes the system cannot deliver what it was originally expected it to. Most companies spend the right amount of time to determine if a software solution will correctly support the business. In the rare case that a company selected incorrectly, it is critical to determine if efficient workarounds can be found that do not compromise controls. If the workarounds cannot be found, new software may be acquired.
5. “We have run into irreconcilable differences”
Software companies live under the mantra, “Update or die.” In order to fund updates, many software companies force their customers to update systems by terminating maintenance and technical support. In other cases software companies go bankrupt, rendering technical support impossible. Operating without technical support is risky and gives a company no choice but to explore other software options.
Key personnel know when it’s time to terminate a software relationship, but the expense and disruption often delay the inevitable. Trenegy helps companies select the right software to support growth and change. To loosely borrow eHarmony’s compelling slogan: Stop waiting. We’ll find the perfect guy [ERP system] for you.”
“Here’s Your Sign!”
by Peter Purcell
In the late 90’s, Bill Engvall parodied stupid people by wearing a sign stating, “I’m stupid.” Bill topped the comedy album charts by recording a series of shows that included anecdotes in which someone asked a stupid question and Bill answered sarcastically, followed by the statement, “Here’s your sign!”
Over the years, we have listened to ERP Systems Integrators who repeatedly deserve their own sign because of the statements they make. Below, you will find the most frequent statements deserving a sign, along with the suggested response:
|SI Statement||Suggested Response|
|Your competition is implementing a new ERP, so you should too.||“My competition lost money last quarter. Do you think we should have done that too?”|
|The software already has best practices built in. You can easily reengineer your business around how the ERP works.||“That’s great. We can run manufacturing the same way the bicycle shop in the system repairs flat tires.”|
|Don’t worry about who you assign to the project. We’ll make sure they make the right business decisions.||“And contractors don’t need any input when they’re remodeling a kitchen or bathroom. They will know exactly what I want and the end result will be perfect.”|
|The system is intuitive and easy to use. End users will figure out how to use the system, so you don’t need to worry about change management and training.||“Our end users will know what to do to get the 12:00 to stop flashing on the VCR.”|
|IT should run the ERP implementation because it’s systems-oriented work.||“Good idea. I will have IT take over all of our important business initiatives.”|
|Don’t worry about reporting. The standard dashboards and reports in the ERP system will support all your needs.||“Oh, good. That means we can get our daily TPS reports by region, customer, and product?”|
|The new ERP will be easy to support. You won’t have to add anyone in the IT department and it won’t cost you more to support than your old system.||“Sounds great. Can I hire you to be my new IT director? Because I needs someone’s butt to kick when IT asks for more money, and it might as well be yours.”|
|Let us manage your project. We’ll keep it on budget.||“Here’s my credit card number and security code. Want my bank account number, too?”|
Trenegy helps companies select and manage ERP system integrators to ensure project success. We act as a bridge between the systems integrator and key business stakeholders to ensure recommended configurations do not put your business at risk. Simply, we minimize the number of “here’s your sign” moments.
Selecting the Right ERP Consulting Firm
by William Aimone
Your organization is preparing to decide which consulting firm to select for your ERP or [insert large systems name here] project. There are dozens of firms to choose from. The global systems integrators offer comprehensive solutions, and specialized boutiques offer reasonably priced results. Intuitively, you know you get what you pay for, but it’s not evident what you’re really paying for.
Competing firms all seem to be saying the same thing. The consultant’s messages are sugar-coated with tech speak and consulting buzzwords. In reality, the competing firms are all saying the same thing and using buzzwords to impress you.
Selecting a firm to assist with your multi-million dollar ERP implementation can be a challenge. Most organizations address selections by spending a disproportionate amount of time trying to qualify consulting firms with elaborate requests for proposals (RFPs). Most RFPs miss what is really—screening the people within the consulting firm you are hiring.
The actual project team assigned to your project has the most significant influence on achieving successful results.
However, technology consulting firms tend to downplay the project staffing aspect and present you with irrelevant marketing materials and hype about methodologies, tools, qualifications, solution centers, pre-packaged templates, vendor awards, and other technologies. These are decoys to prevent you from uncovering what they don’t want you to see.
7 Things ERP Consultants Don’t Want You to Know
1. “We don’t like to recommend the most cost effective solutions, because the more money you spend, the more we make.” Unless you’re a Fortune 100 organization, you may be considered a one-trick pony to any large global systems integrator, and they want to get as much money out of you as possible.
2. “We have done many projects like yours, but the people in charge of this project have never managed one in your industry.” Many consulting firms dance an industry expert in front of you. However, you rarely see that expert again. The actual project team is from somewhere else and may not have the requisite industry experience.
3. “The list of companies referenced in our proposal isn’t relevant to your project since most of the companies transcend time and were performed by people who are long gone.” Typically, the work is not even relevant to your project.
4. “We are really good at impressing you with consulting lingo, but don’t ask how that applies to your specific issues.” The only reason consultants use words you don’t understand is to overcompensate for a lack of knowledge in your industry.
5. “Our implementation methodologies and tools are really the same as the rest.” Most of the ERP consultants’ methodologies and tools have been developed and refined by people who have moved back and forth between all of the consulting firms. The methodologies are virtually all the same.
6. “The more you squeeze us on fees and rates, the more likely you’ll be hit with a change order later.” Most organizations feel as though they got a great deal on rates; however, they don’t realize that the consultant really just trimmed the scope or traded in less experienced resources.
7. “The software isn’t really the solution. Getting the right people on the bus and process discipline is the real answer.” Many technology consulting firms try to over play how the ERP technology is the end-all. They lay out elaborate technical solutions that will never work in the real world. Any firm that focuses entirely on the software capabilities will lead you down the wrong path.
Steps to Take Before Talking To ERP Consultants
Before you begin to look at consulting firms for implementation, make sure you are ready. We suggest every organization prepare the following before engaging with an outside firm:
1. A clear set of documented business objectives and a business case for the ERP project that can be shared with the consulting firms before proposals are prepared. Clearly documented objectives let consulting firms know you have your act together. The consulting firms will be less likely to try to bamboozle you with unrealistic expectations.
2. A clear understanding of the consulting firms your competitors or peer companies have used and their experiences with similar projects. Do rely on the consulting firm’s references. They will always pick someone who will give the glowing remarks. You must do your own research before you talk to consultants and get references beforehand. This will keep the consultants honest.
3. Assignment of the right internal staff to the project and empowering the staff to become involved in the consulting selection process. The consulting firms will be forced to answer more specific industry questions from staff to qualify the consultants’ real industry experience.
4. A high-level timeline and rollout plan for implementing new systems that is palatable for your organization. This lets the consulting firms know you have thought about the project, and it forces the competing firms to give you an apples-to-apples comparison for implementation.
Taking time to develop a sound plan and vision for the ERP systems before engaging implementation consultants will ensure you, not the consultants, are driving the implementation bus.
Selecting your ERP consultant can be simple if you are properly prepared. Cultural fit, existing executive relationships, and industry experience with similar sized companies are important criteria for selecting a firm. Cultural fit is important since the consultant’s team will be problem solving with your staff daily. An existing relationship between your company and the consultant’s executive team helps resolve issues that may bog down the project team. Since most of the ERP solutions generically apply to companies of all shapes and sizes, you need a consultant with industry experience to configure a solution that’s a best fit for your company.
6 Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Consulting Firm
by Annie Duhon
The basics of hiring a consulting firm remain constant: receive multiple proposals and talk to previous customers of all firms you’re considering. It’s amazing how often senior executives neglect these basic precautions.
Unfortunately, there are several common mistakes between the preliminary search and final hiring of a consulting firm. While no criteria is foolproof, you’re more likely to make a wise hiring decision by avoiding these common problems:
1. NOT hiring a consulting firm
It’s the classic blunder. Many major projects may appear to be well within the realm of your team’s capability. But before you know it, they’ve morphed into monstrous initiatives that burn out your best employees and require you to hire a consultant to clean up the mess. It’s usually less expensive if you hire the right firm from the outset.
2. Waiting until you are desperate
Waiting until things catastrophically fail can increase the cost of a remedy, or worse, lead to irreparable damage. A minor customer service process issue can turn into a big issue if sales increase. As soon as you see signs of trouble, begin engaging with consulting firms to see how you can head off a major complication.
3. Delivering muddled communication
Open communication includes asking straightforward questions and clearly delineating what you want and expect from a consulting firm. Put verbal communication in writing.
4. Being enticed by low or high bids
Be wary of bids that are outliers (substantially higher or lower than the competition). Make sure each bid accounts for the same services and can be compared realistically. Read the fine print.
Lower bids might mean part-time resources that are stretched thin between competing priorities. They may assume internal employees will be responsible for day-to-day activities with minimal oversight from the consulting firm.
Higher bids rarely reflect higher standards of service. It might be as simple as out-of-town travel expenses billed to a project, or a firm with a full workload only seeking work with high-profit margins.
5. Choosing a consulting firm that never says no
A consulting firm that says yes to everything is probably too good to be true. Either they are desperate for business or aren’t really listening to your needs. In a good consulting relationship, the firm will serve as a trusted advisor who may occasionally have a differing opinion.
6. Hiring a firm to fix a problem without assessing it
Don’t hire consultants to fix a problem without asking them to first gauge the issue. This doesn’t necessitate binders full of analysis or months-long studies on the topic. However, it does require the consulting firm to take a broad view of your situation and provide straightforward answers about your current approach and their proposal.
On the flip side is the consultant who wants to sell more work than is actually needed. To avoid this, ensure the consulting firm provides you with a project plan with an exit strategy. Any deviations from the agreed upon timeline should be made upfront and well in advance.
It’s easy to be enticed by a low price, propensity for a “yes” to everything, or always being told what you want to hear. Stop, take a minute, and make sure the consulting firm will tell you what needs to be said and can solve your problem. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to every issue. It’s important to assess all options and ensure the consultants you hire will deliver what they promise.
The 6 Most Important Provisions in a Statement of Work
by Brittany Setzekorn
All parties involved in a system implementation must agree on a statement of work (SOW) before the project can begin. However, as with any lengthy contract full of complicated clauses and legal jargon, it’s easy to lose sight of key terms. Omission of these important provisions can cause budget problems later in the project.
SOWs from systems integrators (SIs) are especially complex given the technical nature of the work. Keep an eye out for these six key points in a statement of work to avoid eventual dispute or delay:
1. Service level agreement
A detailed list of expectations for the new system should be plainly stated within the agreement. Projected report run times, data storage capacity, and system outputs (reports, metadata, and spending metrics) depict a clear vision of the system’s ultimate functionality. This level of description gives all parties a tangible idea of what “finished” means.
2. Team member performance
An agreement needs to be established around the project management model. Predetermined governance ensures that service issues have an established mode of resolution. For instance, if an SI’s team is not performing as expected, can either party request team member changes? There should be a structured method of replacing a team member who is not performing. Document these details within the agreement, and the project will run smoothly with the best resources available.
3. Hours billed
An important clarification that is easily overlooked is the criteria for time that can be billed back to the company. It’s far easier to address this issue at the outset of a project. Travel time and expenses are typically included, but it’s smart to get specific parameters for the definition of travel time. For example, are hours spent in a car or on a plane billable? Ask for an estimate of expected working hours per week for each phase of the project. Each of these items, no matter how minor, will affect the project budget.
4. License details
The systems integrator should include a section detailing licensing agreements. Terms and cost of licensing should be outlined and agreed upon up front. Additional costs such as yearly maintenance and fees for future upgrades should also be listed. Without these items, ambiguity of ownership can cause problems when an organization needs to make further system changes or updates.
5. Variance agreement
Over time, changes in the business environment might necessitate alterations to the project plan. Be sure that all parties are updated on project revisions by explicitly requiring within the SOW that all changes be documented. If additional work is requested, a new work order needs to be created, signed, and added to the original agreement.
6. Project scope
Another critical stipulation to be included in the SOW is project scope. This section should list all of the vendor’s responsibilities and tasks, such as implementation/migration, testing, training, and support. This list will help determine when new work orders are needed. The project scope also sets expectations for the level of support with which the company will provide the vendor. For example, the company must be clear about how many employees will work on the project and which subject matter experts can be consulted for major decisions.
An SOW without these points can leave room for disputes on payment amounts, expectations, and other project details. By developing a detailed SOW, everyone involved in the project can focus on the critical path to completion. Trenegy helps companies successfully prepare for system implementation by ensuring vendor agreements are clear and comprehensive.
An ERP Strategy That Works, or Another Round of Mournful Optimism?
by Peter Purcell
ERP software packages hit the market in the early 1990’s with promises to solve any operational, sales, and financial woes a company might have. While the ERP packages support efficiency and controls, few achieved the investment returns originally anticipated.
Even the most successful organization’s ERP implementations were wrought with challenges. Organizations found critical information wasn’t easily accessible and the systems were difficult to use. Companies that reengineered processes and structured the organizations around ERP were no longer as flexible or nimble as they once were.
In the early 2000’s, ERP vendors started to address challenges by adding industry-specific functionality, which further complicated the ERP solutions. Most recently, ERP vendors have acquired business intelligence and integration solutions which are being incorporated into the core ERP systems.
While vendors are making steps in the right direction, are these changes enough to support true success?
Systems must be easy to use the closer the user gets to the customer. Many ERP screens are complicated and require numerous keystrokes to support basic data entry needs. While this may not be a large issue for back office personnel, sales can be lost if customers are kept waiting or if billing errors are made as a result of complicated data entry requirements. Unfortunately, many ERP solutions add complexity to business processes.
Organizations require reliable, timely and accurate information from the ERP systems to support decision making. While ERP systems capture a great deal of data, information is not easily given up. Some ERP systems are affectionately referred to as data jail. The standard ERP reports and prepackaged portals merely provide views into transactions. The core ERPs do not easily meld the data with information generated from other systems to provide true enterprise business intelligence. A small number of organizations have figured out how to make the most of their ERP investment.
Successful organizations focus efforts to make sure transactions can be easily and quickly entered into the system, and the subsequent data can be turned into accessible, useful, and timely information. Successful organizations have actually done very little in the way of modifying the core ERP transactional systems. These organizations have kept the ERP vanilla and built unique solutions to address ease of use (data-in) and access to information (data-out). In sum, the successful organizations are treating the ERP system as a middleware template.
Ease of Use Improves Adoption Rates
A pipe manufacturer was in the process of developing an ERP strategy when they realized the need for a simple set of tools to support their sales staff and real-time reporting. The organization determined they wanted to use a specific front-end product to support their sales force as they went from prospect to prospect. This front-end product would allow the sales force to show contractors pictures of the pipes and fittings with installation examples. Orders could be entered into laptops and then synched to the ERP when the salesperson had internet access.
As a result, the company selected a front-end data entry tool and quickly developed simple screens to help field personnel navigate and use the system more effectively. There are a variety of tools that can be used to support this type of effort, including Microsoft .NET, Force.com, and Adobe LiveCycle along with business process management tools.
Access to Information Is Equally Important
An oil and gas production company required systems to support the need for faster access to financial, production, revenue, and operational information. This required the melding of information between the ERP systems and the industry-specific solutions. Prior to the start of the project, the company developed a reporting strategy to identify key reporting and information needs. The information needs dictated the future systems and the implementation of information reporting capabilities became the critical part of the systems solutions. The solutions that provide information reporting capabilities typically come under the banner of business intelligence or corporate performance management solutions, such as Hyperion, Business Objects, BPC, Cognos, and Microsoft Analytics.
The traditional approach for developing an ERP strategy has not worked. The traditional approach usually consists of guessing future state business requirements, countless meetings, painfully scoring package demonstrations, arguing about which vendor demonstrated their wares better, and selecting a package that half the participants didn’t like. Once an ERP vendor has been selected, implementation costs must be discussed.
A better approach is to focus on solutions enabling processes to support ease of use and access to information. After that, find an ERP solution that can fit both of these objectives. This approach helps avoid the two critical failure points of ERP implementations: ease of use and information access.
Prepare for ERP
We’ve Created a Monster! How to Avoid Building a Frankenstein ERP System
by Chelsey LeMaire
In Mary Shelley’s classic novel “Frankenstein,” an eccentric scientist undertakes the bold yet ill-advised experiment of reanimating human life. While he succeeds in his endeavor, the outcome is not what he expected and more horrifying than he could have imagined. Dr. Frankenstein is left to deal with the consequences of his creation, and can only watch as the monster destroys everything that he holds dear.
While a poorly designed ERP system will not hunt down loved ones in a murderous rage, the consequences can be painful, significant, and downright miserable. When implementing a tier two ERP system such as SAP Business One or Microsoft Navision, over-customization and patching a system together with numerous add-ons will almost always lead to an unstable and unpredictable system that is prone to crashes, glitches, and performance issues. The steps below can help to ensure that your tier two ERP system runs like a well-oiled machine rather than a disjointed, unnatural monstrosity.
Focus on the Right Requirements
In any ERP system implementation, selecting the right system is half the battle. Many companies fall into the trap of identifying hundreds of requirements, most of which are only nice-to-haves. They lose focus of the two most important requirements of an ERP system: ease of entering transactional data into the system and ease of extracting data out of the system in the form of reports. Trying to create a system that will meet all of the nice-to-have requirements will often compromise those two most important requirements and will require some Frankenstein-esque manipulation behind the scenes.
The idea of custom development and a system that is specifically tailored to a company’s every wish is tempting. However, a general truth about tier two ERP systems is the more custom development a system has, the more easily it will glitch and break. Over-customization also limits a system’s ability to upgrade, meaning that the company will be stuck with the version of the system they originally purchase and forfeit any opportunity for free improvements in later versions. If a company legitimately does have a large number of custom requirements, they should consider implementing a tier one system, like SAP ECC or Oracle, which allow for and encourage full customization and a ground-up design approach.
Do Your Due Diligence with Bolt-on Products
For tier two systems, there seem to be hundreds of available add-on modules or bolt-on products that offer functionality the standard system does not. While these products are usually built specifically for the base system and offer attractive bells and whistles, they are often developed independently of one another by different partner companies. This means that these add-ons work well by themselves but may not play well together. When add-on modules are combined without proper due diligence, they have the tendency to step on each other’s toes and break each other’s code.
Add-ons are an important and beneficial part of any ERP System, but companies should work carefully to identify add-ons that are complementary of one another and exercise restraint when deciding how many are necessary. Some of the most valuable add-ons are those that enhance the two central requirements mentioned in point one. For example, a company can find significant benefit from a robust reporting tool and an advanced configuration module, which allows customization of the user interface, improving ease of use and user adoption.
Trenegy helps companies select and implement ERP systems that make reporting and analysis easier. The above recommendations can help prevent monstrous ERP behavior resulting from over-customization and a piecemeal add-on strategy.
For additional guidance in selecting the right ERP, check out Trenegy’s “The State of the ERP” handbook for thorough, up-to-date reviews on various tier one and tier two solutions.
How to Prepare for an ERP Implementation: Align the Organization
by Julie Baird
The biggest hurdle to tackle when preparing for an ERP Implementation is aligning the organization around the initiative. This means creating clear alignment for everyone impacted by the new system. Align people around the three pillars of an ERP—process, data, and systems—to ensure the implementation team has a clear understanding of who owns the different parts of the implementation. This will reduce decision-making delays and project over-runs and improve success after implementation.
People to Process
Organizations should create clear ownership of processes at the start of the ERP implementation. Sit down with each function in the organization and inventory the company’s processes. Then, assign accountability for each process using a RACI model. The RACI model defines who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed for each process. For example, revenue accounting would be responsible and accountable for the revenue distribution process while the production group would be consulted on certain inputs. Therefore, any process decisions regarding revenue distribution would be ultimately decided by the revenue accounting team lead. And the revenue accounting team lead would decide how and when to consult the production team. This RACI model streamlines the decision making process and prevents unnecessary debates between departments.
People to Data
When preparing for an implementation, clarifying ownership and creating accountability for data quality is key. Companies should create a data model to gather all metrics and data points necessary to run the business. Then, assign names for who is accountable for each piece of data. Defining the responsibility and accountability of the revenue process is important but it needs to be taken a step further. Who owns data quality? The land department is accountable for ensuring royalty owners addresses are updated. If accounting gets a returned revenue check, they know to go to the land admin to get the address updated. Data ownership is often overlooked. Establishing accountability for data quality in the data model alleviates any questions regarding who owns the data and who is ultimately answerable for the accuracy of the data.
People to Systems
With well-established ownership of processes and data in place, the last component of aligning the organization is creating clear ownership of the modules in the ERP and systems outside of the ERP. Organizations should have a system change process in place. In this process, each module should have one designated owner to approve any changes in the module, including user access, configurations, and integration changes. Module owners should coordinate with the data owners to ensure the information is being captured correctly and understand the implications of system changes throughout the ERP. This role should understand how the process works and data flows through the module to make effective changes. Clear ownership for each system ensures the system is maintained and system changes align with process and data needs.
Aligning people around processes, data, and systems ensures the implementation team has clear direction around who to communicate with and who the decision makers are. To get the most value out of preparing for an ERP implementation, a project governance process should be developed. Create a decision-making framework to determine how decisions are made and clearly establish ownership around these three pillars.
Critical Requirements: The Gift That Keeps on Giving
by Patricia Dewey
ERP implementations are complex projects that demand time, energy, and resources from an organization. When company leaders decide to embark on a project of such magnitude, they have a few things in mind: do it one time, do it on time, do it within budget, and do it right! One of the critical components of making sure the project is done on time and within budget is knowing what needs to be supported by the new system—critical business requirements.
Most project teams assume they can gather critical business requirements during the design phase. Like the gift that keeps on giving, new requirements will be identified later in the project. Business needs change and new ideas are generated during prototyping. Ignoring the new requirements or suggesting anything identified after design should be pushed to a different phase would be a big mistake. Pushing the newly identified requirements to a future phase could result in a system improperly configured to support the business at go-live.
It seems counterintuitive to allow new requirements to be identified and addressed throughout the project. Successful project teams need to address new requirements throughout the implementation.
1. Leverage best practices during the design phase
Initial business requirements should be gathered and documented during the ERP selection process. The critical requirements will be supplemented during the design phase. Successful project teams leverage consultants like Trenegy to create a future state process improvement vision, design future state processes, and draft critical, industry-specific requirements. The requirements should be refined in a series of workshops and validated against best or usual practices. Successful project teams will assume new ideas and concepts will be developed as soon as key end users gain access to the new system.
2. Start prototyping and testing as quickly as possible
Traditional ERP methodologies assume that key business requirements will be determined in design and suggest anything identified after should be delayed until a future phase. The reality is very different. Successful project managers will get key end users exposed to the new system as quickly as possible. This allows key end users to see how the new system and processes will affect day-to-day activities and spur new ideas, which will result in new requirements. Strong project teams should manage the addition of new requirements with consistent requirement documentation and solid project governance guidelines.
3. Commit to post-go-live discovery
After the system goes into effect, stakeholders across the company will grow comfortable with functionality and new processes. With this increased usage comes discovery of additional requirements for the system. Do not dismantle the project team directly following go-live. It’s crucial the team stays intact after the project, at least to some degree, to capture and address these requirements. The post go-live support model should be structured with issue resolution and requirement gathering in mind. Requirements discovered after go-live may be quick fixes, or they could be issues added to a master list for a future project.
It’s rare that all critical business requirements can be identified at the beginning of the project. Team members will identify requirements throughout the project as the system and processes are tested. The project team needs to be ready to capture business requirements throughout the project.
Improve Reporting Through the ERP: How to Make Better, Faster Decisions
by Brenna O’Hara
An ERP system is designed to connect data from all major functional areas and improve an organization’s reporting capabilities. The goal is faster, better decision making by senior management aided by a current and accurate picture of the organization’s performance.
To achieve this goal, an organization must first decide what information it needs out of the system. Because many configuration parameters cannot be changed after system integration has begun, it is important to identify critical reporting requirements at the outset of an ERP implementation.
While there is no one-size-fits-all reporting model, there are a few considerations that will make or break the usefulness of your final reports:
1. Use the increased level of detail available with a new system
Understand the new capabilities of your ERP system and develop a reporting hierarchy that takes advantage of more precise revenue and expense classifications.
With a new ERP, many companies are able to increase expense categories from three to 15, allowing for a much more granular view of profitability. This allows an E&P company to parse out smaller expense classifications at each well site, like how much money is spent on vehicles.
Similarly, legacy systems often limit the definitions of cost centers to units, wells, and leases. A new system can expand these categorizations, giving management a comprehensive view of balance sheet activity. A completion can be recorded as such rather than as a well. A unit can be recorded as a legal land unit instead of a grouping of wells used for accruals.
2. Set up the reporting hierarchy to support budgeting
The hierarchy in which you book and report your revenue, production, and expenses should be consistent with the level you want to budget. Even if budgets are managed outside of the primary ERP system, actuals and basis for comparison will always be housed in the ERP.
Operations and accounting constantly struggle over reporting needs. Operations may want to view billable versus unbillable LOE, or operated versus non-operated status at a field or well level, but accounting wants to see information at a higher, aggregated level in the hierarchy. With careful planning, the hierarchy can be set up to accommodate operations’ reporting needs as well as internal and external financial reporting within the same structure.
3. Consider the company’s long-term goals and growth trajectory
Ensure the ERP is set up to support growth by cleansing data before go-live. Clean master data sets a solid foundation that can sustain the burden of additional data in the event of an acquisition.
Consider the amount of history needed for reporting. Unused or excess accounts in the Chart of Accounts (COA), properties that have been sold, or wells that have been plugged and abandoned for more than five years should not be set up in the new system.
While thinking about the future might seem like a no-brainer, companies often become so consumed with supporting current requirements that future considerations and long-term growth plans are not taken into consideration. A certain level of reporting may not be needed today, but will it be needed in the future?
Companies invest in ERP systems to improve efficiency and profitability. Developing a reporting strategy prior to implementation will ensure maximum benefit and desired outputs are achieved.
Trenegy helps companies implement a variety of ERP systems and develop a reporting strategy that fits business requirements and supports long-term strategic goals.
ERP Selection Leading Practices
Employee Teams Soft on the Front Lines? How to Train Effective Project Warriors
by Matthew Barnes
The famous military general Sun Tzu, author of “The Art of War,” once stated, “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”
Project management is not a far cry from battle. When a company hires an outside consulting firm, much like the military employing a special forces unit, they invest in an asset specifically designed to maximize their existing staff of soldiers. You want to get the most out of your specialists (or consulting help) by preparing a staff of project warriors who are battle-tested and mission-ready.
Although one team member’s actions may prove heroic in one battle, their efforts alone will never win the war. In the same way, a company’s hardest working employee can never guarantee success of the project in its entirety, even with the back-up squadron. Wars demand a well-conditioned team, diligent forethought, and detailed environment understanding only true generals can identify.
Companies often rely on a team’s past success to gauge risk or profitability on a new project. But the project team will lose one small battle after another if team members can’t commit time, don’t have the background, aren’t awarded the authority to make decisions, or aren’t held accountable for results. Like an officer on the field of battle, a company must do a complete personnel gear check before lunging head first into a long-term project, whether it’s organizational restructuring or a full ERP system implementation. Here’s a simple questionnaire about your team straight from generals who have seen success and failure:
Do Your Soldiers Have Time?
Dynamic employees are typically pulled in every direction the company is heading, answering to many sergeants and wearing multiple helmets. The same dynamic soldiers will notoriously pile more on their plates than they are capable of completing proficiently. The best way to gauge your team’s bandwidth is to ask specific, direct questions about their workload and schedule. Instead of prompting a soldier with, “Do you have time to help our consultants with a project in the next few weeks?” try, “Can you commit to four to five hours of extra work during the next three weeks?” Direct questions beckon direct answers.
Do Your Soldiers Have Skills?
A necessary project, or battle, could arise at any time, lending a company no time to train or fully equip an employee in detailed industry or software knowledge. Short of putting the business on pause, the only tool you’ll have to fall back on will be the preparation you’ve done before the blitzkrieg. You rely on a robust recruiting process, but do you apply a vigorous expertise filter to your future project teams? Spend a day gauging both the knowledge and the ability of employees assigned as stakeholders on the mission, outlining specific experience and understanding while also gauging their desire to learn. Hesitancy to enlist a more adept soldier could result in financial, timetable, and market losses.
Do Your Soldiers Have Authority?
Training and experience are invaluable qualities in a team member, but without the proper authority, a soldier will not be able to make decisions necessary to the team’s success. By imparting the self-assurance that comes with control, you equip your squadron with instrumental decision-making confidence, allowing them to lead individually on micro projects within the larger schemata. For example, directing an accountant to maintain oversight on all financial decisions can be as simple as requiring CCs on certain emails and has historically caught costly budgetary and ledger mistakes. Empower the team you trusted in your hiring process.
Do Your Soldiers Have Accountability?
By explicitly outlining the obligations of each team member, you’ve created clarity. You maintain harmony by holding each soldier to their duties. Just as our government operates with a system of checks and balances, every great project team needs outlined structure, constructs, and limits to efficaciously complete their duty. To tangibly reach this goal, demand clear lines be drawn on specific responsibilities no matter how small the undertaking. Need a third party to assist? Outline their role as well, communicating up front and throughout the duration of the project.
Feel like you’re fighting a losing battle with your current battalion? Trenegy provides the expertise needed to build and maintain teams of your employees. Whether it’s change management, standardizing processes, or implementing a new back office system, we can help you prepare for growth and change quickly and painlessly.
Looking for the Achilles Heel: How to Select a Tier 2 Package
by Peter Purcell
High-growth companies that outgrow their small company accounting systems (QuickBooks, Peachtree, Solomon, etc.) are challenged with finding a cost-effective and robust ERP. The tier one ERP solutions, Oracle eBusiness and SAP ECC, provide fully functional ERP and reporting solutions across all industries. However, the associated costs may drive a high-growth company to look at tier two options. The tier two list is longer and includes SAP B1, Microsoft Dynamics, Infor, NetSuite, and Epicor, to name a few. Investments by tier two vendors over the past five years allow these applications to offer a tantalizing alternative by providing integrated solutions at a much lower total cost of ownership.
Selecting the right tier two package is daunting given the number of alternatives available. How can a company be confident when determining which tier two package will support a growing company? It’s all about finding and addressing the Achilles heel of tier two alternatives:
Chart of Accounts Structure
Companies implement new ERP systems to improve the quality and timeliness of information required to support the business. Capturing profitability across a variety of dimensions including geography, division, product or service line, and customer is critical. Most tier two packages incorporate profitability dimensions as part of the chart of accounts. In this case, all valid combinations will need to be entered into the system. This makes the chart of accounts difficult to use and maintain for larger companies with complex organizational structures. However, there are a few tier two packages that support dimensionality. These solutions should be short listed when considering a new ERP.
Accounting for the transfer or sale of products and services in a complex legal entity structure can be difficult with many tier two packages. There are few tier two packages that offer intercompany transaction processing as core package functionality. In this case, intercompany transactions would need to be processed and consolidated manually, resulting in data entry errors and delayed month-end closes. Many fast growing companies have legal entity structures that result in intercompany transactions and should only consider tier two solutions that have automated intercompany processing capability.
Foreign Exchange Support
Many high-growth companies differentiate services by operating globally. Sales transactions can result in product being sourced in USD but sold in local currency. Bills are generated and collected in local currency while profits are transferred to headquarters in USD. It sounds simple, but many tier two packages do not support this functionality without modification or a third-party solution. Both add cost and complexity to the implementation.
Configuration for Ease of Use
Tier two ERP solutions provide a variety of experiences for end users. Some provide a green-screen-like environment that is comforting for users who don’t want to click through the transaction entry process. Other tier two ERP solutions have completely rewritten the user interface to take advantage of modern technology and provide a Windows-type interface. A few tier two ERP solutions have taken the middle ground by taking advantage of the best of both options while providing powerful tools to simplify transaction entry processing. The packages that have taken the middle ground can be easily configured to support company-specific processes.
The majority of tier two implementation consultants take the homework or workbook model approach to installing and configuring software. The implementers bring in setup checklists and questions to decide how the system should be configured. Critical report design, workflow settings, and data integration work is assigned to customers and must be completed before the implementation consultant can configure the system for testing. Tier two ERP consultants leave and do not come back until the homework assignments are completed by the customer. This works well for small, simple companies. However, rapidly growing companies require more assistance to navigate the organization and leverage best practices from across the industry to determine the appropriate future state. As a result, fast growing companies require more systems integrator attention to ensure these tasks are completed correctly. Many tier two ERP consultants are not comfortable working in this environment and should be vetted carefully.
Tier two ERP solution providers vary in size and ability to provide post-implementation support. Customers of smaller tier two ERP solutions may have difficulty obtaining support during critical outages because their one support consultant is on vacation hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.
Selecting a tier two service provider that has a sound financial position, invests in new functionality, and offers the right level of post-implementation support is critical for a successful implementation.
Get More out of Your Existing ERP
by Peter Purcell
Thinking of replacing your ERP system and don’t want to spend the money or experience the organizational pain? The following three important steps allow companies to extend the life of their ERP for years.
1. Redesign the chart of accounts
Companies consider replacing their existing systems with a new ERP when important financial information is not readily available. Profitability cannot be generated quickly and at the right level of detail. This often occurs when business models change after the original ERP was implemented. The chart of accounts was not designed to support new reporting requirements.
For example, an oilfield services company may want to measure profitability by basin. There’s a high probability information can be captured within the existing systems environment with a redesigned chart of accounts. Therefore, a new ERP may not be needed and the company can upgrade the system with a new chart of accounts instead. The effort to redesign the chart of accounts requires mapping, and data conversion may seem daunting. However, the cost associated with this effort is far less than implementing a new ERP solution.
2. Clean up data
Organizations typically find most issues with their ERP are due to data quality issues. It’s a common misconception a new ERP will automatically improve data quality. This might include cleaning up supplier master records, asset information, and customer data. For example, a drilling services company that grew through acquisition found their asset records to be inconsistent, preventing the company from measuring profitability by asset. Trying to generate a combined P&L for equipment that came from acquisitions with different asset numbering schemes is difficult. The company went through an asset data quality improvement initiative and was able to get management the asset information required within six months.
The master data cleanup process can also allow companies to add information to enhance reporting. Equipment information can include sub-assets, improving accounting for depreciation. Production decks can be corrected to improve lease operating cost reporting.
3. Implement a reporting tool
Most ERP general ledger modules don’t provide robust reporting and consolidations functionality. Accounting and Finance typically generate consolidated financial and management reports in Excel. Excel is an error-prone and manually intensive effort. A reporting tool can be used to consolidate information across systems. Better, merging operational and financial data into one report becomes possible.
A reporting tool would allow the VP of operations to track asset utilization alongside profitability by location or line of business in a timely manner.
If these three steps don’t address the critical business needs, a new ERP might be inevitable. We recognize inefficiencies exist in all companies, and root causes include improperly implemented systems, processes, and controls. We encourage clients to avoid expensive and unnecessary IT projects. Instead, we help companies implement right-sized solutions to address critical needs. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Tell Mom and Pop to Pack Their Bags: 3 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your ERP
by Katy Wyrick
In the early 90’s, a large construction company implemented a new ERP system built by two budding entrepreneurs. The new ERP system was great at the time: simple, functional, and aligned with the company’s processes. Unfortunately, the ERP company never grew beyond two employees. Over the years, the construction company grew quickly. Last year, the ERP system crashed and the company’s IT team couldn’t figure out why. The IT team reached out to the software company, but inevitably, the two employees were on a three-week vacation in the Bahamas. How can companies mitigate the risk of this happening to them?
Small and mid-sized companies often utilize systems that are custom built in house or purchased from a small mom-and-pop ERP software company. The specialized ERP system companies typically operate out of their garage with a couple employees, but not in the cool Steve Jobs way.
The small systems are great at bridging an organizational gap—for example, providing basic automation to the internal invoice approval workflow process or solving enterprise needs. The systems are implemented as a short-term solution during a time of change or transition. For example, an out-of-the-box inexpensive production-gathering system is perfect for a quick implementation.
Unfortunately, companies get comfortable with their system and are hesitant to replace, justifying their resistance by saying, “That’s how we’ve always done it,” or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Although sometimes this is true, there are three telltale signs it’s time to consider replacing the legacy systems.
Companies typically require an intimate in-house understanding of boutique custom systems since the knowledge base lives within one or a few individuals’ minds. There isn’t much formal system documentation available and external/contractor support is hard to come by.
Additionally, the company is always waiting for assistance and is at the mercy of the system owners. This is especially frustrating when an emergency arises but no resources are available to assist. Large system providers have formal support desks, trained third-party providers, and often have 24-hour assistance for emergencies.
2. Audit, controls, and security
Mom-and-pop systems are especially dangerous for publicly traded companies trying to pass their SOX audit. Custom applications are created to resolve a specific gap or satisfy a piece of a larger process. Therefore, not a lot time or resources were put in to setting tight user permissions or security measures.
With so many data hacks and leaks today, security is a critical topic. Both publicly traded and private companies should strive to have a safe and secure systems environment. Small and custom solutions are built on less secure databases, leading to a weak link in the integrity of the company’s infrastructure. On the other hand, large systems are auditable, configurable, and have high security standards.
Due to the limited resources supporting small systems, updates to the software are few and far between. This resource constraint can cause compatibility issues. For example, a company attempts to change their processes and the small system can’t support even the simplest change. Companies are then forced to manually maintain their process outside of the system to accommodate the change, leading to longer processing times and increased overhead.
Additionally, technology is changing all around us every day, which may cause issues with smaller system’s compatibility. For example, Microsoft may release a major system update, which causes compatibility issues with the outdated version of the legacy system. Smaller systems are not as flexible and adaptable to the changing technology, while large systems continuously listen to customer feedback and release updates more often.
If any or all of these signs exist in your company, it’s likely time to replace your old system. Custom solutions and small companies are right for some companies, but it’s important for organizations to recognize when they’ve outgrown the mom-and-pop shop and should consider implementing a better-fit solution.
Sometimes the small solution is the right answer if a company is lean and simple, and other times a company requires a more robust option. For many companies, cost is the only factor keeping them from making the leap to a new system. Surprisingly, with the advent of cloud software and growth of middle market ERP solutions, a new ERP system may be less expensive than expected.
Rapid-fire ERP Selection and Implementation for E&P
by Katy Wyrick
A large number of assets are trading hands as companies in the E&P industry adjust to the new price of oil. Such sales include a due diligence period, typically followed by a transition period between the two parties. During this time, the purchasing party is responsible for identifying and implementing an ERP system as their long-term solution.
Although this article is directed towards heavy E&P activity currently taking place, the same approach can be applied to other ERP selections and implementations. Particularly for the E&P industry, an ERP selection process should be straightforward and catered to the unique aspects of the business. Many companies spend too much time and money analyzing detailed requirements before choosing a new ERP system rather than identifying the unique aspects of their operation and industry. The critical business requirements for E&P, though unique to E&P companies, are known and predictable. The point of a rapid selection is not to rush the process, but to simplify and streamline the planning and implementation processes. Knowing the industry drastically speeds up the selection and implementation.
Note: It is unwise to assume you must implement a new system. If the current system is in the appropriate tier, the new company can address the current functionality and include the current system in the selection process to be compared to the other options. If the current system is identified as the best option, the conversion would be more simplified, and training and testing would be minimal. Word to the wise: do not choose the existing system without assessing all other options. Determine the best fit for the new company in terms of functionality and processing power. A system that was sufficient before may not meet the new company’s needs.
Pre-planning (3-4 Weeks)
Pre-planning takes place during the due diligence phase of a sale—sometimes even beforehand—and is a time for the buyer to take a deeper dive into the details of the sale and to determine if it’s the best fit for the buying company. It is during this stage where a Transition Service Agreement (TSA) is established, outlining the transition timeline, tasks each of the two parties are completing, and how to transition data and knowledge from the seller to the buyer. Many activities are performed in the back office or spent waiting for the lawyers to review and return documentation. Although the project team is not able to begin implementation or transition, the pre-TSA period should be spent gathering internal data and organizing the project resources and the budget. Determining the cost and timeline of a system selection and implementation will be assessed as part of the due diligence period.
During the early due diligence period, some companies do not have the approval required to bring on a project team or consultants to help. Fortunately, several sets of information must be identified and compiled in house prior to bringing on help:
- First, the finance and accounting processes must be established to map system capabilities, which can be accomplished by compiling existing or creating new process documentation (e.g. master data management for wells and decks and owners, chart of accounts, AFE processes, etc.). Then, the new company can use these documents to compile the master data specifications and critical reports most important to the business. When the critical processes have been documented, it’s easy to identify which processes need to be automated and which can be performed manually. Listening to the accounting group will help leadership understand major pain points and identify the best qualities of the current ERP system. The process documentation should include which processes steps are automated versus manually executed.
- Secondly, an overall budget must be established. An organization chart can be quickly drafted based on the current organization and estimating how many new full-time employees will be required. Systems base their pricing on the number of user licenses required, and the budget can easily bust if the final number of licenses is higher than the number originally quoted. Other aspects to consider in the project budget include the cost for system and conversion consultants. The cost for the consultants will vary based on the complexity of the data, gaps in full-time employment, travel and expenses, and potentially temporary accounting staff.
- Then, the project team must select the best-fit management consultants. Dependent upon management approval and budget, bringing on a management consulting company as soon as possible is critical to perform overall PMO activities, gather process and data requirements, and establish the budget. It’s important to select the management consultants based on proven project and industry success.
System Selection (3-4 Weeks)
Assuming the pre-planning phase was completed correctly, a consulting company should be engaged to execute a quick and concise ERP system selection mini-project. The consultants should be able to clearly identify which tier system the company requires through overall company information (current size, services, long-term growth plan), brief interviews with the accounting staff, and the pre-planning phase documentation.
Tiers one through three are assigned to proven ERP systems by industry, with tier one being the most robust and expensive. For example, if the company is very small yet has a complex deck and hierarchy setup, the company may need a tier two system like OGsys. A multi-billion-dollar company that owns and operates all domestic properties without other Working Interest Owners may be able to run on the same tier two system. However, if the company with a complex hierarchy and deck setup also intends to make several major acquisitions with various products and complex agreements in the coming years, a tier one system such as P2’s EU system may be needed to account for growth.
The project team would then schedule the vendor demos. The new company can immediately eliminate all systems outside of the selected tier and contact vendors within the tier early on. Coordinating demos and receiving pricing as soon as possible is important, as scheduling and contract negotiation typically take time. As the checklist in the system demos, the project team should use the system and process requirements determined in the pre-planning phase—and only this list of requirements. It’s a waste of time to review basic ERP functionality such as general ledger, accounts receivable, and accounts payable. Any credible tool in the marketplace has the basic ERP functionality.
Implementation and Post-go-live (Min. 12-16 Weeks)
Now, the best fit-for-purpose system is selected, the contracts are in place with vendors, and the project team is ready to begin implementation. The following four steps are foolproof for the implementation and post go-live phases:
- Immediately, the software should be installed and the environments needed for testing should be set up. This step always takes longer than originally expected.
- Next, conversion activities must be prioritized based on “day 1” functionality. Through the TSA, the buyer may only be processing invoices and GL transactions immediately, but revenue and JIB processing the following month. For this example, the company would need to set up the chart of accounts, vendor information, AFEs, and validation rules for “day 1” processing. They would then be able to continue working on loading JIB and revenue decks, royalty and working interest owners, and revenue agreements. The project team must identify critical items for go-live and prioritize accordingly. Note: Integration between systems is considered a “nice-to-have” and should not be a priority for “day 1” functionality. Building interfaces is complex and must be thoroughly tested before being released to end users. The backlash of a bad integration is immeasurably worse than making do with disconnected systems for the short-term.
- Then, the project team must establish an issue resolution plan. There will always be issues with a new ERP system. With a rapid timeline to plan, select, and implement an ERP, the likelihood of issues increases. Issues must be prioritized in the same way the implementation tasks were prioritized. The responses should be based on critical due dates, focusing on issues which directly impact key deadlines. Most critical issues are identified in the first month of processing, so it’s important to retain management consultants, system consultants, and full-time accounting project staff for a few weeks after go-live.
- Lastly and very importantly, there must always be open lines of communication between the project team and upper management, and between the project team and end users. There are endless moving parts, because resources work independently on various aspects of the project. Of course, it’s unrealistic to include everyone in all decisions and timelines. Even so, it’s important to communicate clearly and often to set management expectations and to obtain end user buy-in. In these critical communications, a strong consulting company can wrangle all moving parts to ensure the success of the implementation.
Many E&P companies don’t focus on the unique aspects of their company when going through the planning, selection, and implementation of a new system. They end up with a system that is either too simple for their operations or too robust and expensive, leaving them with buyer’s remorse for the unforeseeable future. There is a “right system” for each company, so it’s important to plan, select, and implement by prioritizing functionality and tasks, by making quick decisions, and by coordinating all moving parts. Overall, long system selections are costly, cause delayed project timelines, and don’t increase the likelihood of a successfully implemented system. Doing it right can still mean doing it fast.
4 Issues ERP Cloud Solutions Must Address
by Michael Critelli
Cloud ERP’s are quickly becoming the popular ERP option for companies. The appeal of low IT support costs and quicker implementations makes for a strong business case to move your company’s ERP to the cloud. However, cloud solutions are still lacking in some key areas customers have high on the wish list.
A significant portion of cloud vendors do not build flexibility into the core code, restricting the ability to add key fields and rules. In on-site systems, customizations and coding changes, such as building custom business processes and rules into an application, were quite common. Cloud solutions do not allow code changes as it could impact upgrades, infrastructure, and security. A few cloud solution providers have figured out how to provide a highly configurable solution without requiring code change customizations. However, the majority are still handicapping technology within the cloud and can’t meet unique client processes and requirements.
Stand-alone Mobile Application
Most industries have seen a major spike in business users relying on mobile devices to perform various ERP activities (sales invoices, purchase receipts, asset maintenance, and inventory management). Unfortunately, few mobile applications have full functionality without an internet connection or have major limitations. An inventory-heavy organization needs the capabilities to work in the warehouse and look up item locations and quantities without an internet connection. Many firms are investing heavily in mobile solutions that are just a glorified extension of the “www.” These solutions aren’t addressing the main problem, which is a stand-alone mobile tool that works separately from the ERP and only updates in real-time when connected to the internet.
Personal applications have accomplished integration with hundreds of sources, emphasizing ease and simplicity (Mint, QuickBooks, Robinhood, Venmo, etc.). It takes minutes to set up an integrated link between QuickBooks and Wells Fargo. A couple clicks, a password, and you’re good to go. When you spend more money on an application, you would assume it would have more capabilities, not less. Unfortunately, it takes months to set up similar connections in large enterprise systems. Cloud enterprise solutions need to learn from these smaller personal applications and pre-build integration points with the most common applications. Providers achieving this level of ease and simplicity in integration will have a competitive advantage, similar to personal banks who first offered mobile deposits.
Application and Reporting Support
Poor application and reporting support are the most common gaps in current cloud ERP offerings. Customers often need go-live application adjustments or assistance in building/fixing reports. Cloud vendors tend to point customers in the direction of third-party consultants or put requests in a low priority que where they are rarely resolved. Customers want a one-stop, customer-focused cloud software provider. The cloud provider cracking this nut the quickest will have the biggest differentiator in the market.
The cloud solution that provides robust business process flexibility, a stand-alone mobile solution, quick and simple integration, and has a customer-focused application and reporting support model can truly say they offer an all-in-one software as a service solution.
3 Questions to Ask to Ensure a Successful System Demo
by Tarryn Glenn
Selecting an ERP system can feel overwhelming. The options seem endless and all ERP software companies claim to fulfill critical requirements. Selecting the final option is easier after viewing the demonstration of the software. Software vendors are eager to demonstrate their wares but often miss the mark and create additional confusion.
Trenegy’s clients minimize the risk of confusion by making sure the software integrator is involved in the demonstration to ensure what is shown can be implemented. To keep the demonstration focused, our clients ask three simple questions:
1. “Before we begin, can we go over the agenda?”
Set out a plan for what needs to be seen. ERP sales people often do a poor job of clearly communicating clients’ needs to the demonstration team. As a result, the demonstration team is woefully unprepared and will spend much of the time discussing how great the software is, the look and feel, modules that are not relevant, and they will try to dazzle with irrelevant dashboards and reports. Demonstration participants are left confused.
Communicating a clear purpose and confirming critical requirements for the demo at the start of the conversation ensures the participants see how the software will support future-state day-to-day activities. Better, confirmation of the agenda makes it easier to redirect the discussion toward valuable and in-scope topics if things veer off track.
2. “How does this system support my critical requirements?”
Asking this question provides the vendor the opportunity to show exactly how the ERP system will enable future efficiencies and provide critical information to make more timely decisions. Use this question to highlight the top three to five requirements that are essential to the business, especially regarding regulatory and competitive differentiations. Sometimes these requirements cannot be fulfilled “out of the box.” Ask the software vendor and systems integrator to suggest changes in processes or identify third-party solutions to fulfill these requirements.
This information is critical when evaluating an ERP solution. Adding third-party solutions increases the cost and complexity of the implementation. Changing processes is less difficult.
3. “Do the system integrators agree this software will support critical requirements as demonstrated?”
It is important for demonstration participants to feel comfortable with a solution based on the demonstration. However, systems integrators have experience implementing the system and should point out hidden weaknesses or challenges. Good systems integrators like to take questions about the team and what has been done by other companies. More importantly, learn about the successes, roadblocks, and overall satisfaction realized by similar past clients. Not only does this tell the story of their past projects, but it also gives the vendor an opportunity to share industry and implementation best practices, which should be analyzed when selecting a system provider.
This approach centers on asking the right, detailed questions to obtain the answers needed to determine if a system is the right fit. At Trenegy, we help companies select the right system software to fit company needs and support growth. With a strong background in package selection and implementation, Trenegy adapts to company needs and delivers excellent results. For more information, email email@example.com.
A New Approach to ERP Selection
by William Aimone
The criteria for selecting a new ERP solution have changed substantially with the proliferation of SaaS (software as a service) offerings, business process outsourcing, and vendor consolidation. In our legacy ERP evaluations, technical criteria weighed almost as heavily as functional capabilities. Furthermore, differences in functional capabilities were significant among the selection candidates. Now, the widely commercially available software solutions have copied each other’s functionality and the differences are slim unless the company is in a niche industry segment.
Cloud vs. SaaS?
People often confuse cloud computing with SaaS. Cloud just means that the software is resident on a server outside the organization. Internal IT support is typically required for cloud computing to help with backups, software updates, and database management. True SaaS means that the IT infrastructure is provided as a part of the vendor software solution, eliminating the need for internal application support. For example, Acumatica’s ERP solution is a 100% SaaS solution while Oracle’s eBusiness is offered as a cloud solution. Oracle offers IT support at an additional cost, and true SaaS solution providers make the support invisible at no additional cost.
Business Process Outsourcing
Inevitably, nearly every company utilizes some form of business process outsourcing at some point. It’s more cost-effective to outsource certain functions. It’s important to know which software vendors have partners equipped to provide outsourcing through their platform. Most business process outsourcing companies use specific software solutions, and if the solution is different from yours, integration issues will occur. The good news is, if you choose a well-known vendor (even to support a niche), there will be a business process outsourcing partner available to you.
Vendor consolidation is ongoing and is not slowing down. The larger players (Oracle, SAP, IBM, and Microsoft) are using the acquisition pipeline to compete on offering a single solution for every need. At the next level down, vendors such as Sage, Epicor, and Infor continue the acquisition binges.
The question about the vendor roadmap is not easy. First, what are the chances the software solution you are exploring will get acquired? If your company is evaluating a solution owned by a private equity firm, what is the private equity firm’s strategy? What will happen if the software solution is sold to IBM or Oracle? For example, Oracle’s acquisition of PeopleSoft and JD Edwards left quite a few companies wondering about the future of their ERP solution. If your company is looking at an ERP solution that has already been acquired, what are the vendor’s long-term plans for the software? For example, Infor has allowed many of their acquired software solutions to remain intact.
Functionality is, of course, an important part of every selection. But given the convergence of functionality across vendors, we suggest focusing on truly critical requirements that support what differentiates your business from the competition. Looking at three-way matching or dual entry GL transactions is a waste of time. In addition to software demonstrations focused on these unique requirements, vendor reference calls with peer companies’ finance and operations managers are the best way to learn how the software will support your business and optimize business processes and reporting.
To learn more about how Trenegy can help you select the right package in record time, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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