Why ERP implementations require teaching old dogs new tricks

When assessing the benefits of enterprise resource planning (ERP), your team likely will find plenty of reasons to support a new ERP system implementation. The right ERP solution can deliver more accurate and timely data, improve coordination among departments, boost efficiency, and lower costs.

Unfortunately, many ERP projects don’t live up to those high expectations, according to the a 2017 report released by Panorama Consulting Solutions. In fact, 37 percent of companies surveyed said they received 50 percent or less of the benefits they anticipated from ERP.

One of the main reasons ERP projects fail to live up to expectations is that some companies aren’t willing to give up old, familiar routines, according to ERP experts from Forterro, an international group of ERP software and services companies.

“When replacing an aging system, the main risk I see is customers copying and pasting an existing system into a new system,” said Benoit Wambergue, product manager for Sylob in France.

“Failing to improve your processes is a major mistake,” Wambergue said. “When you are changing the ERP of a company, you must question the way you do business. It represents a real opportunity that many customers don’t seize. They’re not looking at how business has changed over the years.”

When upgrading or implementing a new ERP system, you should automatically have the expectation that things will change.

“ERP implementations are complex, and it would be a lie for anyone to call them easy stuff,” Wambergue said. “There are always things that will need to change during the project. In some cases, you will need to completely redesign your processes. Your team may have to do some tasks they have never done before.”

“Implementing any kind of change is difficult for many companies because it requires both managers and employees to move out of their comfort zone … yet it’s a critical step for success,” said Tove Brodin, a senior ERP consultant for Jeeves, a Sweden-based ERP company. 

During an ERP project, the ERP vendor should guide your team through the process of embracing new processes.

“One of our biggest challenges is to get them to think outside of the box,” she said. “A lot of companies are still working under old segmented routines which are based on how things were done manually. I often have to challenge them to ask themselves, ‘Why? Why do we do it that way?’ Then I ask them, ‘What is the outcome you want?’ This introspective process can help them realize their vision of how they want their company to run moving forward.”

“Companies also experience problems when they fail to provide thorough training for employees who will be using the system,” Brodin added. “In some cases, since they haven’t been properly trained, employees will revert back to working outside of the system—using spreadsheets and old reports,” she said.

To ensure the success of your ERP project, it’s critical to accept the challenge to change and adapt your processes. “Some clients want to change, while others really need to be challenged to get there,” she said.