I’ve been fortunate to see and experience some of the best run manufacturing companies in the world… literally. Companies in the Fortune 500 down to the local manufacturer with fifty or so employees. The locations vary from large metro to small rural towns. Companies in the US, Mexico and Latin America, Canada, Austria and many parts of Europe.
Many of these companies provide goods and services to leading edge brands we all recognize. The likes of Apple, Intel, Boeing, 3M, General Mills, the defense industry, and many more. The truth is I’ve also seen companies that, on the surface, seem to make money in spite of themselves or just eek by, and the differences are glaring.
Well-run companies focus on best practices and a strong foundation for success. If we think of a foundation as the roots of a well nurtured Oak Tree, we know the roots run deep and are strong. The strength of the tree is clearly seen by its healthy color, lack of stress, and its growth is unabated, even when nature pushes the tree’s limits with unimaginable forces.
The sure sign of a struggling tree is stress. Ants and other pests move in, mistletoe or other parasitic infestations become evident and its growth becomes stunted and the tree struggles or even dies. Another sure sign of stress is the lack of fruit on the tree. Many signs of stress in a business are constant expediting, lack of visibility to production and inventory, managing emergencies rather than by exception, and constant rework or wasted time trying but never resolving issues. The list goes on.
A healthy tree produces fruit, and in some cases starts to sprout more saplings. (In business we might refer to these saplings as acquisitions or organic growth by adding capacity). However, many companies are not willing to take the root analogy to heart. Why are the roots so important? In ERP implementations, they can mean the difference between hitting the strategic target and growing for the near and long-term or missing the mark for years.
Many ERP systems provide the functional capabilities most companies need today. However, companies lose sight of the foundational importance of the roots in exchange for perceived “features and functions”.
The roots related to the software are:
- Required core functionality.
- Current technology enabling agility and exception management.
- Modern integration capabilities enabling visibility, document management and reporting against 3rd party applications.
- Not just document management, but the ability to quickly share information and report on the same data in real-time.
- The absolute capability to scale as needed.
- Best Practice enabled software, capable of configuration and extending the solution without impacting regular updates, providing a strategic advantage.
The roots related to implementation are:
- Implementing core best practices leveraging the software as designed.
- Using a partner who understands realistic change management for the organization.
- Using a partner with industry experience capable of challenging the “way it has been done”
- Adequate Training and Education.
- Adequate Conference Room Pilots and team enablement.
- Self sufficiency is a metric for the project.
Why are these important?
Simply put, get a solution (tree) that will stand the test of time and focus on the basics. The basics are what is needed to run a business. “Order to Cash” and “Procure to Pay” processes are really important foundationally. Once the “root system” is established, incremental value is more easily applied for sustainable growth. Of course, if an experienced team is already familiar with ERP and how one’s role impacts the rest of the organization, this should be factored in, but never take the foundation approach lightly. My experience is many companies focus on the bright and shiny object and lose sight of reality.
The reality is the bright and shiny object (outcome) requires a strong foundational implementation by an experienced, results oriented partner. A partner who won’t settle for shortcuts and will challenge how it’s been done versus how it should be done. A partner who desires to make your business a priority for the long-term, not just sell products. A partner who listens and knows the importance of collaborating for success will work with you to build a long-term vision that will meet your budget and outcomes. In many cases, the long-term vision means crawl, walk, then run. In larger organizations with significant resources, it may mean a complete digital transformation project, but the outcome should always be the same. The roots must be successful for the strategy to work.
So, what is the risk? Partners focusing on limited scope, highly assumptive estimates without identifying who owns the work are RISK to your organization.
Any provider with a lesser focus on implementation simply doesn’t have their client’s best interests at heart. Understand that someone has to put in the work (care and feeding in the implementation) to have a proper foundation. Anything less will waste valuable time downstream and ultimately make more work for the organization, or worse; the organization may never arrive at the destination.
Proper care and feeding includes:
- A detailed project plan with clear deliverables. Deliverables which are based on collaboration between the client and implementation partner.
- A partner team with significant industry experience and knowledge of manufacturing.
- A partner with a track record of delivering on-time, on-budget and validated by independent attestation.
- A partner who can challenge the organization to stay true to the mission at hand by not reverting to the “old ways” of doing things
Too often I see limited scope projects from our competition with unrealistic assumptions. Assumptions the client has skillsets “in-house” without verifying and walking through the project in detail to ensure alignment. Without collaborative dialogue and a clear understanding of the outcome, most limited scope projects simply fail. ERP implementations are not something to be repeated in 3-5 years.
A seasoned arborist will say when tending to branches, keep your axe honed and sharpened or you’ll expend twice the energy or more simply maintaining the tree. Take the time to sharpen the axe through knowledge transfer, change management, training and conference room pilots. Hone the skills of your team with the right amount of education and collaboration with a strong experienced solution partner. Leverage the best practices of your core solution, and the benefits will be evident. You’ll be able to shape your future dynamically, utilizing a healthy foundation.