ERP and Legacy Business Processes: Is Change Inevitable?

One of the most difficult tasks you will undertake in your pursuit of a successful ERP implementation is knowing when to change a business process to conform to out-of-the-box ERP, and when it is essential to customize your ERP implementation to preserve a strategic business process advantage. The reason it is a difficult task is because while there will be very few business processes that actually represent a strategic advantage, you will encounter one hundred per cent resistance to changing any of them.

An example of adapting a business process might be: Suppose that you print advertising brochures, and because of the high cost of set up, you always over produce by 5%, since the cost of an overage is small compared to the cost of a shortage, and you’ve always simply given the overage to the customer. This won’t work in ERP, for a variety of reasons. So do you change your practices, or change ERP?

ERP systems have been developed and refined by observing best business practices and incorporating them into the design; if you have a non-conforming process then it’s likely not a best practice. Yet, you will face opposition to changing, because somebody is going to have to do something they don’t want to do; marketing won’t want to bill customers for product they didn’t order, production will not accept being charged with 5% scrap, and planning can’t afford the risk of shortages.

The Importance of “No”

So how do you win and be successful? First, you have to mentally separate yourself from your peers and friends, even though you fully understand their concerns. Then you have to ask yourself if this thing you are debating is a fundamentally good business practice. In the example above, imagine yourself asking the CEO for permission to customize ERP, so that you can give product away efficiently. At this point, you know what the right answer is, and your responsibility to the success of the project is to be the one with the courage and perseverance to say, “No.”

On the other hand, suppose ERP didn’t handle an on-line design feature where customers could lay out their own brochures and send a completed design to you over the web for printing. You would probably feel okay asking permission to customize ERP for that; it is a strategic business advantage.

These situations can be emotionally draining. When a sales manager is in your face, adamant that your decision is going to ensure that she does not hit her annual quota, it is intimidating, even if you know it is not true. Keep in mind that your organization did not invent business. In addition to all of the tangible advantages ERP brings to the table, create an additional success out of knowledge that your ERP package represents the norm for business practices, and you have the opportunity to quietly correct some bad business habits.

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Tom Stephenson

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Tom Stephenson

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