By Pravesh Parbhoo, Head: Business Applications at Altron Karabina
When organisations embark on projects to update their enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, it’s vital that they understand the triggers for change and then map out a vision for the future. These triggers could be technology-led, like moving to the cloud; capability or scale-focused – needing a solution to manage the business growth or perhaps an acquisition requiring consolidation. Keeping these triggers in mind throughout ensures not only project success, but successful outcomes that help realise the full potential of these often lengthy transformation initiatives – be it reducing cost, increasing revenue or improving the value of the brand as a whole.
ERPs are the backbone of the organisation and act as the glue that binds different operations including finance, human resources, supply chain and other industry-specific functions, in order to create valuable information for company decision-makers by bringing various data sources together.
As such, ERP projects are never incidental, given their scale and magnitude, and much work is required in terms of planning, business cases, change impact analysis and more – a lot of investment is needed to identify the change needed, how employees are guided through the change and what business benefits the change will bring. Starting an initiative by unpacking why an organisation is embarking on its transformation journey and what they aim to achieve out of it creates a golden thread that runs through the entirety of the project.
Not following this process results in misalignment of customer expectations; organisations are subject to change from a variety of sources (leadership changes, regulatory changes, mergers and acquisitions, etc) and it is easy to lose sight of why the transformation project was initiated in the first place. Not having a framework to measure success also results in an unending race to chase a moving finish line.
Furthermore, failing to solidify the ‘why’ also results in a continuous debate around the value of something that has already been done, rather than embracing a mindset of looking forward in order to build on the success already achieved. The ‘why’ helps with continuous tracking of the vision of what success looks like, from initiation, through to delivery and even post-implementation.
Project success vs. outcomes success
The success of an ERP project is not only based on excellence in execution, such as it being delivered on time, within budget and meeting the scope of the customer – this is the bare minimum, and forms just one pillar of success for Altron Karabina’s clients. The other pillar is successful outcomes: beyond just the tangible benefits, such as producing reports in a shorter period of time or delivering supply chain optimisation, there are also intangible benefits that are looked at as a measure of success.
For example, beyond just reducing costs and improving efficiency and revenue, a customer in the healthcare sector wanted to use their ERP transformation project as an enabler to enhance the level of service provided to patients. For an FMCG customer, the net positive impact was not only bringing data together from different operations within the business, but looking at how to improve the value of the brand as a whole.
Achieving these intangible benefits around value creation is dependent on the broad adoption of the new system by users. It doesn’t matter if you have done the best implementation of the latest technologies, but if no one’s using it, it’s a white elephant. And, this makes change management a non-negotiable.
A journey to uncover new opportunities
More than just a tick-box exercise that tracks project progress, Altron Karabina focuses on tracking the strategic change in the business and looking at whether what was achieved with an ERP implementation matches the vision that the company leadership had at the beginning.
To get this right, change is addressed operationally, with the ERP being the backbone of the organisation; tactically, by addressing user training in order to drive adoption and usage; and strategically which closely looks at whether the implementation is going to shift an organisation to where it wants or needs to be.
In addition, it’s not enough for just the finance team to know how the implemented solution works, but for the broader organisation to also understand how the change aligns with their workplace objectives, and this can be achieved through taking ordinary employees along on the journey too.
Major ERP projects can result in an environment where the jobs of certain employees can fundamentally change, causing uncertainty. Often, the fear is not of the change itself, but around perceived inadequacies that people feel, especially around topics such as automation. When done right, these engagements help create transparency and clarity, and show employees the new value that the change brings for them – and this is often where opportunities reveal themselves.
Here, Altron Karabina partners with businesses and understands the challenges that are inherent in their digital transformation journey. Then, it comes down to bringing together business, user experience and technology, and combining those with the bare minimum (execution excellence) in order to create predictable outcomes and success – and truly deliver innovation that matters.