My first tryst with ERP happened in 1996; the project took seven months to implement then and another three months to address errors and desired changes to give the system some stability. Later I moved to a larger organization in the automotive sector and was given charge of the ERP project which had six main modules and was to cover the entire organization. This project again took eight months for completion followed by two months for stabilization. Same was the story in the next two organizations. In addition, for measures like adding new modules or upgrading the ERP to a newer version, one had to go through a similar process.
Why ERP takes that long to implement?
There is no doubt that ERP integrates all functions and takes care of the most organizational needs. It’s a comprehensive package and is designed to cater to companies of all sizes and from various industries. Therefore to make this package run in any organization, one has to configure various parameters as per the defined needs. The package being complex it requires people with knowledge and skills to undertake this task.
Most ERP vendors have prescribed clear methodologies which are field tested at various companies across the world. If we follow these diligently we can be sure of success. The methodologies speak of several stages which include as-is process documentation, designing to-be processes, configuring testing, conference room pilot 1, conference room pilot 2, go-live preparation, go-live and post go-live support. It is therefore natural for ERP implementation to take that much time. It also requires considerable effort of people in the form of skilled consultants (from the implementation partner) and internal team members who are competent.
What’s wrong with this?
Times have been changing; companies now face a lot of challenges in the market and expect IT to help their organizations in overcoming them. However talking of six or eight months puts us out of sync with the management. I had to face such embarrassing situations more than once. In one of our management committee meetings, we had discussed and decided on a few strategic steps. The attention then turned to me asking for a solution. Knowing fully well the ERP processes, I asked for a few months. That didn’t go well and I had to face a barrage of questions. Though I explained the situation well, I did feel sheepish and sorry for being a drag in the company’s quest for progress.
I realized that implementation of ERP in its present form was unfit for the world of today. Whether for extension or upgrade when ERP takes months, its efficacy and effectiveness is called to question. My dilemma was for real and I wished that there was a solution which could accelerate this process.
It was just last week that I met my friend, director of a well-known IT Services firm who mentioned to me about his plans of bringing in a software tool designed to help expedite ERP implementation and asked for my opinion. When I expressed my thoughts on this subject he was glad and asked me to share my views with the audience at the seminar that he was holding to launch this product.
I attended the seminar and shared my views, which was then followed by an exposition of the product features and demonstration. I liked the product and I felt that there was at last a solution that I was looking for. The tool called Rapid e-Suite; it sits on top of Oracle Business Suite and automates a lot of steps and helps simplify the process by making it possible to work in an off-line mode and then transfer changes to ERP. It has various other features like a knowledge repository, feature mapping for upgrades, the configurator engine, data migration, replication of instances, etc., which help in quick implementation and rollouts. Based on the roll outs in various countries, the company claims to reduce implementation times by over 50%. I am sure there would be other solutions that are available for different environments.
I strongly suggest that CIOs/ CXOs should look for solutions to implement ERP projects in much shorter time and help IT stay relevant in their organizations. The conventional way of implementing ERP solutions is unsuitable for the current environment in which our businesses operate.