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Hardfacts on Software – Your growing ERP kingdom

Avid readers of my blog will remember the analogy I discussed last time, of an ERP system implementation being very much like a huge infrastructure project in a little kingdom. So lets continue to explore this. But let me first explain a bit for those readers that missed last week’s article.
When embarking on an ERP project, see your business as a kingdom. As MD or CEO you are king. You have your trusted advisors (board of directors and top management) and the master treasurer (finance director). Your kingdom is chugging along nicely with engrained culture where every department is running its own thing: manufacturing town, finance town and so on. Suddenly your cousin in the next door kingdom is implementing ERP, installing railways and telephone lines and highways to make information flow better and being able to produce more with less and being more agile (think about the need for highways in a war situation…)
So dear cousin king of nextdoor kingdom is running his place much more efficient than you are and he is dumping cheap goods on your doorstep, putting your economy under strain.
So you decide to implement infrastructure (ERP) also. But what’s next? We discussed last time some of the considerations when choosing a system, but what about implementing it?
Well the first thing you need to understand is that it is a painful and costly process to have good infrastrucutre in your kingdom. You will have to build roads, and in the process, plough over existing roads. You will close lanes and congest traffic in order to build new lanes. Once the highway is complete of course, everyone will be smiling and saying: “Why didn’t we have this before?”
But still you will need to empower your subjects. Where they rode a horse carriage before, pretty much going where they wanted to go in the way they wanted to go, they now have to learn to ride on the new highway system. There are rules and they need to stick to those! You will need to set the rules, explain the rules, train the rules and enforce the rules. If you don’t, there is going to be chaos and your kingdom is going to be in a mess.
And then don’t blame the highway constructors! This happens a lot in ERP, where the implementing company is ignorant of the warnings of the implementing team, and then the team is blamed.
Mind you, an ERP project is not like your typical construction project. In the ERP project, your subjects are the key players. If they don’t play along, your highway will be a dead duck in the water. In fact, it will have paved over the old ways and block the old roads. So you are worse off if you get it wrong.
So what is a king to do? Most imporantly: LEAD!. Be there on the ground to show your support of the new highways and railways. Create a few quick wins by opening up one short new line quickly so that your subjects can see the benefits. Involve your subjects and get their buy in. Hold meetings and let them voice their concerns and address these. But beware of the ones that want to block progress. There will be many of those! As king, you need to step in and dictate what needs to be done for the greater good of the kingdom. Lead from the front since you will be one of the few that sees the whole picture.
And get buy-in from your team of advisors as well. If you don’t have them on your side, your kingdom is doomed. Make sure they understand your vision. Make sure they perceive the threat from dear old cousin just like you do.
What happens to a kingdom without a strong king? It gets invaded very quickly and fades into oblivion. This is what happens to failed ERP implementations. In most projects it is the lack of top leadership that makes an implementation fail. Nothing else! Think about that….
Until next time then – remember – Keep it (A)fresh

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