Recently I was exchanging comments with some friends in a LinkedIn ERP group. We were discussing the question of maintaining an ERP system over the long term. Particularly, how to keep the system aligned to the needs of the enterprise.
I had asked my friends how often they felt the system should be re-evaluated. I was trying to get a feel for what the optimal frequency would be for measuring an ERP system’s effectiveness.
In our group, we talk to people virtually every day who are confronted by ERP systems that are woefully inadequate, out of touch with the needs of the enterprise and misaligned with the ultimate objectives the organization has set for itself. Almost invariably, the incumbent ERP system has been in use for many years and the ongoing maintenance for those systems is left in the hands of the IT department.
Based on our experiences talking with prospects, I expected my LinkedIn group to come back with a wide variety of answers covering lots of incremental ranges.
I was wrong.
This group, which by its nature may be skewed toward highly successful ERP implementations, was almost unanimous in its recommendation:
ERP must be CONTINUOUSLY evaluated and tweaked to meet the ever-changing needs of the organization.
Further, many of these guys recommended that the implementation team be reconstituted into the ERP team. The ERP team would never disband and never complete its work; it would be an ongoing, standing committee. Typically the ERP team would maintain the same broad vertical and horizontal representation structurally. By that I mean, diverse cross-functional membership and active executive participation to assure the team maintained the clout necessary to execute their duties.
Relegate to IT?
A couple of my friends made reference to the practice of relegating the ongoing oversight of the system to solely the IT department. The opinion here is that the IT department is totally unequipped to handle this alone. IT will look at the system in the context of IT.
They are not likely to be tuned into the needs of the operations group or other functional areas within the enterprise. They will see that the proper product updates are applied and that the hardware resources are adequate. These are the kinds of things they do, and they are important to the ongoing running of the system.
However, they are not adept at the assorted business issues that ERP is involved in. I do not mean to diminish the value of a well-run IT organization; it’s simply a matter of the focus of the people and their specific duties and responsibilities within the enterprise. You would never think of asking the guys running the sales group to make sure the company was complying with their contracts with GSA. By the same token, IT people by themselves don’t make good ERP stewards.
That said, IT must be involved in the selection process, the implementation planning and other major events from the beginning. Their input along the way as the implementation matures and develops is important as well.
In summary, do not “set it and forget it” when it comes to ERP. Keep your implementation team intact and migrate that team from implementation to maintenance as the system moves to a live status. When major changes occur within your organization, such as mergers, new product groups, re-organizations or new lines of business, be prepared to make serious changes to your ERP system.