This damn ERP will never get better!!! It’s been almost 6 months now and I can’t get the reports and new issues crop up everyday!!!
Ever heard this before?
Over the years, I’ve seen clients getting frustrated for not being able to get their money’s worth after spending hundreds of millions and then there is painful change management. This frustration comes from the top and runs deep in the organization’s veins down to the intern hired for 2 weeks for data entry.
Top management complains: they can’t see the reports with accurate data from the system after spending millions.
Middle Management complains: they have to spend countless unaccounted hours trying to build accurate reports in excel and they need to deal with grunting from his team.
Lower level management and Specialists complain: that the management changed the systems on them and they have to change their processes. They also have to deal with everyday bugs.
There are multiple root causes for these complains, which we’ll analyse in future blogs, but today let me explain that Product companies may not be setting the right expectation with their clients while trying to sell their ERPs.
Long ago, one of my managers once said to me (not sure if it was his original thought) “Adi, an ERP implementation is like birth of a baby” and the thought stuck with me over the years. Now, when I look back and review all the complex deployments I have been a part of, I cannot believe how true that statement was an is. So, this is my crazy take on this –
An ERP implementation has a very strong analogy with birth of a child and follows these stages:
Conception (Product and SI partner contract): The sales guys from various product companies (sperm donors) pitch why their product, when married to the organization will produce the perfect ERP (child). Consultants (genetic experts) suggest which product will be a better father (err…. fit) for the child. On certain occasions, the organization dates ( run a proof of concept) with multiple products to assess compatibility. Once the decision is made on the product, conception occurs at the point of product purchase and a doctor (system integration company) is identified and hired.
First Trimester (Design Phase) : This is the phase of happiness and confusion. The organization doesn’t know what it has signed into, but a lot of family and friends have assured that this is the best thing in the world. The organization start planning for the good things that are coming. Towards the end of this phase as you are getting into detail design, you start feeling the nausea (partially fit requirements, identified as fit earlier on). A lot of time is spent on what to do with the situation and after countless meetings, there is no solution except getting some prescription drugs (additional RICE, additional analysis, $$$, etc.).
Second Trimester (Development): By this phase, the nausea has settled down, reality has sunk in and the organization starts to accept the upcoming change. It is the golden period of an ERP implementation where the requirements and design was frozen and there is very little decision making is required. Now, I don’t mean it is the best period of life, but it is best among the 3 trimesters. This is also the period where extreme care needs to be taken on what the mom eats, drinks and reads (Specs and code build) as carelessness can cause long lasting effects (design or code bugs) on the baby’s development. The doctor makes sure that the fingers, arms, head etc are developing at the normal rate (Unit Testing).
Third Trimester (Deployment): At this point, the doctors start looking if the baby is developing and moving around properly, make sure the baby is not in stress, the baby has enough fluid to move around (all signs of Integration testing). The doctor also discusses potential issues with the mother and makes the mother see the baby move around in the belly (User Acceptance testing). The organizations feels only partially content because the baby is not live yet and can only see the baby on an ultrasound (test environment, dummy data).
Birth (Go-Live): The labor and birth in case of ERP implementations lasts from 1-2 weeks and it can be extremely painful due to the system blackout windows. Make no mistake, a few days after birth (of a baby or of an ERP), there are huge celebrations, congratulatory and success announcements, cakes will be cut, wine will be spilled, sweets will be distributed, but it is the mother (organization) who is going through the pain of having to calm the baby down, settle her own anxiety and deal with her physical trauma she just went through.
It is also the time when the rest of the family starts to understand their roles and responsibilities with the new arrival. It is natural for many people within the organization to resist the change and blame the baby for pushing them out of their comfort zone or threat their existence.
The First Year : Many sleepless nights, you will not why it does what it does sometimes (burping, crying, et al), you will end up blaming the father’s DNA (product itself), the baby will not know what to do on own (poor reporting), the baby will get the jaundice and the flu and will catch the bug quickly, visits to the doctor (SI partner) will be far too frequent and more that required. There will be birth marks ( solution gaps) and a few birth defects as well (irreversibly poor implementation decisions).
Just like babies, there will be abortions (project scrap due to budget or misfit requirements) and still-births (failed implementations). These can be blamed on the DNA mismatch, doctor’s oversight or mother’s fears of not going through it.
Conclusion: If you have been a parent, you would know what to do with the newly implemented ERP. Treat a newly implemented ERP as a little baby, you will need to invest in the baby’s development (enhancements, report development, $$$) and be patient with the baby’s shortcomings (bugs and shortcomings) because just like any other baby, the ERP system will grow up to be a mature child fulfilling all your dreams, but in time. The baby will not deliver results the day it goes live. It will take more time and $$$ than the salesmen projected.
If the organization is made aware of this fact before conception, it may be better budgeted for the year after the baby goes live, but salesmen will be salesmen (and that’s for another blog). 🙂
– Adi Singla