I had the pleasure of delivering a presentation with Peter Joeckel, founder, and principal of HandsFree and Pelorus Technology, at Cloud Wars Expo in San Francisco, June 27-29, 2022, on the topic of Setting a Realistic Timeline for a Cloud ERP Project. That presentation is available on demand here.
The topic is near and dear to my heart, as the manufacturing company where I am CIO is currently engaged in a cloud ERP implementation. I have witnessed first-hand how challenging it is to accurately predict how long a project of this size and scope will take.
In discussing these challenges with my peer CXOs, I find that this challenge is not unique to our company and is more the norm than the exception. ERP implementations are notorious for experiencing delays in completion, budget overruns, and lacking promised functionality. Cloud-based ERP systems are not immune to these challenges. The Cloud has been marketed as a panacea that solves many issues affecting on-premise ERP implementations. However, that is not the case.
Peter has also witnessed this as he has been on the implementation partner side of the ERP industry for several decades. Multiple companies have called upon him to come to the rescue of ERP projects that are in trouble or have gotten out of control. I was eager to pick his brain on why this problem is so common and what can be done to avoid it.
Digging Deeper Into Project Plan Errors
What Peter showed me makes a lot of sense, and I think it can form a straightforward framework for setting your project up for success from the outset.
It starts by asking why it is over budget, time, or missed scope. That answer is, more often than not, because of project plan errors. So, you ask, “Why were there project plan errors?” And you continue that process until you get to the root cause. Here is a diagram that shows a typical progression of digging deeper into the problem.
What becomes apparent as you go through this process is that an ERP project’s initial timeline is inaccurate due to an underestimation of the project’s needs or, to put it another way, missed critical requirements. If you estimate the time and cost of a project based on a limited understanding of everything that is needed, it is easy to see where that estimate will fall short.
Meeting Critical Requirements
How do you ensure that critical requirements are not missed? It has been my experience to get everyone together in a room and ask them to either 1) look at a standard process and find what is missing or 2) think of everything you need as difficult for most people to handle. There are so many variations in what someone does in their job daily, not to mention at different times of the month, that most people won’t remember everything they do.
So, instead of relying on people to try to think of everything, why not use technology? That’s exactly what Peter and his colleagues came up with, introducing data-driven metrics with Insite, the first ERP productivity analysis tool.
Using the ERP Productivity Analysis Tool
Insite can provide data, not opinions, regarding your ERP software productivity and status for critical decision-making data regarding:
- Maintenance — How well is my system running? Am I making optimal use of my software investment?
- Upgrades — How has a software upgrade affected my software use and productivity?
- Software change — If you are contemplating upgrading to a new software solution, all the issues detailed above can be improved with the data and metrics provided by Insite.
Insite is designed to understand your use of your ERP platform by:
In addition, and equally critical, Insite identifies those “non-ERP software” applications needed to run the business. These “Shadow ERP components” are rarely understood by management and never investigated in the software selection process.
Insite understands these Shadow ERP elements and calculates the real-time ratio of time spent inside the ERP system versus non-ERP applications needed to supplement and complete business processes.
Without this information, we do not have a complete picture of our ERP software platform’s efficiency. Insite exposes critical issues that affect the optimum running of an existing system by identifying gaps such as:
- Poor software set-up
- Wrong software selection for critical business requirements
It is even more critical to understand Shadow ERP components and ratios if we plan to select and implement a new ERP software platform.
You can get more details about how this works in Peter’s blog post “Insite & the Five Whys,” which details how the lack of insight into this data leads to challenged or failed implementation projects.