systems diagram.jpgFrom time to time, we receive a call from a client dealing with a challenged ERP implementation. Unfortunately, "challenged" is a nice word for most of these! Of course, by the time the client calls, they have spent a lot of money and are frustrated which isn't a great starting point because unscrambling the situation is never an easy endeavor — assuming you want to provide service and make money.

Unscrambling these scenarios requires a unique combination of skills:

  1. System thinking - as odd as it sounds, there is NOT a need for experience in the specific system. Certainly, it might add value but the most important skill is system thinking — connecting the dots in terms of how systems work, down-the-line impacts, how they'll integrate with other process steps etc.
  2. Business process expertise - we find that this is a critical component. There are always several ways to perform a certain role or accomplish a task. Some of the ways will create positive down-the-line impacts while accomplishing your goal and some will work perfectly well for you (and might even be faster) but will create negative down-the-line impacts. The complication is that no documentation will tell you about these. This is where having "been there and done that" with multiple systems and process combinations is required.
  3. Timing/sequencing - even if you have good system thinking and good process expertise, if you don't "see" the various outcomes with different sequences and timing impacts, you'll still end up in a jumble. 
  4. Project management expertise - unscrambling several moving parts requires a deep project management expertise. Organizing and tracking several moving parts and related impacts (prerequisite steps, concurrent steps, etc.) requires a skill in project management.
  5. Relationships/communication - one would think we are asking for too much when we throw this topic into the mix but it is a key component. Often, there will be some technical capability required to resolve certain aspects. Thus, communicating effectively across applications and technical capabilities is a must. Additionally, your ERP and system partners (or lack thereof) might need to be addressed, improved and/or changed out. After all the frustration already incurred, it is essential to know quality resources.
  6. Training/application understanding - this is an easy one to outsource once you know what is needed. Our clients typically think it is #1 yet it is the least critical aspect. Once the solution is known, it is easy to provide training.


Yes, it is one of those situations where there are no easy solutions. The fix itself could seem simple yet putting together a plan and executing the plan will turn complex. Our best advice is to take a step back and assess your situation. After spending a lot of money (that has become a sunk cost), the key will be to remain focused on what the best long-term solution will be to maintain and grow your business successfully. It will require more money than you hoped but you'll "right the ship" so that you have a sustainable solution.


As an aside, if you happen to employ resources with many of these skills, hang on to them. Follow the advice of one of my best clients who hired top notch engineers during the recession when he didn't need them. He now has them and will sail past his competition.


Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:


How Challenging ERP Can Be!


The Value of CRM