Business leaders take many steps to safeguard their organizations. They make sure they’re in the best location, hire key talent and train them to provide exceptional customer service. They ensure that their employment contracts are legally compliant, that intellectual property is protected and that restraints of trade are in place for customer-facing staff. When it comes to their products or services, they work hard to ensure they’re offering the best quality for the money, and that they protect their trade secrets, such as pricing and customer lists. To maintain their competitive edge, they regularly bring out new product ranges, or more technologically advanced options, they secure patents and copyrights to ensure the longevity of the company.
One area that is often overlooked, however, is safeguarding the often costly investment of software – the vital backbone – that helps to run your business. Many businesses forget to treat their software systems as an asset. Without proper policies and processes in place to ensure that your ERP solution is being used to its fullest potential, there is a real risk that it will lose its luster, won’t fulfill its purpose, and will appear obsolete.
By not proactively protecting your investment from the start, your ERP system will not have an opportunity to reach its full potential and provide you with real business benefit.
The good news is that there are simple, proactive steps that you can take to ensure your ERP software continues to deliver long-term value to your business.
Be Mindful During Implementation
Whether you’re considering implementing an ERP solution for the first time, or you’re wondering whether you are able to upgrade your current solution, you will need to be in agreement on the business objectives and needs. You cannot successfully assess whether an ERP solution will work (or is working) for your business unless your leadership agrees on what the business challenges are and what needs to be put in place to set it on a path to efficient, sustainable growth.
It’s a good idea to request a system audit from a vendor to get a better idea of the kind of solution you will need for your specific business, or (if you already have one in place) to assess whether you are using your ERP solution to its fullest potential.
Regardless of whether you are upgrading your existing ERP system or selecting a new ERP solution, your vendor should assist in reviewing, re-engineering and streamlining your business processes to provide a full understanding of your environment and to enable delivery of your ERP objectives.
Only once there is an aligned understanding of the business, its objectives, and processes, and the needs of the specific project can the assembled project team be properly briefed. In turn, the project team can then select the best ERP vendor and solution to meet your organization’s needs.
Remember that just because you can customize your chosen solution doesn’t mean you should do so. First, assess the industry-specific frameworks available with your solution to see if they will work for your business. Vendors who have been in the business for decades, and have worked closely with their customers over the years, will have the necessary insights to design solutions that will work for your business.
Remember to make sure that your project team steers the change management process that comes with implementing the new business system. Strong communication between the consultants, IT team, and the business will make the various phases of the implementation run more smoothly. Allowing users to provide input at the review stages can lead to successful adoption once the system is rolled out.
Put Post-implementation Policies in Place
Application erosion happens all the time, across a wide variety of software solutions. The reason that it happens is not that the software is tired or obsolete but rather because the people using it forget what it can do or only use a fraction of its capabilities. When you’ve invested in a solution, you want to be sure that everyone using it knows what it can do, how it can positively contribute to the business, and to their daily roles. You want to be sure that they undergo regular training, either by a champion in your organization, who is passionate about staying up to date with the program and its capabilities, or through official vendor training at least once a year, or on an ongoing basis through an online Learning channel.
The best way to make sure that people keep up to date with training, and that they are encouraged to use the solution as it was intended, rather than finding manual workarounds which could lead to a loss of valuable knowledge and data, is to put relevant education policies and processes in place from the start, together with positive recognition and appraisals to encourage learning.
If it is a new implementation, ensure that the project team trains the system users and advocates and promotes adoption of the new software. The project team should offer ongoing support for users, providing avenues such as online vendor-provided training, or have quarterly update sessions where specialist trainers remind them of the benefits of using the system optimally or highlight new features introduced into the software.
It is important to partner with a vendor who not only provides ongoing training but offers different training methodologies to their customers. Each organization’s needs are going to be different, and the ability to have key personnel out of the office, even for a day, can prove challenging. Ensure that your solution partner offers knowledge-sharing through online portals, as well as classroom, and on-premise training to keep your employees up to date and free of bad habits that could possibly creep in during peer-to-peer training sessions.
Focus on Continuous Improvement
Business agility is critical. The speed at which your organization adapts to, and embraces change, is a reflection of its ability to remain relevant. Your systems need to be flexible and agile enough to help you maintain a steady forward pace. The key areas to focus on when assessing potential ERP solutions include scalability, extendibility, the ability to include future innovations, and a focus on ongoing improvements.
SYSPRO’s Chief Software Development Officer, JP van Loggerenberg says that an effective ERP system should grow at the same pace as your business, “It should allow you to add and remove users with ease, integrate other enterprise applications for better operational control and management reporting, strengthen key business areas and to extend beyond the enterprise to allow customers and suppliers the ability to link with their own systems for better order and delivery performance. In doing so, it will facilitate an agile response across your supply chain.”
As more businesses make the move to adopt some form of digitization, your solution also needs to be able to adapt, incorporating industry changes and future innovations to industry-built capabilities seamlessly. In addition, you should never have to consider scrapping existing assets to embrace a fully digitized infrastructure. The correct ERP system should allow for the integration of legacy technologies to minimize costly disruptions.
Van Loggerenberg believes SYSPRO’s latest release will deliver long-term business value, and ensure the viability of your business infrastructure. “SYSPRO ERP is built for your industry, and we’re constantly improving its capabilities to anticipate and solve the challenges faced by business owners and to ensure it evolves in line with our customers’ needs.”
Derive continuous value from your ERP asset
“Your ERP investment should be a living part of your organization with people at all levels of the organization having a vested interest in its successful, appropriate usage”, says Thompson. “By agreeing on the objective of an ERP system within an organization and aligning your strategy, business processes and people in the initial stages of the implementation, you will have a solid foundation to enable business growth and agility to deliver on your Brand Promise.”