In a past Industry Week article, Tales of an ERP Implementation: Part Two, they talk about the long process and some lessons learned about how Jelly Belly transformed away from their Green Screen to a modern ERP system.
The following are some highlights that are spot on with the conversations we are having with our mid-market manufacturing customers and prospective clients.
Bottom Line Up Front
Implementing a new ERP system is going to be painful. You need to find common ground somewhere in the middle between keeping the existing processes and trying to over-engineer a new way of doing business. Getting your key stakeholders involved early and ensuring they are well trained will help out tremendously.
"When we see implementation projects getting off track, it's usually because the customer has lost a clear direction of how their business really works," explains Rick Veague, CTO at ERP provider, IFS North America.
"Companies coming out of these old green screen systems have lost track of how their business really works," he says. "The business is running, but the current IT system doesn't really reflect their real business processes; it just reflects portions of it around basic transactional stuff. "
What really makes these businesses run is tribal knowledge. Expertise picked up on the job and passed down in training, but never formalized in any referenceable system. Trying to capture that knowledge and encapsulate it into a new, updated, ERP system is the recipe for disaster, leading to expensive, time-consuming customizations designed around objectives no one clearly understands.
"Change management is hard; anyone that tells you anything else is lying," IFS' Veague explains. "Even with the easiest software in the world, it's still hard to change—especially in the manufacturing environment."
"There comes a point when you need to rethink your business process and even how you do manufacturing," he says. "That can be difficult for some people."
However, too much re-engineering and business revisioning can often derail the whole project before it even gets started.
"You've got to be careful," he says. "If you start investing too much in custom processes and business changes, you invariably end up in analysis paralysis and nothing ever gets implemented."