ERP Implementation – Your Systems Integrator won’t do everything!

If you’re embarking on an ERP based transformation of your business then you will no doubt have spent much time and effort selecting the right product(s), and then in most circumstances, selecting and contracting with a Systems Integrator (SI) to drive the required implementation activity. At that point, the temptation is to say, ‘job done, we now have this covered’! 

 

Unfortunately, this is far from the case, as there is significant activity required that will normally fall outside of the SI contract. You will need to ensure that this can be covered by sufficiently skilled internal teams, or by contracting with further third-party support. In this article, we explore some of these areas, and their importance to a successful ERP implementation. 

 

 

Independent Governance and Control 

 

Responsibility for the overall transformation governance sits squarely with your business. This means appointing an executive sponsor and setting up the appropriate governance processes and structures. This will also require very strong and capable programme management which is independent from the product vendor and the SI. An SI is a valuable partner, but they won’t assume complete transformation ownership. Successful ERP implementation requires strong collaboration between the SI and your internal teams. Both parties must actively participate, communicate, and share responsibilities to ensure overall success. 

 

As with any complex transformation, making sure that the right information is provided at the right time is critical to make sure that the right decisions are made. Your SI will feed into this, but the independent oversight and aggregation will fall outside of their scope. Ensuring independent governance is in place will also ensure that you get the best from your suppliers, holding them to account and making sure they are not ‘marking their own homework’! 

 

ERP based transformations tend to be once in a decade activity and therefore many organisations won’t have the experience of having gone through it before. This is where further third-party support is often very useful. For example, Project One worked with a leading UK Defence company, providing a small and very experienced programme management team to work customer side driving a SAP S/4HANA based transformation, providing oversight of the SI activity and ensuring join-up with the wider transformation. 

 

Your SI will provide programme management and control to cover the direct scope of their activity, but again, this will not be at the overall transformation level. Wider control on the customer side is required to make sure that the ERP implementation activity fits within the wider transformation context, aligning with other ongoing change and ensuring dependencies are tracked. An overall transformation level programme management office (TMO or PMO) will be required. Another example of this is when Project One worked with a global metals organisation to shape up and mobilise their SAP based ERP transformation, providing both programme management support and helping to shape up and implement the required PMO. 

 

And remember that your SI is a commercial organisation. Yes, they need to make a margin, but also need to be fairly and competently managed. A trusted working relationship is required to get these complex programmes delivered, and in the majority of cases, the SI will also welcome competent customer side control.  

 

 

Business Change 

 

ERP implementations must be business led to ensure success. Implementing the technology is only one part of the journey and there is also significant activity to ensure that the business areas are ready and willing to work in a different way and realise the benefits that your transformation is striving to achieve. 

 

Different SI’s have different levels of expertise in this area. Absolute clarity is required at the contracting stage to assess the level of capability being offered and to determine very clear scope boundaries on who performs what business change activity. 

 

At an absolute minimum, you will need to stand-up a team of subject matter experts in the in-scope processes, be that finance, HR, supply chain, asset management etc.  This will probably involve a level of backfilling of critical resources to make sure that you can cover the required transformation work alongside business-as-usual activity. Examples of the transformation activity required will be in requirements and process definition through to user acceptance testing and go-live support. Don’t forget to include the cost of this backfill in your up-front budget! 

 

Your subject matter experts will need to be managed, and this is often where additional help will be required to set-up the network and governance. Experienced business change support, guidance and frameworks are then often required to perform a rigorous change impact assessment across your business, and then to ensure that communications and engagement captures everyone’s attention and support. So many transformations fail due to organisations not being sufficiently engaged. As another example here, Project One worked with a FTSE100 Utilities organisation to implement a new SAP S/4 HANA programme, providing a small business change team to provide a tried and tested approach to driving this type of activity. 

 

Training is then another area that may need additional firepower. Your SI should have a training division, but the overall management and direction of this effort is often where additional resource is required to make sure that your internal training team is involved and that the training is at the appropriate level and lands successfully across your business areas. 

 

You will also need to ensure that your business case benefits are managed. Once agreed in the business case, these need to be business owned and embedded into future years’ cost/revenue predictions. As the transformation progresses, these will need to be actively managed and then tracked through to fruition. This is a job for your Finance Partner team, but they will often need support to make this happen. 

 

 

Data and Legacy Integration 

 

A final area to flag which is often outside of the SI contract, is in the area of data and integration. 

 

ERP systems by their nature sit at the heart of an organisations’ systems landscape. Data quality, data flows and integration to other systems are therefore critical aspects to successful implementation. There will also be significant work required to migrate data from old to new. 

 

Early work is critical here to define the right data and integration strategy. Your SI may well be heavily involved in this, especially to make sure that the technical data extract, transformation, and load is understood, but the overall approach to this will need to be internally managed. 

 

Business owners will need to be identified for each data area and they will need to review, cleanse, sign off and ultimately accept the loaded data. The SI won’t have the business knowledge or understanding of the data to do that. So, this is a complex area that will require strong leadership. 

 

On the legacy integration, again, in-house knowledge of existing systems will be required, and these people will need to be managed.  Your SI can only do limited parts of the legacy integration as they cannot take on responsibility for the legacy systems and all the changes required. 

 

 

In conclusion, your SI is an indispensable ally in an ERP implementation project, acting as a bridge between business needs and technological solutions. While their expertise is invaluable, it is essential to understand the limits of their responsibilities and to plan for and then fill the additional capability required. In defining clear roles and fostering a collaborative partnership between all parties, organisations can navigate the ERP implementation journey with confidence and achieve their desired outcomes. 

 

If you would like to discuss this further, or get input into what additional internal support you may need, then please get in touch with david.knappett@projectone.com 

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