Since I began consulting in the Deltek Vision space back in 2010, I’ve worked with, and for many different organizations that range in size from 25 – 600 employees. When it comes to how seriously a company takes its information systems (which include ERP systems), surprisingly size doesn’t seem to matter. Often we equate a larger, more mature company with one that invests heavily in, and relies heavily upon their information systems to fuel their success. While this is often true, it is not always the case with larger organizations any more than it is for a smaller organization to not invest in their information systems. The real truth though is that any company that invests wisely in their information systems, both in dollars and effort, will reap big rewards and those that don’t, will pay more in the long run regardless of their size.
What Does it Mean?
So what do I mean by taking your ERP system seriously? This is a very broad way of saying that many organizations treat complex information systems no differently than they would their electronic file storage on a server – just a bunch of information thrown about in no real meaningful way. Successful organizations that are serious about their information systems generally tend to share these traits:
- Have dedicated staff or an oversight committee that regularly reviews their systems and makes recommendations on usage, compliance, functionality, training, process and procedures, etc.
- Invest in infrastructure solutions to ensure maximum availability and to limit data loss in the event of a disaster
- Look for long term savings as opposed to short term cost cutting
- Constantly look for ways to improve efficiency, automate process and integrate disparate systems within the organization to reduce redundant data entry. I tend to call this nurturing their systems.
- Always be on the lookout for improved reporting and data analytics
- Try to use their systems as designed instead of always trying to make it do what they think is best
- When a system has a real shortcoming they find a proper solution instead of simply working around the problem for years
- Provide proper training for their users and keep that training up to date
- Plan system upgrades, patches and major changes like real projects and utilize test environments before rolling out changes to avoid issues
- Get advice from industry professionals/consultants (and actually heed it) before embarking on major changes
- Recognize when they do not have the in-house skills to perform specific work and outsource it to professionals that do
Yes the last two items are a shameless plug for hiring a consultant such as myself, however there is a well known saying: “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait till you see how much it costs if you don’t”. I have many experiences of both of the last two and I am often amazed that firm’s that make their livings providing professional advice to their clients, routinely do not want to pay a professional to help them with areas of their business where they themselves are not experts.
So conversely there are some common traits I see in organizations that are not successfully leveraging their information systems to their potential:
- They do not dedicate staff to oversee their information systems
- Routinely use the tools they have incorrectly and inefficiently due to lack of training
- Infrastructure supporting the systems is in disrepair, aging and at high risk of failure and/or data loss
- Constantly find faults with their systems but do little to resolve the issues and rely on workarounds
- End users avoid using the systems and do not have faith in their capabilities or accuracy of the data they hold
- Tend to have information in many different silos and spend a lot of time replicating data entry
- Do not have the reports and analytical data they need to support their business even though it’s all in their systems
- Spend copious amounts of time generating manual reports over and over each month or reporting period
- Ask for professional help/advice and then, for perceived costs savings, do something else causing larger problems
My experience has been that many organizations like to think they take their information systems seriously, but in reality they are not walking the walk or could be doing much more. So the next time you’re cursing your ERP or other major information systems or stressing out because you can’t get the report you need or you’re cobbling it together from spreadsheets, consider how seriously you treat your ERP system!
If you’re not sure what the state of your ERP system is, I would be happy to discuss it: